Dreaming of a South Seas sojourn? Whatever your flavor – island-hopper, flop-and- dropper, adventurer, culture vulture – before you head off, grab a peek into paradise with this rollicking rundown on Fiji’s people, places and what makes these isles of smiles a perennial pleasure for travelers of all stripes.
The Fijian archipelago – made up of 333 islands and 500 islets – sprawls across the Pacific for over one million square miles. Though a volcano hasn’t erupted here in centuries, you can enjoy the geothermal goodness of Sabeto Hot Springs, just outside the town of Nadi.
Bula, which translates to ‘life’ – is the ubiquitous greeting heard throughout Fiji. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by everyone you come across – at your resort, on the beach, on the streets – with a big ‘Bula!’ accompanied by an infectious smile.
One of Fiji’s most popular tourist regions is known as the Coral Coast, conveniently located just a 1-2 hour drive from Nadi International Airport. Offering gorgeous beaches fringed by coral reefs, a host of family-friendly resorts feature a ton of activities, as well as pools. From the Sigatoka River Safari to the Kula Wildlife park, it’s easy to see why visitors flock to the area.
Fiji is one of the planet’s premier scuba diving destinations, offering a kaleidoscope of underwater life. Known as the “Soft Coral Capital,” Fiji boasts some of the world’s top dive sites like Rainbow Reef, the Great White Wall and the Great Astrolabe Reef. New to diving? Don’t stress, Fiji is a great place to learn.
Fiji is on the front lines of global warming and necessity has made it an eco-traveler’s dream come true. Respect for nature is part of the culture of this South Pacific paradise and environmental groups work closely with resorts and local communities. The result is unbelievably fresh food and crystal-clear water and air, as well as uninhabited islands and unspoiled natural adventures like mountain treks and exploring the protected marine parks.
Spectacular reefs and hospitable island resorts make Fiji the perfect playground for kids. You could spend a week lounging poolside, but there’s just so much more to keep active young’uns happy: swimming, exploring villages, boat trips and wildlife spotting are just some adventures to choose from. The famous kids’ clubs at many resorts feature group island activities, as well as pools and waterslides. From learning to surf, planting coral and carving coconuts to learning to perform traditional mekes and helping in torch lighting ceremonies, kids will never forget their time in Fiji.
Fiji’s many islands are easily reached – and getting there is sometimes half the fun. Regular ferry service to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island chains is offered from Port Denarau, making it easy to get from Nadi airport to your resort in no time at all. Or take a seaplane or helicopter directly from the airport for a special experience. Going further? Fiji Link (Fiji Airway’s domestic arm) offers regularly scheduled service to Savusavu, Taveuni and Kadavu, and many resorts offer private sea/air transfers on top of their regular packages.
With life set to a more relaxed pace and a strong sense of community, the people of Fiji are as warm as the sunshine – and with an annual average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), that’s saying something. Fijians are possibly the most welcoming people on the planet, and smiles are everywhere. Meet the islands’ ‘Bulanaires’ (locals who are rich in the joyful enthusiasm of the ‘Bula spirit’) and see for yourself why Fiji is rich with happiness.
Though, alas, it won’t actually score you an extra day of vacation, straddling the International Dateline in Taveuni makes a fab photo-op. It’s one of the few places on earth where you can stand in the spot where tomorrow meets today.
While Fiji’s islands steal the spotlight, its dense, green interiors make for ideal rainforest romps. On Viti Levu, trek, raft and 4WD through the steamy Namosi Highlands; on Taveuni, hike the Vidawa Rainforest Trail and bump down the natural Waitavala water slide.
Also known as yaqona, kava is a legal, mildly narcotic powdered root mixed with water. The muddy-looking brew is drunk from a communal coconut shell (bilo). Gathering around the kava bowl (called a tanoa) is an essential part of Fijian social life and Fijians will often sit around all night, chatting and calling for the bilo. The ritual aspect remains important – if you’re invited to be a part of a sevusevu ceremony, pay close attention to your hosts in order to pick up the traditions and customs involved.
The lovo is a traditional feast where food is cooked in an underground oven. Whopping portions of meat and veggies are wrapped in banana leaves and cooked to perfection atop buried lava-hot rocks. Visitors will have the chance to sample a lovo as part of a village visit or at their resort.
Meke – stirring dance performances enacting ancient legends and lore – has it all. Men in warrior garb and flower-draped women tell tales via meaningfully choreographed hand and body movements to the beat of traditional percussion instruments. Dances are often performed by resort staff on special evenings, or at more traditional and low-key events throughout the villages.
Almost everyone arrives in Fiji in Nadi, home to the international airport! And while many will use this colorful town as a jumping off point to visit other parts of Fiji, be sure to check out its bustling markets, local cafes and colorful Hindu Temple. But remember to pronounce it correctly: It’s Nan- Di!
Surfing, parasailing, yachting, paddleboarding, fishing ... if it floats your boat, you’ll find it in, above or under Fiji’s waters. Pacific Harbour, on Viti Levu, is tops for adventurous water sports; hit Taveuni for the ultimate in kiteboarding; or hang ten on the legendary Cloudbreak off the Mamanuca Island chain.
Fiji is renowned for its colorful pearls which are known to grow in gorgeous shades of blue, green and even yellow. J. Hunter Pearls in Savusavu are the most famous and sought after, and the company offers tours of their pearl farming facilities. Fijian pearls are truly fit for royalty: Meghan Markel was presented with a strand of Fiji pearls to commemorate her visit in 2018.
This little island off the coast of Taveuni is only a short boat ride from its bigger sibling but it has plenty of unique characteristics. Some consider its white sand beach to be the prettiest in Fiji’s northern reaches. And the surfing conditions are world-class, with tall waves breaking on the reef with barrels and deep water run-outs providing something for everyone. An intimate resort (only up to 35 guests) gives way to deep bays on the coast and a lush interior jungle rich in birdlife.
Even if you don’t know a goose-step from a mullygrubber, you’ll fall for Fiji’s national sport. Locals’ enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Catch a match at a village pitch, join friendly locals in a game of pick up at Wailoaloa Beach near Nadi, or go bigtime at the National Stadium in Suva.
On the sands or in the city, you’ll catch both men and women rocking the sulu – even the police wear sulus. Similar to a sarong, the sulu is a skirt or wrapped cloth worn to below the knees; don one as a sign of respect in villages and at ceremonies. You can get a sulu for yourself all over Fiji, from markets to handicraft shops to boutiques – our favorite place to grab one is the Suva Flea Market.
Fiji isn’t just about beaches- it offers some great hiking options. On Viti Levu, outfitter Talanoa Treks will take you on multi-day excursions into the highlands of Fiji’s remote interior. Or enjoy day hikes through lush rainforest to hidden waterfalls from your resort on Vanua Levu and Taveuni in Fiji’s north.
Fiji and the uke go hand in sunscreen-scented hand; you’ll even be serenaded by them when you land at Nadi Airport. Music – based on a mix of rhythms from all over the world – is woven into all aspects of life here. Good luck not crying when you’re hit with Isa Lei, the national farewell song.
For a deeper understanding of what makes Fiji so special, a village visit can’t be beat. The unique culture of the islands is fascinating to explore, and the population is extraordinarily welcoming. Visiting a local village will be one of the most memorable parts of visiting Fiji – often organized by resorts, it will often involve singing, dancing and learning more about the traditional way of life most Fijians still follow.
With more picturesque beach backdrops than you could toss a bouquet at, Fiji is one of the world’s top destination-wedding spots. If someone back home can’t make it, the Intercontinental will stream your wedding home via webcam. Don’t want sand in your veil? Go for rainforest romance on Taveuni.
There are lots of ways to get your adrenaline pumping while visiting Fiji. A few options include skydiving over the Mamanuca Islands, riding ATVs in the highlands or rafting the Upper Navua river on Viti Levu … or cross ‘swimming with manta rays’ off your bucket list in Pacific Harbour.
Yasawa Island Group
For a more remote and totally unique experience, head to the Yasawa Islands. These islands off the northwest coast of Viti Levu are less developed than the Mamanuca Islands and are famous for long white sand beaches that are totally remote. There’s plenty to do in this region, which is famous for manta diving and the towering, ancient limestone Sawa-i-lau caves.
While Fiji doesn’t have a typical zoo, you can check out iguanas, flying foxes and other cool Fijian animals at the Kula Wild Adventure Park on the Coral Coast. Looking for something more in-depth? Try turtle-tending at Treasure Island, manta ray spotting at the Yasawa Islands and birdwatching on Taveuni.