Nukuʻalofa is the capital of Tonga. It is located on the north coast
of the island of Tongatapu, in the southernmost island group of Tonga.
1.1 First western records of Nukuʻalofa
1.2 Capital of the Kingdom of
Tonga (1875 and later)
6 2015 island creation
7 Twin towns/Sister cities
10 External links
First western records of Nukuʻalofa
On 10 June 1777, British captain
James Cook wrote of his arrival at
their anchorage place. His description of the place confirmed, with
his map, that this was the bay of Nukuʻalofa.
At length, about two in the afternoon, we arrived at our intended
station. It was a very snug place, formed by the shore of Tongataboo
on the South East, and two small islands on the East and North East.
Here we anchored in ten fathoms water, over a bottom of oozy sand;
distant from the shore one-third of a mile [500 m]."
Cook never used the name Nukualofa or any other spelling for the
reports of this voyage, but he mentioned the island of Pangaimodoo
(Pangaimotu) which was to the east of his anchorage position. Captain
Cook also wrote that he travelled by canoes to visit Mooa (Muʻa)
where Paulaho and other great men lived. The house that Paulaho
provided was on the beach 500 metres (1⁄3 mi) from the ship.
Reference to his map shows that he must have landed and stayed in the
Siesia area, the eastern part of modern Nukuʻalofa. Cook also drafted
the first map of the bay of Nuku'alofa.
The first recorded Map of Tongataboo Harbour as sketched by Captain
Cook in 1777. The map clearly shows the Bay of Nuku'alofa and his
anchored position near Pangaimotu. Small islands of Nuku'alofa were
named with phonetic spelling, including Atata, Pangaimotu, Makaha'a,
The first written record for Nuku'alofa is stated in the first
dedicated book for
Tonga by George Vason which was published in 1810.
George Vason was an English missionary from the London Missionary
Society, who arrived in
Tonga in 1797. George Vason wrote of their
Before we could well come to an anchor, the ship was surrounded by the
natives, who flocked to us from every adjacent Island. The place,
before which we anchored, was called Noogollefa: it was near an
Island, named Bonghy-moddoo; on which former navigators pitched their
tents, as a convenient spot, on account of its separation from the
main Island, to preserve themselves from being too much incommoded by
That was the first mention of Nuku'alofa, spelled as Noogoollefa.
Pangaimotu was spelled as Bongy-Moddoo by George Vason since Tongan
writing and alphabet would be developed in 1826-27.
The second oldest book dedicated to
Tonga was by William Mariner,
adopted son of Finau 'Ulukalala, which was published in 1817. Mariner
described his experiences during the years he was the adopted son of
'Ulukalala (1806–1810). He described the civil war and the siege of
the Fort of Nuku'alofa, which fell to 'Ulukalala and his warriors.
The third attempt of Christian missionaries were recorded in April
1826, when two Tahitian London Missionaries were detained by Tupou the
chief of Nuku'alofa.
In March 1826, the four men left Tahiti in the Minerva, their
destination Fiji. But at Nuku’alofa, Tonga, their plans were
disrupted by the high chief Tupou (Aleamotu’a). From Davies’
perspective the Tahitian were placed under detention at Tongatapu:
“The chief called Tupou would not let them proceed. He had been
himself a resident in Lageba and calls himself the friend of Tuineau,
the chief of Lageba and as such he took possession of the present
intended for the Fijian chief".
The arrival of the Methodist missionaries in Nuku'alofa in 1827
reinforced the Christian faith. The persecution suffered by Christians
in Hihifo and Hahake forced a lot of people to seek refuge in
Nuku'alofa. Thanks to the encouragement of Tupou, the King of
Nuku'alofa, this was the beginning of the expanding of Nuku'alofa to
become the major center of Christianity in Tonga.
US Exploring Expedition
US Exploring Expedition met with King Josiah (Aleamotu'a) in
The final phase of the arrival of Christianity in
Tonga was the
arrival of Father Chevron, or Patele Sevelo, in 1842. He wrote that he
arrived in Nuku'alofa in 1842 and met the Tu'i Kanokupolu Aleamotu'a
who was baptised by the Wesleyan as Sosaia.
In conclusion, these ladings turned Nuku'alofa from a small village
and fort into the center of
Tonga during the introduction of
Christianity. From the earliest records for Nuku'alofa, early writers
always referred to the settlement as Noogollefa (1797), Nioocalofa
(1806), Nukualofa (1826 by Methodist) and Noukou-Alofa (1842 by French
Catholic priests). There was no other mention of any other name of the
settlement other than the settlement or fort of Nuku'alofa.
Capital of the Kingdom of
Tonga (1875 and later)
Nukuʻalofa in 1887
The Declaration of the Constitution of
Tonga in 1875 formalised
Nuku'alofa as the Capital of Tonga. King George Taufa'ahau Tupou I
issued the Constitution of
Tonga on 4 November 1875, in Nuku'alofa.
The Constitution also stated (Article 38) that the Parliament will
meet in Nuku'alofa except in time of war.
Since Nuku'alofa have been expanding from when it became the center of
Tonga in the 19th century, it became essential that it
was reorganised for effective administration of the capital. The
reorganisation of Nuku'alofa divided up Nuku'alofa into three major
Royal Palace of Tonga
Kolomotu'a (Kolo meaning "town" or "settlement", motu'a meaning
"old"), encompassing the city's original settlement at the old fort of
Nukualofa, including the area of Tavatu'utolu (Longolongo), Sopu 'o
Vave (now Sopu 'o Taufa'ahau), Tongata'eapa, Tufuenga, Kapeta and all
the western area where it was the traditional settlement of the Tu'i
Kanokupolu from Mumui the 13th Tu'i Kanokupolu to Aleamotu'a the 18th
Kolofo'ou (fo'ou meaning "new"). This area started from the Vaha'akolo
Road and all the eastern side to Ma'ufanga which include the Palace of
King George Taufa'ahau Tupou I and seat of Government, as well as all
the new settlement of Fasi moe Afi 'a Tungi, Malie Taha (One Mile),
Ngele'ia was an old settlement during the civil wars and Taufa'ahau
and his warriors destroy this settlement. Taufa'ahau settled in his
kau To'a Tautahi (Sea-Warlords) in Nuku'alofa for his protection and
security from enemies and named the area
Kolofo'ou (Newtown or
Newsettling). This happened after the burn down and fall of Takai's
fortress of Pea in the command of his son Moeakiola in 1852. About the
same time Taufa'ahau moved his capital to Kolofo'ou, Nuku'alofa after
he ruled and reigned from Pangai, Ha'apai since 1845.
Ma'ufanga, on the eastern side of Nuku'alofa. Ma'ufanga was an old
village of the Ha'a Takalaua, which is the Estate of the Chief
Fakafanua. George Vason mentioned that Ma'ufanga was a refugees area
during the civil war, where people could take shelter in time of
hardship. Ma'ufanga is the area facing Pangaimotu, where James Cook
anchored, and where Paulaho built him a house on the beach, about 500
meters from the ship.
Prime Minister's Office
The national government is based in Nukuʻalofa. The parliament of
Tonga meets there, and the Royal Palace is located near the city.
The name is said to have originated when Moʻungatonga, the 6th Tuʻi
Haʻatakalaua (King who governs the daily business of
Tonga on behalf
of the Tuʻi
Tonga or Sacred King of Tonga) sent his youngest son,
Ngata (later to be 1st Tuʻi Kanokupolu) as governor to Hihifo
(Western side of Tongatapu). It was a difficult decision for Ngata as
Tonga and Tu’i Ha’atakalaua have been unable to control
Hihifo. Ngata had many reasons to fear for his life as his
predecessors had been killed by the chiefs and people of Hihifo.
Between 12 and 13 February, 2018, the Tongan Parliament House was
destroyed by Cyclone Gita, a category 4 cyclone that hit the
Nuku’alofa features a tropical rainforest climate under the Köppen
climate classification. The area does experience noticeably wetter and
drier periods during the year, but it does not have a true dry season
month where monthly precipitation falls below 60 millimetres
(2.4 in). Temperatures are slightly warmer during January and
February where average temperatures hover around 25 °C
(77 °F) than June and July where the average temperatures is
roughly 21 °C (70 °F). Nuku’alofa sees a little more
than 1,700 millimetres (67 in) of precipitation annually.
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Climate data for
Nukuʻalofa (Elevation: 2m)
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average rainfall mm (inches)
Average rainy days
Average relative humidity (%)
Nukuʻalofa is the economic hub of the country.
Peau Vavaʻu, an airline, had its head office in the Pacific Royale
Hotel in Nukuʻalofa. The former
Royal Tongan Airlines
Royal Tongan Airlines had its head
office in the Royco Building in Nukuʻalofa.
The city has markets and a central business district. Much of the
central business district was destroyed during the 2006 Nuku‘alofa
riots, but it is being rebuilt.
The city has a number of tourist hotels, including the International
Dateline Hotel, recently renovated.
Fua'amotu International Airport, near Nuku'alofa
The Free Church of Tonga
Nukuʻalofa is the central hub for transport in Tonga.
Buses arrive and depart from the central bus station along Vuna Road
close to the centre of town. Bus services are privately operated, and
their drivers are free to set their own schedules. Fares are fixed by
the government, with reduced rates for school children. The buses are
usually filled to capacity. In addition, some schools and large hotels
provide their own buses.
There are numerous taxis, also privately owned. Many people who own a
car earn extra money by providing taxi services in their spare time.
Taxi fares are also set by the government. Most families have their
own car; few residents ride bicycles. There are no operational
railways or trams in Tonga, although there was once a narrow-gauge
railway from the lagoon to the wharf, which gave its name to Railway
Nukuʻalofa harbour is the only deep-water harbour of the island,
which determined its selection as the site for the capital. For many
years Vuna Wharf was the international harbour until it was destroyed
by an earthquake in 1977. A new, much larger wharf was built towards
Maʻufanga, named after Queen Sālote. Between these two wharves is
the wharf numbered '42', used by fishermen and inter-island ferries.
It is the central hub for boats to the outer islands. There are
usually two boats to
ʻEua each day and two to
Haʻapai and Vavaʻu
each week. In addition to these regular services by shipping
companies, private boat owners provide less regular services to
smaller islands such as
Nomuka and ʻEueiki.
Air transport is provided by
Fuaʻamotu International Airport
Fuaʻamotu International Airport on the
south side of Tongatapu, 35 kilometres from Nukuʻalofa.
2015 island creation
In January 2015, a new island of about 1 km diameter was reported
to be created by a volcanic eruption. The newly formed island is
situated about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of the capital
Twin towns/Sister cities
Nukuʻalofa is twinned with:
Whitby, United Kingdom
Hazleton, United States
^ Cook, 1783, pg 277
^ Vason, 1810,p 68
^ Munro and Thornley, p. 94
^ Stanton, William (1975). The Great
United States Exploring
Expedition. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 187.
Tonga parliament building flattened by Cyclone Gita". BBC News. 13
Samoa Travel Weather Averages (Weatherbase)". Retrieved 9
^ "Nuku'alofa Climate Info". Weatherbase. Retrieved 4 November
^ "Contact Information for Peau Vavaʻu." Peau Vavaʻu. June 12, 2007.
Retrieved on January 20, 2011. "Peau Vava'u Limited Pacific Royale
Hotel Taufa'ahau Road Nuku'alofa Kingdom of Tonga"
^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 30 March – 5
April 2004. 61.
^ "Contact Information." ntly renovatedRoyal Tongan Airlines. 6 June
2004. Retrieved on 23 October 2009.
^ (www.bka.co.nz), Site designed and developed by bka interactive ltd,
Auckland, New Zealand. "Tanoa
International Dateline Hotel in Tonga".
Retrieved 9 December 2016.
^ "Transport and Industry – The Leftovers :: The Photo
Galleries". Retrieved 2010-11-04.
^ "D news". Retrieved January 21, 2015.
^ "ABC News". Retrieved January 21, 2015.
Transport and Industry:
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the Friendly Islands, 1810
Martin J, An account of the natives of the
Tonga Islands, in the south
pacific ocean. with an original grammar and vocabulary of their
language. Compiled and arranged from the extensive communication of Mr
William Mariner, several years resident in those islands, 1817
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Findlay and Holdworth, History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary
Society Vol III, 1921
Monfat A, Les Tonga; ou, Archipel des Amis et le R. P. Joseph Chevron
de la Société de Marie, 1893
Rowe Stringer G. A Pioneer, A Memoir of The Rev. John Thomas (1885)
Farmer, Sarah Stock,
Tonga and the Friendly Islands: With A Sketch of
the Mission History, 1885
Schütz, Albert J, The diaries and correspondence of David Cargill, by
David Cargill, 1832–1843; 1937
Garret John, To Live Among the Stars; Origin of Christianity in
Elijah Hoole (ed.), Friendly and Feejee Islands: a missionary visit to
various stations in them; by Walter Lawry, 1857
Campbell, I.C. Island Kingdom:
Tonga Ancient and Modern. Christchurch,
Gifford, Edward Winslow, Tongan Places Name, 1923
Media related to Nuku'alofa at Wikimedia Commons
Capitals of Oceania
Dependent territories are in italics
Kingston, Norfolk Island1
Wellington, New Zealand2
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Nouméa, New Caledonia3
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea4
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Majuro, Marshall Islands11
Palikir, Federated States of Micronesia11
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands5
South Tarawa/Bairiki, Kiribati
Nauru (de facto)
Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands6
Avarua, Cook Islands8
Hanga Roa, Easter Island9
Mata-Utu, Wallis and Futuna3
Pago Pago, American Samoa5
Papeete, French Polynesia3
1Territory of Australia
2Often included in Polynesia
Overseas collectivity of France
4Often included in Australasia
Insular area of the United States
6Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom
7In free association with New Zealand
New Zealand dependent territory
Special territory of Chile's oceanic region
11In free association with the United States