Tonga Info and History


Learn more about the rich and interesting history of Tonga, from Ancient Tonga & the First Settlement to the rise & spread of the Polynesian Culture & the Tonga Maritime Empire, Rock Art, Account of the First European Arrivals and 'Fanifo'- the Ancient Art of Surfing.


Tonga Info



Tongatapu has the only international airport in Tonga (not actually in Nuku’alofa but at Fuamotu) and you don't need a connecting domestic flight to get to us. We’re out on the ocean side of the north western peninsula (the leeward coast of Tonga Tapu) but only 45 minutes drive from the airport, which is on the far end of the island. The main town of Nuku'alofa is actually 30 minutes drive from the airport but in a slightly different direction.                                                 

We are set in the middle of the long, sandy, Kanokupolu Beach fringed by bushy fronted farm properties and coconut trees. We have three bungalows spread along the waterfront- all with their own garden space.
The only other people you are likely to see on the beach, on a normal week day, would be the odd fisherman or a hand full of kids from the village for an afternoon swim. The village of Kanokupolu is five minutes walk away.

We don't have a restaurant as the bungalows are self catering. It's very "village life" out here.
Our guests enjoy cooking for themselves in your own clean little kitchen and on the BBQ.
That is one way to save on expenses and be comfortable with what you are eating, as well as enjoying your choice of local market produce. Local fruit, vegies, fish & bakery goods are really nice and cheap. We usually have beautiful fresh fish available right here.
The best shopping (supermarket, bakery, produce market & souvenirs) is in Nuku'alofa (the main town only 25 minutes drive back from the beach) but there are village shops with a small variety of groceries near the Blue Banana Beach House. We recommend the shopping extension with the airport transfer, if you arrive in the day.
There are some recommended cafes and restaurants (including authentic Italian) in town (some open on Sundays) and the buffet and floorshow on Wednesday and Friday nights at Oholei Beach.

Tonga is a pretty laid back destination- not too touristy and still a bit of a secret to the outside world. You can relax at our quiet beach, go for a long walk, snorkel or swim, have a BBQ and a few drinks on the deck at sunset, go on island tours, and eat at nice restaurants and cafes in town. Not to be missed, the exciting buffet and floorshow at Oholei (including traditional food & dances & the spectacular fire dance) on Wednesday and Friday nights in a cave- right on the beach.
Our beach is fine for swimming & snorkelling with beautiful clear water and lots of tropical fish.
It's an ocean beach with a reef enclosing the lagoon and wave action beyond to look at.
There are village, tropical farmland and bush walks with historical sites and lookouts.
There are paddle-skis available for use in the lagoon and bicycles for cruising.
We have some spare snorkelling gear here you are welcome to use if you don't have your own.
We have had a few kite surfers here and they seem to get some amazing air out in the lagoon where the waves break along the edge of the reef. The wind can get quite strong and this side of the island is relatively flat so doesn't block the wind so much. Also the back of the peninsula, though not open to the swell, does get regular strong wind and has lots of area for speed runs and chop-hops.
Our transfer driver is a really cheerful character and offers great island tours and insights along the way- there is plenty of history, culture and many natural sights to see. Day trips to the offshore islands are also easy to organise.
Most of the fish in the lagoon here are aquarium type fish (pretty to look at) but there are some edible size if you're quick enough with a spear or skilful with a line. We do have a good contact for fresh deep sea fish so you won’t miss out on choice ocean bounty. Boat fishing, snorkelling tours or diving can also be arranged.
There is even a golf course, with all the gear available, on the island.
The Humpback Whales migration season is from late June to early November- they arrive in Tongatapu waters first and leave here last. Many of the whales will remain off our coast for the full season.
At Blue Banana we are happy to be able to offer free, non-invasive whale watching right from our beach (and the whales are free from being harassed by boats)- compliant with acceptable international standards.
It is often possible to see whales directly out of the bungalow's window. They can come in very close to the reef and regularly stop, where the warm water exits the lagoon, to suckle their young.
Blue Banana also has a store in the main street of downtown Nuku’alofa if you are looking for souvenirs or gifts with a difference and perhaps a little more meaning.

Plenty to do and nice to do nothing! 

 With a history of 3,000 years of human habitation Tonga, the last remaining Kingdom in the Pacific, has never been conquered, colonised or annexed by an outside power. Tonga continues its rich cultural heritage and is a constitutional monarchy presently ruled by King George Tupou Fa and a democratically elected parliament.
Situated around 21°S and 175°W, the Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 176 coral and volcanic islands (approximately 52 of which are inhabited), scattered over 700,000 square kilometres of ocean.
Located to the west of the International Dateline, Tonga is the first Pacific nation to greet the new day.
One of the most scenic and unspoiled of the Pacific island nations, Tonga has dramatic & active volcanic landscapes, spectacular tropical rainforests, low-lying coral atolls, pristine coral reefs, turquoise lagoons, palm-fringed sandy beaches and a unique and beautiful array of flora and fauna.
Tonga is located on the Eastern edge of the Indo-Australian Plate, which is forced up by the Pacific Plate pushing under it at the Tonga Trench. This long oceanic valley extends North-South and reaches depths over 5.5 nautical miles. The islands of Tonga also lie on a volcanic ridge known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which extends from New Zealand to Samoa, then back toward Vanuatu and the Solomons.
Tonga’s archipelago can be divided into four distinct parts- from the south Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas to the north. Each island group is scenically diverse.
Christianity has a strong influence throughout Tonga with an average minimum of four churches per village. The Sunday law of “no work” is strictly observed, though there are some considerations for resorts & visitors accommodation. There also appears more to be happening in the quiet villages of a Sunday with most of the population strolling to & from church and the Sunday umu (underground oven meal).

 TONGA-TAPU (the main island of Tonga):
Nuku’alofa, meaning “abode of love”, is the capital and Tongatapu, meaning “sacred south”, is home to reminders of Tonga’s ancient past. Archaeological sites include the mysterious Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon (stone hedge of the Pacific) and the Langi (terraced tombs) and moat fortresses on the Eastern side.
Tongatapu is also home to the Royal Family, the Government and the majority of the Tongan population & businesses. At the heart of town is the Royal Palace, the Royal tombs and the many colonial style houses still in use.
Most travellers who come to the Kingdom will arrive via Tongatapu. The terrain is flat, so it is easy to explore by car or bike or simply walk around. On a Saturday morning the marketi is brimming with locally grown food and traditional handicrafts like woven baskets and tapa cloth. On a Sunday the church choirs are a treat to hear.
In the protection of the harbour are a cluster of offshore islands or motus and coral reefs teaming with brilliantly coloured tropical fish.
The South West Coast is a maze of high cliffs, hidden beaches, caves and spectacular blow holes.

Vava’u Island Group, with its sheltered anchorages, has become a haven for yachties and is renowned as the sailing paradise of the Pacific. There are 72 islands- 20 of which are inhabited.
Ha’apai Island Group, near the volcanic island of Tofua, is where the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ took place in 1789 and Captain William Bligh was set adrift in a small boat to sail on his epic journey to Timor. It was also on Lifuka Island that Captain Cook landed and, after a warm reception, later described the Kingdom of Tonga as “The Friendly Islands”.

Tonga experiences one of the world’s ideal climates and is comparatively mild year round. The starry skies can be amazing and sunsets spectacular.
Winter ranges from 18°C to 27°C and some evenings can get cool enough for a jumper and a wetsuit vest will make extended snorkelling more comfortable.
Summer in Tonga it is not as uncomfortably hot as the more northern islands like Fiji, Samoa and Vava’u.
The lagoon water is like a bath-tub and the days usually sunny. We have no "wet season" though a typical summer rain may dump in the afternoon or sprinkle through the night then clear again by morning. The only downside is the South Pacific cyclone season. Having said that, Tonga is better situated than most and if we do get one in the area they generally pass by reasonably quick- all rather fun to watch if you're not the one raking up the leaves afterwards.
Visitors from most countries are issued a visitor’s visa on arrival here at the airport.
However there are some exceptions so it is best to check if you are not sure.
The islands electricity is diesel generated so we try to be conservative. Voltage is 240 and plugs are the same as Australia & New Zealand.
To drive in Tonga a visitors licence should be purchased from the Ministry of Transport. We drive on the left.



The waters of Tonga have been chosen by the Humpback Whales, being a perfect environment to breed, give birth and nurture their calves. They migrate annually from their only food source in the Antarctic waters around New Zealand. Adult whales do not eat for the 6 months journey away.

Whale calf DO NOT feed in the presence of boats and swimmers. If boats hover about the whales all day the calf go hungry and the mother experiences stress. (Information taken from WDCS). The calf need to gain weight in our waters in preparation for the long journey south. If attempting this journey undernourished the calf’s life will be at risk.

Tonga has guidelines in place from the IFAW and whale watching license holders are requested to follow these guidelines. They are clearly laid out in our Government office of the TVB. Under these guidelines swimming with whales would be a most difficult, if not impossible, activity.

Personal safety is also a major consideration when swimming with whales. Shark attacks in Vava’u are not uncommon. There have been attacks on locals, whale swimming visitors and whale watch guides themselves.

There are up to 13 whale watching license holders in Tonga where as in countries with strict control whale watching licenses are very limited & restricted and in some areas have been revoked due to saturation and concern for the whales.
Last September a visitor described her horrific experience while on a whale watching tour. She said the skipper motored in front of a whale and calf, cutting off their path, in a bid to get very close. The boat actually rammed the calf. Two weeks later a calf was found dead on the reef by Malinoa Island. Other visitors have said “they may as well have been holding a harpoon. The experience was more like hunting than that of observation.

If you choose to board a whale watching boat, ask if the guide STRICTLY (not casually) adheres to the recommended international guidelines in place here in Tonga by the IFAW. If they do not then you might consider another operator.
If you have been so close to a whale and calf that you could nearly touch them or see them clearly through your goggles (apart from placing your personal safety at risk) this was an intrusive and stressful experience for the whales. If your guide has placed you in this position, air your dissatisfaction with the TVB or Ministry of Fisheries or IFAW and know that your report has been vital in a bid to protect this pristine environment which has long been the whale’s choice.

The most non- invasive way to observe whales is from the shore.
If Visitors are able to appreciate the presence of Humpback Whales in Tongan waters and to enjoy this unique experience for the long term, we must do it right.
Whales can be sighted regularly from the coastlines of Tongatapu (free of charge) all through the season causing absolutely no disturbance. When using a licenced operator, boat distances of 200 mtrs, and the use of sport binoculars, offers a spectacular, breathtaking, whale watching experience. More and more people are saying NO to swimming with whales. The whale’s environment and wellbeing is in your hands.

Thank you very much for considering the visiting Whales.



Tonga’s surf is inconsistent & short on breaks so good waves are a very limited resource. Reasonably good waves are a rarity in Tonga and the quality & quantity have been somewhat misrepresented and over-advertised on the internet.
Most of the swells hit the south east coast that is exposed to the trade winds. The coastline on that side of the island is all raised limestone cliffs and exposed (unsurfable) step reefs.
The only surfable coast is on the sheltered side of the island so swells wrapping around are erratic. There are only a couple of surf breaks that work at one time (usually 2). Surfing time is also regulated by the tides (only over high) and the shifty, fickle winds. The takeoff zone is tight, the ride is short and fast over shallow coral (exposed at low tide) and can become quickly crowded, frustrating and dangerous. There are quite a few local surfers already using the breaks.
Based on a seven year survey, there is an average of 2 surfable days a week over a 4 week period- i.e. you would need at least 4 weeks to get that average. It is possible to be here 3 or 4 weeks without getting wet.

For the above reasons we apologise but we can not cater for surfers at Blue Banana Beach Houses.
We do not wish to add to the crowds hanging for waves and would rather our guests be satisfied with their stay.

If you still want to come to Tonga in the hope of lucking in some surf then we suggest only the "Ha'atafu Beach surf resort". They are the only place that is knowledgeable and equipped to cater for surfers. The reefs are unsafe for the novice and demand intermediate to skilled ability and responsible local guidance. They also have the monopoly (by sheer numbers of surfers and boats) on surfing in the area. So, "If you can't beat them join them". The general rule of thumb there being- if the camp is full so then will the waves. If they are fully booked it is then better to come at another date. This keeps the waves less crowded and everyone happier.
As a surfer we hope you understand and appreciate our advice and candour.

Surf in Ha’apai:
All inaccessible outer island reefs, only for the very keen experienced and adventurous surfers with their own yacht.

Surf in Vava’u:
All offshore reefs away from the main islands. Not the best quality but the island settings are amazing. There are people doing boat charters to the breaks.

Novices & beginners:
Sorry to disappoint but despite what miss-information you may have read on the internet Tonga is definitely not a suitable destination for learning to surf. There are no sand bottom beach breaks (all reef) and there are strong currents difficult or impossible to paddle against. The waves are short, fast, break over shallow coral and can be quite dangerous. The reefs are unsafe for the novice and demand intermediate to skilled ability and responsible local guidance.
The surfers that come to Tonga bring their own boards and there is no equipment rental available for the public.
We suggest if you are seriously looking for a surfing holiday try Australia or New Zealand or another destination with sand bottom beach breaks.

Thanks again for your interest and hope we have been of some help.