Niue is one of my favourite islands in the South Pacific. It was easy to put together a list of the highlights of Niue, and had me immediately wanting to go back.
The ‘Rock of Polynesia’ is sparsely populated (with a population of less than 1500!) and with terrain that is so uniquely different to the other South Pacific islands. It makes for a beautiful tropical getaway that truly feels far removed from tourism. And, with a pace of life that is even further removed from the usual everyday.
Don’t be fooled by the population figures – there is PLENTY to see and do in Niue! Niue has the food, culture, and natural beauty all with an unrivalled freedom to explore at a relaxed pace, without fear of missing out on anything.
Getting to Niue
Logistically, you can either visit Niue for three, four, or for seven (unless you are lucky and can stay even longer!) days. This is simply because the one airport on the island has scheduled flights with Air New Zealand to Auckland on Tuesdays and Fridays. There are no other flights.
And don’t forget that Niue is actually one day behind New Zealand… So those same flights arrive back on different days when you account for the change in time zone!
Highlights of Niue
The trek out to Togo Chasm is one of Niue’s best walks. The pathway to the inland chasm starts out through island jungle. As you get closer to the ocean, the track emerges into a single file, well-trodden pathway over the high reef-clifftops.
Then, as the trail up top heads towards the ocean, it veers off and steers you back through rocky cliff walls. From there you reach the drop off to what is in fact an inland beach. And the beach is only accessible by a huge wooden ladder…
We didn’t quite know what to expect from an ‘inland beach chasm’ on setting out. It turned out to be a bit like a tropical oasis, protected from the extremes of the ocean only twenty metres away!
You definitely feel pretty small down inside, and it makes you wonder at Mother Nature… An island without really any coastal sandy beaches… Instead, a beautiful inland tropical beach!
The walk to Talava Arches makes for an adventure! It was one of my favourite highlights of Niue. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the cave at the end of the track. From there you will need to use the handholds and ropes to make your way through and out to view the striking arches.
As for getting down into the water? There’s a rope to hold on to and climb down (told you it was an adventure!) to a clear swimming hole if you are keen… Otherwise, you if you’ve timed your visit for low tide you can wade or walk across the reef to view the sea arches. [We stopped for a coconut and cold drink at Sails Cafe, Coral Gardens near Hio Beach on our way back. This made it doubly worth it!].
The chasm is a must-see. Matapa Chasm has a renowned history as a place that was once reserved as a bathing place for Niue’s traditional kings. [And you will see why!].
Its easy to access and signposted from the road. From the carpark it is only a 5-10 minute walk down to the chasm. Don’t forget to bring some kind of reef or swimming shoes to enter the water in. Although it is virtually swimmable at any tide, you are swimming on the ‘Rock of Polynesia’ and it is rocky!
This is a beautiful collection of coral rock pools protected from the ocean swells. It’s kind of like a giant natural swimming pool. Swimming or snorkelling here is often rated as one of the best things to do in Niue and I would have to agree!
Alofi morning market
If you have been to any market in the Pacific you will know the early start is most definitely worth it. The market in Alofi runs from 6am on Tuesdays and Fridays. This is timed perfectly with the only days that schedule an international flight back to Auckland. You can enjoy one last island breakfast before you fly.
There is all kinds of locally grown fruits and vegetables, coconuts, seafood, and handicrafts all made on the island. And my favourite tables with an array of tasty hot foods that have been steamed or cooked in an ‘umu’ or ground oven. Definitely get there early so you don’t miss out on THE BEST ‘Nane Pia’ (coconut porridge). AND some steamed pitako coconut bread!
Getting around Niue
The road that loops around the entire island of Niue is only 64km in total length, so it won’t be surprising that there isn’t really the option of public transport on the island. It’s straightforward to hire a car from one of the few rental companies on the island and an easy option to pick it up and meet a representative at the airport. We hired ours through Tropicana Rentals. Having our own mode of transport made it easy to get around and check out all the highlights of Niue at our own pace.
The speed limit in the villages in only 40km/h and 60km/h for the open roads, and otherwise Niue follows the same road rules as New Zealand. In order to drive you will need to get a Niuean drivers licence from the Niue Police Department in Alofi for a small fee. [Though this was actually not open during the days that we were there – more disappointing perhaps as it would have been a cool souvenir to take home!].
Arriving at the Niue International Hanan Airport is an experience in itself, with a small airport building and a relaxed island vibe as soon as you arrive. From the air even the runway stands out – its a white colour and visible as soon as you spot the island. It is made out of the islands own coral-based concrete mix – rather fitting, for the Rock of Polynesia!
Arrived prepared with cash when you land. The island trades everything with New Zealand dollars but there aren’t actually ATM’s on the island. It is possible to withdraw money from the bank and several businesses do use EFTPOS, but for ease of travel bring sufficient cash with you – and don’t forget to keep the $34 NZD departure tax on leaving the island.
Where to stay
There is a good range of accommodation options to suit most needs and budgets in Niue. And although there is a variety of accommodation, you do need to book in advance as they sell out fast. There is one resort on the island, many self-catering fale or cottage style units; guest-houses and motels. For the full range of options available check the Niue island website here.
We stayed with friends on the island for our visit, but we had meals at the Scenic Matavai Resort and at Sails Restaurant and Cafe at Coral Gardens. Both options cater to different budgets, and I would recommend either.
Where to eat
Aside from the Alofi Market for a taste of hot Niuean breakfast, there are several other stops for food you need to make. Kai Ika is a Japanese restaurant on the island, serving up the freshest seafood.
There is an outdoor restaurant at the Scenic Matavai Resort overlooking the ocean that I recommend a visit for a swim and lazy afternoon. And, my most important suggestion – be sure to try a pineapple pie from the bakery!
So there you have it, the highlights of Niue and how to see (and taste) them all. And don’t worry, the list is doable whether you are there for the allotted three days, four days or seven. You will fall in love with the pace of island life, the taste of Niuean culture, and the beauty of this Rock of Polynesia.