The following suggestions are based on my experiences in Tonga in June 2000.
Don't be afraid to travel on the buses. Tongans waiting at the main terminal for buses to the country villages will help you to determine the correct bus, and may miss their bus until they're sure you catch the bus you need for the required destination. The buses are cheap, and enable you to see the countryside at leisure.
An excellent place to stay out of Nuku'alofa is at the Good Samaritan Inn. The prices are reasonable, the resort is clean and well managed, and the staff are pleasant and helpful. After I mentioned that I enjoyed drinking the milk from fresh coconuts, a staff member presented me with some the next morning before breakfast, and then showed me how easily he could climb the palm tree.
The beach is clean, and the snorkelling enjoyable if you enter the water outside the resort, and drift down the beach on the gentle current.
Provided it hasn't rained, hike up Mt. Talau. The view over Neiafu and the Harbour is magnificent.
For craftwork of carved black coral and whale bone, check on Mr Tui at the Government Tourist Bureau, where the staff are also very helpful. Also the small fale on the Dolphin Diving pier.
A most enjoyable day is the cruise by "Whale Watchers" to Foiata Island. The trip to the island is relaxing, and you can either take lunch, or stretch the budget and buy lunch at the restaurant on the island, which is operated by a German chef with the help of two delightful local girls.
The rustic restaurant is largely built of local timber, including the furniture, but the linen, silverware and crockery, etc., would befit a first class restaurant. The menu is varied, the quality superb and great value, but the wines may be considered expensive.
On the return trip to Neiafu, the navigator usually locates a large pod of dolphins which play around in the wake of the boat. By leaning over the front of the craft, you are within a metre of touching them.
From there, you are taken for a swim into Swallows Cave if you wish, with time to dive down into a second cave. Nearby is another cave also worth a visit.
These suggestions are offered to help visitors save time and money.
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