Re: Traveling to Vava'u
Depends on where you want to start your trip.
I am in New Zealand, and there are plenty of not very expensive flights to Tonga. You have to fly to Nuku'alofa on the main island of Tongatapu first.
From there you take a domestic flight to Vava'u. (There are also weekly flights between Samoa and Vava'u with Polynesian Airlines but I do not know in which price range they are. We have cheap flights from NZ to Samoa as well.)
There is also an interisland ferry between Tongatapu and Vava'u. Obviously, some ferries are in horrible condition, as the disaster last year showed. Best you check out www.tongaholidays.com
If you travel in the right season a ferry trip could be great for whale watching. Vava'u is famous for whale watching anyway.
We got to Vava'u on a comfortable cruise ship, so cannot give you first-hand reports of hell-rides on ferries ;-)))
But Vava'u is really wonderful. And the people are even more marvellous. It surely is on our list of places to revisit.
You ask if it is possible to hire a boat. I am sure it is possible. But I do not know how good a sailor you are. The Vava'u group is about 800 to 1000 kilometres from Tongatapu. But you can surely sail between the islands of the Vava'u group once you are there. We saw a lot of private yachts anchoring in Neiafu's harbour.
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