How to Survive as a Vegan… in Tonga

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If you’re vegan and heading to the beautiful Kingdom of Tonga sometime soon:

  1. Lucky, lucky you
  2. You’ve absolutely come to the right place!

Surviving as a vegan in Tonga is a CHALLENGE but lucky for you I’m sharing my top tips so you can enjoy your time rather than worrying about where your next meal is going to come from.

A young woman stood on a boat jetty overlooking the turquoise ocean on the island of Vav'au Tonga

I’m not one to shy away from a challenge but this one caught me off guard a bit.  I had visions of Tonga being a lush, green island with beautiful fresh fruits growing everywhere, veggies being sold at roadside stands and restaurants serving healthy and abundant meals.  How wrong I was.

According to the BBC Tonga is the most obese country in the world, with high fat meats and fizzy drinks being the feature of most meals.  On the islands of Vava’u and Tongatapu where we stayed, finding a restaurant was hard enough and when you did, you could write off finding something vegan-friendly, there was no such thing as a plate of plain vegetables or salad.

A woman sat on a striped red hammock underneath a palm tree on a beach in Vav'au Tonga

After the first few days of being in Tonga, I could tell I was losing weight.  I don’t lose weight easily but it was dropping off of me.  I was living on a diet of fries and the emergency protein bars I had packed in my luggage from home.  After a few days of exploring the area I found my groove, so without further ado…

Here are my top tips on how to survive as a vegan in Tonga:

  1. Pack emergency snacks – I recommend calorie dense protein bars (such as CLIF bars) and lightweight packaged foods such as oat sachets.
  2. Book self-catering accommodation – Having a microwave, hob and fridge are going to be your saviour. We visited two hotels and three restaurants and the only thing I managed to get was a fruit smoothie; eating out really isn’t an option if you’re a strict vegan.
  3. Make sure you’ve got transport – Our accommodation was run by a local Tongan family who offered a taxi service to the local town. Make sure you’ve got this option with your accommodation or that you’re within easy walking distance of the main town.
  4. Be prepared for the supermarkets – Tonga is a poor country, with 22% of it’s inhabitants living below the poverty line. The main food shop in the town where we stayed was a shell with racking along the walls and cardboard boxes flattened to create a carpet. The food was largely tinned or dried, with almost no fresh fruit or vegetables, so have a think about the types of things you can cook.
  5. Find out when the local market is on – We found out from our host that there was a market in the local town once a week. We booked a taxi and stocked up on fruits and veggies. Despite Tonga having seemingly the perfect growing conditions for fruit and veg, they didn’t seem to grow much at all. The market was limited but provided ample produce to get me through a 10 day trip. I was just so thankful to see something green to eat!

A local market on the island of Vav'au Tonga, selling fresh vegetables

The inside of a Tongan supermarket on the island of Vav'au
A local Tongan supermarket

Here is an idea of what I ate during our stay:

  • Breakfast – I bought a bag of porridge oats, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of fruit jam and a tin of coconut milk from the supermarket. I used this to make a calorie dense porridge each morning which I cooked in the microwave at our accommodation.
  • Lunch – I bought a bunch of bananas from the market and had a couple of these with a protein bar I had brought with me from home.
  • Dinner – I picked up a bag of rice and a few tins of tomatoes and beans from the supermarket, along with a selection of veggies from the market. I cooked the veggies in a pan with the tomatoes and beans, and served up a big portion with some boiled rice.

Don’t let any of this put you off going to Tonga.  We went to see the humpback whales and it was one of the most memorable travelling experiences we have been lucky enough to have.  The islands are beautiful, unspoilt and humbling.  If you love nature and being in the ocean then you can’t fail to have a wonderful time. 

We would go back again in a heartbeat.

Young woman sat on a beach at sunset in Tonga Vav'au overlooking a calm ocean



Hi, I’m Tara! I’m taking you on a trip around the world in vegan cuisine and bringing the world’s most delicious dishes to your kitchen.