Ha'apai is an island group of about 60 islands in Tonga, south of the Vava'u group and north of Tongatapu. Only 20 islands are constantly inhabited. Close to one of the islands, Tofua, in the west of the group, is where the Mutiny on the Bounty occurred in 1789. The total population is approximately 5,500, out of which 2,500 live on the main island of Pangai. There are plenty of sandy beaches plus good diving and snorkelling and the opportunity to see some whales. But, basically, Ha'apai is a place to relax and get away from the rat race.
International flights arrive on Tongatapu.
There are daily flights by Chathams Pacific, Tonga's Domestic Airline to Ha'apai and a link to / from Vava'u a couple of times a week. Chathams Pacific generally fly a fully restored vintage DC3 (24 seat aircraft which returned to service Sept 2010) on the Ha'apai sector backed up by the Convair 580 (50 seats). Chathams Pacific operate a total of six aircraft within the Kingdom and all of these are used on the Ha'apai route from time to time. Details of their aircraft can be found on their website. The DC3 is not a pressurised aircraft and therefore flys at lower altitudes than the Convair. Passengers tend to enjoy the lower altitude as it makes the scenic flying aspect rewarding given the Kingdom's many islands, reefs and islets. Flight time Tongatapu - Ha'apai is about 30 minutes.
The MV Outuanga'ofa travels once a week from Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu to Pangai, usually departing on Monday and arriving on Tuesday. It makes a return journey to Nuku’alofa on Wednesday evening.
- Rent a bicycle. These can be rented at Mariner's Cafe, Fins 'n' Flukes, Fifita's and Lindsay's guest houses.
- Rev. Shirley Baker grave. The Reverend Shirley Baker went to Tonga in 1860 as a Wesleyan missionary and eventually ended up as Prime Minister. His grave is on Pangai.
- Lotofoa Methodist Church has a beautifully carved coconut wood ceiling.
- Ancient Petroglyphs have recently been discovered at the northern end of Foa Island.
- Uiha Island. Southwest of Pangai, and just a short boat ride. The island was once the site of the royal burial grounds and has the remains of burial pyramids.
- Volcanic islands. Hire a boat to go to Tofua volcanic island. A steep one hour climb leads to great views of the crater and nearby Kao island. This cannot be done in a day, requires serious planning and is expensive.
- Poseidons Gate stand on the great rock terraces on the east side of Lifuka Island.
- Just relax. Take a walk around the sleepy capital of Lifuka on Pangai Island to savour the slow pace of life.
- Snorkelling and diving.PADI-accredited diving is offered by Fins n Flukes, who are based on Pangai. Ha'apai has some huge sea caves, tunnels, drop-offs, walls, bommies and coral gardens.
- Hire a boat for a day from one of the dive schools and explore some of the many small islands in the Ha’apai group.
- Whale watching. Humpback whales migrate to Tonga every year. They arrive in Ha’apai around July and stay to early November. The sound of their singing can be heard in the water and you may even be lucky to be diving as one of these giants cruises past. But even if you are not a diver the two dive centers and Ha'apai Whale and Sail(Mariner's Cafe) organize whale-watching trips.
- Kayaking. Sit on top and sea kayaks are available from Fins 'n' Flukes.
- Camping. Camping gear is available from Fins 'n' Flukes.
- Island Trips. Fins 'n' Flukes offer island trips to Luahoko, Kau Vai (Ha'ano), Uoleva, Tatafa, Uiha, Tofanga, Uanuku'ha'hake, Luangahu, Hakau'ata, Lofanga, Nuku'pule and Meama.
Mariner's Cafe - central Pangai. Wide selection of tasty meals including home-made pasta, pizza, burgers,fish and daily specials. Ice cold alcoholic beverages available.Mariner's is THE meeting place for travellers and can provide tourist information. Also has bikes and snorkelling gear for hire.
Talahiva Tongan Cafe - behind the petrol station in Pangai, T$5 for very big portions of BBQ, KFC and Curry. Langi Langi guesthouse lobster feast, $T30 for more than you could possibly eat - advance booking required.
- Mariner's Cafe, Pangai. Bar and cafe
There is a range of accommodation on the Ha'apai islands, from budget to luxurious. Note that payment in cash is usually preferred and some of the smaller places do not accept credit cards.
- Evaloni Guest House (in the main town of Livuka), ☎ +676 60029. Six rooms. T$25-60 for a double.
- Fifita's Guest House, ☎ +676 60213, fax: +676 60374, e-mail: email@example.com. Nine rooms in the center of town. Bicycles can be rented here. T$35-40 for a double.
- Lindsay's Guest House (in Lifuka), ☎ +676 60107. Ha'apai's largest guest house, with 12 rooms. T$30-45 for a double.
- Diana's Resort, Uoleva (Uoleva), ☎ +676 7313549. Simple luxury on the best beach in Ha'apai. T$45 for a double.
- Matafonua Lodge (northern tip of Foa island reachable by causeway from the main island of Pangai). Ten fales by the sea. With diving and whale watching available on site NZD$120.00 per fale per night.
- Serenity Beach (on Uoleva island just south of Pangai). Five octagonal ocean-front fales on this otherwise deserted island that can be reached on foot from Pangai at low tide (this crossing is potentially dangerous). US$80-130 per night.
- Sandy Beach Resort (Foa Island 10 km north of Lifuka Airport). German-run resort with twelve large, comfortable bungalows right on the beach. Each bungalow has a verandah overlooking the sea. Provides the base for Ocean Blue Diving and can also offer kayakking, horseback riding and boat trips to "meet the whales". €160 a night per bungalow.
- Villa Mamana (On Telekivava’u Island - 37 miles south of Pangai.). The Villa is designed to host only one party at a time with a maximum of four persons. US$500 per night for the villa.