Tonga is located in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The island is directly south of Western Samoa and about one-third of the way between New Zealand and Hawaii.
Tonga gained independence from Britain on June 4, 1970. The territory consists of 176 islands that occupy roughly 277 square miles of land. The largest city of Nukualofa lies along the northern coast of the island of Tongatapu. An estimated 104,000 residents inhabit the islands, as of 2014, and many of the islands contain active volcanic craters. Much of Tonga's economy is centered around tourism and fishing. Tonga is known as the "The Friendly Islands," a nickname bestowed by Captain James Cook on his 1773 visit.