Vava’u is a group of more than 50 islands in Tonga, about 150 miles north of Tongatapu. They are either raised coral limestone or coral atolls. The beautiful harbour opposite the main town of Neiafu (known as the Port of Refuge Harbour) is a common destination for yachties sailing the South Pacific. The waters of the islands are known for their clarity, it being said that you can see the bottom at 40 metres. The area attracts many humpback whales between June and November and there are lots of companies organising tours to see them. There are numerous places to stay, to suit most budgets.

Port of Refuge Harbor at Neiafu


Vavaʻu travel map

Findings of Lapita pottery suggest that early Polynesians were on these islands close to 3000 years ago. These days there are around 20,000 people living in the Group. Neiafu and surrounding villages are home to about a third of the Group’s overall population of around 20,000, with the majority of the population living in small villages on the other islands. Neiafu is the official port of entry for yachts coming to Vava'u, which attracts over 500 yachts every winter sailing season between June and October. A string of islands and reefs along the eastern edge of the Group shelters the area from strong winds and ocean swells, and humpback whales come to these protected waters to give birth. This is the high season for tourism; between December and April few people visit and many tour companies and restaurants close down. Neiafu town is the centre of activity. It is on the southern point of the main island of 'Utu Vava'u and has an attractive setting on one of the world's most beautiful harbours. Neiafu offers all the usual amenities including banks, schools, tour companies, restaurants, cafes and bars, supermarkets, a market and a hospital. It doesn't have a beach but boats to one of the nearby coral atolls with superb sandy beaches are easily available.


Vava'u has a tropical climate with average temperatures up to 29ºC in January and down to 24ºC in June. It is sunny throughout the year. Between November and April, it is more humid and thunderstorms and cyclones do occur. From May to September there are southeast trade winds but during the summer months the winds are from the northeast.


The main islands are:

Get in

By plane

Neiafu, the harbour and surrounding islands

International flights arrive in Tongatapu. There is a new domestic airline up and running named Real Tonga, which is a division of Palu Aviation, a long time aviation business in Tonga. Flights are available daily, except Sunday to Vava'u.

Vava'u airport is international and therefore private aircraft and charter are welcome to avail themselves of the custom and immigration services. Scheduled international services to Vava'u from Fiji ceased prior to 2008.

By ferry

The new ferry MV 'Otuanga'afa is running fairly regularly now. Information about cost and schedule can be found at the ferry company's web page. The MV Olovaha is no longer in service.

Get around

Bicycles, mountain bikes, motorbikes and boats can be rented from several hotels and agencies. Taxis are available. Neiafu is small enough where you can easily get around on foot. Boat trips are organised by several companies.



Entrance to Mariners Cave
Whale watching, Vava'u



Most restaurants have ship-to-shore VHF radio so passing yachties can order food or book a table.







In Tonga, Wi-Fi hotspots are the typical way of getting online.

There are a couple of Internet cafés on the Vava’u islands. Places where you can get connected include Aquarium Cafe, Cafe Tropicana and Coconet Cafe. Accommodations advertise Wi-Fi Internet availability. Infinity-Tec Ltd., a Neifau-based company responsible for many Wi-Fi hotspots on Vava’u, is for sale as of January 2014; therefore, it’s possible that their hotspots cannot be used.


Tonga is a very conservative Christian country. Keep in mind that Sunday is strongly revered, the vast majority of the population will attend religious services, very few shops will be open and there is very little to do. Flights do not operate on Sundays and tourist services may not be available. Try taking the time to attend a church service. The singing can be beautiful.

Men should avoid going around topless other than on the beach. You could be arrested. Although Tongans are used to tourists, skirts above the knee, while not illegal, are still not appreciated.

Go next

To really get away from it all head to Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou, which are the northernmost islands of the Tonga group. They are reachable by weekly flights from Vava’u.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, October 11, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.