Luckys Beach Houses Tonga

Tonga sunsetThough Tonga’s capital city and international airport are on Tongatapu Island, the country’s main tourist center is 200 kilometers north at Vava’u. During the South Pacific yachting season from May to October, Vava’u is buzzing with activity, especially when the humpback whales arrive to mate and calve from July to October. Vava’u is one of the few places in the world where tourists can actually swim with whales. Aside from sailing, there’s scuba diving, sea kayaking, game fishing, and cultural tourism. Needless to say, the whale-watching tours and best accommodations are often sold out at this time of year and advance reservations are essential.

Budget travelers hoping to sidestep the beaten tourist track should consider Lucky’s Beach Houses in Talihau village on ‘Utungake Island, about 12 kilometers from Vava’u’s main town of Neiafu by road. Lucky’s is run by former Maui residents Lynn and Kurt Carlson. The four units here begin with a small fale, a favorite among backpackers at about US$37 single or double (two-night minimum stay). It shares common cooking and bathing facilities with the traditional fale (US$43) made of sticks and palm leaves. Despite the lack of electricity, it’s right on the waterfront and very popular. For romantic couples and small families, the two self-catering beach houses with private bathrooms and kitchenettes are preferable. The Blue House is US$80 while the Green House goes for US$85.

Breakfast, dinner, and laundry are extra at Lucky’s. Breakfast is fruit, coffee, tea, toast, and freshly-baked muffins. Dinner is a fixed menu, three-course affair - mostly fish dishes prepared by Lynn, a gifted cook. Otherwise guests can cook for themselves and a small village shop is a five-minute walk away. Airport transfers are available at 50 pa’anga (US$30) for the car (not per person) with a stop in town for grocery shopping before coming out to Lucky’s included in the price. Whale watching, scuba diving, and fishing trips are arranged with free transfers to pickup points. Giant Trevally fishing charters are $700 pa’anga (about US$400) for the boat.