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Most people say that the Vava'u is the best place to go to when you travel to Tonga, however there are many beautiful and interested sites to see on the Island of Tongatapu. You just need to look a bit harder to find them as tourism is not very well promoted here. Most sites and beaches are not sign posted so if you want to go exploring, purchase a tourist map for TOP$3 from Friends Cafe and get a rental car.
Driving around the island is an interesting experience, on the whole the roads are tar sealed although you do come across pot holes in the road, luckily the speed limit on the open road is limited to 65km. You will drive through many local villages and see lots of the free range pigs and dogs on your travels.
There are many excellent beaches around the Island of Tongatapu, good surfing spots and places to snorkle, or if you want to just lie on the beach you can do this as well, many of the beaches are deserted. The surfing at Ha'atafu is good all year around, there is a reef that runs the whole length of the beach so best time to surf is 2 hours either side of high tide. Bodyboarding or bodysurfing with a handski is also fun here. Would recommend the use of a spring suit just to give the added protection from the reef and coral. Bring your own snorkle gear and reef walkers as these cannot be purchased in Tonga.
Unfortunately sometimes the beauty is spoilt by litter, they have no household rubbish collection service organised yet and not many rubbish bins in public places either, so the locals tend to leave their rubbish where it falls or try to burn it in their backyards. The western influence is partly to blame here, the use of tinfoil for traditional cooking methods has replaced the banana leaf or taro leaf ie. umu, where food is wrapped and cooked in the ground. Walk past the Nuku'alofa bus terminal on a Saturday afternoon and the ground is littered with tinfoil,plastic bags and aluminium cans left over from family picnics.
There are some excellent places to eat in Nuku'alofa and the prices are quite reasonable, all the meat in the good restaurants is imported from NZ. The seafood is always fresh and a lobster costs the same or less than a good steak, around TOP40. You can also get a good cup of coffee, something that is hard to find in Vava'u, ask for a flat white or latte there and you may be met with a puzzled look.
There are regular trips out to some of the nearby islands such as Pangimotu, Fafa or Atata. These are handy on a Sunday when everything in Nuku'alofa shuts down, no gas stations, cafe's or shops open.
Since the riots of 16/11/2006 there are not many shops left in Nuku'alofa centre but you can still buy most things you need to get by, there are a couple of good craft shops in town that sell local handicrafts and carvings etc.