Tonga:The Friendly Sightseeing Islands of the Southern Pacific

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Tonga:The Friendly Sightseeing Islands of the Southern Pacific:table of contents

Tonga, officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga and casually as the Friendly Islands, is a Polynesian state with over 100 inhabited islands in the South Pacific. Tonga is an authentic, compelling mixture of national heritage, well-preserved culture, and diverse tropical nature life. The pristine coastline of Tonga is truly the best for exploring the Pacific. In Tonga, you will have the chance to discover the best sailing adventures, swim on giant humpback whales and get active in the azure waters. The exceptional tropical climate of Tonga makes your sightseeing trip unrestricted as it provides travel opportunities all year round.

1. Vava’u (Neiafu)

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You haven’t been to Tonga if you haven’t swum with the humpback whales. The period between June and November is the busiest sightseeing season at Vava’u, one of the most popular destinations in Tonga, as it offers the rare opportunity to swim with these giant animals of the sea. The waters around this group of islands are unspoiled and are the most crystal clear that you will find in Tonga. You can see as deep as 100 feet, making it excellent for viewing its over 100 species of marine life. Vava’u is also popular for its port and also, an exceptional place to sightsee underwater caves.

2. St Joseph's Cathedral (Neiafu)

One of the top landmarks of Tonga is the St. Josephs Cathedral, near the famous Port of Refuge. The cathedral was built in the colonial times of Tonga, but its whitewashed facade is still splendid and unmatched. The interior finishing will take you back to the 1950s, and the altar is an unforgettable view. Do not miss the statue of St. Joan of Arc and the bell tower. The church is open for sightseeing every day of the week, but Sunday stands out because of its melodious choir. Furthermore, most other places in Tonga close business on Sundays.

3. Ha'atafu Beach (Tonagatapu)

Tonga is blessed with many gorgeous beaches. On the main island of Tongatapu, several kilometers away from Nuku’alofa the capital of Tonga, is one of those beaches, the Ha’atafu beach which is the home of the best surfing waves in Tonga. The beach is also a gem for swimmers, snorkelers, and divers. For surfers, the most consistent large swells are between June-September and December-February. If you would like to do some sightseeing any other time, the beach is an all-year holiday destination, but the months of May to November are the busiest.

4. Mapu'a 'a Vaea Blowholes (Tongatapu)

Blowholes on the island of Tongatapu are another major attraction to Tonga. The blowholes are created when waves forcefully crash into the natural water channels created by volcanic rocks to form blasts of water. On a windy day in Mapu'a 'a Vaea, you can see as many as a hundred blowholes, all spurting out at once. You can enjoy sightseeing from a designated viewing point or walk along the edge of the track. If you would like to walk nearer, make sure that you have footwear with a firm grip.

5. Free Church of Tonga (Nuku'alofa)

Photo by Tony Bowden

The Free Church of Tonga is not just a local church in Tonga; it is also a charming architectural beauty and a significant historical site. The church was established in 1885 by George Tupou who was the president of Tonga at the time. Today, the church is the state church upheld by the presidency of Tonga and a major sightseeing attraction. The exterior and its size are incredible, and the inside is even more impressive. The church overlooks the Royal Tombs and actually, the two places can be visited on the same day.

6. Anahulu Cave (Tongatapu)

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Ana Hulu Cave is formed by a network of limestone caverns. Inside the cave is an underground natural fresh-water pool for swimming. The cave is about 400 meters long and to get to the bathing pool, you will follow a path that goes about 8 meters deep. The cave is lighted by generators, but you can carry a waterproof flashlight. Nearby the Ana Hulu Cave is a second cave, known as Haveluliku Cave. Also, about 50 meters from the cave is Ana Hulu beach, which is excellent for swimming and snorkeling.

7. Eua National Park (Eua)

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When you think of Tonga, hiking may not be the first thing that comes to your mind. However, some of the islands of Tonga have the best hiking trails. ‘Eua offers not-to-be-missed outdoor sightseeing opportunities in Tonga. It may not be the largest island of Tonga, but it is one of the most visited places. 'Eua National Park in ‘Eua Island is a favorite for many, because of its rugged and not so flat landscape. The park has steep but easy trails that are good enough for moderate fitness. The best weather for hiking is when the trails are dry, between May and November.

8. Ene'io Botanical Garden (Neiafu)

‘Ene’io Botanical Garden should not be missed as it is a magical spot, the first of its kind in Tonga. The garden occupies 22 acres of land on the Vava’u island. It was initially developed by Haniteli Fa’anunu who was once an Agricultural minister of Tonga. The garden has the widest plant collection with over 100 plant families and more than 500 plant species both native to Tonga and from other parts of the continent. The garden staff offer personalized sightseeing tours for all visitors, so you have to make a reservation before going.

9. Royal Palace (Nuku'alofa)

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The Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Tonga is in its capital, Nukuʻalofa. The palace is not open to the public but that does not mean that you should miss this magnificent architecture from the 1800s. The palace can easily be seen from the waterfront on the western side. There are three other palaces in Tonga which include Tauʻakipulu palace, the palace of ʻEua, and Fuaʻamotu palace but it is the Royal Palace that is the official residence of the King of Tonga. The palace is wooden, but it is the pinnacle of the grandeur of Tonga.

10. Haʻamonga ʻa Maui (Tongatapu)

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Haʻamonga ʻa Maui is a unique megalithic structure of a stone trilithon constructed with three coral limestone slabs and is about 17 feet high. The name Haʻamonga ʻa Maui means “stick with loads on both ends,” a name signifying the arrangement of the stones.This historic landmark has a lot of significance to the Kingdom of Tonga. It was constructed in the 13th century as a passageway for the king of Tonga, to his royal compound in Heketa. Just a few meters next to the triathlon is the ‘Faakinanga,’ which served as the king’s throne.

◎ Closing

Tonga is a plausible sightseeing pit stop that you should visit at least once in a lifetime. With many islands to choose from, Tonga is more than capable of meeting your sightseeing expectations. Whether you want to visit for whale watching, marvel at marine biodiversity, to explore the cave systems or trek the rainforests, Tonga has got you covered. As far as the weather goes, the warm sunny days in Tonga during the dry season will leave wishing for more holiday time.

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