Sail Tonga

3 April 2024

A Message from our Director regarding Tonga

Tongan sailing charter industry continues to languish

Sad to say that at the time of writing Tonga does not have any bareboats for charter. If wishing for a South Pacific sailing holiday, I suggest you talk to us about the merits of sailing in New Caledonia and Tahiti, destinations we know so well. The reasons for sailing in these French territories are stronger now than they have ever been.

Tonga did its best to get up and running after Covid. Unfortunately events since then have conspired against that happening, for the bareboat fleet at least. The pandemic was bad enough, but then came the volcanic eruptions of late 2021/early 2022 This tiny island nation was shattered, and since then has simply had to sort its priorities. Catering for boat charter groups has not been among them.

Even prior to the pandemic, operators had issues with government duties on their charter boats. Then when Covid hit the boat owners were unable to get their boats out, they just sat there for three years. So the climate just didn’t support the activity.

Once restrictions lifted the plan was to refit the boats in Tonga, but that proved difficult. So the two boats concerned came back to New Zealand. Here they remain - 2008 and 2014 models now considered too old to send back into work in Tonga.

For Vavau’u tourism, good signs beginning to appear on the horizon

Shane Walker has operated the Moorings/Sunsail fleet in Tonga for some 40+ years. He is still there, running the Tongan Beachside Resort which he owns. And he has taken on a waterfront property lease, in anticipation of setting up another bareboat fleet in the truly magical cruising destination that is Vavau.

But he can’t do that without boats to operate. The good news is that there's a feeling growing that just may happen again!

The government duties previously applied are now dead in the water; there are no boats on which duty can be paid! This has always been a barrier to development of the Tonga charter industry, and until that is lifted this part of the sector, with its jobs and economic benefits, will not return. We are quietly confident the Tongan government will recognise this reality and take another look.

Be a part of Tonga’s sailing industry revival

This year, recession has hit the European charter market hard, and an unprecedented number of good late model charter catamarans are now on the market; selling at huge reductions on prices paid just two years ago. 

Anyone with a desire to own a boat suitable for family cruising – and thus charter as well - in this part of the world could well consider this: pick up one of those surplus boats and base it in Tonga where it can pay for itself. Buy a boat in Europe, enjoy a season or two there and then sail onto the Caribbean before putting it in Tongan charter: what a wonderful adventure if you have the means to make this happen.

Alternatively, if you have a suitable late-model boat tied up in New Zealand or Australia, you are not using it as much as you would like to and the costs are mounting, then putting it into charter in Vava'u, Tonga will likely turn this liability into an investment.

Shane Walker can talk to you about the likely return on investment a boat in Tonga can produce. I can vouch for the demand!

There is no place like Vava’u group for sailing exquisite Blue Pacific lagoons in safety and comfort. Whatever the circumstances, those northern islands of Tonga will always be a popular charter destination. Once we get the boats back there. 

Robert Cross

An Invitation to Experience the Blue Pacific

The Kingdom of Tonga, Captain James Cook's 'Friendly Islands', is made of up three main island groups. The most northerly is the Vava'u Group, a favoured boat charter destination yet a place where there's so much room you may well image yourself on the quintessential desert island. Sailing your charter yacht through the Vava'u charter cruising grounds is a pure delight. From Neiafu harbour, sail out into the blue Pacific into island-studded waters that contain more than 50 protected anchorages.

Step back in time and encounter another world. Your search for peace and tranquility ends here. Charter a yacht in Tonga's Vava'u Group, to discover remote idyllic islands, beautiful lagoons, colourful reefs and mile upon mile of deserted white sand beaches fringed with gently rustling palm trees.

The blue Pacific waters are warm and clear, with almost unlimited visibility that makes snorkelling among the colourful sea life a dream. Scuba lovers can experience reef, cave and wreck diving at a number of excellent sites. And when your day of fun and nature appreciation is done, come ashore where the people are friendly and ready to share their culture and uniquely Pacific way of life. 

The Vava'u charter sailing area is compact with numerous options for short-stay and overnight anchorages.  So there's plenty of flexibility, and you can largely go to wherever the breeze and the mood takes you. As a guide only, and for some further information on places you may like to visit, here's a sample 10-day itinerary for a bareboat charter in Tonga. 

Explore the islands of the Vava'u Group at your own pace, as one relaxed day flows into another.  

About Sailing Holiday Charters in Tonga's Vava'u Group 

Restricted sailing zones

Information on areas out of bounds on charter is covered in the chart briefing. Charterers are asked to stay away from the exposed windward (eastern) side of the island Group. The area of charter comprises the islands of Vava'u Group.

Charter Facilities

Facilities at the charter base marina in Neiafu include a provisioning service, fuel, ice, laundry, boutique, restaurant, shower, café and bar. There are no shops or stores on any of the outer islands, but some do have small restaurants.


From this central location you can cruise to no less than forty recognised anchorages, many of them within two hours' sailing. Don't miss the Swallows Cave on the island's northwest tip. It is a spectacular sight that is similar to the Blue Grotto in Capri. Port Maurelle on Kapa is the spot where the Spanish explorer Maurelle,who in 1781 was the first European to see Vava'u, anchored his ship. It is a lovely and protected natural anchorage.

Nuapapu, Hunga and Vaka'eitu

To the west are the islands of Nuapapu, Hunga and Vaka'eitu. Hunga's huge lagoon, formed by the crater of an extinct volcano, can only be reached through a 200ft-wide pass. Here a traditional Tongan village shares the shoreline with the 'Island Style' Club Hunga Resort. Further along, on the western coast of Nuapapu is the fascinating Mariner's Cave, an underwater cavern which good swimmers will be able to visit. At Vaka'eitu you will find a safe overnight anchorage.


Mananita is surrounded by reefs that provide some of the best snorkelling in the area. Careful navigation through the reefs will be rewarded by the discovery of perfect white, powdery sand beaches. A stroll inland will take you into a luxuriant natural temple filled with the brilliant green light provided by the large-leafed puko trees.


Kenutu is an idyllic lagoon perfect for an overnight stay, with an attractive beach, excellent diving for experienced divers on the reef and a walk on the exposed ocean side to see the caverns and blowholes.


A delightful small island surrounded by a sandy beach, Mounu is the idyllic South Pacific island. There is a small resort on the western end of the island. Call ahead on the VHF and make your reservation for a gourmet meal.


A tiny island with a cosy anchorage alongside an idyllic sandspit, Nuku is possibly the most photographed island in the Kingdom of Tonga. A perfect place for a day stop. Safe swimming and snorkelling allow beginners to gain their confidence. Nuku becomes a favourite with all who visit Vava'u.


Between Nuku and Port Maurelle, A'a provides some amazing snorkelling and diving, particularly along the western shoreline. The mid afternoon sun highlights the natural colours of the coral and fish life, with the depth dropping away to around 200 feet.

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