Tokelau Flag

Tokelau Travel Guide

Tokelau Islands go to Fakaofo go to Nukunonu go to Atafu

Introduction to Tokelau

Tokelau, a dependent territory of New Zealand, consists of three atolls 500 km north of Samoa (Tokelau means "north"). In British colonial times it was known as the Union Group. The central atoll, Nukunonu, is 92 km from Atafu and 64 km from Fakaofo. Swains Island (Olohega), 200 km south of Fakaofo, traditionally belongs to Tokelau but it is now part of American Samoa.

Each atoll consists of a ribbon of coral motus (islets), 90 meters to six km long and up to 200 meters wide, enclosing a broad lagoon. At no point does the land rise more than five meters above the sea, which makes the territory vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Together Atafu (3.5 square km), Fakaofo (four square km), and Nukunonu (4.7 square km) total only 12.2 square km of dry land, the smallest separate entity in the South Pacific. In water area, the three atolls include 165 square km of enclosed lagoons and 290,000 square km of territorial sea.

Life is relaxed in Tokelau. There are no large stores, hotels, restaurants, or bars, just plenty of coconuts, sand, and sun, and a happy, friendly people. This is outer-island Polynesia at its finest.

Fast Facts

Where

Tokelau lies 500 km north of Upolu, halfway between Samoa and the Phoenix Islands of Kiribati.

When

Tokelau shares a time zone with Samoa (GMT plus 13 hours).

Why

Outer island Polynesian life can be experienced on Tokelau's three atolls.

How

Tokelau is only accessible by boat from Apia, Samoa.

Who

Some 1,500 people live in the Tokelau Islands, about 500 per atoll.

Highlights

Atafu Atoll:
wade/walk around the atoll in a day

Nukunonu Atoll:
broad lagoon, Catholic church, bridge

Fale, Fakaofo:
tiny island, densely populated village

Swimming pigs, Fakaofo:
hundreds of pig pens along the reef

The interisland ship:
Tokelau is only accessible by boat