Cruising Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga is a stunning cruising destination and is a must stop on your South Pacific voyage.




The Kingdom of Tonga is situated in the heart of the South Pacific. 1284 miles NNE of New Zealand, 350NM east of Fiji and 315NM south of Samoa. There are over 170 coral and volcanic Islands, 40 of them are inhabited.

The history of the Kingdom stretches back over 3000 years, beginning with the migration of the Lapita people from Southeast Asia. The Kingdom of Tonga Polynesian monarchy dates back many centuries. It has never been colonized by a foreign power and has retained its indigenous governance. Tongan rulers created a hierarchical system of monarchy very similar to European dynasties. The structure included commoners, nobility and royalty, with the royal title being passed down from father to eldest son. The Tongan monarchy is a powerful entity to this day.

European explorers arrived in the 17th century, and after them followed the missionaries who introduced Christianity which is now an integral part of the Tongan culture. They were followed by whalers and traders. In 1918 a vessel brought a case of the flu which killed around 8% of the population.

The Ha'apai group is comprised of 62 islands with some spectacular cruising. The islands include barrier reefs, shallow lagoons, coral shoals, and even active volcanoes, but most are small low-lying coral atolls with white sandy beaches.

Vava’u is a spectacular tropical island paradise. It has a year-round climate suitable for swimming, snorkelling, diving and sailing. Some islands are ringed by white sand beaches while others have tropical forests, sea-level caves, and dramatic limestone cliffs with breath-taking vistas.

Whales migrate through Tonga each year to give birth, arriving in early July. Many people visit Tonga to swim with the whales which is an incredible experience.

In 2022 the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted causing a large tsunami and widespread damage to the islands.

The population is around 110,000 people and they are known for their musical talent, singing & dancing.



Tongatapu is the main island and the most popular first stop for boats sailing up from New Zealand on the Pacific Rally, or for yachts cruising in from the east from French Polynesia you can choose to arrive into Tongatapu one of the other official ports of entry further north.

Tongatapu is home to the Royal Family, and has a very interesting history, lots of fantastic restaurants, the main international airport has regular flights back to New Zealand or Australia for crew or friends & family coming in and out, and it is a great place to stop for fuel and provisions. We get a very warm welcome from the team at Big Mama's yacht club too.

From Tongatapu you can sail north through the stunning coral atolls of the Ha'apai Group and then on to Vava'u, which is well known for its spectacular sheltered cruising grounds. The more adventurous can sail further north to the Nuia's group.

You can easily spend six weeks to a few months exploring the Kingdom. 

You are then perfectly positioned to head west towards Fiji with the prevailing SE tradewinds at your back, or, if you are arriving in Tonga from French Polynesia later in the season, to head south to New Zealand

We invite you to join us on our Pacific Rally to explore Tonga and further afield or our Sail South to New Zealand - for some extra help with your passage from Tonga south. 




Take your time as you cruise through the South Pacific. There is so much to see and you can't do it all in one season.

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People who have crossed the Pacific often say that the best was saved until the last. Tonga is a unique destination and deserves much more than a fleeting visit as you make your way west. November to April is cyclone season in the tropics and most sailors choose to head to either New Zealand or Australia for this period of time. 

If you sail south to New Zealand you are perfectly positioned to head back up to either Tonga or Fiji again the following season and then continue making your way west.



If you are cruising through Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia - we'd love to have you join us on our Pacific Rally. This rally includes everything you need to cruise the South West Pacific with information on all these incredible destinations. We provide all the paperwork and details of the entry formalities, connect you with all the others cruising in the same direction and you also get all the Sail South Support inclusions as well. 

For those sailing in from French Polynesia, you can stop en-route to Tonga in the Cook Islands, Samoa and Niue and then plan to stay in Tonga until late September. The legendary Bluewater Cruisers Festival takes place around the end of September each year. The festival is a fun-filled week of sailing and social events and is on the bucket list of many a cruiser. 

After the Bluewater Festival, cruise down through Ha'apai group to Tongatapu and enjoy some hospitality from our great friends at Big Mama's Yacht Club while you wait for a weather window. Mid-October it is time to start thinking of getting out of the tropics. From here you can sail South to New Zealand - check out our Sail South to New Zealand support package or if you are arriving earlier in the season you can continue on with us on the Pacific Rally through Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia to Go West on the Down Under Rally to Australia




It is around 1000nm from Tonga, south to New Zealand. Picking a good weather window is critical for a safe and enjoyable passage and we can assist. Our Sail South to New Zealand package includes advice from a professional meterologist to assist our group departures choose the best time to leave and provides weather updates along the way.




A must-stop en-route is Minerva Reef. This is a great place to stage yourself to wait for a suitable window, and it is just a five day passage from here to New Zealand. We'll give you all the tips you need to explore this incredible place.