As with most Pacific Islands, the capitol isn’t where you will be spending the most of your time. But, like most Pacific Islands, it will be the place you fly into and probably one of the best places on the island to get your bearings and sort out the rest of your visit.
To be honest, there is not a lot to do in the Tongan capitol of Nuku’alofa. There are very few sights of interest and the city isn’t incredible picteresque either – you will want to spend the majority of your time in other areas of Tonga. However, there are some nice restaurants worth mention, there are a few sights, and also there is one other big reason why you may *need* to visit this small Island city. That reason is that the best way to get around Tonga is to rent a car – and all travelers will need to get a temporary Tongan driving license issued from the Licenses Office in Nuku’alofa… a bureaucratic adventure that deserves it own post (stay tuned for that Monday!).
You really only need one day to see everything you want to see in Nuku’alofa. You will most likely spend your morning getting your Tongan drivers license (or if it has recently moved again it might take you several days like it did for us….), and then you can devote your afternoon to seeing the sights. There are only a few places 0f interest in Nuku’alofa, and wandering through the city to each site will only take an hour or two.
There are three main sights worth seeing in Nuku’alofa. The three of them are all near each other and easily accessible on foot.
This market is your one stop shop for handicrafts and souvenirs from Tonga. We found that at the time of our visit, there were not many other dedicated touristy souvenir shops, so this is where we picked up all of our gifts and nicknacks. Here you will find sarongs, tapa (traditional designs on mulberry paper), and all sorts of coconut and shell jewelery that I’m sure you would expect from a Pacific nation.
The Royal Family is a big deal in Tonga and so is their palace. The palace is more like a very large manor, and the grand white walls give it a surprisingly country estate sort of feel. The grounds are closed to visitors, but you can get a decent look at the palace through the gate on the Western side.
The Free Church Of Tonga and the Royal Tombs
The impressive stone Free Church of Tonga looks like something you would find in medieval Europe… not an island nation, The church looks extremely old, but this large brick church was actually only built in 1983. It is one of the last things architecturally you would expect to come upon in Tonga.
In the large green across from the Free Church of Tonga are the Royal Tombs. The Tombs are off limits to the public, but you can still get a good look at the Royal burial mounds through the fence.
The end of the walking tour!
Well that’s it. You have now seen all the main sights in Nuku’alofa. Why not now relax at Friend’s cafe where you can always find decent food (and an English menu).