An Instant Itinerary for Fiji
Almost 700,000 people visit Fiji every year, but the vast majority sees only two parts of the country: the airport and whichever resort was bundled into their holiday package. Make the slightest deviation from the well-worn tourist trail though, and you’ll quickly discover there’s a whole lot more to Fiji than can be seen from the edge of a swimming pool. As an added bonus, it’s as cheap as chips. Our 11-day exploration of Viti Levu, the Mamanucas and Taveuni is rich in experience but low in cost, and it’s worth noting that all our accommodation options have dorms if you’re travelling on your own.
MAMANUCAS – THREE NIGHTS
After touching down at Nadi Airport, catch a free coach transfer to Port Denarau and jump on the Malolo high-speed catamaran. It’ll take you to Malolo Island, one of 20 sun-kissed jewels comprising the Mamanuca Archipelago. Spend the night bar-hopping your way around the half-dozen resorts while acclimatising to the heat and the unhurried way of doing things – known around here as Fiji time. The following day, take a 10-minute boat ride to Cloud 9, a floating day club set in the translucent blue waters of Ro Ro Reef. Australian co-owner Bar’el can usually be found blending cocktails behind the bar or mixing tracks on the decks, while his Fijian partner Tony rustles up pizzas in the wood-fired oven. Spend the next couple of days snorkelling, wind-surfing, hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking or just working on your tan on Malolo Island.
NAUSORI HIGHLANDS – THREE NIGHTS
Catch the 4pm catamaran back to Denarau then the courtesy coach to Wailoaloa Beach, the island’s backpacker HQ. Rise early the next day, catch a cab to Westside Motorcycle Rentals and get ready for adventure as you ride through the Nausori Highlands. Your route will take you north along the coast past the Indo-Fijian towns of Lautoka and Ba before detouring inland along a gravel road that cuts through rolling, green countryside and sugarcane plantations. This is a devastatingly beautiful place that will redefine your conceptions of Fiji: it looks like Nepal, the climate is cool and the villagers are mostly descendants of Indian labourers brought here by the British during the nineteenth century. Spend the night at Navala, the only village on Viti Levu where all the houses are built in the traditional bure palm-thatch style, before continuing south on a trail that passes through rivers, drops into valleys and climbs mountains enveloped in mist before terminating at Sigatoka on Viti Levu’s south coast. The next morning, follow the coast back to Nadi, drop off your motorbike and catch a cab to the airport.
TAVEUNI – FOUR NIGHTS
Passing over dizzying mountain peaks, vast river deltas and enormous fringing reefs, the flight from Nadi to Taveuni is an adventure in itself. It’s a fitting introduction to the final leg of your trip on the velvet green paradise of Taveuni, aka the Garden Island of Fiji. Spend your first full day here exploring Bouma National Heritage Park, where a two-hour walking trail leads to the Tavoro Waterfalls, the largest of which is 30 metres high. The following day, catch a local bus to Taveuni’s east coast for the Lavena Coastal Walk. Think friendly Fijian villages, turquoise lagoons edged in powder-white sand and waterfalls that cascade straight into the ocean. On day three, catch a bus along the west coast to the Waitavala natural waterslide. Formed by molten lava that poured down the faces of Taveuni’s 150 now extinct volcanoes, the slides and freshwater swimming holes form a playground cut straight out of the Garden of Eden. On your last full day in Fiji, go diving or snorkelling at Rainbow Reef. Consistently ranked among the top five dive sites in the world, it’s home to the Great White Wall, a sunken escarpment blanketed in glowing white corals the locals call Fijian Snow.
Fiji Airways has flights to Nadi from Los Angeles and Australian and New Zealand cities, with connections to Taveuni.
On Malolo Island, head for Funky Fish Beach Resort, which has everything from a surfers’ dorm to two-bedroom beachfront family bures. A private room with shared bathroom costs about US$55 a night. On Viti Levu, stay at Bamboo Hostel in Nadi (US$20 for a basic double with en suite) and Bulou’s Eco-Lodge in Navala (US$85 for a bure). In Sigatoka, Vakaviti Hotel has motel rooms and family bures overlooking the ocean. Double motel rooms cost US$40 a night. On Taveuni, Maravu Taveuni Lodge costs about US$60 a night for a standard room, and there are also villas and bures to choose from.
The official website of Tourism Fiji is a great place to get started.