Fiji destinations

about Set your internal clock to ‘Fiji time’: exploring the archipelago’s exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and fascinating culture shouldn’t be rushed.

Throwing Down the (Beach) Towel

Dazzling sands, perfect palm trees and waters so blue they glow – Fiji’s beaches look airbrushed. While stunning stretches abound, it’s on the islands of the Mamanucas and Yasawas that you’ll find heavenly heavyweights. These beaches are the poster-child for paradise, luring thousands of visitors keen to discover their own South Sea idyll. The appeal of the islands stretches beyond holiday snaps; the reefs, bays and sublime sands have provided cinematic eye candy to films including Cast Away with Tom Hanks and 1980 teen-dream classic The Blue Lagoon.

Wetter is Better

Fiji’s calm seas belie the riot of life going on within. With seemingly endless stretches of intensely coloured reefs and more than 1500 species of fish and colossal creatures Fiji’s underwater world is worth the plunge. Seasoned divers and snorkellers will find plenty to excite them, while first-timers will be bubbling excited exclamations into their mouthpieces. Anywhere a fin flashes or coral waves, you’ll find a diving or snorkel day trip and there are excellent live-aboard journeys for those after a truly immersive experience.

Beyond the Beach

While it’s easy to spend your holiday in, on or under the water, those who take the time to towel off will be rewarded by a wealth of terra firma treats. Fiji offers ample opportunities for hikers, birdwatchers, amblers and forest-fanciers, particularly on the islands of Taveuni – known as ‘The Garden Island’ for its ludicrously lush interiors – and Kadavu, a less-travelled slice of prehistoric paradise with almost no roads to speak of. If urban wildlife is your thing, Suva boasts a surprising nightlife scene, while towns like Savusavu entice with rollicking taverns and meet-the-locals haunts.

A Warm Welcome

Fijian life revolves around the church, the village, the rugby field and the garden. While this may sound insular, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more open and welcoming population. Though the realities of local life are less sunny than the country’s skies – many regions are poor and lack basic services – Fijians are famous for their hospitality and warmth, which makes it easy to make friends or immerse yourself in Fijian culture on a village homestay.

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Suva (soo-va) is the heart of Fiji, home to half of the country’s urban population and the largest city in the South Pacific. It's a lush green city on a hilly peninsula, that gets more than its fair share of rain, and has a vibrant cultural scene.

Downtown is as diverse architecturally as the populace is culturally. A jigsaw of colonial buildings, modern shopping plazas, abundant eateries and a breezy esplanade all form the compact central business district. Small passages are lined with curry houses, sari shops and bric-a-brac traders. Bollywood and Hollywood square off at the local cinema and within the same hour you’re likely to see businessmen in traditional sulu (sarong) and student hipsters from across the Pacific region rocking the latest styles.

Sights

Grand Designs

A short stroll along Suva’s foreshore towards Albert Park brings you to one of Fiji’s most dignified, and yet most neglected, buildings, the Grand Pacific Hotel. In his book The World is My Home, James A Michener describes it as having ‘…a huge central dining area filled with small tables, each meticulously fitted with fine silver and china…and the barefoot Indians who served the meals [here] had a grace that few hotels in the world could offer and none surpass’.

Built in 1914 by the Union Steamship Company, the splendid white facade still hints at the hotel’s former glory, also described by Somerset Maugham when he stayed here in 1916. It closed in 1992 and for a long time remained abandoned and in a continuing state of decay: floorboards upstairs rotted, shutters hung from glassless windows, wallpaper peeled from decaying walls and the army moved in to camp. In 2011, restoration finally began, and the hotel reopened with great ceremony in late 2014. Nonguests are welcome to visit the bar and restaurant (and goggle at the fabulous reception hall too, no doubt).

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Activities

Suva all but closes down on a Sunday, so try to organise activities in advance or attend a Fijian church service to hear some uplifting, boisterous singing.

Trekking

Colo-i-Suva Forest Park is an easy place for bushwalking close to Suva. You can also hike to Mt Korobaba, about a two-hour walk from the cement factory near Lami. Joske’s Thumb is an enticing spectacle for serious climbers. A climb to this peak was featured in the film Journey to the Dawning of the Day.

Keen trekkers should contact Suva-based Talanoa Treks, Fiji's only dedicated trekking company, for details on their regular hiking departures or tailored trips, which can include Joske's Thumb. If you're in the area for an extended period consider signing up to the Rucksack Club, an expat group who organises regular hikes and other trips around the island. New members are always welcome.

A gentler but very popular walk (or jog or cycle or skateboard) is the several-kilometre stretch of Suva waterfront, on a well-used path that follows the sea wall along the length of Queen Elizabeth Dr. It’s busy with Suvans exercising at dawn and dusk (but is not a place to exercise after dark).

Sports

Suva has three off-shore breaks for surfers – a left-hand break at Sandbar and two right-handers at Lighthouse and Rat’s Tail. You’ll need to ask around locally to access them, though. Try the noticeboard at the Yacht Club.

Suva doesn’t have a beach. The best places for a swim are the National Aquatic Centre and Suva Olympic Swimming Pool.

Sleeping

Accommodation options in the capital aren’t as modish as those found in the more tourist-oriented towns elsewhere on the island. Most places cater to business travellers rather than tourists or backpackers, so the range of hotels is more restricted than elesewhere.

As a rule, where wi-fi is available it's not included in the rate.

Eating

For a compact city, Suva offers a relatively diverse and multicultural array of eateries. It’s the best place in Fiji to try authentic Fijian and Indo-Fijian food, but there are plenty of Western-style options on offer as well.

Drinking & Nightlife

Suva has a good mix of drinking and dancing dens. The place to be on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights is at the bars around Victoria Pde and Macarthur St. Generally, dress standards are very relaxed and although some of the bars may seem rough, the ones we recommend are all fairly safe. If a band is playing or the hour late, expect to pay a small cover charge (usually no more than $10). On the other hand, if you arrive early, entry is free and drinks are discounted between the happy hours of 6pm and 8pm.

Be cautious around other nightclubs. They tend to become dodgier as the night progresses and most locals attend them only with a group of friends – you should do the same. Watch out for pickpockets on the dance floor and always take a taxi after dark, even if you’re in a group. The Fiji Times’ entertainment section lists upcoming events and what’s on at the clubs.

Entertainment

Fijians are fanatical about their rugby and, even if you aren’t that keen on the game, it’s worth going to a match. The season lasts from April to September.

Moving to the Beat of a Different Drum

Dancers pay homage to the steady beat of the drums, seemingly oblivious to the spectators. The poorly lit room is crowded with both tourists and locals yelling ‘bula’ to one another over the din. As a big, indigenous Fijian man – who better meets the image you may have of a traditional Fijian chief – approaches with a flower behind his ear and a pitcher of beer on his tray, you don’t need any reminding that this is no meke (dance performance that enacts stories and legends). This is Saturday night in Suva, when the country’s urban youth let down their hair and pole dance to pop music.

Fiji’s urban youth face many of the same difficulties as young people around the globe: teenage parenting, crime, drugs and skyrocketing unemployment. However, these youths also find themselves straddling two opposing worlds: the traditional, conservative society of the villages many have left behind, where life was filled with cultural protocols, and the liberal, individualistic lifestyle of the modern and increasingly Westernised city. With 90% of television airtime devoted to Western sitcoms, young people watch a TV screen filled with an irrelevant and often unattainable world. On the positive side, the rising club and cafe culture is bringing together youths from indigenous and Indo-Fijian backgrounds, in the midst of a city filled with ethnic tension. On the negative side, many have difficulty finding a job and returning ‘home’ to a village sporting dreadlocks and skin-tight jeans isn’t much easier. Youth have little room to voice their own opinions and it’s not entirely surprising that many look for routes out of the country.

This is not the Fiji of postcards, of grass skirts and beachside lovo (Fijian feast cooked in a pit oven). However, it’s well worth grabbing a cappuccino or putting on your dancing shoes to check out Fiji’s rising urban youth culture. It’s an unexpected eye-opener.

Shopping

Your best chance of finding something truly unique is to skip the mass-produced stuff found in the chain tourist stores (which are carbon copies of their Nadi parents) and head straight to the markets.

Travel with Children

Fiji’s main island has plenty to offer families with little tackers in tow. If you’re staying in the Nadi area, try a day cruise to one of the Mamanuca or Yasawa islands or the ever-popular Robinson Crusoe Island. The Big Bula Inflatable Waterpark on Denarau Island is guaranteed to please. North of town, kids aged four and up can whiz through the rainforest on the Sleeping Giant Zipline, while the nearby Sabeto Hot Springs is a squishy, squelchy mudfest (don't fret, parents: there are pools to clean off in). Kids also love grubby buggy rides through the forest with Westside Motorbike Tours.

The Coral Coast is home to a number of attractions that will appeal to kids. A day on the Coral Coast Scenic Railway is a fun way to gain an appreciation of Fiji’s landscape; nearby, the Kalevu Cultural Centre showcases Fijian singing, dancing and ceremonies. A little more kitsch are the demonstrations, boat tours and mock battles at the Arts Village in Pacific Harbour. You could also take the kids horse riding at Natadola Beach or show them Fiji’s less-domesticated wildlife at the excellent Kula Eco Park. Hot Glass Fiji lets kids aged seven and up blow their own glass souvenirs. If your little one is an adrenaline hound, give the jet boats of Sigatoka River Safari a go.

Suva's Fiji Museum is chock-full of exhibits (including cannibal utensils) that will capture inquisitive young minds; their monthly open day (last Saturday of the month) has live music, traditional dancing, fire-walking and more. Nananu-i-Ra is a short hop from the mainland's north coast and offers calm (and very fishy) seas for child-friendly swimming and snorkelling, plus self-catering accommodation. On the east coast, Dolphin Watch Fiji trips enjoy daily spottings of spinner dolphins.

LGBT Travellers

Fiji is one of the the more progressive countries in the Pacific region when it comes to the legal status of homosexuality. Laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were introduced following the implementation of the 2013 constitution.

Same-sex marriages and civil unions are not recognised in Fijian family law, which means visiting gay couples are unable to marry while on vacation.

There is a strong LGBT movement in Fiji, but the local scene remains fairly closeted. Nonetheless, a large number of openly gay men and women work in the hospitality industry, and some nightclubs in Lautoka, Nadi and Suva are gay-tolerant.

Fiji is socially conservative: any public displays of affection are frowned upon. For gay or lesbian couples the risks of receiving unwanted attention for outwardly homosexual behaviour is high.

Gay singles should exercise some caution; don’t give anyone an excuse to even think you are paying for sex, and be very careful not to give the impression you are after young Fijian men.

What to do in Suva

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Most travellers go to Nadi (nan-di) twice, whether they like it or not: its indecently warm air slaps you in the face when you first step from the plane, and kicks you up the backside as you board for home. For some, this is twice too often and many people ensure their Nadi exposure is as brief as possible: this ramshackle town doesn't offer much, though it's a good place to stock up on supplies, plan trips and make use of facilities that may be lacking elsewhere. Just north of downtown, between the mosque and the Nadi River, Narewa Rd leads west to Denarau island, where you’ll find Nadi’s top-end resorts. There’s also a busy tourist shopping and eating area at Denarau Marina, where boats depart for the Mamanuca and Yasawa Groups.

Accessible Travel

In Pacific countries people with disabilities are simply part of the community, looked after by family where necessary. In some cities there are schools for children with disabilities, but access facilities such as ramps, lifts, accessible toilets and Braille, are rare. Buses do not have wheelchair access and pavements have high curbs.

Nevertheless, people will go out of their way to give you assistance when you need it. This includes scooping you up in their arms so that they can carry you on and off boats.

Most top-end hotels have at least one disabled-friendly room with wheelchair access, paths, walk-in showers and handrails, but this may be tucked away at the back of the resort. It’s a good idea to check exactly what facilities a hotel has to ensure it suits your needs.

Even if the resort is disabled-friendly, consider how you plan to reach your destination. Mamanuca and Yasawa resorts are commonly accessed by catamarans, which are met by small dinghies that run guests to the beach. Those with mobility impairments may find arriving this way challenging. Instead opt for islands that can be reached by plane or, at the very least, have a wharf.

Organisations

The Fiji Disabled People’s Association may be able to offer pre-trip planning advice.

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Sleeping

Regardless of what the websites or brochures promise, there are no appealing beaches in the Nadi area. That said, the resorts located at the grey-sand New Town and Wailoaloa beaches are fairly isolated and peaceful. Martintar is placed (conveniently and noisily) on the main bus route; walk a few metres down its side roads and you'll quickly get a sense of local life.

Many of Nadi’s midrange and top-end hotels are located along the Queens Road between downtown Nadi and the airport. Rates vary, depending on season and availability; there are likely to be sizeable discounts on rates quoted here for walk-ins or phone-a-day-ahead bookings.

Apartments are a good idea for families or those staying longer: check out Hibiscus Apartments and Rosie's Deluxe Apartments.

There are mega resorts on Denarau Island.

Eating

Most Nadi eateries serve a mixture of traditional Fijian, Indian, Chinese and Western dishes, and there are lots of cheap lunchtime places downtown. The restaurants at most resorts welcome non guests.

Nadi has a large produce market, which sells fresh fruit and vegetables. Good-quality meat is not so easy to come by (self-catering carnivores, gird yourself for frozen sausages). There are several large supermarkets and bakeries downtown and in Martintar: look out for RB Patel,New World and MH supermarkets.

Martintar

Martintar is home to local professionals, expats and several tourist hotels – all things that bode well for its eating and drinking options.

Drinking & Nightlife

Most of Nadi's beach hostels have sociable watering holes, and are open to non guests. All of the flashy Denarau resorts have equally swish bars.

Shopping

Nadi’s Main St is largely devoted to souvenir and duty-free shops, but many items are mass-produced: much of it isn’t even particularly Fijian, just vaguely tribal. Your best bet for locally produced souvenirs include printed designs on masi (bark cloth), tanoa (kava drinking bowls), cannibal forks, war clubs and wood-turned bowls. The Handicraft Market is your best bet.

Travel with Children

Fiji’s main island has plenty to offer families with little tackers in tow. If you’re staying in the Nadi area, try a day cruise to one of the Mamanuca or Yasawa islands or the ever-popular Robinson Crusoe Island. The Big Bula Inflatable Waterpark on Denarau Island is guaranteed to please. North of town, kids aged four and up can whiz through the rainforest on the Sleeping Giant Zipline, while the nearby Sabeto Hot Springs is a squishy, squelchy mudfest (don't fret, parents: there are pools to clean off in). Kids also love grubby buggy rides through the forest with Westside Motorbike Tours.

The Coral Coast is home to a number of attractions that will appeal to kids. A day on the Coral Coast Scenic Railway is a fun way to gain an appreciation of Fiji’s landscape; nearby, the Kalevu Cultural Centre showcases Fijian singing, dancing and ceremonies. A little more kitsch are the demonstrations, boat tours and mock battles at the Arts Village in Pacific Harbour. You could also take the kids horse riding at Natadola Beach or show them Fiji’s less-domesticated wildlife at the excellent Kula Eco Park. Hot Glass Fiji lets kids aged seven and up blow their own glass souvenirs. If your little one is an adrenaline hound, give the jet boats of Sigatoka River Safari a go.

Suva's Fiji Museum is chock-full of exhibits (including cannibal utensils) that will capture inquisitive young minds; their monthly open day (last Saturday of the month) has live music, traditional dancing, fire-walking and more. Nananu-i-Ra is a short hop from the mainland's north coast and offers calm (and very fishy) seas for child-friendly swimming and snorkelling, plus self-catering accommodation. On the east coast, Dolphin Watch Fiji trips enjoy daily spottings of spinner dolphins.

LGBT Travellers

Fiji is one of the the more progressive countries in the Pacific region when it comes to the legal status of homosexuality. Laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were introduced following the implementation of the 2013 constitution.

Same-sex marriages and civil unions are not recognised in Fijian family law, which means visiting gay couples are unable to marry while on vacation.

There is a strong LGBT movement in Fiji, but the local scene remains fairly closeted. Nonetheless, a large number of openly gay men and women work in the hospitality industry, and some nightclubs in Lautoka, Nadi and Suva are gay-tolerant.

Fiji is socially conservative: any public displays of affection are frowned upon. For gay or lesbian couples the risks of receiving unwanted attention for outwardly homosexual behaviour is high.

Gay singles should exercise some caution; don’t give anyone an excuse to even think you are paying for sex, and be very careful not to give the impression you are after young Fijian men.

What to do in Nadi

Best attractions, Tours & Excursions for you, check it out!

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