Vavau, Tonga Islands Cruise Port

Deep within the South Pacific Ocean is a group of islands whose birth is the stuff of legend; among them you'll find the cruise port of Vava'u (or Vavau), Tonga Islands. Vava'u is the largest of more than 70 islands; the other main island in the group is Tongatapu, which is quite a bit further south. The Tongan Islands were allegedly captured like deep-water fish by the Polynesian god Maui with a magic hook, whose younger son Kisikisi taught the islanders about fire, cooking, and building wooden homes. In history involving humans, the island was first visited by Europeans in 1781, when naval officer and explorer Francisco Antonio Mourelle de la Rúa charted Vava'u (although the famous Captain Cook supposedly knew about the island years before this, but was persuaded not to visit). Fragrant with vanilla and pineapple, here are of our favorite experiences when cruising to Vava'u, Tonga Islands:
 
  • Along with sailing, snorkeling and diving, dolphin and whale watching are popular outdoor activities. Humpback whales get close to shore during birthing season (between June and October) so their calves are protected, creating excellent opportunities to spot these magnificent creatures. There are even tours that give you the opportunity of a lifetime: swimming with whales.
     
  • The capital city of Neiafu is one of the busiest places on Vava'u. The ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens feature more than 550 different plant varieties with a focus on saving endangered species. Within the park is ‘Ene’io Beach where you can take a swim in the man-made ocean swimming pool, and enjoy some delicious local cuisine in the nearby restaurant.
     
  • Also in Neiafu is the lovely colonial St. Joseph's Cathedral, on a hill above the Port of Refuge. Attend a mass to see the locals dressed to the nines and hear their angelic choir; the view from the hill is also worth the climb.
     
  • Visit the Utakalongalu Market, where you can find fresh produce along with handcrafted items. The vendors probably won't barter, but if you're there toward the end of the day, you might find your favorite item marked down in price.

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