Nuku alofa, Tonga | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Nuku alofa, Tonga

Tongatapu is Tonga's largest island with over two-thirds of the country's small population. It is a coral island surrounded by coral reefs. The capital, Nuku'alofa, on the north coast, has a relaxed air, despite the troubles of a few years ago. There are some interesting places to visit and some nice beaches with good snorkeling and Tongatapu provides a good opportunity to view a unique culture. Most of the interesting places are outside Nuku’alofa but most of the places to stay are in the capital. There is a good bus network and car rental is possible.

History

Tongatapu is known as having one of the highest concentration of archeological remains in the Pacific. The earliest traces of Lapita pottery found in Tonga was from around 900–850 BCE, 300 years after the first settlements in Tonga were established. Archaeologist David Burley discovered the pottery around... Read more

Nuku alofa, Tonga

Destination:

Tongatapu is Tonga's largest island with over two-thirds of the country's small population. It is a coral island surrounded by coral reefs. The capital, Nuku'alofa, on the north coast, has a relaxed air, despite the troubles of a few years ago. There are some interesting places to visit and some nice beaches with good snorkeling and Tongatapu provides a good opportunity to view a unique culture. Most of the interesting places are outside Nuku’alofa but most of the places to stay are in the capital. There is a good bus network and car rental is possible.

History

Tongatapu is known as having one of the highest concentration of archeological remains in the Pacific. The earliest traces of Lapita pottery found in Tonga was from around 900–850 BCE, 300 years after the first settlements in Tonga were established. Archaeologist David Burley discovered the pottery around the Fanga'uta Lagoon, 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) away from the Lapita pottery found at Santa Cruz in the Solomon Islands.

Although Tonga was always the seat of the Tongan Empire, in an area of distances up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), it was often only a symbolic rule. From the first capital at Toloa, around 1000 years ago, to the second capital at Heketā, at the site of the Ha'amonga 'a Maui Trilithon, none boasts more traditional attractions than the third capital at Mu'a (from 1220–1851) with more than 20 royal grave mounds.

European discovery

Tongatapu was discovered by Europeans on 20 January 1643 by Abel Janszoon Tasman commanding two ships, the Heemskerck and the Zeehaencommissioned by the Dutch East India Company of Batavia (Jakarta). The expedition's goals were to chart the unknown southern and eastern seas and to find a possible passage through the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean providing a faster route to Chile. The expedition set sail from Batavia on 14 August 1642. Tasman named the island "t’ Eijlandt Amsterdam" (Amsterdam Island), because of its abundance of supplies. This name is no longer used except by historians.

Resolution, under British sea captain James Cook, stopped here in 1777 and left some cattle for breeding. These were still flourishing in 1789 when Bounty, under Fletcher Christian visited.

Climate

Tongatapu has a rather cooler climate than the rest of Tonga as it is the southernmost group of islands in the country. Because of this, fruit production is lower in Tongatapu than it is in the warmer islands in the north.


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Nuku alofa, Tonga: Port Information


Cruise ships dock at the pier within walking distance of the town. You will pass by the Tourist Information Center, where you can buy a tour of the island.

Get around Nuku alofa, Tonga


Nuku'alofa is small enough to walk around and taxis are available. (You can take a bus from around the terminal, but the bus is unreliable, taxi is a better option). You can go by boat to the small islands around Nuku'alofa from the pier.

Tongatapu can just about be seen in one day by car or motorbike. You can rent cars and motor scooters. There are few road signs on Tongatapu so you'll need a good map if you're touring in a car. The speed limit on most of the island is 50 kph and this is stuck to by the local drivers. The Police have radar guns to check. The roads are good in and around Nuku'alofa but deteriorate the further from the town and the further south you travel. 

Many cars on the island are in a terrible state, maintained on a budget and held together by a combination of 'Western Union' stickers and prayer. The low-speed limit helps to keep accidents down. However, in recent years there have been a large number of imports of reconditioned Japanese cars and the general quality of vehicles is improving. Available cars for rent are good.

Teta Tours and Toni's guest house offer day tours of all the main tourist sights.

Buses to various points on Tongatapu run from the bus concourse on the seafront in Nuku'alofa although there are no timetables posted and local sources say that they are not reliable after about 1530 hours on most days. With few bus stops you just stand on the side of the road and flag the driver down (do not wave, they will wave back and keep driving). The most popular buses in Tonga are generally the loudest, so when you want to get off a reasonably loud "STOP" will do it (again, just anywhere you want them to stop). If you don't like kids or crowds avoid the buses at the end-of-school time, they get packed out and the only limit on how many people in a bus is how many can fit in. 

What to see in Nuku alofa, Tonga


  • Nuku’alofa. This is the capital of Tonga and the largest city of Tongatapu. The crumbling wooden Royal Palace was built in 1867 and is the official residence of the King. Until its death in 1966 the palace grounds housed a tortoise given to the then King by Captain Cook.
  • Talamahu Market, Salote Road, Nuku'alofa, ☎ +676 24146. Situated in Nuku'alofa next to the Central Police Station, Talamahu is the main market in Tongatapu where all the local farmers bring their fresh produce and sell. You can find all types of seasonal fruits, fresh vegetables and root vegetables such as yams, kumara, taro, manioke. Upstairs you will find local handicrafts, second-hand clothing, shoes, carvings, and jewelry of all types.
  • Ha’amonga ‘a Maui. Near the village of Niutōua, in the northeast corner of the island. This is a trilithon made out of coral, limestone rock. The name means ‘Maui’s burden’, referring to the Polynesian God Maui, who according to legend formed the Kingdom of Tonga by fishing the islands from the depths of the sea. The Ha’amonga ‘a Maui is thought to have been built around 1200 AD. There are several theories regarding its purpose. One is that the King, fearing his two sons would quarrel on his death, erected it as a symbol of brotherhood. Each son was represented by a stone pillar and united by the lintel. A more likely explanation is that it was the gateway to the King’s palace at his new capital. This capital did not last long, hence the present-day isolation of the trilithon.
  • Mu’a. This town, on the eastern edge of the lagoon, was the home of the Tu’i Tonga line of kings and was for centuries the capital of the island. It is notable for many tombs of the kings that can still be seen. When a Tuʻi Tonga king died he was buried in a langi, a big, artificial hill surrounded by huge slabs of coral rock, usually in three or more layers. This rock was quarried from along the coast of Tongatapu or from nearby islands. The accuracy by which the slabs were cut so that they fit each other with little space between is considered remarkable.
  • Blowholes. These are near the village of Houma to the southwest of the island. When waves crash into the reef, natural channels in the volcanic rock allow water to be pushed through and forced up into the air. Best at high tide.
  • Flying foxes. These are found in trees at Kolovai, to the west of the island. They are Pacific Flying Foxes, a species of fruit bat. Only the King is allowed to hunt them, hence these undisturbed colonies.
  • The Tongan National Cultural Centre. On the edge of Fanga'uta Lagoon on Taufa'ahau Road, around 1.5 km south of Nuku'alofa. This center is constructed with traditional buildings that house exhibitions of the kingdom's history. Artisans work on their crafts such as carving, tapa making and weaving and the items they make are sold to the visitors. Large buffet dinners are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays with demonstrations of traditional dancing and other skills.

What to do in Nuku alofa, Tonga


Take a day trip to Pangaimotu or one of the outer islands. The small island, the closest one to Nuku`alofa has a half sunken shipwreck to snorkel around. However, beware of jumping off as the bottom is shallow on some sides and the rusted ship is sharp. The ship also attracts sea snakes. The island takes about an hour to meander around and has a restaurant which serves good food and hires snorkeling gear (costly). Good idea to go on Sunday when most other things are closed.

What to eat and drink in Nuku alofa, Tonga


Eat

For a small town, Nuku'alofa offers a decent range of restaurants and bars. Seafood is usually good.

The Oholei Beach Dinner and Show is set in Hina cave on the beach on the south-east side of Tongatapu, near the airport. It includes a Tongan dinner and a traditional show (inside a limestone cave). Make sure you understand the travel arrangements when you make the booking e.g. where and when to be picked up.

  • Friend's Cafe, Taufa'ahua Road, Nuku'alofa, ☎ +676 22390. The main place for tourists on Tongatapu. Serves coffee, tea, and excellent breakfast. Try the vanilla French toast. The milkshakes are also very good. There is an adjacent souvenir shop, information desk, and computers for internet access
  • "Pot Luck Training Restaurant, corner of Salote and Vaiomok Roads, Nuku'alofa, ☎ +676 25091. The students are really dedicated, and the food and the entertainment are well worth the money. A great opportunity to enjoy first class cuisine for a bargain while supporting local education.

Most restaurants and eateries are closed on Sunday but there are a couple of Chinese restaurants which are open Sunday.

Shopping in Nuku alofa, Tonga


The market located in the center of the Nuku'alofa is an exciting place where you can bargain for jewelry and souvenirs.

Safety in Nuku alofa, Tonga


Tongatapu is very safe but the usual travel precautions apply. Don't flash expensive cameras and jewelry and don't leave passports, money, clothes, etc. lying around in hotel rooms. If you're staying with locals (there is a good chance you'll be invited to stay at someone's home on Tongatapu) take your valuables with you during the day and secure them at night

Tongan drivers are sometimes erratic so watch out. Asking for a helmet when you hire a bicycle is advisable. Dogs can be a nuisance especially in some areas outside of the capital.

Water that crashes over the reefs into the lagoons is sucked back out again through gaps in the reefs. Be careful when snorkeling that you don't get caught in one of these channels of water heading for open sea or you could be seriously damaged by the coral.

Language spoken in Nuku alofa, Tonga


Tongan is the official language but English is very widely spoken.

LOCAL TIME

4:33 am
October 18, 2019
Pacific/Tongatapu

CURRENT WEATHER

22.19 °C / 71.942 °F
overcast clouds
Fri

24.43 °C/76 °F
light rain
Sat

25.11 °C/77 °F
heavy intensity rain
Sun

25.03 °C/77 °F
moderate rain
Mon

24.55 °C/76 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

TOP

1 USD = 0 TOP
1 EUR = 0 TOP
1 GBP = 0 TOP
1 AUD = 0 TOP
1 CAD = 0 TOP

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