The Sacred Island

Tongatapu (“Sacred Tonga”) is Tonga’s main island, containing one-third of its land area and nearly two-thirds of the population. The island is a flat sloping atoll with grand cliffs along its southern shore, a wide lagoon along its northern coast. Attractions include historical sites as well as the beaches, beautiful coral reefs, exotic caves, and the magnificent blowholes.

Tongatapu Group

“Most of Tongatapu looks very much like all other parts of Tonga. The island is covered with coconut plantations and dotted with quaint villages. Here, as throughout the Kingdom, the scene is that of the gentler life of the South Seas. Tongans walking leisurely along narrow roads dressed in their uniquely Tongan ta’ovalas. People carrying colourful umbrellas to shade them from the sun.

For the touristy pictures, you will find in the outer villages children riding horses bareback, pigs foraging about freely, and possibly families traveling along country roads in horse-drawn carts. Picturesque scenes abound—often against a backdrop of tranquilizing vistas of the nearby ocean.

Most of the visitors to our shores begin and end at Tongatapu and there is more to see and know that what is generally available in the tourist brochures.

Tongatapu hosts over 60% of the country’s population and is the government centre, at the capital Nuku’alofa. Accordingly, one will find most commercial and residential activities in Tongatapu, and closely tied to the capital Nuku’alofa.

Commercial Business District.

Most commercial activities occur around Nuku’alofa, whether you’re involved in the fair or operating an export business. The major banks are only located as a group within the town centre itself.

Three commercial banks vie for your business in Nuku’alofa (MBf of the Malaysia Bornes Finance, ANZ Bank from the ANZ Group, and the Bank of Tonga.) The Tonga Development Bank is a fourth player in investment financing although their expertise and assistance is more prominent for agricultural export projects.

The Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries should assist anyone requesting further information on the services available for organisations wishing to establish themselves in the Kingdom. For an independent voice, the Tonga Chamber of Commerce has long been a contact point for international organisations.

Ministry of Labour, Commerce and Industries
PO Box 110, Nuku’alofa
Kingdom of Tonga
Telephone +(676) 23-688; Facsimile +(676) 23-887

With the major sea and air ports located on Tongatapu, it is not strange that much of business activity, construction and sales, are in the Tongatapu region.

Academic Pursuits

Tongatapu, again, hosts the majority of academic institutions, including tertiary education institutions. All four internationally recognised University level institutions are located on Tongatapu; ‘Atenisi University, Sia’atoutai Theological College, University of the South Pacific - Tonga Centre, and University of the Nations.

The High Schools with a strong academic background, and historical importance to Tonga are all located on Tongatapu.

Historical Records

Most historical records about Tonga, in Tonga, can be found in the institutions on Tongatapu.
The Palace Office, Traditions Committee, Toloa Museum, Church Archives, are all located on Tongatapu. Most historians studying Tonga will have visited the above mentioned institutions as a priority in their studies.

No formal National Archives is in place in the Kingdom of Tonga, each institute recording its own archives and hopefully preserving materials with diligence.


Tongatapu IS the largest island of the kingdom, 34 km across from west to east. Most of the island is less than 17m above sea level, with some small hills. The land is lowest in the northwest, rising very gradually towards the south and east. Tongatapu is an area of raised reef limestone over 150m deep, on a deep base of volcanic sedimentary rock. The low north coast is a reef platform up to 200m wide. There are low-lying swampy areas from Fo'ui to Sopu, neatr Navutoka, and around the 27 shallow central lagoon. The western coast is a reef platform out from sandy beaches and rocky higher land. The high windward southern and eastern coast liku is a narrow reef ledge out from cliffs 6 to 46m high, and sandy beaches. The highest point, 65m, is between Fua'amotu and Nakolo. The south and east coasts face very deep water, and waves against the reef shoot up through blowholes, especially at Houma. Water erosion in uplift cracks has creatred long underground caves.

Anthony Perez records how he found Tongatapu