Flights to Tonga

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Tonga travel tips

Tonga – information and when to go

The Kingdom of Tonga is an independent country in the South Pacific consisting of 173 islands and atolls, of which only 45 are inhabited. The largest and most densely populated of these islands are Tongatapu, ’Eua and the island groups of Ha’apai and Vava’u. Tonga is the only country in the South Pacific Area and Oceania that was never colonised by the Europeans and has always had a king as head of state. The islands do not have a direct neighbour and New Zealand is for example situated at a distance of 2000 km from the island group.

Tonga is in the midst of the pacific ring of fire, which stretches from Japan in the form of a crescent over the whole of the South Pacific. All the islands are of volcanic origin, the majority with offshore coral reefs. Some of these volcanoes are still active such as on the Falcon island which belongs to Vava’, where there is a volcano under the ocean that erupts time and again. Many of the islands towards the north consist of forested hills, high cliffs, and perfect, wonderful beaches. The king has officially designated many of the islands and atolls as nature reserves.

The Kingdom of Tonga has a relatively constant tropical climate with a rainy season from December to May. Seasons in the European sense of the word do not exist in Tonga: there is only an alternating rainy and dry season. Cyclones occur every year during the rainy season, often devastating some of the islands. The best time to visit the islands is during the months of May to October.

Useful travel facts for your trip to Tonga 

The official and national language is Tongan. English is usually understood by most of the local inhabitants.

Getting vaccine boosters is important and covering arms and legs as well as using insect sprays is recommended. Medical care is only on a European standard in Nuku’alofa and a few tourist islands of Ha’apai and Vava’u. Emergencies are usually treated in exchange of cash, visitors are therefore advised to take out a comprehensive medical and travel insurance that covers repatriation costs. Travelers should take care to only drink bottled water and peel or boil vegetables as well as remember to take a first aid kit containing the most important medicines.

US citizens may normally enter Tonga as a tourist or on business for a duration of up to 30 days if holding an onward or return ticket and if in possession of sufficient funds for their entire stay along with stipulated health and vaccination certificates. Stays may be extended at the Immigration Office. More information on vaccination and entry requirements as well as current security issues is available online.

Tonga: getting there and travelling around

Travelling to Tonga is a lengthy affair. Flight times take about 30 hours, and due to the geographical location there are several possible routes. 

Flying from the American continent is possible from Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) for example, with another stop in Samoa (Apia-APW) and a further stop in either Auckland (AKL) or Sydney (SYD). From here several airlines then fly to Tonga.

On Tonga most of the larger inhabited islands may now be reached by plane. Regular connections from Tongatapu, for example flying to the island group Vava’u ( VAV), to Ha’apai (HPA), Eua (EUA), Niuafo’ou (NFO) or Niuatoputapu (NTT) are operated by the private airline Peau Vava’u (PVL). Please take care to book inland flights well in advance, as many routes are booked up days in advance. Please note that no flights are operated on Sundays, as this is a holy day in Tonga.

Tonga: the capital and beyond

The capital Nuku’alofa is also the seat of government of the King of Tonga. The town is on the north coast of Tongatapu, situated only a few centimeters above sea level and is home to 20 % of Tonga’s total population. “ The home of love”, as is the English translation of the name of the Tongalese capital, is in actual fact only a very large village and also the country’s traffic hub. Attractions include the Kings Palace made of Norfolk pines, which may not be visited but is visible over the city walls that are not particularly high. A raised flag is sign of the king’s presence. There are also the Mala’ekula kings graves on Taufa’ahau Street, several small and large wooden churches and the central market selling low-price fruit and souvenirs six days a week.

With wonderful beaches on a volcanic coastline, Tonga is primarily a destination for those in search of adventure, for sailors and for divers. Tourism has particularly developed on the island group of Vava’u as only here are there many good beaches, dream coral reefs, and a lush and diverse plant world above as well as under the water. Here, the sea is home to more than 100 different species of tropical fish, ensuring that diving is a delightful experience. Many of the islands have been designated a nature reserve by the king and this includes the Eva National Park, the Tonga Wildlife Centre and the Coral reef 14 km north of Nuku’alofa . The Coral reefs also boast the most impressive attraction of all the islands: the blowholes. These are openings and holes in the coral reefs, where 20 metre high water fountains come about when the water pressure is negative, causing strange whistling noises to be emitted. As a result of this phenomenon, the local inhabitants call this coastal region Mapu’a Vaea, meaning flute of the king. Other attractions on Tongatapu are the 800 year old coral terrace graves of the kings of Langi, the 40 tonne and 4 metre high Trilith gateway near Ha’amonga, which in former times probably served as annual calendar and the protected dreamlike south sea beaches of Anahulu, Olehei, Ha’atafu and Monotapu, equally loved by divers snorkellers and surfers alike.

The archipelago of Vava’u 250 km north of Tongatapu has been more developed for tourism and consists of 50 islands and atolls densely covered in forest. Besides the good ferry services this part of the country may easily be reached by plane every day. All the beaches on Vava’u are equally and extraordinarily beautiful, and have excellent water sports facilities. There are diving bases in almost all the tourist resorts with the possibility of hiring diving equipment such as breathing apparatus, masks and fully equipped boats. Attractions in Vava’us include the small freshwater lake Ano, the king’s summer residence Fangatongo and the Sailoame market in Neiafu.