The post will show you how to get an authentic sample of everything Fiji has to offer – the culture, history, cuisine and activities and sights…in 10 days! This post has been penned for a friend of mine who is planning a Fiji vacation and asked for a few tips on places to go and things to do. This is what I came up with…
Get The Right Flight To Fiji
While it is customary for visitors to fly into Fiji’s main International Airport in Nadi, it usually necessitates a doubling back in order to fly out at the end of the visit.
If flights allow, a better option is to fly into the second international airport Fiji has – Suva Airport – on the main island of Viti Levu.
Then you can work your way to the other side of the main island before flying out from Nadi – exploring the country along the way.
If you are in Australia you can get direct flights from Melbourne to Suva Airport (also known as Nausori Airport, as it is strictly located within the town of Nausori). Current flight timetables show flights leaving Melbourne at 2300 hrs and reaching Fiji at 0800 hours making it perfect for you to get some shut eye on the flight and be ready for a day of exploration in Suva – the capital city.
The airport is located just over 20 km from the capital and it takes around 45 minutes to get there. You can take a taxi from the airport and it shouldn’t cost much more than about $30 FJD, but be sure to ask one of the locals at Information Desk for accurate up-to-date rates.
Alternatively, pick up an an Avis rental car from the airport – I definitely recommend getting a rental if you want to travel at your own pace.
Discover the Capital
Where To Stay in Suva
Although Suva is not the picturesque version of Fiji that postcards tempt you with, it is the main centre of government and gives you some insight into what life is like for the average Fiji Islander living and working in Fiji’s largest city.
There are not a lot of hotels to choose from but there are some old favourites. The Grand Pacific Hotel that was built in 1914 and a number of famous people have stayed there during its early years – including Queen Elizabeth II.
This is stately accommodation that will give you an idea of Fiji’s Colonial past although it will set you back around $300 AUD a night. Although a bit pricey it is a nice introduction to Fiji’s capital and perhaps worth one nights stay just to be in a little piece of Fiji’s history.
The Grand Pacific Hotel also has an Avis Car Rental on site.
If you are looking for something not quite as flashy (or costly) then only 2-minutes walk away is the Holiday Inn that will set you back less than $100 AUD. Both hotels are very conveniently located at the foreshore and within close walking distance of all the sights in the capital – there is no better area to stay in for proximity to the sights.
What To Do In Suva
Suva is about walking, taking photos of the colonial architecture, shopping where the locals do and experiencing a city that travels at a much slower pace.
Stroll along the seawall from your accommodation to the Suva Municipal Market. It is a lot like the produce markets of Asia – bustling, exotic fruit and vegetables, and local seafood. Be sure to buy some freshly cut pineapple or watermelon to snack on as well as some ripe fruit to take back to your room for later – look for lady’s finger bananas (fat little bananas) and ripe mangoes.
Be sure to go upstairs and check out the spice section of the market. It’s a sensory experience reflecting the range of kava (Fiji’s national drink), local tobacco (known as suki) and the many Indian Spices sold in bulk.
Where To Eat in Suva
After that why not head back into into the heart of the capital. The market is really on the fringes so make your way up Usher Street then Marks Street to have lunch at Govinda’s Vegetarian Restaurant – it is not fancy but it is hugely popular with locals.
The prices are cheap and they make really tasty curries and lentil dishes served with roti and rice. Buy some Indian sweets to take away when you leave – try 3 or 4 types of barfi, some gulab jamun, and maybe suji laddoo if they have them.
After that, make your way further up Marks Street and continue to explore the myriad of Indian Clothing Stores and interesting dollar shops that are scattered along Toorak road. More than 48% of Fiji’s population is of Indian descent so Indo-Fijian influence is a huge part of Fiji’s modern day culture and society. If you ever wanted to buy a sari or some Indian costume jewellery this is the place to do it.
Another option for lunch is at MHCC located back down the hill towards the centre of the city along Renwick road. There are plenty of options for all tastes in the food court there and this is a good place to find a public toilet, although public toilets in Fiji – including this one – often require payment to enter. It should cost you less than a 1 FJD or thereabouts.
Head back to the seawall to watch the sunset and maybe take a rest at your accommodation before going out for the evening. Have dinner in a boat at the immensely popular Tiko’s Floating Restaurant – anchored only a few minutes walk along the seawall. Check out reviews here. Failing that, both the Holiday Inn and the Grand Pacific Hotel have restaurants onsite.
Note for 2017!: If you are visiting between the 11th and 19th of August 2017 these are the dates for Fiji’s biggest annual festival – the Hibiscus Festival which is held at the Vodafone Arena in Laucala Bay – a short bus or taxi ride from the main centre. If visiting during this time this is the best way to spend an evening, pick up some cheap local fare at the food stalls and watch some live performances.
Suva doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife for tourists, but O’Reileys Bar on 3 McArthur Street in the city centre is a must-visit, and safer than some of the other bars in the city (that can get a little rowdy). If this is your first try of Fiji’s beers try the Fiji Gold or one of the other newer brews like Vonu – then again, Fiji Bitter was Fiji’s only beer for many years so maybe at least give it a try.
If you are staying along the seafront you will find that O’Reileys Bar is close to your accommodation – only 5 minutes walk away – a good thing if you end up having one too many Fiji Bitters!
Head To Pacific Harbour
Pacific Harbour is the destination of choice for tourists on the Eastern side of the main island and located just under a 1 hour drive from Suva. You can also get buses there from the Suva Bus stand, located behind the Suva Municipal Market. Get an express bus to Pacific Harbour and then you can get a taxi to your hotel. Although some Express buses do stop at resorts so be sure to ask the conductor when you buy your ticket.
Where To Stay in Pacific Harbour
Uprising Resort is the best casual beach front resort in this area. It is my number one choice in the area mostly for it’s balance of price, good vibe and attractive layout. The Pearl Resort would probably be my next choice.
What To Do In Pacific Harbour
Pacific Harbour is a good base from which to explore a few quintessential Fiji experiences on the Eastern side of the mainland. Here you can get some idea of the inland beauty – an aspect of Fiji that many tourists fail to experience. There are a number of ways to go about this. Just pick your pleasure:
The office for Rivers Fiji that runs these tours is located in Pacific Habour, so if you choose to take this tour it will be easy to get to the pick up point from your accommodation. The tour takes you to a part of the Navua River few locals ever see – the Upper Navua Gorge, so you are really in the heart of it. The day is filled with rafting through canyons and enjoying scenes of the waterfalls and lush surrounds. A basic lunch is provided.
Zip Line Fiji also has an office in Pacific Harbour, so it’s perfect if you want to go Ziplining in the bush of Wainadoi. Basically you whizz through the forest canopy on steel cables. What could be better?
If you have your diving certification you must go on the shark feeding dive off Pacific Harbour. Enough said.
These are self-drive dune buggy tours where you and a group of others driving dune buggies head into the hills exploring the hills. There are a few different tours you can take including the scenic tour or the waterfall tour.
Visit The Coral Coast
Speaking of which, your next destination should be the Coral Coast. The famous stretch of coast popular with tourists and with a myriad of new and old resorts to choose from. The Coral Coast is on the Western side of the island and the weather here is hotter. Yu can get express buses from Pacific Harbour to most hotels along the Coral Coast, but be sure to ask for specific advice from the Information desk at your hotel before going to catch the bus.
Where To Stay on The Coral Coast
Most of the resorts are aimed at families. That’s part of the Coral Coast experience. But for couples and singles I’d say Tambua Sands is the way to go.
Not quite as expensive as the other resorts and much less busy. Tambua Sands is a very nice spot to stay if you want to chill on the beach and don’t need all the fuss and fanciness of a larger resort.
What To Do On The Coral Coast
There’s plenty to do and you can usually consult the activities desk at your hotel for options. Here are some recommendations:
Named after the Fijian name for the local red and green parrot, Kula Wild Adventure Park is a wildlife and breedng sanctuary primarily home to a host of bird species. It makes for a nice relaxed morning wandering through the park, discovering the birds and animals that live there and learning about them.
You will also have photo opportunities where you can hold some of the local wildlife.
It costs $40 FJD for basic entry to the park for adults and it opens at 10 am. If you want to take guided tours, or experience the zip line-style attraction in the park there are different fees. But basic entry is more than enough to enjoy the park. There are two cafes within Kula Wild Adventure Park so you can pick up a snack while there.
* Note that if you intend to do the zip lining here you need to wear closed shoes on the day. For the water activities you need to bring swim suits.
Fiji Coral Coast Tours offers tours covering the Fijian Kava Ceremony, offers village tours, a cannibal history tour, as well as visits to waterfalls. If this is something you are interested in head towards the Warwick Hotel. 200 metres from the hotel entrance is a stall run by Lino of Fiji Coral Coast Tours.
They offer authentic Fijian experiences that directly benefit the locals and give you a more real experience of Fiji – unlike many others offered through tourist booking sites. There are both morning and afternoon tours available.
Where To Eat Along the Coral Coast
The hotels have the best quality food on the Coral Coast so see what’s on offer for dinner at your accommodation of choice first then at neighbouring resorts.
If this doesn’t impress, head to what has been voted Fiji’s Best Restaurant – The Wicked Walu Restaurant which is located at the Warwick Hotel. It isn’t cheap, and you will probably need to make reservations but it’s also not as pricey as restaurants of a similar standard would be back home.
Heading To Nadi
Nadi is a must-visit as it is the gateway to the outer island groups – the Yasawas and Mamanucas. Nadi is where Port Denarau is which is where the boats depart to take you to island accommodation.
Driving from the Coral Coast to Nadi takes around an hour and a half, but you will want to stop in at Sigatoka town on the way to pick up some snacks and cold drinks for the trip – it will be much cheaper to do this here than to buy stuff at your hotel. You should also be able to get buses from your accommodation to NAdi, or else get a taxi to Sigatoka and board a bus from there.
If you are driving you may want to stop in at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park on your way. There is a small entry fee to the park.
Aim to have lunch in Nadi and check in to accommodation there for one night so you can go straight out to the islands the next day – or if you want to take a tour while in Nadi plan to stay for 2 nights.
Where To Eat in Nadi
Tu’s Place in Martintar is agreed by many to be the best place to eat good ‘Fiji food’ in Nadi. Rou Rou Balls are a popular Fijian dish which you can try here…but there is a lot to choose from on the Tu’s Place menu and the prices are very reasonable.
Other places to eat include:
The Bounty Restaurant and Bar – Local Fijian Food and other cuisines with a varied menu.
Habibi Fiji – Mediterranean Restaurant (on the Road to Denarau) with a shisha bar, pizzas and more.
Obviously, the restaurant at your accommodation is also an option. Speak to other guests to find out if the food is worth the cost, or if you are better off going out to find a feed.
What To Do in Nadi
If you want to do a tour while you are in Nadi there is only one tour I would recommend in order to see a real piece of Fiji’s history intact and preserved.
The Navala Village Tour will take you further along the coast past 2 more towns on the main island and into the Ba Highlands where a village has been maintained in it’s traditional style – something almost unheard of in the rest of Fiji. The whole village is made up of traditional Fijian Huts or ‘Bures’ and this in itself is a marvel in a country where this traditional style of building isn’t maintained as it once was.
The day includes a traditional welcome ceremony (try kava here!) and a Fijian lunch – a perfect opportunity to try some of the Fijian cuisine that includes root crops like yams and dishes cooked in coconut milk.
The tour departs from Denarau which is where you will be staying if you choose the Raddisson Blu or one of the nearby hotels – making it a convenient day trip option. Tours leave at 8 am and return at 4.30 pm.
Where To Stay in Nadi
If you aren’t on a budget and this is your first visit to Fiji, Denarau is where I recommend you stay. There are a number of hotels on Denarau, but it has a lot of options for travellers – quality restaurants, hotel pick up for tours, taxi services and the marina which is where the boats depart to the islands.
The Radisson Blue hotel is a nice water front hotel and more reasonably priced than the other luxury hotels in Denarau – but still fantastic.
Head Out To The Islands
The Mamanucas and Yasawas are the most beautiful inhabited islands in Fiji – and considering that, they are a must-see. Try to give your self 4 or 5 days at a minimum to enjoy the island life!
Where To Stay In The Islands
As for accommodation, it varies wildly. There are resorts in these groups of islands that cost upward of $1000 AUD per night. But you can certainly book cheaper accommodation than this, have a great time, and enjoy the beauty these islands have to offer.
I suggest stay in the Yasawa group of islands. The reason for this is that the transfer boat (the Yasawa Flyer) you will pass through the Mamanuca group dropping off other passengers at their resorts on your way to get to the Yasawas – enabling you to see both island groups.
Many resorts in this area have a minimum stay of 2 nights. So why not stay at Blue Lagoon Resort – right at the far outreaches of the Yasawa Islands for at least 2 nights and then either stay there, or move onto another resort after.
Blue Lagoon Resort
The Blue Lagoon Resort on Nacula Island in the Yasawa group of Islands has long been a very popular resort in Fiji. It is a beach front resort and there are a number of room options to choose from to suit different budgets. At the same time, it is not a massive resort, which keeps it a little quieter – always a nice thing on holiday. There’s plenty to do there, but more than likely you will just want to chill and soak up the sun.
You can buy daily meal packages for $75 AUD which include a variety of buffet and al a carte dining each day. They cater to all dietary requirements including Vegan options. If you are present at the resort on a Friday be sure to try the Lovo which is a traditional Pacific Island way of preparing food in an underground earth oven.
Still not sure? Check out this great review of Blue Lagoon Resort.
What To Do At Blue Lagoon Resort
Sawa-i-Lau Cave Tour
If you are a confident swimmer and don’t get claustrophobic, take the Sawa-i-Lau Cave Tour that leaves from Blue Lagoon Resort. It takes you to a fairly dark and water-filled cave to snorkel, but you need to be able to swim down in part of the cave, and then up to the surface again for air, and this is not something every one will be comfortable doing. To get a better idea of what you will be in for check this video out:
Failing that, Blue Lagoon Resort also does Night Snorkeling Trips for $25 FJD and other water activities, but then again there is complimentary fun at the resort to keep you from getting bored including kayaking, Fijian dance and singing, and weaving demonstrations – just find out what is on when you get there.
Behind the resort there are walking trails that take you to other beaches and through the forest. You can get a map at the resort and be sure to take plenty of water.
Octopus Resort is located back towards the mainland in the Mamanuca group of Islands. It is just over 2 hours from Blue Lagoon Resort on the Yasawa Flyer boat. Like Blue Lagoon, this resort has won multiple awards and also has different room options to suit all budgets.
Food at the resort is on a meal plan system too at a cost of $52 USD per person. This includes your first meal after getting to the island – an a la carte lunch – followed by an evening meal and breakfast the following morning.
To get a sense of the Octopus Island experience check out the video below:
It also makes sense to select a hotel in the Mamanuca Group, because it is on your way back to the mainland.
What To Do At Octopus Resort
There are all sorts of activities to do here – some of which are paid like the daily yoga, and others which are complimentary like basket weaving lessons. There are dive packages you can book or you can bring your snorkeling gear or hire some at the resort.
Village visits are available as are visits to the local school and kindergarten if you would like to interact with the locals of Waya Island. Other than that, enjoy the beauty of the beach and walk the 1 km stretch along Likuliku Bay, hang out in hammocks and relax.
Getting To and From Your Island Accommodation
If you choose to stay at the Resorts I have mentioned, the Yasawa Flyer is your ticket to getting to each of the hotels and back to the mainland. You will need to buy tickets in advance either online, through your travel agent or when you arrive in Fiji.
Although the Yasawa Flyer is a service for transferring you to your hotel the experience itself is more like a sight seeing cruise. The boat stops at islands all the way along dropping guests off at their respective hotels so this is an amazing way for you to see most of the islands, even if you are only going to be staying at one or two of them yourself. Check out the timetable for the Yasawa Flyer and complimentary coach which will pick you up from your hotel if you are staying at the Raddisson Blu or other nearby hotels.
Fiji can be a great place to holiday. But things don’t always go to plan. Bad weather or other issues can arise. So it is wise to head back to the mainland the day before your flight – not the day of it, in case you are delayed for some reason and are at risk of missing your flight.
Return To The Main Island
Stay at the Radisson Blu again or choose another hotel for your last night. A lot of people choose the cheaper hotels close to the airport on their last night for convenience’s sake. This is not the best idea. It can be pretty noisy that close to the airport, and the hotels tend to be a bit disappointing.
Anyway, you want your last night to be as picturesque as your trip has been so finish it on a good note at decent accommodation.
Denarau is only a 20 minute taxi ride from Nadi International Airport. So there’s really no need to stay any closer.
Provided that you haven’t brought a lot of luggage, check out of your hotel and head into Nadi town to grab yourself some souvenirs. Jacks Handicrafts is the best for high quality souvenirs. At the same time, many of the other cheaper souvenir stores on the main street will have plenty of reasonably priced gifts for you to take home to the family. Don’t forget to buy yourself a ‘Bula’ shirt – something like a Hawaiian shirt but with that distinctive Fiji style.
Pure Fiji soaps and lotions are the best of this sort of product that Fiji offers and has beautiful tropical scents – and they are vegan-friendly! Try out the Starfruit scented products (my personal favourite!). The Coconut scented products are also a nice way to remember the scent of the islands.
The powdered kava sold in souvenir shops often isn’t the best, so you are better to go to the Nadi Municipal Market (also good for souvenirs!) to buy it. The quality of this kava will be far better and it will be cheaper. Locally, kava is known as ‘yaqona’. Once you find a stall that sells yaqona, to get the best stuff ask for ‘waka’. This is the root of the kava plant, as opposed to the stem – which is not as potent.
You can take up to 2 kg of powdered kava into Australia, but be sure to seal it well in plastic before passing through customs. For taking kava home to other countries check your countries customs website for more information.
Currently there are a number of direct flights leaving from Nadi International Airport between 5.30pm and 6pm bound for Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. This will give you time to do a little shopping in Nadi and have some lunch before getting to the airport in more than enough time.
Regardless, be sure to check the latest flight times for your destination.
Final Thoughts on 10 Days In Fiji
I could write a lot more on how to get the most out of a visit to Fiji, but this post is big enough already so I’ll save the rest for future posts.
There are a few things I’d be remiss to not mention:
- Internet is not as common or as fast in Fiji as you are probably used to. WiFi is rare and you will often have to pay for access and even then it won’t be very good. Do your best to stay off the internet as much as possible while on your holiday and embrace the relaxation of the South Pacific.
- Download an offline map from Google Maps of the parts of Fiji you will be visiting. Do this while you are still back home where you have reliable WiFi and this will enable you to have at least some direction while on your holiday.
- Take lots of photos and a storage device or some SD cards for them. It will be hard to upload photos online so store them till you get home.
- If you have a Go Pro take it!
- ‘Sword Sellers’ are people that will approach you in the street and try to sell you local souvenirs at unreasonable prices. Don’t give them the time of day, and don’t let them bully you. Just get away from them as quick as you can – step into a shop as quick as you can and you can even ask the staff for help if you need it.
- Use travel locks on all your bags and keep your money and documents with you in a safe place on your person when you are in the towns and cities of Fiji. At the resorts this is not necessary.
- Fiji is a great holiday destination, but as with travelling to any country – Put Safety First and keep your wits about you. There are opportunistic criminals in any destination and Fiji is certainly no exception.
In saying that, don’t be shy to talk to the locals. The people of Fiji are friendly!
Lastly I’ll teach you your first Fijian word: “Bula” – which means “Hello” and also is a way of wishing you health and well-being.
So I say “Bula” to you and wish you the best time ever in Fiji.
If the tips in this post were helpful to you let me know in the comments below. Do you have any Fiji holiday tips to share? Please let me know!
Here are a few more helpful links to get you Fiji-ready: