One of the most impressive sights in Tonga are the Blow Holes, found along the coastline at Houma, 14.5km (9 miles) from Nuku'alofa. Waves send sea water spurting some 18m (60ft) into the air through holes in the coral reef. This stretch of coastline is known as the Mapu 'a Vaea (the Chief's Whistle) by Tongans because of the whistling sound made by the geyser-like spouts.
Tongan waters are excellent for fishing. There are plentiful game fish including barracuda, tuna, marlin and sailfish. Charter boats are available.
Ha'amonga Trilithon is a massive stone arch possibly used as a seasonal calendar, erected at the same time as the Terraced Tombs and again made from coral. Each stone is thought to weigh in the region of 40,000kg (about 39 tons). The Anahulu Cave is an underground cavern of stalactites and stalagmites near the beach of the same name, about 24km (15 miles) from the capital. Oholei Beach is good for swimming.
These 68 small islands form the geological and geographical centre of Tonga, and are characterised by white sandy beaches, pristine waters and spectacular coral reefs. The main island, also named Ha'apai, features the quaint old town of Pangai.
Most of the islands are small, low-lying coral atolls, the exception being the volcanic islands of Tofua (whose volcano is still active) and the extinct Kao to the West. The famous mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789 is said to have taken place in the waters surrounding these islands, and it was from here that Captain William Bligh and his loyal men began their epic 6,500km (4,063-mile) journey to Timor - in a rowing boat.
Horses are still a key means of transportation on Tonga's main island groups. Hotels and tour operators can make arrangements for hiring horses.
At Kolovai, 18km (11 miles) west of Nuku'alofa, visitors can find the rare flying foxes, dark brown fruitbats, some with wingspans of up to 1m (3ft). The Ha'atafu and Monotapu beaches are also situated at the western end of the island; they are easily accessible and well protected.
On the eastern end of the island are the Langi (Terraced Tombs), 9.5km (6 miles) from the Ha'amonga Trilithon towards Nuku'alofa. The tombs form quadrilateral mounds faced with huge blocks of stone rising in terraces to heights of 4m (13ft), built for the old Tu'i tonga (Spiritual Kings).
On the eastern end of the island are the Langi (Terraced Tombs), 9.5km (6 miles) from the Ha'amonga Trilithon towards Nuku'alofa. The tombs form quadrilateral mounds faced with huge blocks of stone rising in terraces to heights of 4m (13ft), built for the old Tu'i tonga (Spiritual Kings). The stones are of coral, built around AD1200, possibly carried from Wallis Island on large canoes known as lomipeau.
Ha'apai Group: This group of 68 small islands forms the geological and geographical centre of Tonga and is characterised by white sandy beaches, pristine water and spectacular coral reefs.
The group's main island, also named Ha'apai, has the quaint old town of Pangai as its centre. Most of the 68 islands are small, low-lying coral atolls, the exception being the volcanic islands of Tofua (whose volcano is still active) and the extinct Kao to the West.
The famous mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789 is said to have taken place in the waters surrounding these islands and it was from here that Captain William Bligh and his loyal men began their epic 6,500km (4,063-mile) journey to Timor - in a rowing boat.
Captain James Cook used these islands as a place of rest and relaxation, making stopovers at Nomuka in 1774 and 1777 and visiting Lifuka in 1783. During April, a week-long festival culminates with the crowning of the local beauty queen. In 1995, the entire Ha'apai group was declared a Conservation Area with a view to protect the fragile ecosystems and coral reefs.
In Nuku'alofa, the capital, sightseeing itineraries should include the white Victorian Royal Palace on the waterfront, just beyond Vuna Wharf. The palace was completed in 1867. When the king is in residence, the royal standard flies from the palace. The grounds are decorated with tropical shrubs and flowers. While visitors are not allowed to enter the palace or gardens, there are good views from the low surrounding walls. The Mala'ekula (Royal Tombs) are situated in the southern part of the business district, along Taufa'ahau Road.
Lying 240km (150 miles) north of Tongatapu, this cluster of 50 or so thickly wooded islands has one hotel, one motel, one beach resort and four guest houses. There is a daily one-hour flight from the capital and a weekly ferry service; private cruisers and ferries also operate from the harbour at Neiafu, the main town. There is excellent diving, with visibility often as much as 30m (100ft). Other attractions include the Fangatongo Royal Residence, the view from Mount Talau and Sailoame Market in Neiafu.
Tonga's coral reefs provide great beauty and variety for scuba-diving and snorkelling; fully-equipped boats and equipment can be hired. There are sandy beaches and excellent swimming throughout the islands, with pools at some hotels. There is a world-standard surfing beach on the island of 'Eua. Niutoua Beach, on the main island, and Ha'apai and Vava'u islands are also good for surfing.
Humpback whales arrive in Tongan waters June to November, to calf and to mate. Special speakers for whale watching are plugged into a hydrophone installed on board the Phoenix catamaran based at Neiafu; only the male whales sing.