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- Flexible itineraries including four days on Taveuni Island, five days of island-hopping in the Yasawas, and the ten-day best of Fiji
- Strategic advice for outdoor adventurers, diving enthusiasts, honeymooners, foodies, and more, with guidance on which island is right for you
- Must-see highlights and unique experiences: Go scuba-diving and spot barracuda, manta rays, and dolphins. Hike the rain-filled crater of a dormant volcano, raft down the thrilling Navua River, or zip-line through old-growth yesi forests. Share an intoxicating bowl of kava with new friends, tour an inland sugar plantation, or immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of indigenous peoples at a VOU dance performance. Sample fresh papaya, passionfruit, and mangoes from local growers or go off the grid in a traditional Fijian village, where you can practice mountainside yoga and learn to river fish with locals
- Expert insight: Minal Hajratwala, a writer with lifelong family ties to Fiji, recommends where to eat, how to get around, and where to stay, from guest cottages and beach bungalows to luxurious resorts
- Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
- Reliable background information on the landscape, climate, wildlife, and history, as well as common customs, etiquette, and basic Fijian and Hindi phrasebooks
- Handy tips for families, seniors, students, and travelers with disabilities, plus ideas for traveling sustainably and engaging with the culture
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
Planning Your Trip
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. . .
The Best of Fiji
VITI LEVU: GREATEST HITS
THE YASAWAS: RELAXATION AND ROMANCE
FIND YOUR BEACH PARADISE
TAVEUNI AND VANUA LEVU: BACK TO NATURE
BEST VALUE RESORTS
UNDERWATER TREASURES: DIVING AND SNORKELING
TAKE A HIKE
CATCH EPIC WAVES
EXPERIENCE FIJIAN CULTURE
One of the most remote archipelagoes in the world, Fiji is where you go when you want—need—to get away from it all. Famous for its flawless beaches, deep-sea wonders, and cocktails in coconuts, this collection of 300-plus jewel-like islands hosts treasures that would take a lifetime to explore.
More than 70 percent of the earth is water, and there’s nowhere better to experience this gorgeous truth than Fiji. No less than 33 barrier reefs form decorative halos around the hundreds of islands, home to thousands of colorful marine species, many unique to these waters.
Away from the sea, more adventures await. Try dramatic waterfall trekking, spelunking large limestone caves, zip-lining through old-growth vesi rainforests, and white-water rafting through river gorges lined with black volcanic walls.
Fiji’s rich and diverse landscape is matched by its mix of cultures. This is where Polynesia and Melanesia meet, from iTaukei warrior dances to Indian temples. It’s one of the few nations in the world where indigenous people have retained most of their land and time-honored traditions. Everyone speaks English as well as their own mother tongue, and Fijians are famously friendly and social. You just might find yourself sharing an intoxicating bowl of kava with new friends on the deck of a boat.
It’s time to learn your first Fijian word: Bula! Hello, welcome, come on in.
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Find Your Beach Paradise: Get ready to enjoy some of the best beaches in the world.
2 Discover Underwater Treasures: Dubbed the “soft coral capital of the world” by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, Fiji offers teeming reefs around every island.
3 Take a Hike: From coastal treks to incredible volcanic vistas, spectacular scenery awaits those who are willing to walk for it.
4 Catch Epic Waves: Surf some of the world’s best breaks, including the famous Cloudbreak.
5 Ride the Rapids: Rush down the thrilling Navua River as it cuts through dramatic volcanic gorges.
6 Visit Picture Perfect Islands: Live out your fantasies of movie glamour on The Blue Lagoon’s Nanuya Lailai in the Mamanucas and on Cast Away’s Modriki Island in the Yasawas.
7 Explore Contemporary Art and Culture: Experience Fiji’s local art scene by watching a performance from the high-octane dance artistes of VOU or seeing vibrant paintings in the art galleries of Suva.
8 Village Homestay: Get way, way off the grid and be welcomed like a family member at Namosi Eco Retreat, north of Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu.
9 Adventure at Bouma National Heritage Park: Snorkel pristine waters, hike to lush jungle waterfalls, or take a beautiful coastal walk at one of Fiji’s best nature reserves.
10 Polish Your Binoculars: You’re going to see (and hear) some unique feathered species.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
Nadi and Vicinity
As the site of Fiji’s international airport, Nadi is the country’s gateway, with lots of glassy storefronts and cultural sights. It’s a great place to acclimate while exposing your taste buds to everything from cheap street snacks to Fiji’s emerging nouveau cuisine. Just a tiny hop over a small bridge is resort-rich Denarau Island, a fun and safe place to party, relax, try a new water sport, or embark on a half-day excursion to the western islets. South is the historic Momi Bay gun battery, and inland is the mountainous Sleeping Giant jungle, with zip-lining and a 35-acre eco-park.
The Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands
For the romantic beaches of the travel brochures, spend a day or a week at these enticing archipelagoes an easy hop from Nadi. Most of Fiji’s island resorts are here, with clear waters, golden or white sands, and dazzling reefs. These mini-paradises have seduced generations of global audiences through productions such as The Blue Lagoon, Cast Away, and season 33 onward of Survivor. You don’t have to earn a superstar salary, though, to visit their natural beauty by cruise, catamaran, or seaplane.
The Coral Coast
The southern flank of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, is the Coral Coast, where Fijian tourism began. Dozens of resorts, hotels, and hostels stretch along 50 miles of beach, with plenty of places to tempt travelers to pause—whether for a scenic round of golf at world-famous Natadola, a challenging sand hike over the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, a snorkel and barbecue on the beach, or an array of other tours and activities available in this developed region. At the eastern end, Pacific Harbour is a hub for sea-based action sports, while the stunning Navua River beckons to white-water rafters.
Suva and the Kadavu Group
The largest and most cosmopolitan city in Oceania, Suva offers tons of culture, shopping, and eating. Fiji’s largest museum, hippest nightclubs, and numerous historic buildings are here. To the north, a tiny well-kept rainforest at Colo-i-Suva and a reef frequented by spinner dolphins offer outdoor adventure. Offshore, lush Kadavu Island offers access to the virtually untouched Great Astrolabe Reef.
Northern Coast and Interior Viti Levu
On Viti Levu’s northern half, seascapes give way to vast sugar plantations and lush volcanic forests intercut by networks of rivers and streams. The paved two-lane Kings Highway makes for comfortable travel to sugar city Lautoka and sleepy Rakiraki. Avid hikers can choose from several glorious, virtually tourist-free treks up into the lush mountains and sweeping valleys of the interior Nausori Highlands and Fiji’s highest peak, Mount Tomaniivi. Nananu-i-Ra Island is a favorite of scuba divers, windsurfers, and backpackers.
The heart of the “friendly north,” Fiji’s second-largest island feels worlds away from Viti Levu. Savusavu is a picturesque town with an active, friendly marina scene, and two spectacular highways sweep north through mountains and east along a verdant coast. There’s plenty to do here, whether it’s visiting a pearl farm, enjoying a thermal mud bath, or going on a scenic search along the Hibiscus Highway for the elusive Natewa silktail bird.
The garden island’s high spine is draped in luscious rainforest, with huge coconut plantations, magnificent waterfalls, and an oceanic blowhole spurting through black lava rock. Several lovely community-led nature reserves are on the east side, while to the west, the fabulous soft corals of the Rainbow Reef and Great White Wall stretch across Somosomo Strait.
The Lomaiviti Group
Anyone with an interest in Fiji’s vivid history won’t want to miss Ovalau Island and the timeworn old capital, Levuka. The town’s long row of wooden storefronts looks like the set of a Wild West film, set below towering volcanic peaks. Several smaller islands have resorts with everything from dorms to luxury villas alongside the nutrient-rich Koro Sea, lively and healthy for diving and fishing.
The Outer Islands
Words like pristine, untouched, and idyllic were invented for these little-known islands in the Lau Group and Moala Group to the east and Rotuma Island far to the north. It’s worth the extra effort to travel where few tourists go in order to experience some of the most fantastic beaches, therapeutic mineral springs, and stunning limestone formations in the world.
Know Before You Go
High and Low Seasons
Fiji has great weather year-round, so there is no special travel season. There’s a hotter, more humid season November-April, and a cooler, drier time May-October. March is the hottest and rainiest month, and July is the coolest and driest. The risk of cyclones is highest during the wetter season, sometimes shutting down sea and air travel for a few days per year.
Family-oriented resorts may be more crowded during Australian and New Zealand school holidays (one week each in January, April, and July). Check availability, especially if you have your heart set on a particular spot.
If you’re a scuba diver, it’s useful to know that the best diving conditions occur April-October, with the calmest seas in April and May. Visibility is tops June-October, then slightly worse November-March due to river runoff and plankton growth. The marine life is most bountiful July-November.
Surfing is possible throughout the year, with the biggest swells out of the south March-October.
May-October is the yachting season, with the trade winds blowing reliably out of the southeast.
Visas and Officialdom
Citizens of most countries do not need a visa to enter Fiji; see the list of exempt nations at www.fijihighcom.com. Travelers should be prepared to show:
• a passport valid for at least six months after arrival;
• a ticket for departure from Fiji and the appropriate visa or document for entering their next destination; and
• up-to-date vaccinations for tetanus, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B.
For stays of more than four months, see the additional visa requirements in the Essentials chapter.
Fourteen international airlines either fly to Fiji or have codeshare agreements, with frequent service from Auckland, New Zealand; Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, Australia; Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; Guam; Samoa; and Tonga.
Within Fiji, a combination of flights, boats, taxis, buses, and possibly car rentals will serve you well. Depending on whether you value time or money more, you can fly across the main island in less than an hour or drive across it in four. The round-the-island local bus is scenic and a great bargain as long as you can handle occasional bumpiness and proximity to fellow travelers. Private taxis are not prohibitive; day rates for a driver and car are often about the same as a day’s car rental alone.
Ferries and motorboats are the way most people travel to the outlying islands, and most are equipped comfortably enough for tourists. Commercial flights also go to some islands. Seaplanes, engaged by exclusive resorts to bring passengers onto their own landing strips, are an option if price is no object.
The Best of Fiji
With 300-plus islands to choose from, planning a trip to Fiji can seem daunting. The following itineraries can be used independently or combined to create the best bula vacation for you.
The route I recommend to friends and family visiting Fiji for the first time is to arrive in Nadi on Viti Levu, fly straight to the garden island of Taveuni, then fly back to Viti Levu via Suva, spending a couple of days in the capital before heading west along the Coral Coast back to Nadi.
Viti Levu: Greatest Hits
You can have a fantastic, diverse trip to Fiji while exploring all that Fiji’s largest island has to offer. To maximize your time on Viti Levu, fly straight to Suva after you arrive in Nadi, and enjoy meandering along the coastal route back to Nadi.
Arrive in Nadi in the early morning and walk across a driveway to the domestic terminal for the first flight to Suva. (Be sure to book your international ticket all the way through to Suva so that you won’t be charged extra for luggage on the domestic leg.) After the hour-long flight, take a 15-minute taxi ride from the airport to the elegant, restful Grand Pacific Hotel, where you can enjoy a royal brunch buffet before crashing to recuperate from your jet lag.
When you surface again, you might take a relaxed, self-guided walking tour of the various colonial monuments in the area, including the Fiji Museum. Pay special attention to the huge drua, the double-hulled canoe in the museum’s main hall. For dinner, venture into the bustle of downtown—either a 3-minute taxi ride or a 20-minute walk—and have a casual meal in the food court at Tappoo City, where everyone in your group can choose their own dining adventure amid an array of vegetarian, fish, and meat purveyors in Fijian, Indian, East Asian, or continental style. If you still have energy, stop by the Piano Bar at the Holiday Inn for a nightcap and dessert, and be serenaded by local singers, before turning in at the Grand Pacific just next door.
Walk or take a taxi to the bus station and enjoy a quick breakfast at one of the roadside stalls (the mince pies at Hot Bread Kitchen are tasty). Catch the bus to Colo-i-Suva, a small rainforest just outside of Suva, spotting some of the rare birds that nest in this sanctuary. You can go for a scenic, not-too-strenuous 90-minute hike here, adding a little time for waterfall swims if you like. Then grab lunch at Colo-i-Suva Rainforest Eco Resort, located at the rainforest entrance.
In the afternoon, let history come to life by booking a sail on the Drua Experience, an authentic, handcrafted double-hulled canoe modeled on the 1913 canoe in the museum. It was this sort of vessel that’s believed to have carried the early Melanesians to Fiji in 500 BC. On the tour, you’ll enjoy a swim at historic and scenic Nukulau Island before sailing back. Dine and socialize at Eden Bistro & Bar, where the daily specials might feature anything from sashimi to curries to burgers; you’re likely to make some new friends in this cheerful, relaxed joint.
The Coral Coast
After a couple of days in Suva, it’s time to get completely off the grid. Rent a car in town that you can return in Nadi, and then drive up into the foothills to spend a night at the Namosi Eco Retreat. You’ll stay in your own hut next to an indigenous village, and cook, converse, and splash in the river with new friends. Children especially love this place.
Alternatively, take a bus or taxi for the half-hour trip from either Pacific Harbour or Suva to the wharf town of Navua, arriving around noon. Across from the bus station, board a motorboat to go down the Navua River and across the open sea to peaceful little Lawaki Beach House. Enjoy the golden sands as well as fresh meals of fish caught by the owners and vegetables from their organic hillside farms, and take an occasional snorkel out to the reefs that encircle the island and the entire Beqa Lagoon.
After breakfast, continue west to the Coral Coast. The paved road, fine scenery, and numerous interesting stops make this one of Fiji’s best road trips. After about two hours of driving, pause at the He-Ni-Uwa Restaurant. You might wish to work up an appetite by taking a horseback ride with the family-owned Fiji Coral Coast Horse Riding Adventures, which also owns the restaurant. Choose from a 40-minute beach ride, a 90-minute beach/mountain ride, or a 2-hour rainforest ride that includes a waterfall dip; they all include a fine lunch at the restaurant.
After lunch, continue about half an hour to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, a unique coastal ecosystem formed over millennia. Enjoy a beautiful, moderately strenuous 45-minute hike from the visitors center through the dunes and back. Back on the road, after about 30 minutes of driving, you’ll arrive at the big island’s most gorgeous beach, Natadola. This is the perfect spot to relax for the rest of the afternoon—you’ve earned it! Take photos, drink from a freshly cracked coconut, lounge on the beach, and perhaps have a massage at one of the open-air tables. When your stomach starts rumbling again, pop into the open-air bar and restaurant of the Natadola Bay Golf Course and enjoy stunning views of the southern coast; try the Sigatoka River prawns and the lime-passion fruit cheesecake.
From here, drive about 45 minutes north and check into the posh Marriott Resort Momi Bay, which, although a chain, is worthwhile for its location and gorgeous over-water bures.
Nadi and Vicinity
Enjoy a big breakfast at the hotel, relax with a morning swim in the infinity pool or on the beach, then check out and head 20 minutes north to the historic Momi Battery Historic Park. Here you can marvel at the two huge antique cannons used to defend Fiji during World War II and the even more stunning view of the southern islands.
Drive about half an hour north to one of the resorts on Denarau Island (upscale) or Wailoaloa Beach (budget) for an afternoon of sun, swimming, lazing, and perhaps a massage with only-in-Fiji organic coconut and floral lotions. If a jolt of adrenaline fits your mood better, book an excursion north to Sleeping Giant Zip Line Fiji. You’ll be picked up from your hotel and whisked to a 35-acre adventure park with five zip lines, where you can fly through the jungle canopy at a maximum speed of 40 kph.
For a social evening with locals, try the old-fashioned Nadi Club in town. It’s a drinking society, distinguished by the fact that Felix Fastfood, attached to the club, serves tasty Indian and fusion meals (chicken, lamb, duck, goat, and fish) for around F$5.
DAY 6: DAY TRIP TO THE MAMANUCAS
For a glimpse of some of Fiji’s most spectacular outer islands, take a day cruise that includes lunch on one of the Mamanuca Islands. You could lounge on the beach and paddleboard off the coast of Modriki Island, made famous by the movie Cast Away, or Jet Ski out to Cloud 9, a floating pizzeria in clear deep waters perfect for parasailing and kayaking. There are a dozen possibilities depending on whether your mood is booze cruise, romantic private cove, or family fun.
All embark from the Marina at Port Denarau, which is conveniently also full of restaurants, so you can have your choice of dinner and an indulgent dessert when you return. One good choice is Bonefish Seafood Restaurant, a pioneer of Fijian nouveau cuisine, where signature dishes include a seafood chowder spiked with brandy and a Yasawa lobster grilled in a sweet chili sauce. To keep the party going, you could board the open-air Bula Bus and use your unlimited rides to go bar-hopping among all the fancy resort bars on Denarau till the wee hours.
Spend your last day taking in the sights and sounds of Nadi. To take a taste of Fiji home with you, sign up for a class with the Flavours of Fiji Cooking School, which starts at the Nadi Market, where locals from all over the islands come to sell their fruits and vegetables. Then the chef-teachers take you to the pro kitchen on Denarau, where you learn to prepare an 11-item lunch—and eat it.
Afterward, browse for souvenirs at the Handicraft Market and the glassy storefronts of downtown. Stop by the prominent Sri Siva Subrahmaniya Swami Temple, the largest and most colorful Hindu temple in the South Pacific. Eat your last Fijian meal at Tu’s Place, savoring local classics such as kokoda (ceviche made with coconut milk) and rourou (taro leaf balls), before heading to the airport to drop off your rental car and fly out.
With More Time
THE GREAT ASTROLABE REEF
If you have two more nights, pause between Suva and the Coral Coast for an excursion to Kadavu Island. (You could do this in one night, if absolutely necessary, but you’d regret it!)
Fly directly from Suva into Vunisea Airport and be whisked to Matava, one of Fiji’s original eco-resorts, right on the stunning Great Astrolabe Reef. The resort’s on-site diving and fishing operators are award-winning, so you could spend the afternoon doing your activity of choice (divers, be sure to allow 24 hours before your next flight). Kayaking is also excellent here. Delicious meals are included, and you can easily spend a couple of days in and around your beautiful bure. The comfortable decks are perfect for spotting Kadavu’s four endemic bird species, while the snorkeling in the marine reserve just opposite is superb.
The Yasawas: Relaxation and Romance
- On Sale
- May 14, 2019
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Moon Travel