11 Best Sights in Tonga Islands

Centenary Church

Tongans are a particularly religious people. No public activities are allowed on Sunday other than church attendance, and any check written on a Sunday is not legal tender. The Centenary Church—a large and, from the exterior, unattractive building—is the main venue for the Free Wesleyans, the state religion. Various choirs often practice here, and there are numerous rehearsals held for weddings and other events, providing an informal touch of local culture. Church services start before dawn on Sundays.

Vaha'akolo Rd., Nuku'Alofa, Tonga Islands

Flying Fox Sanctuary

At the western end of Tongatapu this sanctuary is home to thousands of the large, black-winged bats commonly called flying foxes. During the day the bats sleep hanging upside down in the trees, but at dusk they are on the wing, hunting out fruit across the island. The bats’ smell is strong, but when they fly they are beautiful—and a little spooky.

Kolovai, Tonga Islands

Ha’amonga ‘a Maui

At the far eastern end of Tongatapu, around 16 km (10 miles) east of the capital, is Tonga’s icon, the unusual and vaguely mysterious trilithon known as the Ha’amonga’a Maui. It was built around 1200 AD from three large pieces of limestone mined from what Tongans knew as Uvea (now part of the French territory of Wallis and Futuna), then part of the Tongan Empire. Much like Great Britain’s Stonehenge (though considerably younger), it’s not entirely clear why Ha’amonga ’a Maui was built. The archshaped structure may have been used as a celestial calendar or as a gateway to royal grounds.

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Twenty-eight unexcavated burial mounds remain at what was once called Lapaha. Nearby is a monument marking the spot where James Cook first set foot ashore in 1777.

Mu’a, Tonga Islands


The village of Mu’a, about six miles from Nuku’alofa on Hahake Road, is the center of the Tui Tonga dynasty, which dates back to around 1200 AD.


Just east of Nuku’alofa on Vuna Road is the small fishing village of Nukuleka. It has little to offer tourists other than the fact that scientists now believe it is the oldest settlement in Polynesia, dating back nearly 3,000 years (Polynesia is a vast area defined by Hawaii in the north, New Zealand in the south, and Easter Island in the east).

Nuku’alofa Club

Meeting royalty is not out of the question in Tonga; princes, nobles, and the other power brokers of the kingdom meet and drink at the old Nuku’alofa Club. Visitors are welcome, provided they are suitably dressed.

Corner of Salote Rd. and Tu'i Tr, Nuku'Alofa, Tonga Islands

Prime Minister's Office and Parliament Buildings

On Taufa'ahau Road, take a look at the attractive Prime Minister’s Office. Just behind it are the small, wooden-sided Parliament Buildings. When Parliament is in session, visitors can sit in the public gallery (although because of its small size, only a few spectators can fit). With pressure to democratize growing in the kingdom, parliamentary debates are lively and passionate—and conducted almost exclusively in Tongan.

Royal Palace

The small Royal Palace, visible on the foreshore as ships come in, is easily the most visited spot on the island. It is closed to the public—despite the fact that King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV does not actually live in it—but ceremonial and traditional events often take place on its grounds and can easily be viewed.

Vaha'Akolo Rd., Nuku'Alofa, Tonga Islands

Royal Tombs

Tonga’s royalty all end up in the Royal Tombs, an unusual spot near the center of town. Visitors are expected to be respectful, and care should be taken when walking among the graves.

Laifone Rd., Nuku'Alofa, Tonga Islands

Tonga National Center

This is a one-stop-shop for dance, music, carving, and old and modern art. The center provides insight into the stately styles of Tongan cultural life, which remain a part of the daily routines of modern Tongans. Here you’ll find a variety of exhibitions and shows, which usually start at midday and include an ornate version of kava drinking (a popular beverage with narcotic properties) that Tongans have ritualized almost as much as the Japanese have with tea.

Taufa'ahau Rd., Nuku'Alofa, Tonga Islands