Fiji is an island paradise – all 333 islands of it! This archipelago country in the south Pacific is about 4 to 5 hours fly time from Australia and you can more than double that if flying from the United States. Is it worth flying that far and for so long? Most definitely, yes! Here’s some things to know in advance about this outstandingly beautiful area of our world.
1. Before You Go
Consult with your travel professional about what you would like to do in Fiji as there are many activities available and a variety of resort types from family to private. Though there are hundreds of islands, most of the population centers on a few islands with many of the smaller islands totally uninhabited. Suva on Vita Levu is the capital and is a quite modern bustling port and cruise stop. Nadi on this same island is home to the international airport.
If you are visiting on a honeymoon or other romantic occasion, the islands offer many adult-only resorts both on the more populated islands and on very-private islands. If you are enjoying a holiday with family, there are family-oriented resorts as well and lots of activities to keep your children entertained.
The islands are warm all year round but if you are trying to escape both heat and crowds, try the fall months of October and November which would be their spring. Remember our winter months in North America are their summer. The weather is also drier during this time which means more of that tropical sunshine.
If you are planning on exploring villages outside of your resort for a look at local culture, pack a few “more conservative” clothes. Though Fijians are a very warm and friendly people, there are dress taboos which we will mention later. Pack your DEET as well. As with all tropical locations the islands harbor mosquitoes. While not carrying malaria, these pests are known to carry the Zika virus.
Fiji as a country has its own currency, the Fiji dollar. Carry a couple of major credit cards and exchange currency if necessary while there.
2. Where to Base Your Holiday
Looking for a cosmopolitan atmosphere? Suva is home to about one-third of the country’s nearly million population. Beside high rises, it also reflects through the architecture, its British colony roots. This city is the place for night life, restaurants, markets and entertainment.
Most visitors are not on the islands for the city life though. The miles of white, sandy beaches and coral reefs are the main attractions. For the best beaches on Vita Levu, head to the Coral Coast south of Nadi.
Here you can swim, surf, and golf.
Not far off the east coast of Nadi is Denauru Island attached by causeway to the mainland. It is home to the islands’ only land-based waterpark, great for kids. This island is also an event destination for romantic weddings. You can also use it as base to explore more distant islands by ferry and water taxi.
Mamanuca Islands are a group of 20 islands reached by water from Denauru or by air from Nadia. Here you can surf, snorkel, dive, jet ski or sunbathe – and do so if you wish on a private island. Some of the world’s best surf resorts are based here.
The Outer Islands (there are seven) are more remote being about an hour and a half by air from Nadia off the east coast of Vita Levu. Ovalau is a UNESCO World Heritage town. Off shore is a reef which offers amazing diving opportunities, or you can go fishing in the abundant fish stock that lives around the reef. Part of this group, the Lau Islands in the far outer reaches of the country sport very private and exclusive resorts. If you are looking for exquisite natural scenery, privacy and luxury rolled in to one, these particular islands are for you.
Culture. The head is sacred to the Fijians so no touching, not even a child’s head which we often do as a friendly gesture. You should not wear a hat or sunglasses off the resorts and visiting local villages as headgear is reserved for village leaders. In fact, wandering through a local village is so fraught with cultural dangers like these it is best to go by tour and be guided in the do’s and don’ts. You also need to dress conservatively with shoulders, arms and legs mostly covered.
Safety. As far as safety goes, wandering by yourself after dark is not wise. The islands are not crime-ridden but caution is advised as in any unfamiliar place. You should not carry firearms (illegal) but machetes are a common sight. They are an everyday tool for the native people and are not considered as a weapon.
Driving. As in “nearby” New Zealand and Australia, it is on the left. It is easier to take the local bus as many rental vehicles may be right-hand drive on a left-handed road!
Food & Drink. The water is drinkable but if you are extra cautious, bottled is readily available. Though seafood is plentiful, stick to deep water fish such as tuna and mahi mahi as reef-loving fish can be toxic at certain times of the year. Enjoy your kava but not too much as it can lead to foggy thinking. Kava is a local drink made from the ground root of a pepper plant.
4. Recommended Activities
Take a village tour. You will be supplied with kava roots to give the village chief as a gift. You will then be welcomed with a sevusevu ceremony during which there will be speeches and a ceremonial drinking of kava.
Dive. This area is home to the great reefs of the world: Great Sea and the Great Astrolabe, and dive sites such as the Nigali Passage and Great White Wall.
Can’t dive? Snorkel. You can snorkel from your white sand beach or take a charter to the outer reefs. Either way you will find yourself in a fabulous, colorful world teeming with sea life just below the surface on the coral reefs.
Hike. Experience a guided trek along the Sun Coast north of Nadia through grassy fields, tropical forests with majestic waterfalls, and up mountains.
Bird Watch. Fly to Taveuni for amazing bird watching opportunities. While there you can also dive the Great White Wall or enjoy a native feast at the Gaiatree Sanctuary.
Bike. Explore the Coral Coast by the world’s only rail -mounted and solar-powered velocipedes (like a bicycle). Called Ecotrax it takes you through local villages, forests, rocky terrains and hidden coves.
Golf. Many golfing facilities exist on the islands including three championship courses.
Relax. What could be better than lazing on the beach soaking up the sun’s rays or enjoying a soothing massage under expert hands at your resort? The islands are perfect for some pampering “me time” or romantic pursuits.
Watch the sun come up. Fiji is exactly twelve hours removed from Greenwich and half a world away when it comes to the sunrise. Welcome a new day with your special someone on Sunset Strip found on the south coast of Vita Levu.
5. Final Tip
Most Fijians speak English but as a courtesy visiting any country it is respectful to learn at least a few words in the native tongue. It is always appreciated and the Fijians are such a lovely people. So say bula or hello to Fiji on your arrival and vinaka or thank you during your stay for the wonderful hospitality of the Fiji Islands.