- HOTELS (BEST RATED)
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- SIGHTS & LANDMARKS
- THINGS TO DO
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Nukuʻalofa is the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga. It is located on the north coast of the island of Tongatapu, in the southernmost island group of Tonga.
|POPULATION :||City: 23,658|
|TIME ZONE :||(UTC+13) Summer: (UTC+13)|
|LANGUAGE :||Tongan, English|
|AREA :||22 km2 (8 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||3 m (10 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||21°8′0″S 175°12′0″W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.76% |
• Female: 49.24%
|ETHNIC :||Polynesian, Europeans|
|AREA CODE :||676|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :|
In the Tongan myth of the origin of Nukuʻalofa, it was said that the meaning of Nukuʻalofa is: nuku meaning abode, ʻalofa meaning love.
On 10 June 1777, British captain James Cook wrote of his arrival at their anchorage place. His description of the place confirmed, with his map, that this was the bay of Nukuʻalofa. Cook never used the name Nukualofa or any other spelling for the reports of this voyage, but he mentioned the island of Pangaimodoo (Pangaimotu) which was to the east of his anchorage position.
The first written record for Nuku'alofa is stated in the first dedicated book for Tonga by George Vason which was published in 1810. George Vason was an English missionary from the London Missionary Society, who arrived in Tonga in 1797.
The second oldest book dedicated to Tonga was by William Mariner, adopted son of Finau 'Ulukalala, which was published in 1817. Mariner described his experiences during the years he was the adopted son of 'Ulukalala (1806–1810). He described the civil war and the siege of the Fort of Nuku'alofa, which fell to 'Ulukalala and his warriors.
The arrival of the Methodist missionaries in Nuku'alofa in 1827 reinforced the Christian faith. The persecution suffered by Christians in Hihifo and Hahake forced a lot of people to seek refugees in Nuku'alofa. Thanks to the encouragement of Tupou, the King of Nuku'alofa, this was the beginning of the expanding of Nuku'alofa to become the major center of Christianity in Tonga.
The Declaration of the Constitution of Tonga in 1875 formalised Nuku'alofa as the Capital of Tonga. King George Taufa'ahau Tupou I issued the Constitution of Tonga on 4 November 1875, in Nuku'alofa. The Constitution also stated (Article 38) that the Parliament will meet in Nuku'alofa except in time of war.
Tropical marine climate.
|Record high °C (°F)||32|
|Average high °C (°F)||29.4|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||26.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||23.4|
|Record low °C (°F)||16|
Nukuʻalofa is the economic hub of the country.
Peau Vavaʻu, an airline, had its head office in the Pacific Royale Hotel in Nukuʻalofa. The former Royal Tongan Airlines had its head office in the Royco Building in Nukuʻalofa.
The city has markets and a central business district. Much of the central business district was destroyed during the 2006 Nuku‘alofa riots, but it is being rebuilt.
There are several internet cafes in town. The Friend's Cafe is most expensive at about T$8 an hour and some places charge as low as T$2 an hour. Avoid inserting camera cards into the slots due to the risk of viruses. Use Skype to call overseas because it's about T$1 per minute if you buy a phone card.
Transportation - Get In
There are several flights a week from Auckland, Sydney and Suva.
Transportation - Get Around
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. A Tongan driver's license for T$25 is available and can be obtained at the police department with your home license.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.You can hire a car from the Friend's Tourist Centre (near the main post office) for about 50 Pa'anga and a tour of the island is about 120 km.
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 (40-80 Pa'anga depending on how many are on the tour).
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. The general cost of getting from Nuku`alofa to the surfing destination of Ha`atafu on the western peninsula is roughly T$2.20.
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The market located in the center of the Nuku'alofa is an exciting place where you can bargain for jewelery and souvenirs.
For a small town, Nuku'alofa offers a decent range of restaurants and bars. Expect to pay 15-40 Pa'anga for a main course in a restaurant and about 5 Pa'anga for a takeaway at one of the roadside sellers. 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). The cost is about T$30 each and can be booked from the Tonga Visitors Center. Transport is extra. Make sure you understant 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, . The main place for tourists on Tongatapu. Serves coffee, tea, and excellent breakfast. Try the vanilla French toast. The milk shakes 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, . Every second and last Mondays of each month, you can enjoy a two- or three-course meal for around T$30. 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.
Sights & Landmarks
- 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, . 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.
Things to do
Take a day trip to Pangaimotu or one of the outer islands. A trip to Pangaimotu Island costs about T$20 return. The small island, the closest one to Nuku`alofa has a half sunken ship wreck 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.
Safety in Nukuʻalofa
Nukuʻalofa 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.