Vatoa was the only island of present-day Fiji visited by James Cook. The island was sighted on 2 July 1774. The next day, a Sunday, the Master and some of Cook's crew went ashore, "thinking to speak with the people not more than 20 in number who were Arm'd with Clubs and Spears, but the moment he set foot on Shore they retired, he left ashore some Medals, Nails and a Knife ..... Near the Reef were seen several Turtle which occasioned my giving that name to the Isle." Cook's chart shows the name Turtle Isle.
Vatoa has varied rainfall and is usually cool because of trade winds.
The island has an area of 4.45 km² and rises to more than 50 m above sea level. It is composed wholly of limestone (Koroqara Limestone, Tokalau Limestone Group), probably Late Miocene in age. There is one village, with population around 300. Interesting old fortifications occupy the highest part of the island.
A noted son of Vatoa is Director of Immigration Mr Viliame Naupoto who once served as Deputy Commander of the Fiji Naval Forces.