A Less Obvious Guide to Discovering Fiji
Make the most of your next tropical getaway both on and off the water.
July 01, 2019
Precisely 333 islands make up the archipelago known as Fiji. Just a short three-hour direct flight from New Zealand in the heart of the South Pacific, it's the perfect destination to consider for your next tropical getaway without having to worry about long layovers and jet lag. Often considered a destination to land and lounge, there are a wide range of activities across the islands to make the most of your next adventure both on and off the water. Pack light and set your watch to island time, this is a less obvious guide to Fiji.
WHERE TO STAY
A three-hour catamaran ride from Port Denarau will bring you to the Yasawa Islands, a collection of more than 20 volcanic atolls. Those looking for a humbling back-to-nature experience, crystal clear water and one of the best coral gardens in the region should make Barefoot Manta Resort their first stop. After disembarking the mainland ferry, a separate tender will drop you and your belongings on a miniature outcrop which looks like a deserted island.
Walking through the palm tree-lined property you'll learn about the extensive range of activities on offer, from guided night swimming tours with the island's dedicated marine biologist to the main attraction of snorkelling with manta rays — the sea creatures inhabit the waters almost on a daily basis between May and October. Private bure sit directly on the beach complete with openair bathrooms and hammocks for afternoon snoozing. Sleep should really be an afterthought as the activity list continues with kava ceremonies, coconut jewellery making, basket weaving and informative classes on the resort's sustainability program.
Around the corner on Naukacuvu Island is Paradise Cove Resort, a luxurious accomodation option both for families and those looking for some quiet time. The resort's dedicated adults-only sanctuary The Cove provides a quiet place to relax. The tranquil setting features villas in a tropical garden alongside two swimming pools. Find a spot on one of the many day beds and cabanas and take advantage of the personalised pool service from the boat bar. The resort's hyperlocal meal plan can also be served right by the pool. To burn it all off, register for yoga on the pool deck or hike to the top of one of Waya island's highest peaks.
Blue Lagoon Beach Resort is also found in the northern Yasawa Islands, approximately five hours by catamaran, or a 30-minute seaplane ride. Despite its remote location, there's plenty to keep you occupied while staying at the resort, including daily snorkelling and diving trips, excursions to local islands and bays, and guided hikes to hidden mangroves and isolated beaches.
EAT AND DRINK
Located in an old embroidery factory away from the bustle of Port Denarau is Taste Fiji Kitchen. The locally owned restaurant was launched to showcase the nation's abundance of produce and handmade products, including tavioka flour and desiccated coconut.
The organic barista-made coffee is the main attraction, and often considered to be the best on the island. Bula Coffee is the only producer to grow, roast and pack in Fiji — the beans are handpicked, transported by horse and dried in the Fijian sun. Top picks from Taste's all-day menu include the caramelised pork belly, prawn kokoda and braised yaqara beef cheek.
Rhum-Ba is a large open space overlooking the port, and between the moorings and incoming seaplanes, there's nothing short to keep you entertained between courses. After watching tiny sprats being fed straight from neighbouring tables you can then have your own feast of whole baked reef fish on a plate carved out of molten granite.
There's a decent selection of local Pacific oysters for seafood lovers, while the green reef lobster will spark massive food envy — the humongous crustacean arrives on a tray that would normally take two people to lift. Pair your order with duck fat potatoes and finish with the dark and stormy cheesecake.
SEE AND DO
Typically recognised for its water-based activities, on dry land Fiji is a destination offering adrenaline heads everything from zip-lining to shark swimming and motorised expeditions on four wheels. The Sawa-i-Lau Caves are found under 30 minutes by boat from Blue Lagoon. The impressive system of limestone caves are hidden beneath a dramatic volcanic peak in the Yasawa Islands. After visiting the expansive main cavern the more adventurous are welcome to explore a second cave by swimming through an underwater tunnel.
Canopy zip-lining is one of Fiji's newest adventure attractions. Zip Fiji has more than 16 lines which whoosh through the trees of Momi Bay. Five kilometres of tropical forest are up for exploring with views across the Mamanuca Islands to top off the experience. During your zip-lining adventure you'll also come across one of the South Pacific's largest caves, which you'll then have the opportunity to abseil 100 metres into before having a spot of lunch.
If you'd rather have a go at catching your own meal, hand-line fishing is the way to go. Paradise Cove offers hand-line excursions where you can visit fishing spots with local guides in an effort to catch everything from grouper to mackerel. Once your skipper has found the perfect spot on the edge of the reef, all you have to do is throw your line overboard and hope for the best. With no rods or reels, the tiny vibrations will keep you guessing.
Fiji is an easy three-hour direct flight from Auckland and Wellington. Fiji Airways operates daily flights from Auckland and twice-weekly flights from Wellington to Nadi.
Stephen Heard travelled as a guest of Tourism Fiji.