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Vavau redirects here. For the village in Samoa, see Vavau, Samoa

Map of Vava'u.
Location Pacific Ocean

18°39′S 173°59′W / 18.650°S 173.983°W / -18.650; -173.983

Archipelago Tonga Islands
Total islands 55
Major islands 1
Area 121 km2 (46.7 sq mi)
Highest elevation 131 m (430 ft)
Highest point Mount Talau
Largest city Neiafu
Population 15,505 (as of 2006)
Density 128.14 /km2 (331.88 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Tongan (majority), European, Chinese, Pacific Islanders.
Location of Vavaʻu in the Pacific Ocean

Vavaʻu is the island chain of one large island and 40 smaller ones in Tonga. According to tradition the Maui god fished up both Tongatapu and Vavaʻu but put a little more effort into the former. Vavaʻu rises 204 m above sea level at Mt. Talau. The capital is Neiafu, which is the second largest city in Tonga, situated at one of the best harbours of the world, the Port of Refuge (Puatalefusi or Lolo-ʻa-Halaevalu).

Vavaʻu is a prime fishing destination with its beautiful harbour and untouched seas.


Myths and legends

In Polynesia it is explained that the islands were created by the god Maui, that caught the bottom of the sea with his magic hook and left what became the islands of Vavaʻu. In total there are 70 islands, of which 17 are inhabited, spread over six districts.

Recorded history

Don Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa, commanding Spanish frigate Princesa was the first European to come to Vavaʻu, on 4 March 1781. He charted Vava'u as Martín de Mayorga who was the Viceroy of New Spain at the time.[1] Captain James Cook knew about the island a decennium before, but the people in Haʻapai told him it would be no good for him to go there as there was no harbour. Apparently they did not want him to go there, and Cook heeded their advice.

But Mourelle found excellent anchoring, of which he was in desperate need after having failed on Fonualei (Bitterness island) and Late, and he gave the spot the name Port of Refuge. But his original Port of Refuge was the bay on the west coast of the main island, near Longomapu. In 1793 Alessandro Malaspina visited for a month, following up on Mourelle and claiming the islands for Spain.

Tuʻi Tonga George Tupou I instituted the Vavaʻu Code in Vavaʻu in 1839.


The Vavaʻu group measures about 21 km from east to west and 25 km from north to south. Vavaʻu had 15,485 inhabitants at the 2006 census total of 121 square kilometres (47 sq mi). 3,900 lived in the capital Neiafu. The main island of Vavaʻu is 89.74 square kilometres (34.65 sq mi), the second largest island in Tonga.

Vava'u is a coral reef with superior oblique in the north up to 200 metres (660 ft) high cliffs. On the south side of the island group, it is dissolved into many small islands and waterways. The largest of these waterways, the fjord-like Ava Pulepulekai channel extends 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) inland from the harbor of Neiafu, the capital.

The Vavaʻu island is a raised platform of coral cliffs on the north coast and a low and irregular coastline south that opens in a complex network of channels, bays and islands forming one of the best protected natural harbors in the Pacific.

Vavaʻu is also home to the 'Ene'io Botanical Gardens, Tonga's only botanical garden.

New island

In 2006, eruptions of the previously submarine volcano Home Reef caused it to rise above sea level, forming a new island to the southwest of the Vavaʻu archipelago.[2]


Vavaʻu has a much warmer climate than the rest of Tonga except the Niua group of islands furthest to the north. Because of the island's warm climate and fertile soil, Vavaʻu is a haven for vanilla and pineapple growers as well as other tropical fruits.


  • Hon. Fulivai – The noble Fulivai was appointed as Governor of Vavaʻu in July 2011.
  • Hon. Sione Laumanuʻuli Luani – The previous Governor The Noble Luani died suddenly on 12 May 2010.[3]
  • Hon. Samisoni Fonomanu Tu'i'afitu – The Noble Tu'i'afitu was appointed Acting Governor of Vavaʻu in 1988 and then Governor of Vavaʻu in 1991. He died on 4 October 2005.


Due to its scenic beauty Vavaʻu is particularly popular with sailors and other tourists and is one of the most important tourism sites in Tonga. From May to October, the Port of Vavaʻu welcomes sailing boats from all over the world to dive with birthing humpback whales and explore underwater caves.

Tourism, agriculture and fishing are the main sources of income of the population. The vanilla grown here is considered one of the best in the world. Moreover, even giant clams and pearls are cultured.

See also


Further reading

External links

  • a web portal service for the Vava’u Island group of Tonga

Coordinates: 18°39′S 173°59′W / 18.650°S 173.983°W / -18.650; -173.983

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