Tonga’s Remote Tropical Islands and Pristine Coral Reefs


In Tonga’s enchanting and remote Ha’apai Islands, we paddle sea kayaks, snorkel amid an abundance of dazzling tropical fish, and delight in encounters with the humpback whales who migrate here annually to court, mate, and bear their young. This is one of the few places in the world where you can swim right alongside these majestic creatures, and our heart-pounding experiences may include witnessing mother-calf interactions. Along the way, we meet the Ha’apai islanders, the friendliest in the Tongan kingdom, who welcome us with time-honored hospitality and Polynesian ‘umu feasts. Swimming with whales, fabulous snorkeling, sea kayaking in crystalline waters, and overnights in a traditional beach lodge set on a white-sand beach—this is true adventure in the South Seas!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Tongatapu, Tonga / Snorkeling / Kayaking

Meeting in Tongatapu, Tonga, we fly to the remote Ha’apai Islands, a group of low, coral islands with vibrant reefs and miles of deserted picture-perfect beaches. From our comfortable lodge on a private beach on Foa Island, we enjoy excellent reef snorkeling practically right out our front door. Gazing underwater, we see the amazing geography of the reefs—caves, canyons, caverns, tunnels, vertical walls, and colorful coral gardens with plenty of fish, including Moorish idol, butterfly fish, wrasse, and clown fish, as well as stingrays and sea turtles. At night, we stargaze under the clear skies and bright Milky Way and learn how early Polynesians used the stars to navigate. On Sunday, we’ll have the opportunity to attend a church service at one of the nearby villages and listen to the beautiful sounds of Tongan singing. Later, we paddle kayaks to nearby Nukunamu, “The King’s Island,” just off the northern tip of Foa, and snorkel the channel between Nukunamu and Ha’ano Islands.

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Days 4-9
Whale Watching / Snorkeling / Kayaking

We’re off on our search for humpback whales! To swim with a 45-ton whale in its natural environment is surely one of the biggest thrills and greatest privileges the natural world has to offer, and Tonga is one of the few places in the world where you are allowed to be in the water with them. We set out by sailing catamaran in search of them, a chance for up-close observations of these marvelous cetaceans breaching and spy hopping. Many migrating whales choose the northern Ha’apai waters, which means we seldom have to travel far before sighting the first whales of the day. Then, with snorkel, mask, and fins, we swim alongside them! In the late afternoons we'll have a chance to snorkel, kayak, or enjoy an easy bike ride around Foa Island, or simply relax on the beach soaking up the gentle evening sunlight. On our last night, we gather for a final farewell feast, a last look at the stars, and a walk along the beach. Depart on Day 9 via Tongatapu.

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Swim with humpback whales—the experience of a lifetime!
Sea kayak in a remote, untouched South Pacific paradise, snorkel over colorful reefs
Enjoy warm Tongan hospitality and traditional feasts


Length: 9 days
Cost From: $4995  
Arrive: Tongatapu, Tonga
Depart: Tongatapu, Tonga
Lodging: 7 nights Tongan-style beach resort, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Snorkeling, Wildlife & Natural History, Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking, Whale Watching
Trip Level:

Snorkeling, sea kayaking (no previous experience necessary), whale watching, swimming, beachcombing