Choosing between so many incredible sailing destinations can be a challenge, especially when you’re looking for something a little different. We all know that sailing the Caribbean is a paradisiacal experience; that cruising the Balearic Islands will have you dancing until dawn; that a sailboat vacation exploring the Norwegian Fjords delivers stunning natural beauty. However, when you want to step off of the beaten track, there is a lot less guidance as to where to go. Luckily, we know one place that will blow you away with its charm and authenticity. In this article, we put the spotlight on Tonga as a unique sailing destination, detailing conditions, weather, and – most importantly – what to do when there. Ready, set, explore!
Seeking exciting sailing destinations? Set sail for Tonga
Cruising doesn’t get more exciting than in this beautiful French Polynesian region, with no less than 176 islands to explore. As the only part of Polynesia to have remained free from Colonial influence, Tonga has completely retained its own traditional culture, giving it a layer of authenticity that other islands can only aspire to. You won’t see many yachts around as you sail between the largely uninhabited islands, but with safe anchorages and reliable maritime breezes you’ll feel entirely at ease. So much so that Oyster Yachts’ around-the-world sailing event the Oyster World Rally recently incorporated this location into their route, putting it firmly on the map for sailors. However, due to its remote location we don’t expect to see Tonga getting over-popular anytime soon (thankfully!)
Its relaxed speed is what coined the term ‘Tonga time’, a slow pace that you’ll quickly come to love. Nowhere is ever too far away by boat, meaning more time to drop anchor at secluded caves, snorkel unspoilt coral and sample the delicious local cuisine. What’s more, its tropical climate makes it the perfect place for a relaxing vacation, with year-round warm temperatures. The best time to visit is from May through to October – the country’s dry season, when temperatures average between 24°C/75.2°F and 26°C/78.8°F and every day brings gorgeous sunshine.
All in all, it’s one of the best sailing destinations for escaping the norm.
What is there to do in Tonga?
With crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs unspoilt by pollution and tourism, Tonga is one of the South Pacific’s top sailing destinations for diving and snorkelling. Sail to Ha’apai Beach Resort and discover an entire underwater world of tropical sea life, or visit from July through to October to dive with humpback whales, which swim to the safety of the Tongan waters to give birth to their young. Explore the main island of Tongatapu by sea kayak – Tongatapu’s protected lagoon provides the ideal conditions for this gentle watersport.
Hike along oceanside cliff tops on ‘Eua Island, often referred to as Tonga’s ‘forgotten island’. This beautiful 40-million-year-old spot has several hiking routes and guarantees jaw-dropping views at every stop along the way. Experience a traditional Tongan Luau. Sample local speciality dishes such as devilled clams and suckling pig. Relax on one of the thousands of glorious, tranquil beaches.
With so much on offer, be sure to dedicate at least two weeks to exploring Tonga’s vast and varied landscape.
What are the sailing conditions like?
Trade winds from the East-Southeast don’t just bring a cooling breeze to the tropical climate; they also provide the perfect conditions for sailing. Whether visiting on a crewed or uncrewed vessel, a bluewater cruising boat is the best way to explore – browse suitable luxury sailing yachts for sale, such as the Oyster 825 Maegan, and take to the water. These vessels are designed to sail the world, built on a foundation of over 20-million bluewater sailing miles and 75 circumnavigations. An Oyster will also bring a new level of luxury to your Tonga vacation, with stylish interior decor to rival that of a motorised superyacht.
Head to Nei’afu Harbour on the Tongan island group of Vava’u for provisioning (there is no provisioning on the islands, however due to the close proximity of everything it is no real problem to sail back to Vava’u if needed). When navigating, your biggest problem will be the lack of distinguishing features on the islands, however your onboard GPS will be able to help with that. Pay close attention to the reefs that dot the seabeds of Tonga’s many unique sailing destinations, and enjoy the short cruises between each island.
Tonga: a sailing destination with a difference
If you are looking for a vacation that takes you away from the beaten track, somewhere with its own unique culture, glorious tropical climate and good sailing breezes, look no further than Tonga. Prepare to be enchanted: you’ll want to stay on ‘Tonga time’ forever…