Neiafu (pronounced “knee ah foo”) is the town we checked into here in Tonga when we arrived from Niue. If you’re planning to spend time in the Vava’u group of islands then you will become intimately familiar with Neiafu as this is the main town and the place where you will provision, get fuel and file your Local Movement Reports with the authorities. We spent close to five weeks in the Vava’u group over two seasons so we hope our experiences will provide you with some great information.
Checking In & out
We’ve covered all of the items you need to know for checking in and out at Neiafu on our Vava’u Guide page. You can find that page by CLICKING HERE!
The bay here is quite large and most yachties will choose to get a mooring. The moorings are very reasonable at around $15 Pa’anga/day. After clearing in you can find a mooring and after you’re settled you can contact the appropriate company. The mooring ball will have a number and company name on it. They all monitor channel 16.
If you choose not to get a mooring be prepared as the bottom in the main anchorage is quite rocky. When we arrived the first year there wasn’t a mooring available so we anchored near the southern end of the mooring field. It took several tries to get a good hold and we did but we also heard the chain rubbing on the rocks below.
There is a secondary anchorage on the west side of the bay if you don’t mind being being a little bit away from the town. We did not use this but saw many boats who did anchor here.
There are a couple of options for getting fuel here but know that fuel can be hard to obtain depending upon the day and when the last fuel delivery came to the island. If you are taking on a lot of fuel you can call Pacific Energy and they will arrange to deliver it to the Customs dock. You must order at least 200 liters for them to deliver. If you want duty free fuel you’ll need to arrange to have it delivered there on the day you check out and will also need to coordinate with Customs to be there to witness the fuel being put into your boat. This is obviously the cheaper way to get it but if you aren’t checking out of country and need 200 or more liters then having it delivered to the dock anyway is the easiest and most efficient way to get it. You can have Greg at Café Tropicana arrange this but he will charge you a fee to do so. It’s just as easy to call Pacific Energy on your own. You can reach them at: +676 70972
Duty-free fuel can be ordered and delivered to the pier by truck, but is only available on the day of departure and for a minimum of 200 litres. This can be organised at least one day in advance through Pacific Energy or Café Tropicana, VHF Channel 26, Tel: +676 70972 or +676 70824, Monday to Friday only, ask for Tui who is the manager.
Pacific Energy, Tel: +676 70972 (200 litres minimum). Please call them in advance with the amount of fuel required. They will not deliver to the wharf when a bunkering boat is in the harbor and if a container ship or ferry is at the wharf, deliveries can be problematic. Also delivery times are an estimate only – do not get frustrated if they are late and patiently ask for updates.
Diesel and Petrol are available from various stations around the town. Diesel can often be more easily obtained by dropping jerry cans off with Moorings (VHF Channel 72) who will often fill them when the fuel truck visits them to fill up their own boats. Note however that this is a much more expensive option than getting duty-free fuel.
Propane & Butane
Butane is what they have here in Tonga. If you have propane in your tank they may empty it to refill it with butane. We’ve heard of this happening but when we had our tank topped off they just put the butane in the can with the propane. It’s not an uncommon practice in the islands so it was of no worry. You can arrange to get this done by speaking with Greg at Tropicana but we did it ourselves. We hired a taxi for about $10 TOP roundtrip to drive us to Homegas which is located in the Toula which is a very short drive from the wharf.
The town isn’t large so mostly you will be walking or using your dinghy to get from place to place. But, if you do want to go somewhere that is not within walking distance you can hire a taxi. We hired one to take us to get our propane tank filled and to pick up a few provisions. The price was good and it was nice not to have to walk and carry everything.
We had several lovely meals here and the views of the harbor are absolutely spectacular. The people are kind and welcoming and the food excellent. We highly recommend them.
On the ground floor of the building where Bellavista is located is the Aquarium Cafe. This is a quaint little spot that has a pretty decent Happy Hour in the afternoons. We ate here a couple of times and the food was pretty good as island food goes. The people are, as all Tongans seem to be, really very friendly. The cafe also sells prepackaged meat for cruisers. The great thing about their meat is that they vacuum seal it and divide it however you want it divided. We used their service twice and the meats were good.
If you’re looking for the best fish & chips in the South Pacific then the Hideaway is the place to go. Of course you can only get there via your dinghy. Barry & Char Millen, the owners, knock it out of the park with this place. Cruisers start drifting in during the early afternoon and sometimes stay long after dark. It’s a great place to hook up, have some ice cold beverages and a great meal. If you don’t like fish & chips you’re out of luck though…that IS the only food on the menu. We love this place and the owners and we’re sure you will too.
This place is almost an institution here in Neaifu and it’s nearly impossible to miss with its bright orange roof. It’s sort of a cruiser hangout and with a huge deck overlooking the bay where you can chill with a few cold brews and even catch some sports on TV from time to time. They also have a dock that you can tie your dinghy to as well. It’s for their patrons so whenever we went to shore if we wanted to use the dock we always made sure to stop in for a few beers or lunch before heading back to the boat. The food is good and the owners are almost always on site. They also offer free WiFi but it tends to be like everywhere else…..slow!
By now you’ve seen the name a few times on our site when referring to services in Neiafu. It’s almost impossible not to mention it because they are able to provide a lot of information and assistance. For cruisers who don’t want to do it on their own then going to Greg, the owner, for assistance with services is probably the way to go. He can provide a variety of services to help visiting yachties including assistance with obtaining fuel, propane or other items. He also sells a very good island map with information about the anchorages in the Vava’u group for $25 Pa’anga. That said, his abrasive personality and arrogant attitude left us less than impressed and in a small village like Neiafu he seems to be the costly middleman you really don’t need.
Shopping & Provisioning
Provisioning in Tonga is much like provisioning in México or any other third world nation. You have to be prepared to go to many stores to find what you seek and even more, you have to be prepared to never find it at all. One of the first rules of cruising is learning to compromise and Neiafu is no different. There are several stores located along the main road and a block of two off of it. Most will have a lot of canned goods and more junk food snacks than you can imagine. If you want fresh bread be prepared to get in early as it goes very quickly. Some stores have frozen meats but honestly, we were never sure where they came from and weren’t all that excited about buying them so we can’t tell you if they were good or not.
The Falaleu Deli owned by Barry & Char Millen who also own the Hideaway has some of the best meats in town. They import their meats from New Zealand and Australia. We purchased quite a bit of frozen meat and some pretty good homemade sausage from them. You’ll hear Barry on the net in the mornings. The deli is located on the main road just south of the Mango Cafe on the opposite side of the road.
The Utakalongalu Market is open every day except Sunday and is located on the wharf down near the Customs Dock. You’ll find a variety of fruits and vegetables depending upon the time of year you visit. They are reasonably priced and almost always better than anything you’ll get in one of the grocery stores. If you’re looking for trinkets and beads to remind you of your stay in Neiafu then you’ll find some of those here as well. We found the locals loved it when we greeted them with the traditional Tongan greeting of “Malo e lelei” (prounounced “ma low ē lay lay”) to which the typical reply will be “Sai pe” (pronounced “sigh pay”) which means “I’m good”.
Marine Parts & Hardware
Come prepared because you will find next to nothing in the way of marine supplies and while there is a small hardware store on the main road just opposite the duty free liquor store, it really doesn’t have much in it. If you are really in need of something specific you should probably try getting on the morning net to see if another yachtie has something they can sell you. One Captain who needed a new plug for his dink found it to be his lucky day when we just happened to have a spare. His went the way of Davy Jones’ locker.
The Boatyard is there on the island and provides marine services including haul out, mechanical, sail repair, fiberglass repair etc… We did not use their services so we can’t really give you an opinion on them but they are definitely another resource for you.
Banking & ATMs
There are a couple of banks here in Neiafu. The ANZ has an ATM and is at the NW corner of Fatafehi Road and Kovana Road. (See Map A below) This is a pretty small village with most stores located on Fatafehi Road so you are not likely to miss it. There is also a currency exchange place located here in the event you want to exchange money. We did exchange some money so we’d have some New Zealand dollars and the fee wasn’t too bad. It’s called Currency One and is located almost directly across the street from the Tropicana Cafe.
Cell Service & Internet
Most of the restaurants will have some free WiFi but if you want to have internet on your boat in the anchorage or at some of the other islands you will need to get a sim card and service from Digicel. The cost is pretty reasonable. We paid around $20 USD for 22 GB that was good for 30 days. Interestingly enough the speed was far better than we had in most places in the South Pacific and we were able to use it at some of the anchorages that weren’t too far from Neiafu.
There is a small fee to dispose of your trash. We paid $2 Pa’anga per bag. You drop it at the garbage collection site located just north of the Aquarium Cafe at the wharf. There will be a man sitting near the wharf under an tent who will come to take your money.
In our opinion there is really only one place in town to get your laundry done. The British couple that owns the laundry on the second floor of the building where Bellavista and the Aquarium Cafe are located. Not kidding….our laundry came back absolutely perfect! It was fresh, folded like some military officer had folded it with perfect corners etc… Never before or since have we had laundry done that was this perfect. And the price wasn’t bad either.
Here are a couple of maps of the area showing you places listed above. Like we said, it’s a small place so pretty much anything is easy to find. Click on each map to enlarge it. Map A starts at the north end of the bay. Map B starts just a tad further south right in front of the main part of the anchorage.