One of the world's smallest countries, Niue is a coral atoll found in the centre of a triangle of Polynesian islands made up of Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. With a tropical climate and spectacular water clarity, it really is like finding a remote island paradise.
1. See whales
At the right time of year, whale watching is a big attraction in Niue. The fact the ocean is very deep just offshore means you can clearly see humpback whales breaching from viewing points on land and, thanks to the clarity of Niue’s water, they can be seen deep underwater by snorkelers floating on the surface, too. It’s definitely worth taking a boat tour out to experience these beautiful creatures, as the tour operators have the experience and the gear to locate the whales and to keep you safe while you’re in the water being amazed by them.
Tours are well managed so that only a handful of whale-watch boats operate and a restricted number of people can be in the water with the whales at any one time. There are rules about how close boats can be and what position they can take, so that the whales never feel trapped between the boats and the shore. The time to see whales is between July and October.
2. Swim in rock pools
Niue is made of porous limestone and its coastline is basically a network of crazy caves and chasms. At all tides, rock pools are filled with filtered, extremely clear water, home to fascinating, colourful marine life. Many pools are easily accessed down paths to the coast, with only a short clamber over rocks to the pools’ edges.
Some are within caves, so you can float on your back looking up at incredible dripping shapes frozen in coloured rock. Others are more open, lit by the sun to shining turquoise depths, edged by warm slabs of smooth rock to sunbathe on. And while you’ll have to share some of these popular warm-water swimming pools with other bathers, some smaller tucked-away ones you’ll have to yourself. Be aware that lots of the rocks are jagged and sharp; it’s a really good idea to have reef shoes!
3. Eat locally
Toasted coconut bread with Niuean honey, raw fish salad, fresh tropical fruit…yes, the local food is good. A market selling fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood runs twice a week and one well-stocked supermarket is open six days a week for self-catering tourists. There are a few cafés and restaurants, though not always open when you might hope. Scenic Matavai Resort – the only resort on ‘the rock’ – has a reliable restaurant and bar where you can eat with a view of the sea.
In Alofi, Kaiika Sushi and Gourmet Cuisine is a surprising and excellent Japanese restaurant that also serves quality pizza. The Crazy Uga, also in Alofi and with gorgeous coastal views, sells great coffee. And if you’re in Niue on a Sunday, go to Wash Away café on Avatele Beach. It’s an open-air bar, with limited menu, operating on an honesty system and only open Sundays from 11am till late … but is a very special spot.
4. Drive around the island
Get a rental car and go right around. The circuit is just 64km but it will take longer than you might expect because the road, while mostly sealed, isn’t exactly highway standard and there is a lot to slow down for along the way. You’ll drive through sleepy villages with dogs lying in the dust, hens with gangs of chicks scuffling about, roosters by the dozen and occasional cats.
You’ll stop at bush reserves and viewing points and if you’ve been smart and packed a picnic, you’ll want to relax over that. It’s worth walking down some sea tracks, such as the one to Anapala Chasm where a pool of fresh water lies wedged between rocks at the end of a steep path, down smooth, stone steps.
Hikulagi Sculpture Park, just south of Liku village, is also worth stopping to explore. A continually evolving assemblage work with an environmental message at the centre of the park was created by local artist Mark Cross, whose truly stunning realist paintings feature in Tahiono Gallery in Alofi.
5. Walk to Togo
There are many excellent walks to experience on Niue, with well-developed, well-maintained tracks delivering adventurers to rock pools, historic sites, caves and remote beaches. One of the most spectacular is the walk to Togo. Find the track about 4km north of Hakupu village, clearly marked, on the main circuit road. It starts in pretty, sun-dappled bush and leads to wide, impressive sea views before descending through a mass of jagged coral pinnacles. When you get to a flat area, you’ll find a passage that leads you to the edge of a chasm.
You climb down a sturdy ladder and find yourself, incredibly, on a small gold-sand beach completely surrounded by cliffs, with coconut trees reaching up almost up to the rim of the chasm. There is a noisy, frothy cave that leads through to the open sea which can be climbed through, with care. It’s very dramatic, thrilling and surreal! Togo is one of those place you have to see to believe it actually exists.