Region Review: Fun Times in Tonga

estrellita in vavau 2014

We spent just under 3 months cruising Tonga – 1 week in the Ha’apai group and the rest in Vava’u. It is a long time for a cruiser trying to make it from Mexico to NZ in one season but there is so much more we could have done if we had more time. We would have loved to go back the Ha’apai group, and to have seen Niautoputapu. Even in Vava’u, we could have spent a lot more days kiting at Kenutu before we got bored of that place (if ever).

As the months past, the network of connections we had made in the place grew. We made friends. We said goodbye to friends. We joined and left (or were left by) several fun gangs of people.

We had mixed reviews of Tonga from friends before arriving. We knew boats that had been here, been very disappointed and left immediately for Fiji. We knew boats who had been here, loved it and wished for more time. It was difficult to know what to expect because most people we heard from had only spent a month here, with at least a week in the main harbor, and had their eyes on their passage to New Zealand. Many of our friends saw some cool stuff here but they didn’t have much time to explore the nooks and crannies.

team giddup kenutu 1

We had a fantastic time. Everyone has their own soft spots in their hearts for certain kinds of places, and Tonga didn’t capture us long term as French Polynesia did, but I can’t imagine us not having a good time here. Beautiful anchorages everywhere you go and heaps of them.

What we liked:

  • KITE, KITE, KITE. Wow. Kenutu makes our top 5 list so far – totally. If you kite, and there is wind, go!
  • Holy whales! If you arrive at the right time (it was mid-August for us this year), the mothers and their wee calves are in the shallow interior waters. Later in the year the whales stay in Vava’u but go to the deeper exterior waters where you are less likely to see them. We arrived at the peak of calving and it was amazing. Every time we went sailing we saw them. We saw them breaching and playing from our anchored vessel. Spectacular.
  • White sand beaches.
  • Amazing water colors.
  • Loads of anchorages so even when it is busy you can find your own spot if you like. Generally great holding.
  • Every place has a little surprise, something good and unexpected to find when you explore.

What was a minus:

  • Underwater is a little underwhelming. You can find some live coral, you can find fish, except in the most sheltered bays the water is clear, but to our (admittedly jaded) experience, it is…only ok.
  • Spear fishing is a bit of a no go unless you are willing to go far out and deep. No leisurely shooting in the anchorage in the coral fields.
  • While there are lots of easy great anchorages, some of the places we wanted to explore were anchorages on shelves where swinging meant coming into the reef near the beach.
  • Guidebooks were whacked (this isn’t really the fault of the place, but true).
  • Channel 26 ;)

Thank you Tonga!

livia kenutu


  1. With all the whales around did you ever worry about hitting one while under sail?

  2. Hi Livia, can you comment on internet speed/cost/availability in Tonga? We're considering Tonga over Fiji for the hurricane season, but may need connectivity for work. Thanks!



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