Must-do Niue Attractions, Exploring a Hidden Gem in the South Pacific

Must-do Niue Attractions, Exploring a Hidden Gem in the South Pacific

Niue is a small island in the South Pacific (just about 70 kilometers in circumference), about a 3.5 hour flight from Auckland.  It’s a magnet for divers and snorkel enthusiasts, because the lack of sandy beaches mean it has some of the cleanest waters in the South Pacific.  It has a close connection with New Zealand, so they use NZD as their currency and you can find L&P soda and hokey pokey ice cream sold everywhere.

I spent four days in the place and absolutely fell in love.  It’s small enough that you can bike everywhere but there’s so many caves and swimming spots, that we barely stopped moving during our trip.  Here’s a list of must-do activities, most of which we were able to squeeze into four days on the island so they are tried & true Niue attractions.

Locals cliff jumping at the Limu Pools.

Locals cliff jumping at the Limu Pools.

1. Cliff jump at the Limu Pools (ambitious jumpers can ask locals about a more daring jump at the Matapa Chasm)- Limu Pools are one of Nuie’s most famous attractions for their crystal clear water and secluded snorkeling spot.  It’s not just for tourists though- locals head here on the weekends, attempting increasingly brazen jumps to impress whatever females might be in the vicinity.  They’ll welcome any foreigners who are brave enough to join in.

Niue Yacht Club, downstairs from Niue Backpackers

Niue Yacht Club, downstairs from Niue Backpackers

2. Feel at home at Niue Backpackers– Ira and Brian run a three or four room hostel in the house above “the world’s biggest small yacht club”.  It has an awesome central location, airport pick up and drop off and a cozy collection of couches and an endless supply of really dusty books.  They’ve also compiled notes, advice and tips for dozens of travelers… it’s better than Lonely Planet!  Niue Backpackers is a good deal at $25-$30 per night but you’ll have to pay in cash!

Hilo Cafe

Hilo Cafe

3. Have a cup of espresso at Hio cafe- Hio cafe was opened in September 2016 as a container restaurant with a perfect location above one of Nuie’s only sandy swimming spots.  The owner, Victoria, is super passionate about the operation and has an espresso machine with roasted beans from a cafe in Auckland.  It’s the perfect spot to stop for a pick-me-up and they hope to add cabins soon.

Looking out to Talava Arch

Looking out to Talava Arch

4.  Trek to Talava Arches- most of the swimming spots and caves are just 200 meters off the main road but Talava Arches involves a longer walk through a butterfly-covered forest.  It’s one of the most well known images of the island and scrambling through the caves makes the destination all the more impressive.  If you time your visit for low tide, you can get closer to the arch.

"Secret" swamp at Togo Chasm.

“Secret” swamp at Togo Chasm.

5. Find the secret swamp at Togo Chasm- Togo Chasm was my favorite hike on the island.  You meander through some tropical jungle, then take a precarious path through a razor sharp coral “forest”.  That leads to a long ladder where you can descend to a chasm filled with sand and palm trees of a mysterious origin.  But the magic doesn’t end there… if you climb over the boulders, there’s a secret, moss-covered swampy pool.  You’ll definitely feel like Indiana Jones.  On the way back, make sure to climb over some more rocks and check out the waves crashing on the coast.  The coral pools make this view pretty mesmerizing.

Sunset from Sir Robert's Wharf.

Sunset from Sir Robert’s Wharf.

6.  Watch the sunset at Sir Robert’s Wharf- The main shipping port is the perfect place to catch an uninterrupted view of the sunset.  (And it’s right in the center of town!)

7.  $5 roti at Gill’s Indian Restaurant- Food in Nuie is pretty pricey (you’ll pay at least $20 for a main dish) so grabbing a chicken, beef or vegetarian roti at Gill’s Indian Restaurant in the main square is a great deal for lunch! Additionally, Gill’s the only restaurant I found with vegetarian options.

Corned beef eating contest at Matapu Village Show Day.

Corned beef eating contest at Matapu Village Show Day.

8.  Test your strength (or your stomach) at a Village show day- During the month, villages take turns having show days to showcase their local crafts, food and culture.  Usually, a lot of locals show up to catch up with their family and friends so it’s not just for tourists.  It’s pretty entertaining to watch the boys of the village test their strength throwing coconuts or climbing soap-covered poles.  It’s even more entertaining when the adults (women, then men) engage in a canned corned beef contest, where everyone’s a winner with the free lunch.

A dog of Niue

A dog of Niue

9.  Make at least one canine friend- Like people, you’ll encounter the same furry friends again and again and most of them are pretty charasmatic!  It’ll be hard to leave the island without befriending at least one dog.

10. Enjoy gourmet sushi at Kai Ika- An Israeli who works in the fishing industry collaborated with a Japanese partner to open this restaurant that serves sushi “with a Niuean twist” and NYC-style pizza.  What’s also cool is that his chefs rotate every two years between cafes in Svalbard, Kosovo and Nuie.  Usually, Kai Ika is busy and reservations are recommended but if there’s an opportunity to chat, the chefs probably have cool stories to share!

11. Eat fish n chips at Falala Fa Cafe- Falala Fa’s “famous beer battered fish n chips” are not to be missed, especially since you know it was probably a fresh catch.  If you bike all around the island, like we did, you can convince yourself you deserve it!

12. Befriend everyone on your flight- Nuie is a place where restaurants are only open a couple days a week so you tend to cross paths with the same people again and again.  By the time you fly home, you’ll know almost everyone on your plane!

Limu Pools, Niue

Limu Pools- one of the famous Niue attractions

13. Vow to come back- According to a local hotel owners, Nuie gets about 6,000 tourists a year, about a third of which are return visitors.  The timelessness of the island, the relaxed vibes, friendly familiar faces make this place an absolute treasure.  I went with a friend who came back for the third time and all the newbies vowed to return, perhaps in August for whale watching.  It’s not the cheapest getaway but standing in a tiny airport that only opens twice a week when there’s an incoming flight with a handwritten boarding pass is a pretty priceless experience!

Another Niue sunset.

Another Niue sunset.

If YOU go to Nuie: Make sure to pack water shoes!  Almost all the swimming spots require you to climb over rocks, caves and coral so it’s not ideal for bare feet.  Bring plenty of cash (they use NZD), although eftpos is becoming more common.  If you’re vegetarian, you may want to pack some food- most restaurants serve meat and fish.  Most of the food is imported from NZ so there is a supermarket but prices are marked up.  You won’t have problems brining fresh fruit and vegetables into the country as long as you buy them at a supermarket and bring a receipt.

Song of the Moment: Suitcase Full of Sparks– Gregory Alan Isakov

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