Ha'apai

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia Tonga Ha'apai

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Introduction

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.

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Geography

Haʻapai consists of 51 islands directly west of the Tonga Trench, constituting a chain of volcanic islands including Kao, the highest point in the kingdom standing at 1,046 metres. Further to the west are the coral islands which are inhabited. The archipelago lies 204 kilometres north of Tongatapu and 130 kilometres south of Vavaʻu. Seventeen of the islands are inhabited, including the main islands of Lifuka and Foa. The two main villages in the archipelago are Pangai on Lifuka (where Salote Pilolevu Airport is located) and Ha'ano.

All the larger islands are in the eastern Lifuka group. The two larger islands are Lifuka and Foa. After the two larger islands are Nomuka and Haʻano which have four villages. To the south of these islands is ʻUiha, which has two villages, ancient burial grounds and an ancient monument.

The large islands of Tofua (active volcano) and Kao (dormant volcano) are in the far west. The islands of the Kotu group, locally known as Lulunga, are in the southwest of the archipelago. The islands of the Nomuka group, locally known as ʻOtu Muʻomuʻa, are further south.

Humpback whales migrate here in wintering seasons.

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Villages

Pangai is the administrative capital village of the Haʻapai Group and is located on Lifuka.

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Sights and Activities

  • 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 stands on the great rock terraces on the east side of Lifuka Island.

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Events and Festivals

Ha’apai Tourism Festival

Held in the second week of June every year, this festival showcases the islands’ finest culinary and cultural delights. It is designed to attract tourists, and plenty come to experience the relaxed atmosphere and to enjoy and learn about traditional Tongan cooking and culture.

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Weather

Ha'apai has pleasantly warm but humid tropical climate. Daytime temperatures are around 30 °C while night are still wel above 20 °C. The wet season lasts from November to April while the period from May to October sees less rain and more sun. Still, some heavy showers are possible during this time but it is the best time to visit Tonga if you want to avoid most of the rainy days.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are daily flights by REALtonga, Tonga's Domestic Airline to Ha'apai and a link to / from Vava'u a couple of times a week. Flight time Tongatapu - Ha'apai is about 30 minutes.

By Boat

Local ferries sail between all the island groups, but services are erratic and not comfortable at all. There are regular sailings though from Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku'alofa to Ha'apai and Vava'u. Ferry schedules are subject to change and are subject to demand or weather as well. To the Northern Islands, the following are the main options:

  • The MV 'Olovaha is operated by the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia in Nuku'alofa (scp@tonfon.to) runs a weekly service between Tongatapu (Nuku'alofa), Ha'apai (Ha'afeva and Lifuka Islands) and Vava'u (Neiafu).

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Getting Around

Rent a bicycle. These can be rented at Mariner's Cafe, Fins 'n' Flukes, Fifita's and Lindsay's guest houses.

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Eat

  • 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.

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Drink

  • Mariner's Cafe - Pangai. Bar and cafe.

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Sleep

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.

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Ha'apai Travel Helpers

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:37 on Jul 17, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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