Cruising Lifestyle | Fiji

Fiji Travel Guide: Notes from Four Months

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In 2016 and 2017, we spent a total of four and a half months in the Pacific Island nation of Fiji. Fiji is a wonderful place that we loved, with a strong, unique culture and stunning natural beauty.

Fiji is modern, with amazing hospitality and nature, which makes it one of our top five destinations.

At the top of Mount Tomanivi, the highest point of Fiji.

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Fiji?

Cyclone season in the South Pacific is November through April, so it is best to avoid travel during that time. Fiji was devasted by Cyclone Winston in 2016, so it’s not uncommon for Fiji to get a major cyclone.

Outside of cyclone season, manta rays are in season from April – October, although we were always visiting later in the season, and did not get to see any manta rays in Fiji.

Humpback whale populations do peak from July through September, but I recommend swimming with humpback whales in Tonga.

How to Get to Fiji

The only international airport in Fiji is Nadi (pronounced NAN-dee). There are direct flights offered from many of the US west-coast airports like SFO or LAX, plus Australian airports and Auckland. Flights come in from Asia too; Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore.

Speak Fijian

Fijian is one of my favorite languages that I’ve encountered on my travels. To say hello, one would say “Bula!” (exclamation point not optional). To say thank you, say “Vinaka.

Many words in Fijian have an invisible “n”. For example, Nadi is pronounced Nandi, Bequ is pronounced Benqu, and Fulaga is pronounced Fulanga.

Fiji’s Geography

Fiji is divided into a bunch of island groups. The main island is Viti Levu, and extending out from Viti Levu is a long chain of islands. These islands are divided into the Mamanucas (south) and the Yasawas (north).

The second-largest island of Fiji is Vanua Levu. Vanua Levu is located east of Viti Levu and has the cities of Savusavu and Labasa.

Further east of that is Taveuni Island, and then the Lau Group.

The southern side of Fiji is a large group of islands inside Astrolabe Reef.

How to Travel Around Fiji

The more popular places in Fiji are very easy to visit thanks to Fiji Airways and ferry services.

Via Ferry

Nadi is not far from Denarau, where the tourist ferries are located. There are ferries that run every day up and then back down the island chain – one ferry for the Mamanuca Islands and one for the Yasawa Islands.

The ferries are highspeed, and it’s only a short trip, even from the further north islands. This makes the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands the most popular ones for tourists.

Via Commercial Plane

Nadi is on the western side of the main island called Viti Levu. Nadi is the international airport of Fiji, and it has plenty of domestic flights as well, especially during the high season. You can fly multiple times a day to Taveuni, Savusavu or Suva.

Via Rental Car

There are several places worth visiting on Viti Levu, and rental cars in Fiji are easy to rent and drive.

Why You Should Visit By Boat

We visited Fiji on our own boat, sailing from island to island. There is no better way to see Fiji than on a sailboat.

Our friends Lewis and Alyssa run a fantastic charter operation in eastern Fiji at Quixotic Charters.

Tradewinds in Fiji operates a crewed charter service out of Denarau. Captain Cook Cruises, also in Denarau, has a whole variety of choices, from day sails to a four-night Yasawa island cruise ship vacation.

Read our post with sailing itineraries for Fiji.

Boats at Vanua Levy in the Mamanucas.

Fiji Itineraries

10 Days for the Scuba Diver

Split your time between Savusavu and Astrolabe Reef. Savusavu provides access to Rainbow Reef, Namena, and many other world-renown dive sites. Astrolabe is off the beaten path and is an untouched gem.

10 Days for the Hiker

Spend a few days on Viti Levu hiking. Don’t miss the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, it’s a highlight. If you are feeling adventurous, head out for a full day hike to the top of Mount Tomanivi, the highest point in Fiji.

Then head out to the Yasawa Islands. Many of the resorts have excellent hiking trails on the small islands. I particularly recommend Blue Lagoon: we did a great hike to Lo’s Tea House with a special treat at the end!

10 Days for the Beach Bum

This itinerary is easy! Pick a resort out in the Mamanucas or Yasawas and take the ferry out. The island resorts all have great beaches and are usually all-inclusive, meaning if you get bored of the beach you can enjoy a village tour, scuba diving, snorkeling, paddleboarding, etc….so many choices!

Viti Levu

Viti Levu is the main island of Fiji, with the capital, Suva, on the east side and the international airport in Nadi on the west side. Just south of Nadi is Denarau, where the ferry terminal is to get passengers out to the western islands.

There are better snorkeling and beaches out on the western islands, but Viti Levu has plenty of cultural opportunities and hiking.

Denarau

Denarau is a convenient destination since it’s so close to the airport and the ferries. We stayed in the marina when we were visiting, right in the center of the activity.

Where to stay:

What to do:

Sigatoka Sand Dunes

Suva

I don’t particularly recommend Suva – it’s dirty and industrial – but we did do some excellent hiking when we were based in Suva. We stayed down at the yacht club usually but also spent a few nights at the Five Princes Hotel.

Where to stay:

The Grand Hotel in Suva.

What to do:

  • Colo-I-Suva Forest
  • Fiji Museum
Traditional druas at the Fiji Museum.

Coral Coast

The Coral Coast area of Fiji is the southern side of Viti Levu stretching between Sigatoka and Suva. The biggest village is Pacific Harbour, where there are an artists’ village and a boat jetty.

Where to stay:

What to do:

  • Sigatoka Sand Dunes
  • Namosi Highlands river cruise
  • Dive Beqa lagoon
  • Tavuni Hill Fort
  • Kula Eco Park

Mamanucas and Yasawas

These islands are to the west of Viti Levu. They are easily accessible by ferries that depart Denarau every day: one ferry for the Mamanucas and one for the Yasawas.

These islands are pretty self-contained. There are minimal options for dining outside of the resort (or cluster of resorts).

Where to stay in the Yasawas:

Sunset over Manta Ray Resort.

Where to stay in the Mamanucas:

The Mamanucas are significantly more expensive than the Yasawas. While there are hotels in a wide price range, quality is a problem.

What to do:

Each resort offers it’s own activities schedule. These often include diving, snorkeling, water sports, village tours, hikes, and traditional Fijian dancing and music shows. Additionally:

Kadavu Group

This island group has the main island of Kadavu, and then a collection of much smaller island nearby. Kadavu is off the beaten path. It’s located 100km south of Viti Levu, and there’s hardly anything there except natural beauty.

We spent a few days in the islands on the northeast side. We arrived in Dravuni just as one of the cruise ships was leaving. We were able to buy some fresh coconuts and drink some kava with the locals before hiking and snorkeling.

Where to stay:

  • $200-300 USD: Matava is an eco-adventure resort located on the south side of Kadavu Island. Oneta Resort is located on Ono Island. Both have in-house dive facilities and ratings 4+ out of 5.

What to do:

  • Dravuni Island is a cruise ship stop, and the town is prepared to host visitors.
  • Dive Astrolabe Reef
Hiking on Dravuni.

Savusavu, Vanua Levu

The second biggest island of Fiji, Vanua Levu is located to the east of Viti Levu. Most tourists visit Savusavu on the south shore.

Savusavu harbour.

Where to stay:

  • Budget (<$100 USD): Gecko Lodge Fiji is your best inexpensive option close to town. If you desire a pool, Daku Resort is budget-friendly with amazing views over the water.
  • Moderate ($100-200 USD): For those looking to dive, we booked with Koro Sun Resort, where the amenities are gorgeous and the staff is friendly.
  • Luxury ($200-300 USD): Savasi Island Resort is a small resort on a large private island. You could totally get lost there, and I think the price is pretty reasonable!

What to do:

Taveuni

Taveuni is a medium-sized island just next to Vanua Levu. It’s got its own airport, great dive locations, and lush scenery.

Where to stay:

  • Budget (<$100 USD): Maravu Taveuni Lodge has traditional Fijian bures tucked away into a lush jungle. Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat is super cheap and scuba-focused.
  • Moderate ($100-200 USD): Garden Island Resort is probably the best value, with excellent grounds and service.
  • Luxury ($200+ USD): Our choice would be to stay at Paradise Taveuni. We had a wonderful dinner there during our visit and our friends got married there. Great pool, stunning view of sunset!
Drinks by the pool at Paradise Taveuni!

What to do:

Best Fiji Experiences

There are a few things you should do in Fiji other than have a fantastic beach vacation!

Attend a Sevusevu Ceremony and Try Kava

A sevusevu ceremony is where you ask for permission to travel in or visit the lands belonging to a village. Usually, you ask the chief’s permission during the ceremony and present him with some kava bundles. These bundles are for sale in the local markets.

Many times that’s the end of the ceremony. However, if you arrange for it, you can experience the kava circle part!

Traditionally, the men of the village pound the kava into a powder. Sometimes pre-made kava powder is used instead (which you can buy in many tourist shops in Fiji). The powder is tied into a cloth and put in a kava bowl with water. The cloth is worked with the hands and steeped to make the kava drink.

It’s a great experience, but the kava tastes…well….like muddy water. It’s not nearly as potent as the kava David drank in Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

Kava being prepared.

Go Diving or Snorkeling

The marine wildlife in Fiji is some of the best we’ve ever seen. The water can be very clear, and the coral is some of the best in the world.

Visit the Local Market

Fiji has great local markets where you can buy fresh produce. One of my favorite things to spot was pineapples that have been peeled in a spiral!

Pineapples cut and for sale in the Lautoka Market.

Buy a Traditional Wooden Carving

While in Fiji we bought a few wooden pieces we really liked, and we also gifted some pieces as well. The wood carving is beautiful, and in many places (like Fulaga) it’s how the locals earn money.

Eat Kokoda

This traditional dish is Fiji’s version of ceviche: fresh, raw fish is ‘cooked’ in citrus juice and then mixed with fresh vegetables and coconut milk. You can find it on most menus at hotels and restaurants.

We Love Fiji!

I’m sure you can see why Fiji is one of our favorite destinations we’ve ever been to. It’s got so many amazing aspects and is stunningly beautiful. I can’t wait to go back!

7 Comments

  1. We agree that the “Lau group” of Islands is more cruiser friendly “a slower pace” than the western Island group off Nadi….. Our old stomping grounds, as it’s been about 3 years since we surrendered to the friendly locals & the lapping waters of “180 degrees east.” Still, if you decide to clear out of customs at Nadi, then “Modriki Island & Turtle Island” are well worth a stop on your way toward “Oz.”

    1. We will head to the west side shortly. It’s best to clear out of Vuda I think. And we have some definite favorites of the western islands that we plan to stop at this year!

  2. Sorry that you argued over sending supplies to us, we are happy to bring them to you. Would have loved a picture of the taxi ride with the battens!

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