When I heard about ‘Eua, Tonga – a small island that was rather unexplored, with lush rainforests and geographically seen, the oldest island of the Kingdom of Tonga, I knew I wanted to go.
‘Eua is a truly offbeat destination in Tonga – ideal for anybody looking to immerse themselves into untouched nature, disconnect from the modern world and find complete relaxation.
If you are spending a week in Tongatapu (or more) and wonder what else is there to see – it’s worth looking into exploring its neighbouring island. In as little as two days you can see the major sights, enjoy the quietness of the place and experience the real Tonga.
This guide will give you a complete overview of the island and why I think it’s worth going to.
(Updated August 2022)
‘Eua Tonga: The Ultimate Guide About One Unexplored Island
‘Eua is also known as ‘the forgotten island’. It’s only 17.5 km away from Tonga’s main island Tongatapu but due to its lack of tourism infrastructure and amenities, it feels as offbeat as it is. ‘Eua is the highest of all the islands in Tonga and is some 30 Million years older than the rest of the archipelago.
I’m sitting on the top deck of the ferry, the sun is shining in my face. A couple of other tourists are with me on the ferry, with the majority of people being locals. Leaving Tongatapu, we pass by its lagoon and tiny islands just off the east coast. On arrival to the Nafanua wharf in ‘Ohonoa I have finally spotted some spouts of air in the distance, coming from a pod of Humpback whales.
‘Eua Tonga: General Overview
‘Ohonoa is ‘Eua’s main town and the only place on the island where you can find a BSP Bank, a tiny tourism information centre, an adjacent Vodafone shop that sells SIM cards (in case you start to rethink your digital detox), the obligatory church and a bookshop called the ‘Friendly Island Bookshop’.
As everywhere in Tonga you can find pigs roaming freely around the streets.
‘Eua Tonga: How To Get There
You can reach ‘Eua either by hopping on a propeller plane or by taking the ferry. The flight to ‘Eua is roughly seven minutes long and operated by REALtonga airlines. On the other hand, if you are on a budget (like I was) you can opt for a relaxed two-hour ferry ride from the newly built terminal in Nuku’alofa.
The time schedule for the ferry changes every week, so it’s best to check with the company directly via their Facebook Page Estc – Mv Maui & Mv ‘onemato. (Remember there is no service on Sundays, neither for the flights)
How To Get Around ‘Eua, Tonga
To get around and properly explore ‘Eua you certainly need to go on a tour, rent a car – or you hitchhike. To rent a car I’d suggest going to the main town of ‘Ohonua.
As far as I heard, hitchhiking is quite a common thing on the island, done by many travellers. I guess as everywhere general caution applies. If the situation feels off – it probably is. I hitch-hiked from The Hideout to the Ufilae Beach and back and got – without problems.
Where To Stay on ‘Eua Tonga
There are only a handful of options for accommodation. Therefore I’d recommend booking a room rather sooner than later.
One of the most recommended places for ‘Eua was The Hideaway Hotel. I have enquired weeks ago and Marta, a Chilean woman who was currently running the place during the summer months, was extremely helpful in providing me with info on how to get there.
The scenic drive from town took around 15 minutes, along the seaside. Through a palm-fringed entry, we pulled into the place, two friendly dogs greeted me. The guest house has a huge dining area, open to all sides with a small path winding its way to a deck with a breathtaking view of the ocean. What you can expect: Perfect views of the ocean (and of the Humpback whales) from their deck, zero Wi-Fi, friendly personnel, quietness and daily changing meals. Would always go again!
A highly recommended accommodation is the ‘Ovava Tree Lodge – five minutes walking distance from the wharf and run by Deep Blue Diving. They’ve got great reviews and offer dorm rooms for the budget-conscious travellers as well as affordable single rooms.
Taina’s Place sits on the edge of the forest, operated by a Tongan family since 1998. You can contact them and inquire for availability directly via their website.
Rather towards the upper end of accommodation options is the Deep Resort, #1 hotel on ‘Eua – according to TripAdvisor.
Best Things To Do on ‘Eua, Tonga
This offbeat destination offers great diversity in terms of outdoor activities, whether this being on land or in the sea.
1. Swim With Humpback Whales
The main reason people come to ‘Eua is to swim with the whales. There are large pods of humpback whales easily visible from the coast and people have been swimming with up to 40 (!) of them at a time.
2. Rock Garden
In the rough southern part of the island, you can find the ‘Rock Garden‘. Some say its the most beautiful part of the island. You can find lush green fields with huge rocks varying in size, dotted around the area. The whole place sits on top of 200 metres dramatic-looking cliffs with an endless view of the open ocean. It’s also where you tend to find the ‘Eua Red Shinning Parrot’, only native to the island. Not getting too close to the edge of the cliffs you can still admire the dramatic formations and how nature took its toll over the years.
3. The Natural Archway
Wandering through the ‘Rock Garden’, you reach the ‘The Natural Archway’ – Liangohuo a Maui. The path leads to a viewing platform, passing through a virgin forest full of cycad trees for about 15 minutes.
4. ‘Ovava Tree
One of the highlights of the island – the big ‘Ovava tree or also known as Strangeling Fig Tree (‘Ovava is an old Tongan name for those big trees). Botanists cannot age the tree with certainty, but they estimate it to be around 800 years old. It was more impressive than any other tree I have seen before – an array of neverending roots wherever you looked. From the main road, it is only a short walk to the tree – you cannot miss it!
5. Tonga Beaches
Tufuvai beach is a clean, with white-sand and next to the Deep Resort. It’s only a leisurely 10-minute walk from the Hideaway and with enough trees around to seek refuge from the sun, you can spend easily an afternoon. Here I met a friendly local family who invited me to join their picnic for a celebration.
Ufilae beach – a very laid-back beach lies on the west side of ‘Eua, north of ‘Ohonua. The trail leads through palm trees and forest for about 20 minutes. I happened to be there during low tide and therefore witnessed a few locals collecting some nets behind the reef. I’d argue that you can have the beach to yourself on most days.
There are a couple more beaches on the islands, with the ones in the north being the prettiest. However, to reach them you would need to rent a car though or use the taxi service of your guest house.
‘Eua Tonga: Best Tour Operators
- The Hideaway has their own tour guides who organise island tours as well as different hikes.
- The ‘Ovava Tree Lodge run by Deep Blue Diving is organising whale swimming tours from ‘Eua and Nuku’alofa. To get a better idea about swimming with humpback whales in Tonga head over to my other post here.
What Else Is Nearby
The nearest shop for vegetables and fruit, as well as the only supermarket, can be found on the main street in Pangai. As the way leads uphill it would take you around35 minutes to walk. With that being said it’s better to get supplies from the main island if you don’t have a car. From The Hideway it’s a 35 minutes walk uphill into the village, in other words, a car would come in handy. There is also one liquor shop on the island, which is essentially a little shack adjacent to the house of the owner. However, he had a substantial supply on Maka, one of the Tongan beers, as well as other spirits and kava.
It did not seem to be a common thing for Tongans to eat Tongan food outside of their home. I was excited to see that the family who runs the liquor shop also operates a tiny ‘restaurant’ from their kitchen. The dishes were all handwritten in Tongan on a whiteboard, offering a mix of either meat, fish and taro or some sort of yucca.
They also had prepared one of the traditional dishes that I was keen to try – ‘Ota Ika’ (Tongan raw fish). It’s similar to Ceviche where you have raw fish, in lime juice, chopped tomato and onions in coconut milk. I ordered the Ota Ika, fish with gravy and a side of taro/yucca chips – all for 14 TOP (~5 US$). Let me tell you, the portions were so massive, great to share with someone or to stretch it to two meals.
What I Recommend You Bring
- Enough cash! Although there is a local bank, you never know if it’s out of service or running low on money. After all, it’s a remote island, the internet connection can be temperamental and speaking from experience, you rather want to have some extra money on you in case you cannot pay with your card.
- Snacks – as mentioned earlier, the only supermarkets or shops on the island aren’t easy to reach by foot and neither are they stocked with a great variety. Therefore, if you easily get peckish, you might want to do a grocery haul in Tongatapu.
- A good book! An off the grid island certainly makes a great place to actually go on a digital detox. With all the quietness around you, it gives you the change to focus on that one book that you might have been putting off to read for a while or that you never really get to find the time for to start.
- A SIM card if you want (or have to) work or stay in touch with people or just for the sake of planning your trips. A digital detox is good, but sometimes the ability to plan ahead can come in handy.
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