Tongatapu, known as the ‘Sacred South’, is the main island of Tonga and the launch pad for exploring many of the other islands that surround the Kingdom. Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tongatapu, and the hub for international arrivals, is located on the north coast, and is filled with long stretches of white beaches, charming cafes, and ancient churches. You may even see a few pigs roaming around if you’re lucky.
Trading ships and ferry’s regularly dock at the harbour, which is the gateway to reach other islands within the Kingdom. Around 70,000 people inhabit Tongapatu including royalty. The charming Royal Family Palace is situated on the waterfront, and although the Palace is not open to the public, it is still visible from the outside. Other historical sites scattered around include, ancient terraced tombs of Tongan Kings, and Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, an 11th century fascinating stone trilithon located only 30 minutes from the city.
The city is small enough to walk around without getting lost, and the entire island can be explored in one day. If you’re looking for fresh produce, or a place for arts and crafts, head to Tonga’s main fresh produce hub, the Talamahu market, where you will be greeted by a tropical aroma of fresh fruits, cooked food stands and stalls of affordable Tongan arts and crafts. Saturday mornings are the best times to visit, as the markets are overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Tongatapu is known for its natural beauty, which is seen all around. A natural wonder, the Anahulu Cave is located on the Eastern side in Haveluliku, and is made up of a network of limestone caverns and hosts Tongatapu’s only fresh water pool. If you’re looking for a real authentic experience head to Mapua ‘a Vaea located in the village of Houma, where you can witness hundreds of blowholes jet into the air. When the surf is forced up through the vents in the coralline limestone, the spurts can blast 30cm up into the sky, making this a spectacular sight to watch.
Highlights of Tongatapu
- * Nuku’alofa – Capital of Tonga
- * Mu’a – Second largest town in Tongatapu. Site of the ancient burial mounds and the Paepae ‘o Tele’a Tombs.
- * Langi – Tombs of Tongan Kings
- * Mapu ‘a Vaea – Blow holes in the coral reef on the south-western side
- * Hufangalupe – Natural land bridge on the south eastern side of Tongatapu
- * Pangaimotu – Small resort island close to Nuku’alofa
- * Flying Fox Preserve – Located in Kolovai in the western district
- * Ha’amonga ‘a Maui – Trilithon
- * Nukuleka – Possibly the site of first human settlement in Tonga
- * Tupou College – First educational establishment in the Kingdom located in the eastern district of Tongatapu