Have you ever been on a holiday to another country where you've visited friends and they gave you the insider's guide to their home town or city?
There's nothing better than taking out the guess work and going behind the scenes. Diving deep below the surface and experiencing a destination with the added benefit of local knowledge. We used to live in Singapore and I'll always remember Mum saying, ‘Visitors would never know to find this stuff. Or if they did, it would take hours of research’.
So, planning a trip to Fiji and want to know where the locals go? Let's dive in!
I'm a firm believer if you're visiting Fiji it's essential to spend time on one of the smaller islands. Before you head out to the smaller islands though, there’s a host of excellent places and activities to check out on the main island of Viti Levu.
Hit the Road
While most flights land at Nadi International Airport, some airlines do fly into Suva. The coastal drive between Nadi and Suva is both beautiful and interesting. Taking between two and a half and three hours, you’ll wind along incredible coastline and through intriguing villages.
Just know there are approx 80 speed bumps and the national road speed limit is also 80 km/hr and in each village you reach, the speed limit will be 50 km/hr. So don't be fooled by google maps telling you it's only 90km and thinking you'll be there in an hour.
Many of the flights from Australia arrive in the afternoon or evening, while most of the ferries leave for the smaller islands in the morning. I recommend spending a night or two in Nadi or Denarau before heading to your island of choice. You'll have the chance to stop, take a breath and start to unwind.
If you're limited on time and your budget allows, consider taking a seaplane or helicopter from the airport straight to your final destination. As long as you land in Nadi during daylight hours this option is available. Flying to your resort is a holiday experience more than a mode of transport, one with incredible views you won’t want to miss. Why not get the best of both worlds - fly one way and high speed ferry it the other?
Eating in Nadi
There are some great food options in Fiji. While it's super easy to stay in your hotel or resort, I'd encourage you to get out and about. You'll often find the prices more in your favour and frequently you'll be supporting small business.
Denarau Best Pick
Cafe O, look to the right as you drive into the Port Denarau car park, you'll see the bright blue Cafe O sign. The cafe is on the ground floor of the The Palms apartments, near the main entrance. I recommend the Pot-a-to Cake Breakfast. It's a delicious stack - homemade hashbrown, sautéed local spinach (Bale), poached egg, hollandaise and bacon. It’s the perfect way to start the day.
Best Kept Secret in Port Denarau
A Japanese restaurant called Tatas upstairs above the Westpac bank. I love the bento box and the pork belly soup dish is amazing. Another favourite is Habibi on Denarau Road. This place serves arguably the tastiest food in Fiji.
Chasing The Best Hamburger in Fiji
Amazing Grill at Woolooloaloa has some of the best service in Nadi, as well as the best hamburger. They don't serve alcohol but are happy for you to buy some from the shop across the road and BYO.
Best Lunch Time Cafe
Taste Fiji often goes unnoticed by tourists. From the outside of the building your expectations won't be high. It's a purple building on Queens Road with a car wreckers next door. But don't let that fool you.
Taste has the best pastries and cakes in Fiji. They cater for events and weddings if you happen to be getting married in Fiji and want an epic dessert table. Their lunch menu is also fresh and delicious, combining the best in local ingredients.
Top Fijian Choice
Tukuni in Lautoka. Newly opened, this restaurant serves authentic Fijian food that raises the bar to a new level. It's a 30min drive from Nadi but well worth the trip if you have time. Tukuni is open 7 days and the meals have to be seen to be believed.
Best Activities In Fiji
Malamala Beach Club
If you're staying on the mainland for more than one night I recommend a day trip to Malamala. It's Fiji's newest offering and well worth the trip. Located only 25 minutes from the mainland you'll spend the day soaking in some sun while snacking on a pretty rocking menu and sipping some of the coolest cocktail creations I've had the pleasure of sampling.
A massage is the best way to flick the switch into holiday mode, to truly feel like you've arrived and are escaping from the hustle and bustle of life. Plus Fijian ladies have the most amazing massage techniques! Most resorts have day spas with massage services, or there are mobile services also available.
A short 45 min drive from Nadi you'll find Natadola Beach, Fiji's most stunning mainland beach. Go for a stroll and swim before enjoying lunch at Yatale Resort. The casual and welcoming atmosphere combined with stunning views of the waves gently crashing on the beach is idyllic.
If you hire a car or, better still, book a driver for the day ($100-$150 FJD), you could go to Natadola for a lunch and a swim followed by my next suggestion on your way home. You might even be lucky and see the mangos for sale on the road in Momi on your way to and from Natadola.
Nausori Height Road Lookout
This is a real secret insider's tip! Ask your driver to take you up Nausori Heights Road to the top of the range for sunset. Before you go buy some cheese, crackers and a bottle of bubbles, you're going to need them when you get to the top.
An hour before sunset head off for a drive into the ranges. From the turnoff on the back road it's about a 30 min drive. You'll know when you reach the top as the road definitely flattens out. You can then walk the final 10 minutes to top of the peak. I recommend going in comfortable clothes and wearing closed in shoes if you're going to walk as the track may be slightly overgrown with longer grass. Your snacks and bubbles can either be carried to the peak or enjoyed when you return to the car.
On a clear day the view is spectacular and provides postcard perfect photos - something different from the typical blue water Fijian holiday shot.