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Tonga Geography


Tonga is an archipelago of 176 islands (36 inhabited) located in the South Pacific Ocean. The three largest islands are Tongatapu, Ha'apai, and Vava'u, with Tongatapu being the most populated.

Due to its location within the Pacific Ring of Fire, Tonga experiences relatively frequent volcanic activity, with its last eruption occurring in 2009, near the island of Hunga Tonga - approximately 6.8 miles (11 km) north of the capital city of Tongatapu.

Tonga's western islands make up the Volcanic Arch, and are therefore volcanic in origin, having been formed from heated materials that rose to the surface of the ocean.

The eastern Tongan islands sit above the Tonga ridge, running parallel to the Volcanic Arch, and were formed from elevated limestone and uplifted coral formations. These islands are not volcanic.

Located east of Tonga, in the depths of the ocean, is the Tonga Trench - one of the deepest parts of the Pacific. Its deepest point, known as the Horizon Deep, plunges 35,702 ft. (10,882 m) below the surface of the water.

There are no significant rivers within the Tonga archipelago, however the largest lake is located on the island of Tofua, and is a steaming hot volcano crater with a depth of 1,600 ft. (500 m).

The highest point of the country is an unnamed elevation on Kao Island that peaks at 3,389 ft. (1,033 m); the lowest point is the Pacific Ocean (0 m).

Landforms of Oceania

Geography Tonga
Location: Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Geographic coordinates:

20 00 S, 175 00 W

Map references:



total: 748 sq km
land: 718 sq km
water: 30 sq km

Area - comparative:

four times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries:

0 km


419 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


tropical; modified by trade winds; warm season (December to May), cool season (May to December)


most islands have limestone base formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying volcanic base

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Kao Island 1,033 m

Natural resources:

fish, fertile soil

Land use:

arable land: 23.61%
permanent crops: 43.06%
other: 33.33% (2001)

Irrigated land:


Natural hazards:

cyclones (October to April); earthquakes and volcanic activity on Fonuafo'ou

Environment - current issues:

deforestation results as more and more land is being cleared for agriculture and settlement; some damage to coral reefs from starfish and indiscriminate coral and shell collectors; overhunting threatens native sea turtle populations

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:

archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited)

Note: The information tabled directly above was researched by and provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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This page was last updated on June 16, 2020.