As in Samoa, traditional Tongan dancing emphasizes fluid movements of the hands and feet instead of gyrating hips, as is the case in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. There is also less emphasis on drums and more on the stamping, clapping, and singing of the participants. The dances most often performed for tourists are the tau'olunga, in which one young woman dances solo, her body glistening with coconut oil; the ma'ulu'ulu, performed sitting down by groups ranging from 20 members to as many as 900 for very important occasions; the laklaka, in which rows of dancers sing and dance in unison; and the kailao, or war dance, in which men stamp the ground and wave war clubs at each other in mock battle.
The best place to see it is at Tongan National Cultural Centre (tel. 23-022), which stages a Tongan-style feast complete with a traditional kava welcoming ceremony and dance show Tuesday and Thursday evenings. What makes the evening special is an explanation, in English, of what each dance represents. Cost is T$25 (US$13/£6.25), plus T$5 (US$2.50/£1.25) for transportation. Book by 4:30pm.
Another good choice is the Friday night feast at the Likualofa Resort (tel. 41-967), on the beach 18km (11 miles) west of Nuku'alofa. They offer an extensive buffet of Tongan and Western foods, followed by a dance show beside the lagoon. The meal and show costs about T$30 (US$15/£7.50). Reservations are required.
You'll also have a chance to see Tongan dancing on Wednesday night in Nuku'alofa at the International Dateline Hotel (tel. 23-411), where floor shows start around 9pm after a buffet-style dinner.
Because all pubs and nightclubs must close at the stroke of midnight Saturday, Friday is the busiest and longest night of the week in Tonga. That's when some establishments stay open until 2am. Many Tongans start their weekends at one of the local bars and then adjourn to a nightclub for heavy-duty revelry.
Clubs change in popularity quickly, so it's best to ask around to learn which ones are drawing the crowds. The most popular are on Vuna Road between Faua Jetty and Queen Salote Wharf. You can avoid fights by doing your drinking at the venerable Billfish Bar and Restaurant, where a squad of security guards keep order, and at Shooters '07 (tel. 28-701), a hip, American-style sports bar.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.