Think you know Fiji? Many travellers return again and again to Fiji’s 330 idyllic islands, but few venture further than the infinity pool and resort confines. Those, however, that veer off the well-worn tourist trail are rewarded with rich encounters with warm, friendly locals, rides down gushing waterfalls, and snorkelling on some of the world’s most pristine reefs.
Beyond the main resort-rich island of Fiji’s Viti Levu lies a string of remote, pristine and little-explored islands, atolls and islets. From the little-known islands of the north, to the country’s south – home to the beaches of the Coral Coast – lays the real Fiji. You just need to get out and find it.
Empty Beaches and Emerald Waters
To the north of the famous Mamanuca Island group, long favoured by Australians for its string of tropical resorts, are the remote and pristine Yasawa Islands. Here lie some 20 volcanic islands, which tumble down to white-sand beaches lapped by water the colour of emeralds.
The unspoiled islands which make up the archipelago are dotted with resorts, ranging from high-end to backpacker-friendly stays. These include the Sacred Islands, where Fiji’s ancestors are believed to have first set foot, Nanuya Levu, where they filmed the 1980 movie Blue Lagoon, as well as Naviti and Drawaqa Island.
Yasawa, the largest and farthest-flung island in the group, is home to the exclusive Yasawa Island Resort & Spa. Hidden among the palms on a stretch of pristine beach, facing west towards the setting sun, the luxurious 18-bure resort is located on one of the most remote and untouched isles of Fiji.
Throughout the Yasawa islands it’s easy to find a secluded beach all to yourself. You can visit small villages and local schools, and even swim through hidden chambers in Sawa-i-Lau’s cathedral-like caves (where Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins were filmed for Blue Lagoon).
Cruise companies Blue Lagoon and Captain Cook get up close to islands and superb stretches of untouched beach where yours may be the only footprints. Blue Lagoon’s ship Fiji Princess even famously ties up to a coconut tree at its anchorage off its own private beach at Nanuya Lailai, in Blue Lagoon.
The raw beauty and genuine warmth of the local people encapsulates Fiji’s north. Here lie Vanua Levu and Taveuni, respectively Fiji’s second- and third-largest islands, along with Qamea, Matangi, Kioa, and dozens of outer islands. The more remote and less populated the islands become, the more the local people are in touch with their traditional roots.
On the volcanic island of Rabi (pronounced ‘Rumbi’), the Micronesian population speaks their own language and has their own unique culture that includes elaborate dances. The islanders’ dancing features bird-like movements and emotive styles – some dances tell a story, and can be accompanied by a choir, guitar or the rhythmic beating of the drum.
The north is home to abundant natural offerings, both underwater and on land, where it’s possible to snorkel and dive pristine sites such as Rainbow Reef, within the Somosomo Straits, plus The Great White Wall and other sites comprising what Jean-Michel Cousteau dubbed ‘the soft– coral capital of the world’.
Qamea, just off Taveuni, and predominantly covered in dense jungle, is home to the luxury couples’ resort Qamea. Just offshore, the famous Piano Reef stuns with its beautiful hard corals. Likewise, Matangi Island, 20 minutes by boat from Taveuni, is home to a boutique adults-only resort. On Matangi, guests can stay in charming treehouses, and spend their days snorkelling, diving and enjoying heavenly treatments in the waterfront spa.
On the lush island of Taveuni, aptly nicknamed Fiji’s ‘Garden Island’, you can slide down a gushing waterfall, and stand on the spot where, had it not been diverted around Fiji, the International Dateline would have divided the island into separate hemispheres with different dates.
Over on Fiji’s second-biggest island, Vanua Levu, is the charming harbour-side town of Savusavu, known as the ‘hidden paradise’ – and one of the country’s best kept secrets. Here, you can snorkel Split Rock with hundreds of curious soldierfish, and visit the local farmers’ market, where you can buy everything from fresh fish and lobster to kava and Indian spices. J. Hunter Pearls, the largest producer of Fiji’s stunning black pearls, grown in the warm, pristine waters of Savusavu Bay, is also here.
There's also a great line-up of Fiji restaurants and food to enjoy. Try a delicious spicy fish curry served up with an ice-cold beer on the deck of the Surf’n’Turf restaurant, or head to the renowned Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort for what are possibly the best cucumber martinis in the South Pacific. Its multi-award-winning kids’ club, Bula Club, is said to be the Pacific’s best, with a personal nanny service for every child five and under, and ‘buddies’ assigned to care for older kids and tweens. For curious young ones, there’s a also full-time marine biologist who is employed at the resort to teach kids about the fascinating underwater world that surrounds Fiji.
East of Savusavu you can explore the mangroves of the undeveloped tidal Salt Lake under your own steam on a stand-up paddleboard or in a kayak.
Fire-walkers, Shark Dives & Stepping Back in Time
The southeast coast of Viti Levu is home to Fiji’s capital, Suva, Pacific Harbour, known as Fiji’s ‘adventure capital’, as well as the outer islands of Beqa, Toberua and Kadavu.
The 5-star Royal Davui Island Resort and Beqa (pronounced Ben-ga) Island lie off Pacific Harbour. On Beqa Island you can hike and marvel at the famous Beqa fire-walkers, while the Beqa Lagoon marine reserve offers a renowned shark dive where you can see up to eight species of sharks.
To the east of Viti Levu, on the island of Ovalau, you’ll find Fiji’s original colonial capital Levuka. Once an important trading post, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town offers a trip back in time with its historic shop fronts, colonial-style buildings and churches. You can stay at simple homestays to get a feel for the Fiji of old.
In the Kadavu Group is Fiji’s fourth largest island, Kadavu, surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef. This is one of the world’s largest barrier reefs, and a rich breeding ground for marlin, sharks, tuna, giant trevally, mahi-mahi (dolphinfish) and snapper – it’s one of Fiji’s best diving spots.
The charming Toberua Island Resort, located off the southeast coast, near Suva’s Nausouri Airport, offers a low-key, family-friendly stay. Guests can go on snorkelling and diving trips to various sites, including Cakautabu (Sacred Reef), Shark Reef, Stairway to Heaven and Magic Reef.
Toberua (pronounced Tom-ba-rua) also runs a wonderful mangrove kayaking tour, as well as a boat trip to nearby Mabualau Island (Bird Island), a sanctuary for the red-footed booby, noddys, crested terns, the delicate black-naped tern, reef herons, frigates and docile sea snakes. As you circle the island by boat, the birds soar on the swirling air currents.
Culture, nature, some of the most beautiful beaches and reefs in the world, and the warmest of welcomes await when you get out and explore.
Fiji for Families
Many of Fiji’s resorts are geared for the family market. Expect terrific (complimentary) kids’ clubs, family activities, and plenty of fun water sports.
The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is home to the award-winning Bula Club, Malolo Island Resort has the complimentary Tia’s Treehouse – one of the best-designed and run kids’ clubs in Fiji (complimentary for kids aged four to 12), the Shangri-La Fijian Resort and Spa has the excellent Little Chief’s Club, while Castaway Island Fiji’s kids’ club focuses on getting into nature.
If you’re travelling with babies and toddlers, nannies and babysitters are available (complimentary, or at hourly rates, dependent on the resort) to look after your child, and even rock them to sleep in hammocks slung between coconut trees. Malolo Island Resort, Castaway Island Fiji and Plantation Island Resort all offer this service; the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort offers its Meimei nanny service for babies six months and older; the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort offers a complimentary full-time nanny for children five years and under (including babies).
Adventurous kids can ride bilibili rafts, explore caves and go quad biking to Sabeto Hot Springs. At Sigatoka, kids can explore the remains of a fortified village at the Tavuni Hill Fort, meet wildlife including iguanas, native birds and turtles at Kula Eco Park, or go sand-boarding on the Sigatoka Sand Dunes.
Known as the soft coral capital of the world, Fiji is a great place for kids to learn to scuba dive. Many resorts offer Padi dive courses and experiences for kids 10 years and over, while children as young as eight years can have fun learning bubble-making in the pool. Littlies old enough to swim can get started by snorkelling.
For the latest deals on travel, visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice.