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Nuku alofa, Tonga

Nuku'alofa, the financial and commercial hub of Tonga, is usually visitors’ first taste of the kingdom. Located on the northern coast of Tonga’s largest island, Tongatapu, it’s a charming, idiosyncratic city with a lively infrastructure that combines a slew of pleasant cafés and restaurants with historic churches and long, stunning beaches. It’s an easy city to navigate on foot, and the surrounding island can be explored equally easily with a car or motorbike, both of which can be rented locally. Head to the water and take advantage of some of the world’s finest snorkeling, or venture out to sea on a whale-watching charter between June and November (or watch for free from several local viewpoints). Land options can include a round of golf or a cultural experience such as the Tongan ancient village. On Sundays, when the city shuts down, it’s possible to take a day trip to nearby islands. Visit the upscale eco-resort Fafa or the lower-key Makaha‘a Island; you can reach both by local ferry or even by kayak if you’re feeling adventurous.

Featured Shore Excursions