As a shining star in the Polynesian Triangle, Tonga is the epitome of an island paradise. With a wonderfully laid back pace, stunning scenery and locals who will melt your heart with their ear-to-ear smiles, Lonely Planet maintains that visitors should “Kiss the tourist hype goodbye – and say a warm Malo e lelei (hello!) to the Kingdom of Tonga.”
Slip into ‘Tonga time’
Unlike other regions in Polynesia, Tonga remains amazingly untouched. Flash resorts and built up ports give way to an authentic cultural experience that offers visitors a firsthand glimpse at how life in paradise unfolds. People like to call it ‘Tonga time,’ and it’s all too easy to slip into!
As well as its gorgeous beaches, the Kingdom also boasts a rich cultural history. Here are some of the not to be missed highlights!
Learn the importance of family
Family is the heart and soul of Tongan life, with elders commanding utmost respect. As well as mums, dads, brothers and sisters, Tongans embrace adopted children, cousins, aunties, uncles and other distant relatives.
Understand Tongan values
Tongan society is defined by four core values, all of which contribute to the incredibly warm welcome locals bestow upon visitors. The quartet includes Fefaka’apa’apa’aki (mutual respect), Feveitokai’aki (sharing, cooperating and fulfilment of mutual obligations), Lototoo (humility and generosity) and Tauhi vaha’a (loyalty and commitment).
Fall in love with Nuku’alofa
As the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa is home to around two thirds of its residents. The city’s name translates to ‘home of love’ and is a charming mix of beautiful coastline, laid back resorts, bustling villages, quaint churches and of course, smiling kids!
Feast on local fare
Tongans love to eat, and this is no understatement. Traditional feasts are an integral part of the culture, and can consist of more than 30 different dishes! Local delicacies include ‘ota ‘ika (raw fish marinated in fragrant lemon and coconut cream), lu pulu (corned beef and coconut milk wrapped in taro leaves), freshly caught octopus, spit-roasted suckling pig and anything smoked in a traditional underground oven.
Dance to the tune of Tonga
An immersive experience, Tongan dance is vibrant, colourful and above all, fun. Most unravel local stories and legends, with dancers adorned in homemade bracelets, neck garlands and ‘tekiteki’ feather headpieces. Me’etu’upaki, ‘Otuhaka, Ma’ulu’ulu, Ula, Tau’olunga, Kailao and Soke are popular versions, however there are many more styles to discover.
Chill out with kava
Murky, spicy and utterly relaxing, the ancient ceremonial practice of drinking kava numbs the lips and soothes the mind.
This is just the beginning of what Tonga has to offer for culturally curious visitors. To discover upcoming cruises to the stunning Polynesian Kingdom made up of more than 170 islands, get in touch with one of our Cruise 1st customer service agents today.