Tonga’s idyllic tropical world

Photo by Jon Imhoof

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Sea Kayaking and Snorkeling in Ha'apai

Tonga’s Remote Tropical Islands, Pristine Coral Reefs, and Swimming with Humpback Whales
Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 12 days
Arrive: Auckland, New Zealand
Depart: Tongatapu, Tonga
Lodging: 10 nights Tongan-style beach resorts, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Snorkeling, Wildlife & Natural History, Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking, Whale Watching, Whale or Dolphin Swimming
Trip Level: Snorkeling, sea kayaking (no previous experience necessary), whale watching, swimming, beachcombing


  • 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, including a kava ceremony

We loved every minute of the trip.Kathleen G.—Overton, NV

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!

In Tonga’s enchanting 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, overnights in traditional beach lodges set on white-sand beaches—this is adventure in the South Seas!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-5
Auckland, New Zealand / Foa Island, Tonga / Whale Watching and Swimming

Meeting in Auckland, 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, we set out by sailing catamaran in search of humpback whales, a chance for up-close observations of these marvelous cetaceans breaching and spy hopping. Then, with snorkel, mask, and fins, we swim alongside them!

Days 6-12
Uoleva Island / Snorkeling / Kayaking / Whale Watching

Traveling as the ancient Polynesians did, we paddle our kayaks to Uoleva Island, where our base is a tranquil hideaway on a white-sand beach. Uoleva’s amazing geography of caves, canyons, vertical walls, and colorful coral gardens makes for incredible snorkeling, with plenty of reef fish, including Moorish idol, butterfly fish, wrasse, and clown fish, as well as stingrays and sea turtles. While here we enjoy more whale watching and swimming encounters, and attend a local church service to hear the harmonious sound of Tongan choir singing—a memorable experience! Throughout our journey, we experience warm Tongan hospitality as well as traditional ’umu feasts with our island hosts. Depart on Day 12 via Tongatapu.

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 3, Moderate. Because one of the primary enjoyments of the trip is snorkeling and swimming with whales, we require that trip members know how to swim. Please bring your own good quality, well-fitted equipment with you, including wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and fins. Try out your gear in a swimming pool before you go to make sure that it works for you and is comfortable. We will have a “refresher” snorkel in calm waters at the beginning of the trip. There is ample time for both scheduled snorkels and free snorkeling, and for the most part the water time is “at your own pace.”

The trip is relaxed enough to allow ample time for snorkeling, photography, kayaking, and beachcombing. Our kayaks are stable, seaworthy crafts well suited to novices and the ocean environment. No previous kayaking experience is required. All trip members should be comfortable in small boats.

A moderate level of fitness is recommended and you should be in good health and physical condition to get the most enjoyment from your trip. The Ha’apai islands are separated by reefs or open water, but they are not great paddling distances apart. In general, we choose routes that are largely protected from high winds and strong currents. We also adapt our daily schedule to local conditions. We generally paddle two to four hours on kayaking days, with daily snorkeling and island exploration.

Our nights are spent at simple yet well located Tonga-style beach resorts in fales (bungalows) that lend an authentic, laid-back experience of this island paradise. We spend seven nights at Sandy Beach Resort, within walking distance of the nearest village. The 12 bungalows feature comfortable beds, en suite bathrooms, and private verandas with chairs and table. Three nights are at Serenity Beaches Resort, with five private bungalows spread out on the beach. Since Uoleva is an isolated island with no electricity, the fales are lit by solar lamps, candles, and battery lamps. (There is a generator for refrigeration and charging cameras.) All resorts are staffed by friendly people and you’ll soon feel like an extended member of the family. We spend one night at a hotel in Auckland at the start of our journey.

Explanation of Trip Levels

Langham Hotel

Langham Hotel

Day 1 (1 night), Auckland, New Zealand

The elegant Langham Hotel, an oasis of tranquility in New Zealand’s busy capital city, is conveniently located within walking distance of the ...
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Sandy Beach Resort

Sandy Beach Resort

Days 2 to 5 (4 nights),
Days 9 to 11 (3 nights), Foa Island, Tonga

With spacious bungalows set in a tropical garden close to the water’s edge, Sandy Beach Resort has a relaxed ambiance and a friendly staff ...
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Serenity Beaches Resort

Serenity Beaches Resort

Days 6 to 8 (3 nights), Uoleva Island, Tonga

This simple, low-key island hideaway is situated in a beautiful location on a white-sand beach amid swaying palm trees. The Bali-style bungalows ...
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Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Client Comments

We loved every minute of the trip. Kathleen G., Overton, NV A very well-organized and well-run trip. Snorkeling with the whales is one of my great lifetime experiences! Just awesome. And the Tongan people are so warm and friendly. Rick L., Falmouth, MA The experience of swimming with the whales was wonderful—it was a fabulous lifetime event! Robin K., Katy, TX The Tongans are the friendliest people we’ve visited, and their singing was awesome. Snorkeling with the whales was an incredible, indescribable experience. Hila L., Falmouth, MA Snorkeling with the whales was spectacular. We also enjoyed getting to know the Tonga locals. The trip was everything we’d hoped for and more. Pam R., University Place, WA
A very well designed itinerary, with plenty of time swimming with the whales..couldn't get enough of that! The time with the whales was the highlight of the trip. Jeanne S., Charlotte, NC The highlight of the trip was snorkeling with the humpbacks, as anticipated, and we were not disappointed. Larry M., Louisville, KY Swimming with whales is a once in lifetime experience. We were lucky enough to have two great days in which the whales were accessible—fantastic! Shelly A., New Haven, CT