Fiji is the multicultural crossroads of the South Pacific, the throbbing heart of Oceania. Here Polynesia meets Melanesia, Micronesia, China, India and Australia. And your choice of resorts, activities, and islands is huge, from the sunny paradise isles of the Mamanuca Group to the soaring volcanic islands of the Yasawas.
If you’re into sports, then you’ve come to the right place: The sports-minded can go scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, surfing, and sailing. In fact, there’s so much to see and do in Fiji that the savvy traveler will have done some advance planning prior to arrival. Several of Fiji’s diverse regions merit special attention, and all routes begin in Nadi.
Things to Do in Fiji: Nadi
Direct flights from Auckland, Brisbane, Honolulu, Los Angles, Melbourne, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo, and a host of South Pacific countries arrive at Nadi International Airport on the west side of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu. Numerous hotels and motels are strung along the 8-kilometer road from the airport to the markets of Nadi Town.
Most of the larger international resorts are on Denarau Island, a 10-minute drive from Nadi, while the beach resorts of the Mamanuca and Yasawa island groups are accessible on highspeed catamarans based at Port Denarau. As a break from the many shopping and dining possibilities, many Nadi-based visitors join bus tours to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, Vuda Lookout, Sabeto Valley, and Fiji’s second-largest city, Lautoka, all north of Nadi. There are also luncheon and dinner cruises on Nadi Bay and jet-boating on the Nadi River. The more energetic can go trekking in the Nausori Highlands overlooking Nadi.
Things to Do in Fiji: The Mamanuca Islands
The idyllic coral isles of the Mamanuca Group are scattered across a protected sea west of Nadi and north of the Malolo Barrier Reef. Sailing vessels such as the schooners Seaspray and Whales Tale ply these waters on day trips from Nadi, or you can take a fast exploratory cruise on the fast catamaran which supplies the offshore resorts three times a day.
The various resorts cater to different markets, be it couples and families at Amunuca, Castaway, Mana, Malolo, Navini, Plantation, and Treasure; adults only at Likuliku, Lomani, Matamanoa, Tokoriki, Vomo, and Wadigi; backpackers at Beachcomber, Bounty, Funky Fish, Mereani’s, Ratu Kini, South Sea, and Walu Beach; surfers at Namotu and Tavarua; and sailors at Musket Cove.
When selecting a resort, it’s important to pick the one that is right for you. Staying at the Mamanuca resorts is generally more expensive than staying in Nadi, but you can have the best of both worlds by visiting the islands one at a time on all-inclusive day cruises from Nadi. Consider the Beachcomber Day Cruise if you’re with the kids, the Castaway Island Cruise if you want to meet some friendly Aussies, the Mana Island Day Cruise if you want to combine a hike with a swim, and South Sea Island or Tivua Island if you’re only looking for fun. All of the day cruises include Nadi hotel transfers, the catamaran, a buffet lunch, and snorkeling gear. It’s a great way to check out a resort before committing to a long stay.
Things to Do in Fiji: The Yasawa Islands
The Yasawa Islands chain runs up the west side of Fiji, northwest of Viti Levu. The chain’s jagged peaks are clearly visible on the horizon across Bligh Water from Lautoka. Tourism is relatively new to the Yasawa Islands. While Mamanuca resorts such as Beachcomber Island date back to the 1960s, the vast majority of the Yasawas resorts have only opened during the past decade.
That said, it is now possible to board a morning catamaran at Nadi’s Port Denarau and arrive at the Yasawa Island resort of your choice in time for lunch. A Bula Pass (valid for 7, 14, or 21 days) allows island hoppers to stop for a day or two at all of the main resorts. The Pass covers unlimited catamaran travel within the Yasawas, but only one trip back to Nadi. Three and four-day packages eliminate the need to decide on all your stops in advance.
Be aware, however, that most of the Yasawa resorts are designed for young backpackers willing to trade a little inconvenience for lower prices, and one shouldn’t expect luxuries here. If air-conditioned comfort and fancy food are a priority, the Mamanucas would be a better choice. However, the swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving are unsurpassed in the Yasawas, and there are many opportunities to hike to scenic viewpoints on these high volcanic islands. Traditional Fijian culture is preserved intact in the local villages where almost all of the resort workers live.
Things to Do in Fiji: The Coral Coast
Many of Fiji’s largest international resorts are along the Coral Coast between Nadi and the country’s capital city, Suva. Southwestern Viti Levu gets ample sun and there’s good snorkeling off the white sandy beaches (although one must be aware of unperceived currents). Some of Fiji’s best surfing is along the Coral Coast’s fringing reef; shuttle boats provide access to the world class wave at Frigate Passage.
Scuba diving is another very popular activity and all of the main resorts have dive shops. Shark diving in the wild is an everyday thing here. Exhilarating whitewater rafting and leisurely outboard boat rides on the Navua River are offered from Monday to Saturday with resort pickups easily arranged. Firewalking and traditional dancing accompany the Fijian feasts at island nights staged at the main resorts. Aside from this resort activity, there are many shopping possibilities in nearby Sigatoka, the Coral Coast’s largest town.
Things to Do in Fiji: Suva
The markets and colonial buildings of Fiji’s capital, Suva, can be toured on a daytrip from Nadi or the Coral Coast. For those who chose to linger a while, there’s exciting nightlife at the city’s many clubs and bars. Some of Fiji’s best restaurants are here, too, with an Indian restaurant recommended for lunch and a Chinese restaurant best for dinner (many of the Indian restaurants do not serve alcohol). The Fiji Museum in South Suva is a must see with the Thurston Botanical Gardens, Albert Park, the Government Buildings and the Grand Pacific Hotel all within sight of the museum.
Suva’s bustling municipal market and the main shopping centers are in North Suva where buses from all around Viti Levu arrive. Colo-i-Suva Forest Park in the hills above Suva is one of Fiji’s top ecotourism attractions, with nature trails and waterfalls in a mahogany rainforest. It’s just a 15-minute taxi ride from town.
Things to Do in Fiji: Northern Fiji
The traveler with more time should also visit Fiji’s “Friendly North,” especially the old plantation town of Savusavu on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second-largest island. Cruising yachts from all around the Pacific pause at Savusavu for extended stays (and short cruises are easily arranged). Savusavu is also one of Fiji’s top scuba diving venues. The nearby garden island of Taveuni, often called Fiji’s finest island, is another famous scuba diving area. The half dozen dive shops on Taveuni take divers to the Rainbow Reef and Great White Wall off eastern Vanua Levu.
Taveuni also offers exceptional hiking in the Bouma National Heritage Park in eastern Taveuni. Guides are available or you can hike to the waterfalls on your own. Accommodations are easily found on Taveuni, from self-catering cottages to upscale boutique resorts.
Things to Do in Fiji: Eastern Fiji
Eastern Fiji means everything east and south of Suva. The lover of history and culture won’t want to miss Fiji’s old capital Levuka, on Ovalau Island just east of Viti Levu. It’s easily accessible from Suva by boat or plane. The wooden false front shops from 19th century along Beach Street in Levuka are well preserved and there’s good hiking in the green hills behind the town. Levuka has no real beaches but there is an active dive shop.
Further afield, the southerly island of Kadavu is another of Fiji’s favorite scuba diving sites with the Great Astrolabe Reef running right up the northeastern side of the island. Kadavu is also popular for its surfing and ocean kayaking. There are few roads here and most travel is by open outboard canoe. The seldom visited Lau Group between the main islands of Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga is only for adventurous travelers who wish to get well off the beaten track. Vanua Balavu Island is a recommended destination in Lau as it has a couple of simple but adequate places to stay.