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Tonga: When to Go for Perfect Weather & Whale Watching

Tonga: When to Go for Perfect Weather & Whale Watching

Discover the best time to visit Tonga by looking at the seasonal differences in weather, cost, crowds, and more. We’ll show you the perfect time to go in this guide! 

Tonga is a true hidden gem in the South Pacific Ocean with amazing beaches, stunning scenery, vibrant cultural traditions, and historic sites. But when you go will affect the quality of your visit quite a bit. 

Learn the best time to visit Tonga, including the overall best, cheapest, least busy, and worst time to go, below.

When to Go to Tonga: A Summary

Blowholes or sea geysers along the Tongan coast as waves crash against the rocks during the best time to visit Tonga with clouds in the sky

Naska Raspopina/Shutterstock

  • Overall best time to visit: June-August
  • Cheapest time to visit: November-January
  • Least busy time to visit: January-May
  • Worst time to visit: February-March

If you want to experience everything Tonga has to offer, you need to head to the islands during the best time to visit Tonga. Overall, the best time to visit is from June to August.

This is the peak tourism season and the sunniest, most pleasant part of the dry season. Save a little money by visiting between November and January, just as the rains begin in the rainy season. Prices are much lower as tourism numbers start to dip. 

Head to Tonga between January and May to avoid big crowds and take advantage of the low season, but keep weather concerns (rain and tropical cyclones) in mind and visit closer to May for better conditions. 

The worst time to visit Tonga is in February and March. These are the wettest months of the year with more rainfall and rainy days than any other period. Tropical cyclone risk is higher during this time. 

Learn more about the visiting Tonga during different seasons below. We’ll take a closer look at each period and show you what you can expect when you go! 

Best Time to Visit Tonga

Beach view with palm trees on Foa Island in the Ha'apai Group taken on a sunny, clear day during the best time to visit Tonga overall in June through August

Nina Janesikova/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Tonga is from June to August. Come for whale watching, sunny weather, and tons of options for tours and activities. 

Whale watching is absolutely breathtaking in Tonga from June to August. You’ll see hundreds of these gentle giants swimming and playing just off the coast as they migrate. 

Beach days, hiking around the islands, swimming and diving, exploring caves, visiting markets, and taking cultural tours are all perfect during Tonga’s high season from June to August. 

The weather is typically sunny with balmy temperatures that feel really pleasant for outdoor activities. Rainfall is common in short bursts that won’t ruin your plans. You’ll be able to enjoy this island paradise in full during this time of year.

Expect temperatures around 70F-72F from June to August, with highs rarely rising past 79F. Rainfall totals range from 2″ to 2.7″ from June to August. It’s nothing compared to the rainy season that peaks from December to April with up to 6.4″ of rain each month! 

While it sounds like a lot of rain, there are plenty of clear, sunny days and showers tend to be short during this time of year. Hotels and resorts are priced as follows: 

  • June: $52-$137/night
  • July: $54-$142/night
  • August: $52-$137/night

July is usually the most expensive month to stay in Tonga during the high season, but outside of peak season, September and March tend to be a little more expensive. 

Cheapest Time to Visit Tonga

Traditional red Tongan house on Uoleva Island with palm trees around it to indicate the cheapest time to visit Tonga

Nina Janesikova/Shutterstock

The cheapest time to visit Tonga is from November to January, the low season. This part of the year is wet with cheaper prices on resorts, activities, and airfare. 

Things really quiet down (and prices drop as a result) outside of the dry, peak tourism season when the rains begin in November. It’s cheapest to visit Tonga in November, December, and January.

You’ll find the lowest prices on hotels and resorts, tours and activities, and airfare during the low season. With fewer tourists coming due to the rain, things become a lot more affordable in Tonga. 

Average hotel prices dip quite a bit from November to January, with average nightly rates as follows:

  • November: $49-$130/night
  • December: $48-$127/night
  • January: $50-$132/night

From November to January, rainfall totals slowly rise to 5.2″ in January. Rainfall doesn’t peak until February (around 6.4″), so you’ll miss the wettest part of the year if you go during this time. 

It’s not rainy every single day, but it does rain a lot. During this period, Tonga is wet and humid with anywhere from 7-10 rainy days each month.

It does make it harder to plan outdoor activities or beach days, but there are plenty of days with clearer skies and less rainfall each month. 

Least Busy Time to Visit Tonga

View of the rocky coastline on a cloudy day during the least busy time to visit Tonga with vegetation growing among the rocks in the Ha'apai island group

Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

The least busy time to visit Tonga is from January to May. This is part of the rainy season with very few tourists, so expect lower prices and a more secluded feel. 

If you’re looking to travel to Tonga when there are hardly any tourists on the islands, January through May is the best time to go. 

One traveler, Lauren Juliff from Never Ending Footsteps, referred to this period as the “low, low season.” During this time of year, you might find that you’re one of the only guests staying at your resort, hotel, or hostel in Tonga. 

The sudden drop in tourist numbers can be amazing in terms of checking out the scenery, finding ample availability for flights and accommodations, and wandering through town. 

But it’s not as great if you’re hoping to take advantage of cultural tours, activities, and the general buzz of daily life that you’d see during the dry peak season. Many activities are put on hold as fewer tourists visit the country from January to May.

You’ll also miss the famous humpback whale migration (June to October) during this time of year.  The cheaper prices on rooms and accommodations can be a pleasant surprise if you visit between January and May.

Here’s what you can expect to pay on average per night:

  • January: $50-$132/night
  • February: $52-$136/night
  • March: $56-$147/night
  • April: $53-$140/night
  • May: $54-$141/night

January and February are slightly less expensive than March, April, and May. The difference may only be a few dollars, so the real determining factor is the weather and rainfall. 

January through April are much wetter than the month of May, when skies finally begin to clear and more sunshine makes for better beach, hiking, and exploration conditions. 

Come May, the monthly rainfall totals drop to 3.4″ from February’s peak total of 6.4″. It’s a welcome break in the wetness and the best time to visit during the less-busy low season. 

January through March are tropical cyclone season in Tonga, bringing the risk of severe weather during the first part of this period. January and February have the highest cyclone risk. 

Worst Time to Visit Tonga

Vanilla bean plant climbing up trees in the rainforest during the worst time to visit Tonga in February and March during the wet season

The worst time to visit Tonga is from February to March, as it’s the rainiest part of the wet season with the most rainy days of the entire year. 

While these months are part of the least busy time to visit Tonga, that’s generally where the benefits end. You’ll find fewer tourists on the islands during this time, but there’s a good reason for that.

Rain is the main prohibiting factor in February and March, which represent the peak of the rainy season in Tonga. February gets more rain than any other month, with around 6.4″ on average in the capital city of Nuku’alofa.

Tonga can receive up to 11″-12″ of rain in February on other islands!  March isn’t quite as wet, receiving slightly less rain (6.2″ on average) but with more rainy days than February.

It rains about 11.1 days of the month in February and 12.4 days in March. It’s a lot of rain, but it’s not nonstop. You’ll still have time to enjoy clearer days with less rainfall and cloud cover in February and March, but it’s harder to plan outdoor activities this time of year.

Tropical cyclones can be a concern, since February and March are part of cyclone season (January-March). Most cyclones occur in February, making it even riskier for a visit. 

Fewer tourists in Tonga during this time also mean activities and tours are operating on a limited basis with some not running at all. 

Overall, this 2-month period is the worst time to visit Tonga. You’re better off waiting for drier conditions that begin around May and continue through November.

Why You Should Visit Tonga

Lush vegetation covers a natural rock arch with a glimpse of the ocean during the best time to visit Tonga

Klara Zamourilova/Shutterstock

Visiting gorgeous beaches, diving, whale watching, exploring caves with underground lakes, visiting royal tombs and a mini Stone Henge, strolling botanical gardens, and hiking are just some of the wonders waiting for you in Tonga. 

Located in the South Pacific Ocean, the Tonga archipelago – the Kingdom of Tonga – is about 550 miles south of Samoa. Most of the 176 islands in this Polynesian chain are uninhabited, but that’s part of the charm of this island oasis.

People call Tonga “the Friendly Islands” for a reason. The locals are warm and welcoming on each of the 36 inhabited islands, eager to share their home and traditional culture with travelers. 

Tonga is home to idyllic beach destinations with gorgeous shores and scenery, abundant wildlife, hiking trails, rainforests, ancient traditions, and world-class resorts that cater to your every need during your stay. 

Most travelers will touch down in the Tongatapu Group first, which is home to the capital Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu (home of the largest airport in Tonga) as well as the ‘Eua, Fafa, Atata, and Pangaimotu islands. 

In Nuku’alofa, colorful multi-level markets (Tamamahu Markets) is where you’ll find locals selling handcrafts, artwork, fresh produce, and jewelry at affordable prices. Bargaining is expected!

The ancient capital of Tonga, Mu’a, is now home to relics and ruins that are stunning to visit. Burial mounds, pyramidal tombs for royalty, and tours of Anahulu Cave make it worth a stop. 

Your destination in Tonga might be the Vava’u Group in Tonga, where the ‘Utu Vava’u island is the most popular choice for travelers. Here, you’ll find excellent resorts to stay in, beautiful and secluded beaches, and humpback whale watching opportunities from July to October.

The larger Ha’apai Group is home to 17 inhabited islands, including 3 popular tourist islands: Lifuka, Foa Island, and Uoleva Island. Each one has its own oceanfront resort. 

One of the most appealing things about visiting Tonga is that you can plan an affordable trip by staying in the many hostels and guesthouses on the islands or splurge on a luxury, 5-star stay in the beautiful resorts here. 

Things to Consider

Ha'amonga 'a Maui trilithon in the capital Nuku'alofa during the best time to visit Tonga on a clear, sunny day


Visiting Tonga during the best time of year is only the start if you want to plan the perfect visit. Here are some helpful travel tips to make the most of your time on the islands! 

  • Expect a flight with stops. Getting to Tonga requires some planning due to its remote location in the South Pacific. There are no direct flights to Tonga from the United States, but Skyscanner data shows you can find good prices on flights with stops from Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.
  • Come here to disconnect. Internet connectivity isn’t great in Tonga, which is expected for a group of islands in the middle of the ocean. It’s not the ideal place to come if you’re planning to work remotely while you’re here. Pick up a local SIM card with data at the airport in Tongatapu, but know that downloads speeds are slow and coverage isn’t the best. Use your trip to Tonga as a time to disconnect!
  • Look for fishing pigs. That’s right – fishing pigs, sometimes called “Captain Cookers.” Captain Cook brought razorback pigs to the islands in the 1770s when he landed on the shores of Tonga and they’ve been thriving here ever since. The pigs have learned to wade into the waters to “fish” for crabs, mussels, fish, and seaweed. It’s amazing to see, and the pigs wander the islands everywhere you go. 
  • Try local foods. Tonga’s cuisine is uniquely regional with sweet potatoes, taro, bananas, plantains, and cassava found in many dishes. Pork, chicken, fish, beef, and mutton round the dishes out with fresh lime juice, coconut milk, and veggies filling plates to the brim.
  • Respect the religious traditions. As a deeply Christian country, Tonga expects travelers to respect some customs and rules. Modest clothing (including at the beach) is expected in public, but rules are looser at resorts. The color black is reserved for people in mourning, so travelers not in mourning should avoid wearing it. Locals take Sundays seriously, with no work, swimming, tours, etc. happening on this sabbath day – just religious services and family meals.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Humpback whale breaches the water just off the coast of Ha'apai for a frequently asked questions section on the overall best time to visit Tonga


People have a lot of questions about the best time to visit Tonga. Take a look at the most frequently asked questions to learn more! 

How many days should I spend in Tonga?

Plan on spending about 2-7 days in Tonga, depending on where you’re visiting and whether you’re staying at a resort or a smaller hostel or guest house.

Spend 3-5 days in Tongatapu, the main island and home to the capital, Nuku’alofa, if you’re staying at a resort. One or two days is perfect in a hostel here.

Ha’apai and Vava’u are full of gorgeous scenery and beaches that beckon you to stay for 5-7 days to fully enjoy the surroundings. Smaller islands, like ‘Eua, can be explored and enjoyed in 2-3 days.

Which is better, Samoa or Tonga?

It’s hard to determine which is better because Samoa and Tonga have many similarities.

Tonga is generally less developed than Samoa and offers a wilder beauty with chances to swim with whales and hike through rainforests and along sandy shores.

Samoa offers rainforests, waterfalls, beaches, and the distinctly Polynesian culture with dance, food, and traditions that are similar to Tonga’s. Samoa gets more tourists than Tonga, so it’s generally busier with more activities.

Is it a good time to visit Tonga?

Visiting Tonga is ideal during the June-August period, when the weather is driest with warm, sunny conditions that are perfectly spent on the beach, hiking trails, at the markets, or exploring caves and rainforests.

It’s very rainy in Tonga from January through April, which is the worst time of year to go. Rainfall and heightened risk for tropical cyclones is a problem in January and February especially.

What is the climate of Tonga by month?

Tonga has a tropical climate with a distinct rainy and dry season each year. November to April represents the wet season (January-March being the rainiest) and May to October is the dry season.

Temperatures never stray far from 66F to 85F throughout the year, with the warmest temperatures occurring November through April in the wet season. The dry season is cooler with highs in the upper 70s and low 80s.

What months are summer in Tonga?

The summer months in Tonga are December, January, and February. Seasons are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere since Tonga is in the Southern Hemisphere.

From December to February, temperatures are warmest with the most rainfall in Tonga.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Tonga?

Tonga is best experienced from June to August, when the dry season brings warm weather, sunshine, and tons of activities and tours to keep you busy on your trip. 

Idyllic beach days, exploring rainforests and caves, and tasting delicious foods is never better than in the balmy June, July, and August period. Head to Tonga between November and January for the cheapest trip.

This is when prices plummet as the rainy season kicks off. From January to May, you’ll find the fewest tourists on the islands and cheaper prices as a bonus.

Rainy weather and tropical cyclones can be a risk at the early part of the season. Try to avoid visiting in February or March, which are the wettest months of the year in Tonga with the highest risk for tropical cyclones. 

If a Polynesian paradise with historic ruins and royal tombs, pristine and secluded beaches, world-class resorts, and lush rainforests in the middle of the South Pacific appeal to you, Tonga is calling your name. 

Respect local customs and traditions while giving yourself plenty of time to explore and enjoy the many islands in this fascinating archipelago. Tonga deserves a spot on every world traveler’s itinerary!