Fiji Destination Guide
A great sweep of azure, reefs, sand and forest in the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Only about one third of these volcanic remnants are inhabited, conjuring visions of unexplored paradise. Viti Levu is the largest and most developed island – home to the capital Suva and international transit point Nadi (pronounced 'Nandi') – and many beachfront Fiji resorts. Cruising and island hopping through the nearby Yasawa islands is also popular with visitors.
Fiji serves up a fine concoction of things to do, most of which make this a water-lovers' haven. If you go a little out of your way, you'll be rewarded with coral gardens, manta rays and turtles when you dive the Great Astrolabe Reef off the tiny southern island of Kadavu. Surfers head to the Mamanuca islands for waves of legend. You could also jet boat up the Sigatoka River on Viti Levu, tour a Fijian village and try the famous local drink, kava. The Yasawa and Turtle Islands are cited as having some of the best beaches in the (sprawling) country. Find a hammock and just be.
Eat and Drink
Fiji restaurants and cafes with an emphasis on local cooking style will often use rice, sweet potatoes, taro, cassava, coconut and fish in their dishes. An example of a local dish is kokoda – raw fish salad with lime juice, onions, chillies, carrots, tomatoes and coconut cream. Many Fijians use their hands when eating and it's common to sit on the floor. If you try the ubiquitous local drink kava, you won't forget it in a hurry. Made from the root of a plant that's a member of the pepper family, it makes your lips and tongue tingle and head light. Not known for its taste, more as a social lubricant, kava plays a central role in Fijian life.
Where to Stay
Fiji accommodation varies across the islands from flash 5-star resorts with all inclusions, to budget accommodation and local bures. The global players like Shangri-La, InterContinental, Westin, Radisson, Hilton and Ridges are here. (Several of these are only a short transfer from Nadi.) Bures, or Fijian bungalows, can be found throughout the archipelago – some are more secluded than others – including Viti Levu, Malalo Island, Castaway Island, Turtle Island, the Yasawas and Mamanuca Islands. Fijians love children and are very family friendly but there are adults-only resorts catering to couples who want to get away sans little ones.
While you won't end up with tangible goods, you will have a heavenly experience when you purchase a good pamper. Fiji's top resorts usually sport a spa stocked with delicious-smelling lotions and potions and ready hands to help you unwind with a massage. A Fiji shopping list might also include South Sea pearls and local crafts. Nadi and Suva have craft markets each day except Sundays.
Fiji like a Local
When you take advantage of a cheap flight to Fiji and start to explore this part of the South Pacific, you'll get an introduction to 'Fiji time'. It's the same as island time. Things happen, when they happen. Why rush? You're surrounded by beautiful scenery, friendly locals and tropical ocean. Relax. Enjoy it. See your family and friends as a gift; listen, laugh and love. Then you'll be well on your way to seeing Fiji like a local.