Tonga’s old and modern cultures converge in the capital city of Nuku’alofa, where contemporary restaurants meet culturally-engaging markets and a sprawling waterfront. This city is also a gateway to numerous coral islands right offshore and is the home of Tonga’s royal family.
Things to do in Nuku‘alofa
Experience the history and culture around Tongan royalty at the Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Tonga. Built in 1867, this wooden palace exudes modesty and considerable wealth relative to other countries and is still the official residence of the King of Tonga. More culture awaits at the nearby Free Church of Tonga, established by a king in 1885.
Do you need a day at the beach? Drive about 30 minutes from Nuku’alofa to reach Ha'atafu Beach, a beautiful stretch of golden sand and azure water. This beach is perfect for chilling out under shady palm fronds or surfing easy-to-ride waves. Anahulu Cave, located on the opposite side of the island, is a nature preserve where you can explore intricate cave systems before kicking back on a serene beach.
Discover more about Tonga’s rich history at the Tonga National Museum, which boasts priceless royal treasures, intricate pottery and an informative library. The museum also comprises the Tonga National Cultural Centre, a collection of Polynesian-style buildings where you can watch handicraft demonstrations and see historical displays.
To experience authentic Tongan culture, visit Ancient Tonga, a family-run cultural village where you can learn how to make tapa cloth, use plants for medicinal purposes and make the popular drink kava. Don’t miss the Talamahu Market, which features stalls selling fresh produce, handmade baskets, Tongan arts and grilled delicacies.
Getting around Nuku‘alofa
Nuku'alofa is easily reached by flying into Fua'amotu International Airport, which is about 35 minutes’ drive from the city. You can walk around the city, rent cars or scooters, hail taxis or catch the local buses, which run around the island.