All the information you need for your trip to Niue including checking in and out of country, anchorages, restaurants, things to do and more.
Niue, “The Rock” is truly a must see island. Honestly it wasn’t even on our radar of places to see as we cross the vast Pacific Ocean. Had it not been for a chance encounter Captain Dan had with the Captain of the French Polynesia Master Dive Ships in Rangiroa. The Captain was telling Dan all about Niue and on his recommendation we decided to stop. Boy are we glad we did. This place is one in a million! Of all the places we visited on our way across the Pacific this one is the most unique.
Located roughly 540 km south of American Samoa, this spectacular island, affectionately known as “The Rock”, is called such because it is actually a huge coral rock that rises up out of the ocean. There are very few sandy beaches. Mostly it’s a lot of magnificent coral and rock formations.
The water is so clear here and when combined with the gorgeous coral you are rewarded with something so resplendent it defies imagination. And that’s not all, this place is known as a Humpback Whale nursing ground. If you want to see whales, this is a great place to see them.
Checking In & Out
Checking in and out of Niue is a breeze. You are asked to give them notice 24 hours in advance of your arrival but this is next to impossible as their radios don’t seem to have much range. You need to contact “Niue Radio” on VHF 16. We finally reached them when we were several hours out and there was no issue. They told us to find a free mooring and notify them when we were settled.
Once we were all secure we contacted them back and they arranged a time to have Customs & Immigration meets us at the wharf. Be prepared because the wharf is a bit tricky and requires you to hoist your dinghy with a crane. (See Section on The Wharf Below).
The Customs Official met us at the wharf, took our paperwork and filled out the necessary forms on his end. He then drove us to the Tourist Information Office where we paid a $15 NZD trash disposal fee. This is also where you will pay the deposit for the shower key. It’s $25 NZD and when you return the key you get $5 NZD back. The showers are located in the small building at the top of the wharf.
Niue Yacht Club now has a website that will make your entry even easier. They have all of the forms online. We recommend you download them, fill them out, print them and have them ready when you go to shore. It will make the process much quicker and the less time Customs & Immigration has to spend with yachties the less likely fees will be to increase over time.
What are the fees? Well, when we were here in 2018 we paid $25 NZD per night for the “Visitor/Mooring” fee. There is a $15 NZD fee for trash disposal. They have bins at the wharf where you can dispose of your garbage. These fees are paid at the Tourism Office. We also paid $80 NZD per person upon our departure to the Immigration Office. Be prepared to pay in cash in NZD.
Checking Out. The day you plan to leave you’ll need to make your way to Customs & Immigration. This office is located inland across the street from the Swanson Supermarket. This is where you pay the $80 NZD per person. It was really very quick and painless. If you’re leaving on a weekend you can check out on Friday.
There really are no beaches where you can beach your dinghy as they are surrounded by shallow coral reefs. You will need to be prepared to hoist it with the crane at the wharf. The crane is self service and pretty straightforward. Having two people to do this is definitely a plus. One stays with the dinghy to keep it from banging up against the barnacle covered seawall and the other steps onto the wharf to operate the crane.
Dan created a harness that attaches to four points on our dinghy. We hooked the crane hook through a metal eye in the center of the harness and were able to hoist it. The controller is automatic and very user friendly. There’s an on/off button and an up and down button. Yes, it’s made for everyone to understand.
They have a cart on the wharf. You lower your dinghy onto it and then move it into a “parking space” and slide it off of the cart. The first time you do this it will seem a bit odd but after that it really becomes old hat. Of course, that’s as long as you aren’t trying to do it at night or during high tide.
With high tide comes quite a bit of swell which can make this process a tad more dangerous. We did it once at high tide and then decided we’d work all of our trips around low or slack tide. The good news is they have a nice grate attached to the stairs and solid handholds to prevent you from slipping. Pay attention, hold on and everything should be fine. Of course we don’t recommend trying this at night or after a few cocktails! We heard of one guy who fell in which could be pretty dangerous with the swell not to mention the sharks that tend to hang around here. We watched several workers feeding the sharks here so they are around and they aren’t necessarily small either.
Due to the fact that the entire ocean floor around the island is covered in coral you will need to take a mooring. As we said above they cost $25 NZD per day. With the potential swell and the coral bottom it’s definitely a bargain.
The moorings here are very well kept. Each mooring is attached to two 2.3 ton concrete blocks. At the end of each season they remove them, inspect, clean and repair any issues. They are very beefy and well suited for cruising yachts.
There is no public transportation on the island so we rented a car for a week. We rented from Tropicana Rentals and it cost us somewhere around $300 for the entire week. Their office is located at the airport which is a bit of a trek from the wharf but they will deliver the car to you. When it’s time to return it you take it to the airport and you can get a taxi back to the wharf.
If you are going to be here we highly recommend renting a car for at least a couple of days. You can drive around the entire country in less than an hour but if you want to stop and check out the sea tracks and other cools things you’ll definitely want it fore more than one day.
In order to rent a car here you must obtain a Niue Driver’s License. It’s really not a big deal. You just go to the police department which is a short walk from the wharf, pay $25 NZD, get your photo taken and within minutes you’ll have a license.
Bicycles. You can rent bicycles to ride around the island as well but since we rented a car we didn’t need one. Word is you can rent them from Alofi Rentals as well as a couple of other places. For more information about renting bicycles check out the Niue Tourism website. Click Here.
Taxis. Yes, even on this tiny island you can find a taxi but don’t expect it to be easy. The car rental companies, Alofi and Niue Rentals have a taxi service but availability varies. There is “The Taxi Guy” but you can only book him by phone so you’ll need to go to shore and ask at the Tourist Information Office or Gill’s Indian to get them to call him.
Stick Out Your Thumb. You can hitchhike as well. We didn’t but we did have a lady stop to offer a ride when she saw us walking toward the grocery store. We took her up on her offer as it was really hot and we were at the portion of the trip that goes uphill. Turns out she is an American living there who often offers rides to cruisers. We also had several others stop and ask if we wanted one on other occasions but we were enjoying the walk.
There are two grocery stores on the island. They are both called Swansons. One is almost directly across from the wharf. The other is a little further inland near the airport and has a much larger selection including quite a bit of New Zealand frozen meats and some very fresh vegetables. We walked there before we had our car and found it to be a nice 40 minute walk. It’s about 3 km.
Duty Free Liquor
The Bond Store, also called NB Liquor is the only liquor store on the island. It’s located right beside Swansons near the airport. You can’t get duty free liquor until the day you are checking out. The day before if you are leaving on Sunday. It’s pretty much an honor system. They write your name in their book with the date you are leaving.
If you’re a smoker….you’ll want to get cigarettes before you get to Niue. They were $30 NZD per pack. Certainly glad that’s not something we have to worry about.
Fresh Vanilla Beans
In addition to be a world class diving destination Niue is known for vanilla farming. If you’re so inclined you can visit the Vanilla Tours farm where you can learn all about the farming and cultivation of vanilla. We didn’t take the tour but we did buy some of the fresh vanilla beans in the Tourism Office. We dropped a couple in a bottle of vodka and let it set for a few weeks to create a wonderful vanilla vodka that is perfect for sipping at sundown on the hook.
In the ten days we were here we visited a good number of the island’s restaurants. It seems no matter which one we visited, the best meal is always the fish and chips. It’s fresh and usually made from Wahoo!!!! Here’s some of our favorite spots.
Crazy Uga’s. Want the best fish and chips ever? This is the place. They use fresh Wahoo which makes it so flaky and wonderful. They have a great view overlooking the anchorage with outdoor seating. It’s really close to the wharf. They serve breakfasts and light lunches. You can’t go wrong here.
Gill’s Indian. Located in the small shopping plaza just south of the wharf, this little Indian restaurant has some tasty food and their lunch specials are incredible. Harry, the owner, is really a sweet guy and very helpful. He is also the one who you see about the moorings. Gill’s doubles as the Niue Yacht Club so you’ll need to stop here to register your mooring and pick up your shower key.
Washaway Cafe. This cute place is located near the southwestern tip of the island at Avatele Beach which is 13 kms south of the wharf. Interestingly enough, it’s only open on Sundays. It’s really a great place with tons of atmosphere so if you’re here on a Sunday you should try it out. The beach out front provides an area for snorkeling and sunbathing. The cafe still operates on the honor system. You get your own beer or drink and write it down on the pad at the bar. Want to order lunch? Pick out something, write it on a ticket and hand it to the cook then add it to your page on the bar tab. Food was good but the atmosphere…awesome!
Vaiolama Cafe. This little cafe sits atop of a cliff on the western side of the island just 1.5 km south of the wharf. The views from this place are second to none. We didn’t eat here but did stop for a beer or two on a couple of occasions.
Hio Cafe. This quant little place isolated on the western coast of Niue is near the north end of the island. It’s a great place to grab a bite if you’ve gone up to visit Tavala Arches or Limu Pools.
If you’re looking for a more fancy atmosphere to have a meal you might want to try the Matavai Resort located on the southwest end of the island. We stopped in for a beer one afternoon. The views are lovely and it’s a bit more posh than the rest of the restaurants on the island.
Banking & ATMs
There are no ATMs on the island but there is a Kiwi Bank just a few steps away from the wharf. They only take New Zealand debit cards but they will give you a cash advance from your Visa or Mastercard. You just go into the bank and a teller will handle the transaction. There is a small fee for it but we can’t remember what it was so it must not have been that much.
Many businesses here do take credit/debit cards but if the internet is down they can’t process a charge so it’s highly recommended that you come with cash.
You’re not going to find much in the way of shopping here. There are a couple of little stores in the shopping center where Gill’s Indian (which is also the Niue Yacht Club office) is located. They were building a little shopping center near the large Swansons but there was only one small clothing store in it when we were there.
There is also an art gallery where they sell some tourist items such as postcards, hats etc… located at the Niue Commercial Center. You’ll come here when you are checking in and out to pay your fees. It’s a short walk south of the wharf. Other than that, shopping is limited to groceries and liquor.
Touristy Things To Do In Niue
One of the most interesting and fun things to do in Niue is to explore the many sea tracks. They are all around the island and each one leads to something spectacular….. a beach, caves, sandy beaches, forests and more. Some are more difficult than others to traverse but we were able to explore quite a few and didn’t feel we missed out on much. One things to know….wear good, solid shoes. This island is made of coral and some of these tracks have lots of sharp coral. They get their fair share of rain as well so the tracks can be quite slippery too. Flip flops, sandals, jandals or whatever you call them just don’t really work for most of these tracks.
Here are some of the tracks we believe are “Don’t Miss” hikes.
Limu Pools. Looking for a beautiful spot to take a dip in the crystal clear waters of Niue? This is the place! It’s well protected by the outer reef and it looks like natural swimming pools. The mixture of salt and fresh water creates a truly refreshing place to swim. It’s truly nature’s most beautiful swimming hole.
Matapa Chasm. Known historically as the bathing place for Niue’s Kings, this is one beautiful spot and not all that difficult to get to even for us old folks. It’s another beautiful spot to take dip and if you visited Tavala Arches first you’ll probably be ready for one.
Tavala Arches. Located on the path to Matapa Chasm the arches are a bit more difficult to reach. The books call it moderate to hard but we’d lean more toward moderate. The path is narrow and winds through the jungle. There are areas where you’ll have to climb through caves but they are large openings so not too difficult.
You’ll get the chance to explore some beautiful caves at the end of the hike and if you arrive when the tide is out you can descend to the beach and walk out to the arches. You absolutely MUST have hiking shoes for this track especially if you want to get to the arches as you’ll need to traverse a slippery rock slope as you climb down holding onto a rope to get to the shore.
We visited at least a dozen more sea tracks and there are many more we didn’t see. To get a great list with directions and descriptions you can pick up a brochure at the Tourism Office when you stop to pay your fees upon arrival.
We’ve been told Niue is a diver’s paradise and from what we saw we can only guess the experts are correct. Jilly’s not certified to dive and Dan decided not to dive while we were here but if you’re looking for information on diving in this gorgeous country we’d suggest you check out the Niue Pocket Guide….Click Here.
Hikulagi Scupture Park
If you’re looking for something a little offbeat take a few minutes and stop by this unique art exhibit. It’s located 2 km south of the village of Liku on the eastern side of the island. The park features artwork made from inorganic items with a focus on protecting the environment. All of the artworks is from volunteers and it’s a pretty neat place to spent a little time.
The Humpback Whales
If you’re lucky enough to be here between July and October you will probably get to see the beautiful humpback whales that come here to nurse their calves. We saw many from a distance but one day we were fortunate enough to watch a mother and her calf. They were less than half a kilometer away and they played there for close to three hours!
For those that are interested you can book a trip to swim with the whales. Having watched as the boats literally chase down and harass the animals, we’ve decided this is not something we wish to advocate. If a whale comes by us while we’re snorkeling or diving then that’s one thing but to have a boat run up on it at high speeds and then drop someone in the water to follow it just seems to be stressful and unhealthy for the whales. Of course, this is just our opinion on the matter. If you wish to do it you can do it here.
The most unsafe thing going on in this country is getting on and off your dinghy at the wharf! As for crime, it’s almost non-existent. Their jail is what they call an “open jail”. When we were there they only had one inmate and he was allowed to play golf every day as the jail is right beside the golf course. True story…we confirmed this with the police. If I ever have to go to the big house I certainly hope it’s on Niue.