Sandy Beach Resort & Matafonua Lodge are situated 400 meters apart on one of the South Pacific's most beautiful beaches on the northern tip of Foa Island. It is 12 km to the airport and 14 km to Pangai, the capital of the Ha'apai island group, which are both located on Lifuka Island. Foa & Lifuka are linked by a causeway.
Juergen Stavenow originally moved to Tonga in 1987 and lived with his family in Tongatapu where they owned and operated the Seaview Restaurant. In January 1994 Juergen and his wife left Tongatapu, relocated to Ha’apai and broke ground on the Sandy Beach location. The entire resort was built by villagers from Faleoa using axes, shovels and spades. The largest tool was a 2kva hand generator for the drill and circular saw. During the two-year construction period, 15 villagers were employed full-time. The resort was officially opened on the 15th May 1995.
In 2004 Juergen realised that there was a gap in the market that needed to be filled to attract families and younger travellers to Ha’apai and so came about the building of Matafonua Lodge. Matafonua was opened in June 2006.
Since 2010 Darren and Nina Rice have run Matafonua Lodge and as of the 1st July 2017 will also be running Sandy Beach Resort as after years of hard work and dedication Juergen will be retiring.
Darren & Nina have a long history in tourism and underwater filming having started working in the dive industry in 1983. Their work has taken them all over the world working at some of the finest resorts and on live aboard dive boats , filming for most of the U.S tv networks, until they finally came to rest in Tonga with their 3 young children.
Since the resorts opened they have always employed the majority of their staff from the local village supporting the local community wherever possible. In a further effort to support the local economy we also source and buy local fish, seafood and vegetables.
Sustainability is a concept we don’t take lightly. The resort is built to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
After arriving in our capital it is a short hop on our domestic airline, Real Tonga. It would be advisable to have some local currency on hand for the short taxi ride from the international to the domestic terminal, alternatively we can arrange the taxi for you. We would also be happy to book your domestic and/or international flights for you. We can organise local hotels in Nuku’alofa should you want to stay before or after travelling to Ha’apai.
If you have plenty of time and are flexible there is also the option to take the local ferry to Ha’apai, which visits once a week, usually departing Nuku’alofa on a Monday night and arriving here the following morning. There is no fixed schedule though so leave yourself plenty of scope to meet International flights.
Visitors from most countries, including New Zealand, UK, USA and Australia, may enter Tonga without a visa for a period no longer than 30 days. Travelers from some countries do require a visa. Check with your travel agent, contact your local consulate or contact the immigration department here in Tonga directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (676) 26969 or (676) 26970
**** MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE AT LEAST 6 MONTHS LEFT ON YOUR PASSPORT OR YOU MAY BE DENIED ENTRY****
Overall, Tonga is said to have one of the best climates in the South Pacific. The average annual daytime temperature is a comfortable 75F/23C. In the summer, from December to April, the temperatures can be warmer and from May to November the days are cooler and dryer. Anytime of the year is a perfect time to visit.
Light summer clothing is suitable year round although the evenings may be cool in winter. You can wear your bathing suits or bikini at the resorts and nearby beaches. We kindly ask that when in villages and town you dress modestly. If you wish to visit a church service while you are here (the singing is phenomenal) then you should plan to dress conservatively for that.
The electricity is 240 volts and 50HZ, which is the same as Australia and New Zealand. Sockets are three pronged, the upper two prongs being angled and flat the same as New Zealand and Australia. All fales have power 24 hours a day.
The resorts use only rain water. We provide water for drinking in your fale each day, have a constant supply of free cold water in the restaurant and provide water if you are taking one of our boat excursions. It is clean and probably the sweetest water you will come across. We discourage the use of plastic water bottles and if you like to take water to the beach we suggest that you bring a reusable water bottle for that.
Wi-Fi is available and is free in common areas.
Sunday is, by law, a day of rest. There are no flights or ferries and all shops are closed. The resort is allowed to operate as usual with the exception of diving and whale watching, which is not allowed.
Traces of settlements of Lapita culture from around 1500 BC have been found in Ha'apai as well as ancient rock carvings (Petroglyohs).
The first European to visit Haʻapai was Abel Tasman in 1643. Captain James Cook made several stops on the islands in 1774 and 1777 and gave them the name of Friendly Islands. Fletcher Christian arrived on 28 April 1789 and Captain William Bligh of the Bounty visited the volcanic island of Tofua.
In 1806 William Mariner arrived on the ship Port-au-Prince. While they were anchored off Lufuka island they were attacked by by Tongan warriors and most of the crew were killed. Mariner was captured and lived for four years in Tonga before he was found by a passing English ship and returned to England.
Ha’apai is made up of 51 islands, only 17 of which are inhabited, and is considered the heart of Tonga. The Tongan royal family has its roots here and everyday life is still rich in tradition.
Lying directly west of the Tonga Trench, it is a chain of volcanic islands including Kao, the highest point in the kingdom standing at 1,046 metres (3,432 ft). The archipelago lies 204 kilometers (127 mi) north of Tongatapu and 130 kilometers (81 mi) south of Vava’u.