All About Vava’u
For those who enjoy the tranquil tropical break in idyllic surroundings, Vava’u is a must. The Vava’u group, regarded as Tonga’s most scenic, has some 34 islands, of which only 21 are inhabited. The main island of Vava’u is spread across an area of 115 square kilometres and is home to Tonga’s second largest port of the group’s capital, Neiafu. The town and its beautiful deepwater harbour, the Port of Refuge, is the major entry point for yachts. Neiafu is home to most government agencies and services, including the hospital, customs and police departments, post office, shops and supermarkets, and a selection of restaurants and upbeat bar.
Vava’u is a peaceful island fringed with coral reefs, and picture perfect at every turn, with stunning, uncrowded stretches of white coral sand and a dramatic hilly landscape. A myriad of channels, deep waterways and secluded anchorages have earned Vava’u a reputation as one of the world’s great sailing locations, making it ideal for visitors who love the water. You’ll find a huge array of water activities to enjoy, including snorkeling, scuba diving, sport fishing, sailing and sea kayaking. From July to October, whale watching is a highlight for visitors. Many whale watching operators run excursions during this time, allowing visitors to get up close to the majestic humpback whales, which come to mate and calve in Vava’u’s warm waters. Tonga is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with the whales.
Located at the heart of the South Pacific, the ancient Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga is one of the most scenic and unspoiled of the Pacific island nations. There are 170+ islands (only 40 of which are inhabited) scattered over 700,000 sq km of ocean. Located just west to the International Date Line, southeast of Fiji and south of Samoa, Tonga is the first Pacific nation to greet the new day.
Tonga has a variety of scenery seldom watched elsewhere in the world, with dramatic volcanic landscapes, low-lying coral atolls, pristine coral reefs and magnificent sandy beaches. Tonga is divided into four main island groups. In the south is Tongatapu, where the capital of Nuku’alofa can be foundm and ‘Eua to its south-east. One hundred and sixty kilometres north is the Ha’apai group, and 100 kilometres further north is the Vava’u archipelago. In the far north, 300 kilometres from Vava’u, lies the remote Niuas, a fascinating part of Tonga where traditional life still thrives.
Most of the Tonga’s larger islands (Tongatapu and Ha’apai groups) are raised coral limestone, with some volcanic islands. To the east, the Lifuka and Nomuka groups have many small coral islands and reefs, while the islands to the west (Tofua and Kao) and north (Vava’u group and the Niuas) are volcanic in origin. There are active volcanoes on four of the islands, including Tofua island, where the crater is filled with steaming hot water. Falcon, an active volcano under the sea, spouts up lava and ash from time to time.
Vava’u is one of the groups of islands that comprise the Kingdom of Tonga. Consisting of roughly 34 islands, more than half of which are uninhabited, the main island of Vava’u is home to the country’s second largest port located in the capital town of Neiafu. The Port of Refuge serves as the entry point for boats and charter yachts. If you’re travelling to Vava’u, you should note that Neiafu is where the hospital, supermarkets, post office, and government and police departments are located.
Vava’u has that idyllic tropical island feel, with its lush forests, coral reefs, and pristine beaches of white coral sand and crystal blue waters. On some islands, there are cliffs you can trek to that open up to a breathtaking view of the South Pacific and nearby islands. A stroll through the local village will also give you a glimpse of authentic Tongan lifestyle and culture.
Vava’u is considered as Tonga’s main tourism hub, so getting there is not as difficult as one would imagine. The Lupepauʻu International Airport in the town of Neiafu in Vava’u no longer services international flights, but is the hub for Chatams Pacific which connects Vava’u to all international travellers arriving in the Fua’amotu International Airport in Tongatapu. Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, and Virgin Australia have flights to Tongatapu, and from there you can either catch a plane or ride a ferry to Vava’u.
The months of July to October are a busy season in Vava’u because this is when the majestic humpback whales mate and play in the warm Tongan waters. Local and foreign tourists go whale watching and swimming, in addition to kitesurfing, sport fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkelling and sailing. Popular land activities include trekking, mountain biking, soft hiking, off-road karting, bushwalking, and going on cultural tours through villages, plantations, and botanical gardens.
Where to Sleep, Eat, and Drink
Various accommodation options are scattered throughout the islands of Vava’u, catering to all kinds of travellers – from campers and budget backpackers to the more upscale tourists. There are backpacker lodges, resort hotels, homestays, and the popular traditional Tongan fales (bungalows). Some establishments also rent out tent accommodations for those who prefer to camp out on shore.
There is also no shortage of cafes, restaurants, and bars in different islands in Vava’u, although you will find bulk of them in the main town in Neiafu. Almost all cafes and restaurants offer both local and international cuisine to cater to different palates, and some even offer an eclectic mix of Polynesian-European cuisine. Keep an eye out for traditional Umu and Tongan feasts, where u can experience island cooking Tongan style as well as enjoy the cultural shows put on by the locals.
Bars and clubs of different styles and feel also abound – from traditional pubs with pool tables and satellite screenings of sports games to the more laidback, poolside bars or over-water decks where people can enjoy a wide selection of wines, cocktails, and spirits.