In all, I spent 4 days on Tongatapu (the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga). On our arrival, we were greeted by rainy skies and thousands of coconut trees that cover the flat island. The port city where we were staying is Nuku'alofa, the capital city. Two other grad students from University of Hawaii and I stayed in the Waterfront Lodge. It was a small, but really great hotel! There's a nice restaurant on the 1st floor and about 12 rooms on the 2nd floor. All of the rooms have big balconies, hot water, and air-conditioning. It was a little expensive for Tonga (about 120 U.S. dollars/night), but split between the 3 of us, it was a great way to go.
We were unsure about how to amuse ourselves at first, so we decided to take a taxi to some small, obscure beach on the opposite side of the island. The road was well off the beaten path. And of course when we reached the beach, we were the only tourists there, there was a steady rain, and it was nothing like we expected. After swimming a while, I decided that it was really a cool beach! There was about 20 meters of actual sandy beach, the rest was covered in black corals. About 50 meters from the shore was a black reef that constantly had waves breaking over it. If it wasn't high tide, I would have swam out there and walked on the rocks. After swimming for about an hour in the rain, we decided that we were sufficiently cooled off. It was a great beach!
On the second day in Tonga we looked around town and checked out the market. The market was pretty neat: lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and a section of handicrafts. The handicrafts were mostly all woven baskets, jewelry made from shells, patterned wall-hangings, and wood-carvings. It was a nice market, but a lot of the tables had the same goods, so I lost my excitement after the first few booths. In the nighttime, we went to a buffet at the Dateline Hotel, which was pretty tasty, despite being mostly meat. There was a live band playing, and after dinner, a local group of Tongans danced traditional Polynesian dances. All the dances were good - but there was a marked difference between the way the men and women danced. The women's movements were all smooth and flowing, but the men's were extremely energetic and aggressive. The best dance was a guy who twirled and flung around a torch that was flaming on both ends - I was really impressed.
On the third day we went to Atata Island (separate post), and on our last day, we boarded the boat and settled in. After becoming acquainted with the ship and clearing customs, we had one last night in Tonga. We went back to the restaurant in our hotel one last time and then met up with others from the boat at a really loud (and surprisingly cool) bar. Up until the final night, I didn't even know that loud, exciting bars existed on Tonga. Then we stumbled back to the port to sleep on the boat, waking up bright and early to leave port and watch the last bit of land fade away in the distance.