A dazzling paradise garlanded with frangipanis, sugarcane fields swaying in the sun, the palm-scented ocean, and golden sunsets every single day
Bula Vinaka is the phrase that greets you when you first land in Fiji!!
It literally translates to ‘a warm hello’ and boy do Fijians live up to their promise! Huge smiles and guitarists welcome guests at the airport – that is only expected from a tropical paradise where sarongs are the national dress! We work on Fiji time – slow and easyyyyy, the guards at the airport tell us. We’re exhausted from the flight but feel buoyed by the music and smiles despite the long queues at the airport!
Little did we know that this exact uplifting energy and the constant feeling of warm blue water enveloping us would lull us into living on Fiji time for the next fortnight!! The pace of life is slower in this Republic of 333 islands and happiness seems to be the motto. Fiji truly soothes the soul.
Highlights of a visit to Fiji
- Majestic sunsets
- Bluest of blue waters and some of the best secluded beaches in the world
- The world’s best snorkelling and diving spots.
- A chance to interact with locals and explore the bustling markets of one of the most far-flung archipelagos of the world
Fiji is a short and reasonable flight away from most cities in Australia and New Zealand. We combined it with our road trip in New Zealand. You will fly into the city of Nadi on Viti Levu, the largest island of the Fijian archipelago.We paid £160 for a one-way flight from Sydney to Nadi and £200 for the flight from Nadi to Auckland. A holiday in the Fiji Islands makes for the perfect honeymoon or romantic getaway but it’s great for families too. We saw loads of young kids and parents everywhere 🙂
Itinerary for Fiji
We sampled a whole lot of experiences in Fiji as we were there for almost 2 weeks but we feel one week is perfect to explore Fiji. We suggest staying in Viti Levu, the largest island, for 2-3 days and taking a 3-4 day long cruise around little Fijian Islands to explore deserted beaches, little villages, and some of the prettiest snorkelling and diving spots in the entire world.
Accommodation in Viti Levu, Fiji
We loved our stay at Outrigger Resorts in Maldives, so we chose to stay with Outrigger Resorts in Fiji as well. The sprawling resort with over 200 rooms is situated right on the beach and is perfect for both families and couples. Try to opt for the beach facing bure (bungalow), that comes with a hammock. Guests are served canapés and champagne in their bungalow every evening and moorish post-dinner nibbles and liqueur with turndown service every night – nom 🙂
The hotel’s Bebe spa does complete justice to the idyllic beachside location of Outrigger Fiji. It is perched on a hill overlooking the entire resort. We sampled their signature couples treatment. It kicked off with an indulgent scrub using the in-house coconut and sugar polish. A traditional Fijian bobo massage with coconut oil followed. We wrapped up with a milk bath accompanied by champagne, strawberries & chocolates – mmm so relaxing.
We found the breakfast buffet at the hotel a bit lacklustre and rushed. However we loved Ivi Restaurant at Outrigger Fiji. It’s one of the best fine dining restaurants in Fiji and has won numerous accolades. We started the meal with their signature Fijian kokoda (marinated mahi mahi fillet combined with diced onions, cucumber, tomatoes, spices, and coconut milk) and BBQ King Prawns. The sumptuous entrées were followed by a light amuse bouche. The tangy lemon and lime sorbet was perfect to cleanse the palate between courses. For main course, Vid had the signature rack of lamb rubbed with Fijian spices while I had their poached red snapper on a bed of curry made from coconut cream, crab meat, and sweet potatoes. It was served with Fijian Cassava chips – nom! It was one of our favourite meals in Fiji. We’d definitely recommend dropping by Ivi Restaurant for a special meal even if you’re staying elsewhere on the island.
You can find more details about the hotel here.
Day Trips from Viti Levu, Fiji
If you decide to stay in Viti Levu for 2-3 days, then you’ll definitely want to explore the island a bit. There are a number of day trips available in the vicinity including zip-lining tours, day-long cruises to nearby islands, hikes, and walking tours. Make sure you go snorkelling as Viti Levu is known as the coral capital of the world.
We sampled a couple of day trips in Fiji but the one we loved the most was The Sigatoka River Safari. The exciting jet boat tour takes visitors to the real interiors and gives tourists a chance to experience the real Fiji. A long boat ride takes visitors to a series of village nestled within the countryside. Our tour took us to a tiny Fijian village called Nalebaleba village through a steep muddy track. Our guide Simon showed us around the village and made us meet the village elders before taking us to a local school. At the school we met so many kids and spent the entire afternoon laughing, dancing, and playing with them.
The other guests in our group loved the adventurous 360 degree turns engineered by our guide during our journey back on the river but I just couldn’t get the village kids’ happy faces out of my mind 🙂
A cruise exploring the Fiji Islands
Imagine yourself sitting on a deserted beach sipping water out of the green coconut you’ve picked off a tree. Wait, let me help you visualise it better. The scene will look something like this 🙂
The best way to experience a bunch of tiny Fijian islands and wake up to a new beach every day is to take a cruise around the Fiji islands. Cruise boats in Fiji are nothing like Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise ships. They’re much smaller so they can visit the tiniest of islands in the archipelago.
Sailing with Captain Cook was our first taste of boutique cruising and we rather liked the informal, intimate nature of the cruise – the smaller size of the vessel gives passengers a chance to make loads of friends on the boat. It’s possible to opt for a 3-4 day cruise of The Mamanuca Islands (pronounced Mamanutha), a collection of 20 gorgeous sand-fringed islands set amidst blue waters inside the Z barrier reef. This is where the movie Castaway was shot. Opting for a cruise to Mamanuca Islands means stunning beaches, traditional Fijian villages, and gorgeous panoramas. You could also opt for a 3-4 day cruise of The Yasawa Islands. These have volcanic origins and boast of laid-back sandy beaches, glimmering waters, and hikes through lush forests and cliffs. Each short cruise offers the perfect introduction to Fijian culture : everything from village visits to school choirs, school visits to Lovo feasts, Meke dances to watersports is on the itinerary. The best part? Unlike other cruises, all excursions are included in the cost of the cruise itself.
We sampled both Captain Cook cruises and found it hard to pick a favourite. We loved Monuriki Island, where Tom Hanks’ Castaway was shot; Monu Island, an idyllic island with gorgeous views; the Blue Lagoon, and countless other tiny islands in the Fijian archipelago.
It being Fiji, the Captain is relaxed and can be seen socialising with guests in a sarong (what else!). This is something that stood out during the length of our stay on Captain Cook’s boat – staff and service was truly exceptional. We ended up making friends with everyone from Pavol (the hospitality manager!) to Ben (the diving instructor!). We also loved listening to Poni, the ship’s crooner, belt out fantastic tunes during lunches and dinners. The pace of the cruise is extremely laid back and food is in keeping with this. The buffets are a spread of Fijian curries, salads, and fruits – adequate but not ostentatious. This isn’t the place to expect gourmet dining! However if you’re celebrating a special occasion, do opt for a romantic meal overlooking the gorgeous waters of the Fijian archipelago. Time it to coincide with the sunset! 🙂
But let me come to the pièce de résistance – Fiji’s absolutely sensational islands. Every day the boat docks in a new island. Guests can observe marine life from a glass-bottomed boat, enjoy Fiji’s crystalline waters, laze at hidden beaches, go snorkelling, swimming with dolphins, or scuba diving. We woke up to new and gorgeous panoramas every single day. One day we actually woke up to baby sharks swimming outside our cabin – well and truly fabulous!
Fiji has a rich cultural history and its worth acquainting oneself with customs and traditions of the islands. One of the most prominent rituals is the kava ceremony. Captain Cook’s Cruise provided multiple opportunities for sampling kava, a mildly intoxicating drink made from the root of the peppermint tree. An elaborate ceremony heralds the consumption of kava from a communal bowl or coconut shell (bilo) while all participants sit together in a circle.
Do make sure you participate in Meke, a celebration involving song and dance performed by Fijian villagers. If you enjoy acquainting yourself with local food, then a traditional Fijian Lovo feast is a must. The cruise gives you a chance to just that. Taste food that is made in a Lovo, an earth oven lined with heat-resistant stones. Food wrapped in banana leaves is placed on heated stones, placed in the pit, and covered with soil. Once cooked, it’s ready to be eaten. We tasted lots of meals and vegetables at the Lovo feast organised by Captain Cook but two dishes we loved were palusami (parcels of taro leaves saturated with coconut milk) and dalo (Taro).
This wasn’t all. Over the course of 7 days we saw school choirs perform, met villagers, swam and snorkelled, visited local schools, spent countless hours lying on dreamy beaches, and acquired a tan. When the crew members finally got together to sing the national farewell song – Isa Lei – for all the guests who had spent 7 days on board Captain Cook’s boat, I wasn’t the only one with watery eyes.
Fiji we’ll be back for those smiles 🙂
Flying Back from Fiji Islands
We checked out of our cruise ship after breakfast but we had a late night flight. We were a bit flummoxed about how we would while away 12 hours, luggage and all. It was on a locals’ recommendation that we discovered the Essence of Fiji Rejuvenation Centre and Transit Lounge. It’s a really cool facility we’d love to see in other countries too. The lounge houses a cafe, a well-equipped gym, an excellent spa, and even a couple of hotel rooms for travellers with flights at odd hours. Of course, it’s close to the airport and there is a free-shuttle service available. Definitely something to keep in mind if you have a flight at an odd hour or have some time to while away before your flight back home 🙂
Fiji Fact File
- The Fiji Islands are one of the most far-flung islands in the world. This makes them truly special.
- A number of small Fijian Islands are home to exclusive luxury resorts, perfect for honeymooners.
- Try to attend a traditional Kava Ceremony and sample a Lovo Feast in Fiji.
- Spend 2-3 nights in Viti Levu before hopping onto a cruise.
- Captain Cook Cruises offer a perfect introduction to Fijian culture : everything from village visits to school visits, Lovo feats to Meke dances, and snorkeling to diving is on the menu.
- All excursions and meals are included in the cost of the cruise
- Choose from a cruise to The Mamanuca Islands or The Yasawa Islands. We sampled both and met a lot of guests who chose to stay on the boat for 1 week and combine both cruise itineraries.
- Make sure you go snorkelling and diving in Fiji.
- Carry stationery for local schools. Most schools do not accept money but love getting stationery for the kids.
Love cruises as much as we do? Read all our cruise experiences here!
It’s easy to combine a trip to the Fiji Islands with a Road Trip in New Zealand