The Best of Fiji by kuy13163

VIEWS: 257 PAGES: 14

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                           The Best of Fiji




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T  he best thing about Fiji isn’t its palm-draped beaches, blue lagoons, or rugged
mountains. I think it’s the enormous friendliness of the Fijian people.
    Picking the best of everything else in Fiji is no easy task, for this is a diverse tropi-




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cal country with many choices. In this chapter, I point out the best of the best—not
necessarily to pass qualitative judgment, but to help you choose among many options.




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I list them here in the order in which they appear in the book.
    Your choice of where you go and what you do will depend on why you are coming
to Fiji, and how much money you have to spend while you’re here. You can scuba dive
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to exhaustion over some of the world’s most beautiful reefs or just laze on the beach
with a trashy novel. You can share a 300-room hotel with package tourists, or get away
from it all on a tiny islet. Even out there, you can be left alone with your lover or join
your fellow guests at lively dinner parties. You can totally ignore the islanders around
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you or enrich your own life by learning about theirs. You can listen to the day’s events
on CNN International or get out and see what Fiji was like a century ago. Those deci-
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sions are all yours.
    Regardless of where you stay and what you do, you are in for a memorable time.
The friendly Fijians will see to that.
                       GH




 1 The Most Beautiful Islands
“In the South Seas,” Rupert Brooke wrote          • Yasawa: This long, narrow island off
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in 1914, “the Creator seems to have laid            the northwest coast of Viti Levu has
himself out to show what He can do.”                several of Fiji’s best beaches scattered
How right the poet was, for all across the          among its rolling hills. It’s also home
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South Pacific lie some of the world’s most          to Yasawa Island Resort and Spa, one
dramatically beautiful islands. In my               of Fiji’s best offshore hotels. See chap-
opinion, the best of the lot have jagged            ter 6.
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mountain peaks plunging into aquama-              • Waya: Near the southern end of the
rine lagoons. All these islands are beauti-         Yasawa chain, Waya Island is one of
ful, but I think the following stand out            the few in Fiji with the combination
from the pack.                                      of cliffs and sheer basaltic peaks I find
  • Monuriki: Tom Hanks spent a lot                 so appealing in the Pacific islands. See
     time filming Castaway on lovely                chapter 6.
     Monuriki, one of the westernmost of          • Beqa: Off Viti Levu’s southern coast,
     the Mamanuca Islands. A rocky cen-             Beqa has no roads cutting through its
     tral mountain drops down to the                hills. Lovely Malumu Bay, one of Fiji’s
     beach where Hanks figured out how              more scenic spots, nearly bisects Beqa,
     to pry open a coconut. See chapter 6.          and it’s all surrounded by the magnif-
                                                    icent Beqa Lagoon. See chapter 8.
2        CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI

    • Kadavu: About 60km (37 miles)              beaches, which means no resorts alter
      long and just 14km (81⁄2 miles) across     its landscape. See chapter 12.
      at its widest point, Kadavu is Fiji’s    • Savusavu: Savusavu isn’t an island but
      unspoiled nature preserve. Native          almost seems like it, since it sits on a
      birds and other wildlife live in abun-     peninsula separated from the main
      dance on Kadavu, given the absence         part of Vanua Levu by spectacular,
      of mongooses, iguanas, myna birds,         mountain-surrounded Savusavu Bay,
      and other introduced predators. The        which is so large the U.S. Navy con-
      Great Astrolabe Reef provides great        sidered hiding the Pacific fleet there
      diving off the eastern and southern        during World War II. See chapter 13.
      shores. See chapter 9.                   • Qamea and Matagi: These little jew-
    • Ovalau: The sheer cliffs of Ovalau         els off the northern coast of Taveuni
      kept the town of Levuka from               are lushly beautiful, with their shore-
      becoming Fiji’s modern capital, but        lines either dropping precipitously
      they create a dramatic backdrop to an      into the calm surrounding waters or
      old South Seas town little changed in      forming little bays with idyllic
      the past century. Ovalau has no good       beaches. See chapter 14.

    2 The Best Beaches
Because all but a few islands in Fiji are        Fiji resort (p. 137) has deep sand,
surrounded by coral reefs, it has no real        and the lagoon here is deep enough
surf beaches like those so common in, say,       for swimming and snorkeling at most
Hawaii and Florida. Most islands (and all        tides. The resort has one of Fiji’s best
but a few resorts) have bathtublike              beach bars.
lagoons lapping on coral sands draped by       • Mana Island (the Mamanucas):
coconut palms. Unfortunately, most               Mana Island has beaches on both its
lagoons in Fiji are shallow at low tide,         sides, but the one on the south coast
thus limiting watersports for half the day.      is worth writing home about. It’s so
This is especially true on the Coral Coast.      long that it’s shared by both Mana
Fortunately for the environmentalists            Island Resort (p. 137) and bottom-
among us, some of the most spectacular           end backpacker hostels.
beaches are on remote islands and are          • Matamanoa Island (the Mamanu-
protected from development by the                cas): Just enough room exists between
islanders’ devotion to their cultures and        Matamanoa’s rocky central hill and
villages’ land rights. Needless to say,          its beach to shoe-horn in Mata-
resort developers have placed their estab-       manoa Island Resort (p. 138). Both
lishments on most of the best. These             the sands and the lagoon here are
stand out from the many.                         deep enough to enjoy all the time.
   • Qalito (Castaway) Island (the             • Malololailai Island (the Mamanu-
     Mamanucas): Better known as the             cas): Connected to the larger Malolo
     home of Castaway Island Resort              Island by a marshy isthmus, Malolo-
     (p. 138), hilly Qalito Island ends at a     lailai is home to three resorts: Musket
     point flanked on both sides by              Cove Island Resort (p. 134), Lomani
     beaches of deep white sand, which           Island Resort (p. 134), and Planta-
     helps make Castaway one of Fiji’s           tion Island Resort (p. 135). Although
     most popular resorts.                       the lagoon is shallow, the beach in
   • Malolo Island (the Mamanucas):              front of Lomani and Plantation
     The beach fronting Malolo Island            Island resorts is one of Fiji’s most
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Udu Point
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                             Nacula                                                                                                                                                  Savusavu                                         15




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                                Katasomu Pt                                                                                                                                         13




                                                                                        YA
              Gunu                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Kaibu I.
             Naviti I.     Somosomo                                                                                                           12
               Soso       Marou                                                                 Waya I.                         Rakiraki                                                 Koro I.                                         Yacata I.
                       Talaga Pt                                                                                                                    Ellington                           Ferry jetty
                  Drawaqa I.                                                                                                                        Wharf                           Makogai I.                                        Vatu Vara           M
  Naukacuvu I. Nanuya Balavu I.
               Narara I.                                                            MAMANUCA                           Ba                                               Ovalau I.                          Horseshoe Bay 15
        Koromasoli Pt                                                                  ISLANDS                                                                                   Wakaya I.
Nacilau Pt    Wayalevu                                                                                       Lautoka                                      Natovi                                           Long Beach 11
  Waya I.                                                                                                                                                                   Levuka
  Yalobi Natawa                                                                                                                                          Landing                                           Malolo Island 6          Cicia
             Wayasewa I.                                                                                                        VITI
              Namara                                                                                                                                                                   Baliki I.
            Kuata I.    White Rock I.                                                                      Nadi                 LEVU                                                             Nairai I. Malololailai Island 7
                                                                                                                                                                Nausori                                    Mana Island 5
      Eori I.       MAMANUCA -I- RA
 Navadra I.                 GROUP                                                                                                                                                                                     K o r o
                                                                                                  8                                                                                     Gau I.             Matamanoa Island 4
Vanua Levu I. Vomolailai I.                          Nacilau Pt
                            Vomo I.                                                                               Sigatoka                                      Suva                                                   S e a
  Kadomo I.
                                                                  Nailaga                                                                                                                                  Matana Beach 10
Yanuya Tokoriki I.                                Vitogo                                                                                  Pacific Harbour                                                  Nacula Island 2
Monu I.          MAMANUCA -I- CAKE
        Tavua I.     GROUP                            Lautoka                                                                                                                                              Nanuya Lailai Island 3
                                                                                                                                          Beqa I.
    4 Matamanoa I. Tai I. Luvuka I.                Natabua                                                        9                                                                                        Namenalala Island 13
   Mana I. 5
               Navini     Kadavu I.                Visijsei                                           Vatulele I.                                          e                                                Moala
                                                      Koroiyaca                                                                                     ssag                                                   Natadola Beach 8
       Qalito I.                    Malamala I.                                                                                              Pa
                           Malolo
                   6                                                                                                                 u                                                                     Prince Charles Beach 14
                       7     Malolo Laila I.        Nadi                                                                        av                             Ono I.                                         MOALA
                                                                                                                           ad                                                                              Qalito (Castaway) Island 6
                                Naisali I.                                                                             K
            Namotu I.                                                                                                                               11                                                        GROUP
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    THE BEST BEACHES




             Tavarua I.                                                                                                                      10                                                            Vatulele Island Resort 9
                                                                  Inset                                                      Vunisea                                                                                        Totoya
                                                                                                                                                    Kadavu I.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           Volivoli Beach 12
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Matuku
                                                                                                                                                                                                           Yasawa Island 1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Fiji’s Best Beaches
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3
4          CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI

        picturesque, with coconut palms                development. In the meantime,
        hanging over it in places.                     visitors have it all to themselves but
    •   Yasawa Island (the Yasawas): Several           will have to stay at nearby Papageno
        of Fiji’s best beaches are on Yasawa,          Resort (p. 176) or Dive Kadavu/
        the northernmost island in the                 Matana Beach Resort (p. 175).
        Yasawa chain. One long stretch of          •   Matana Beach (Kadavu): Also on
        sand near the north end is divided by          Kadavu’s north shore, Matana Beach
        big black rocks flanked by two Fijian          combines deep white sand with a
        villages. Another in front of Yasawa           deep lagoon. Bordered by a Fijian vil-
        Island Resort and Spa (p. 148) also            lage and Dive Kadavu/Matana
        has rocks plus waves, a rarity among           Beach Resort (p. 175), Matana has a
        Fijian beaches.                                fine view westward along Kadavu’s
    •   Nanuyalailai Island (the Yasawas):             shore.
        About midway along the Yasawa              •   Volivoli Beach (Rakiraki): At the
        chain, Nanuya is skirted on its south          very northern tip of Viti Levu a few
        side by a long beach that wraps around         kilometers from Rakiraki, lovely
        a coconut palm–studded peninsula               Volivoli also has soft white sand, a
        and keeps on going. Nanuya Island              deep lagoon, and a spectacular view
        Resort (p. 146) sits on the western            southwestward toward Viti Levu’s
        end, while Blue Lagoon Cruises                 mountains. You don’t have to pay a
        (p. 131) uses the sands on the other           fortune either, with inexpensive
        side of the peninsula.                         Volivoli Beach Resort (p. 201) just
    •   Nacula Island (the Yasawas): The               around the corner.
        inexpensive Oarsmans Bay Lodge             •   Namenalala Island (off Savusavu):
        (p. 147), on Nacula Island, sits beside        The main beach at the remote little
        one of the top beaches in Fiji, a glori-       resort known as Moody’s Namena is
        ous strip of sand emptying into a              one of the finest I’ve seen in Fiji, but
        lagoon that is deep at all tides.              owners Tom and Joan Moody have
    •   Natadola Beach (the Coral Coast):              marked four other private beaches
        Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu doesn’t        with OCCUPIED/UNOCCUPIED signs.
        have the high-quality beaches found            See p. 226.
        on the country’s small islands, but        •   Prince Charles Beach (Taveuni):
        Natadola is the exception (p. 152).            The northern coast of Taveuni has
        Until recently this long stretch was           three great beaches within walking
        spared development, but a big resort           distance of each other, the best being
        is coming.                                     Prince Charles Beach, so named
    •   Vatulele Island Resort (Vatulele):             because said prince once took a dip in
        The luxury resort on Vatulele Island           its warm lagoon. See p. 236.
        has new owners and has been under-         •   Horseshoe Bay (Matagi Island):
        going significant changes, but the             Matagi is an extinct volcano whose
        1km (1⁄2 mile) of sand in front of it          crater fell away on one side and
        remains one of the most brilliantly            formed picturesque Horseshoe Bay.
        white beaches in Fiji. See p. 163.             The half-moon-shape beach at its
    •   Long Beach (Kadavu): Fiji’s longest            head is one of the finest in the
        beach runs for several kilometers              islands, but you have to be on a yacht
        along the north shore of Kadavu                or a guest at Matangi Island Resort
        Island, where one resort is under              to enjoy it (p. 242).
                                                  THE MOST ROMANTIC RESORTS                  5

 3 The Most Romantic Resorts
Fiji is a marvelous place for honeymoons                cost-conscious honeymooners, and it
and other romantic escapes. I’ve never                  has one of Fiji’s best beaches. See
stayed anywhere as love-enhancing as a                  p. 138.
thatched-roof bungalow on the beach.                •   Turtle Island (Nanuya Levu Island,
You’ll find lots of these in Fiji. A few are            the Yasawas; & 877/288-7853 or
built on stilts out over the lagoon, while              672 2921; www.turtlefiji.com): Fiji’s
others have their own swimming pools                    first top-end resort continues to offer
and hot tubs.                                           romance beside its seemingly land-
   Fiji’s numerous small, relatively remote             locked “Blue Lagoon.” Its most pri-
offshore resorts offer as much privacy as               vate bungalow lacks a whirlpool but
you are likely to desire. Many of these                 has a 360-degree view of the lagoon
establishments have less than 20 bunga-                 and surrounding islands. See p. 146.
lows each, instead of the 40 or more                •   Yasawa Island Resort and Spa
found in French Polynesia and elsewhere,                (Yasawa Island, the Yasawas; & 672
which means they are usually widely                     2266; www.yasawa.com): Sitting on
spaced. Many are even on islands all by                 one of the prettiest beaches in Fiji,
themselves.                                             Yasawa Island Resort and Spa has a
   They are so romantic that a friend of                very low-key, friendly ambience to go
mine says her ideal wedding would be to                 with its very large bungalows, the
rent an entire small resort, take her wed-              choicest being the secluded honey-
ding party with her, get married in Fijian              moon unit with its own beach (it
costume beside the beach, and make the                  even has a private pool). See p. 148.
rest of her honeymoon a diving vacation.            •   Navutu Stars Resort (Yaqueta Island,
   Every offshore resort in Fiji qualifies as           the Yasawas; & 664 0553; www.
a very good romantic retreat, but I’m                   navutustarsfiji.com): Also in the
headed to one of the following when                     Yasawa Islands, Navutu Stars Resort
Cupid strikes. Most have full-service spas              has a spa and yoga sessions in addi-
for your pampering pleasure.                            tion to fine food brought to you by
  • Likuliku Lagoon Resort (Malolo                      its Italian owners. See p. 142.
     Island, the Mamanucas; & 672 4275              •   The Wakaya Club (Wakaya Island;
     or 666 3344; www.likulikulagoon.                   & 344 0128; www.wakaya.com): In
     com). This exquisitely designed resort             central Fiji near Ovalau Island, the
     is tops in the Mamanuca Islands, pri-              Wakaya Club is generally considered
     marily because it’s the first in Fiji with         Fiji’s top resort. It has some of the
     overwater bungalows. See p. 136.                   country’s largest bungalows, plus a
  • Tokoriki Island Resort (Tokoriki                    palatial mansion with its own pool,
     Island, the Mamanucas; & 666 1999;                 perched high atop a ridge. The staff
     www.tokoriki.com): The beach at                    leaves the guests to their own devices,
     Tokoriki has erosion problems, but it              and you might see a movie star or two
     has five bungalows with their own                  relaxing here. See p. 213.
     plunge pools (p. 140).                         •   Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands
  • Matamanoa Island Resort (Mata-                      Resort (Savusavu; & 800/246-3454
     manoa Island, the Mamanucas; & 666                 or 885 0188; www.fijiresort.com):
     0511; www.matamanoa.com): It’s                     “Cousteau” is Fiji’s best family hotel.
     less luxurious than Tokoriki, but                  It expertly herds the kids away in the
     Matamanoa is a good choice for                     award-winning Bula Club, and young
6        CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI



      Fun Fact Getting Hitched in Fiji
    These romantic islands are marvelous places to get married, and becoming offi-
    cially hitched is relatively easy in Fiji. You do not have to be a resident, and
    obtaining the necessary licenses and permits requires only a few days. Most
    resorts will take care of the formalities and organize traditional ceremonies
    (which can take place on the beach if you like). Their wedding coordinators will
    tell you what documents you will need to bring (or send in advance) and what
    local formalities you will need to execute. Do not even think of making the
    arrangements yourself.


      ones are seldom if ever seen in a beau-       with hot tubs, and the honeymoon
      tiful honeymoon villa with its own            unit is built up in a tree. See p. 238.
      swimming pool. See p. 222.                  • Matangi Island Resort (Matagi
    • Namale – The Fiji Islands Resort &            Island, off Taveuni; & 888/628-
      Spa (Savusavu; & 800/727-3454 or              2644 or 888 0260; www.matangi
      885 0435; www.namalefiji.com):                island.com): One of the widely
      Motivational speaker Anthony Rob-             spaced bungalows at Matangi Island
      bins’s luxurious resort also has pri-         Resort is built up in a Pacific almond
      vate, pool-equipped villas plus a             tree, while two others are carved in
      bowling alley, golf simulator, and a          the side of a cliff. They all have out-
      ton of other toys. See p. 223.                door bathrooms. See p. 242.
    • Coconut Grove Beachfront Cot-               • Qamea Resort and Spa (Qamea
      tages (Taveuni; &/fax 888 0328;               Island, off Taveuni; & 866/867-
      www.coconutgrovefiji.com): Ronna              2632 or 888 0220; www.qamea.
      Goldstein’s charming three-unit, bed-         com): Among my favorite places to
      and-breakfast-like hotel is one of Fiji’s     stay are the charming, old South
      best bargains for anyone, including           Seas–style bungalows at Qamea
      honeymooners on a budget. See                 Island Resort and Spa. More luxuri-
      p. 237.                                       ous still are the two units specifically
    • Maravu Plantation Beach Resort &              designed for honeymooners and two
      Spa (Taveuni; & 866/528-3864 or               more with their own plunge pools.
      888 0555; www.maravu.net): Mar-               Kerosene lanterns romantically light
      avu is not directly on the beach (a           the 16m-high (52-ft.) thatched roof
      picturesque one is just across the            of Qamea’s main building at night.
      road); but bungalows come equipped            See p. 243.

    4 The Best Places to Get Away from It All
Some of Fiji’s offshore resorts are better at another property walking along your
getting away from it all than others. The stretch of private beach.
ones I list below are small enough that         • Wadigi Island Resort (Wadigi
you won’t have a lot of company, and—             Island, the Mamanucas; & 672 0901;
since they are on islands all by them-            www.wadigi.com): On a tiny islet,
selves—you won’t have people from                 Wadigi Island Resort has just three
                           T H E B E S T P L A C E S T O G E T A W AY F R O M I T A L L      7

    units, all on top of a peak with a glo-          little resort has been a top dive base
    rious view of nearby Malolo Island               since 1983, but it has begun using
    and the surrounding Mamanucas. It’s              the name Matana Beach Resort to
    expensive and very private, so no one            take advantage of its location on one
    will care if you run around naked. See           of Fiji’s most beautiful beaches. See
    p. 141.                                          p. 175.
•   Matamanoa Island Resort (Mata-               •   Matava—The Astrolabe Hideaway
    manoa Island, the Mamanucas; & 666               (Kadavu Island; & 333 6222; www.
    0511; www.matamanoa.com): In the                 matava.com): Much farther than
    westernmost of the Mamanucas, this               Dive Kadavu from the airstrip—at
    remote little resort is one of Fiji’s            least 45 minutes by small boat—
    most reasonably priced romantic                  Matava is so eco-friendly it has no
    resorts, and its beach is superb. See            air-conditioners and turns on the
    p. 138.                                          solar-powered lights only at night.
•   Yasawa Island Resort and Spa                     Made primarily of thatch and other
    (Yasawa Island, the Yasawas; & 672               natural materials, its bungalows are
    2266; www.yasawa.com): Another                   both basic and charming. It’s close to
    great honeymoon choice, Yasawa                   many Great Astrolabe Reef dive
    Island Resort and Spa has no neigh-              sights, but it also specializes in kayak-
    bors and is therefore very private. Its          ing trips and bird-watching. See
    secluded honeymoon bure (bunga-                  p. 176.
    low) has its own private beach and           •   The Wakaya Club (Wakaya Island;
    pool. See p. 148.                                & 344 0128; www.wakaya.com):
•   Lalati Resort & Spa (Beqa Island;                Except for a few private villas owned
    & 347 2033; www.lalati-fiji.com):                by Hollywooders and other well-
    Beside picturesque Malumu Bay and                heeled types, Fiji’s top resort has all of
    enjoying a fine view of the Beqa                 Wakaya Island to itself. Nicole Kid-
    Lagoon and Viti Levu’s southern                  man, Russell Crowe, and other Aussie
    shore, Lalati appeals to couples look-           celebs have been known to take a
    ing to dive, or to just get away. The            break at Wakaya on their way home.
    full-service spa is augmented by an              See p. 213.
    air-conditioned lounge with TV and           •   Moody’s Namena (Namenalala
    DVD player, and the outdoor pool                 Island, off Savusavu; & 881 3764;
    helps compensate for a poor beach.               www.moodysnamenafiji.com): You
    See p. 170.                                      either take a seaplane or ride a boat
•   Royal Davui Island Fiji (in Beqa                 for more than an hour to reach Joan
    Lagoon; & 330 7090; www.royal                    and Tom Moody’s little resort. Not
    davui.com): On a tiny, rocky islet in            only is Namenalala surrounded by
    Beqa Lagoon, this luxury resort is set           the fabulous Namea Reef, but the
    above a small beach. Bungalows are               island also has five beaches, four of
    built in an old-growth hillside, but             them so private the pathways leading
    guests are compensated by marvelous              to them have OCCUPIED/UNOCCUPIED
    views from each unit’s plunge pool–              signs to prevent your fellow guests
    equipped veranda. See p. 170.                    from disturbing you. See p. 227.
•   Dive Kadavu/Matana Beach Resort              •   Matangi Island Resort (Matagi
    (Kadavu Island; & 368 3502; www.                 Island, off Taveuni; & 888/628-
    divekadavu.com): Only a 10-minute                2644 or 888 0260; www.matangi
    boat ride from Kadavu’s airstrip, this           island.com): This couples-only resort’s
8       CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI

      honeymoon bungalow up in a Pacific            or 888 0220; www.qamea.com):
      almond tree is both charming and              Qamea’s two luxurious honeymoon
      private, and you can walk over the            bungalows are situated on one end of
      hill and have the gorgeous beach in           the resort, although I prefer the two
      Horseshoe Bay all to yourselves. See          other villas with their own plunge
      p. 242.                                       pools. See p. 243.
    • Qamea Resort and Spa (Qamea
      Island, off Taveuni; & 866/867-2632

    5 The Best Family Resorts
There are no Disney Worlds or other                 comfortable Treasure Island occupies
such attractions in Fiji. That’s not to say         a tiny, beach-fringed islet, the middle
that children won’t have a fine time here,          of which has a children’s program, a
for Fiji draws many Australians and New             miniature golf course, and baby sea
Zealanders on family holidays. It has one           turtles swimming in a breeding pool.
of the South Pacific’s finest family resorts,       See p. 132.
and others make provisions for families as      •   Castaway Island Resort (Qalito
well as honeymooners. Kids who like                 Island, the Mamanucas; & 800/888-
being around and in the water will enjoy            0120 or 666 1233; www.castaway
themselves most.                                    fiji.com): One of Fiji’s oldest resorts
   With their innate love of children,              but thoroughly refurbished, Cast-
Fijians are very good at babysitting and            away has plenty to keep both adults
staffing the kids’ programs at the major            and children occupied, from a wide
resorts.                                            array of watersports to a kids’ play-
   On the other hand, many of Fiji’s small          room and a nursery. See p. 138.
resorts do not accept young children. I         •   Malolo Island Fiji (Malolo Island,
point these out in my hotel reviews.                the Mamanucas; & 666 9192; www.
   Obvious family choices are the large             maloloisland.com): This sister of the
hotels on Denarau Island. The Fiji Beach            adults-only Likuliku Lagoon Resort
Resort & Spa Managed by Hilton, the                 has a fine beach, as well as a shaded
Sheraton Fiji Resort, the Sheraton                  swimming pool designed with chil-
Denarau Villas, the Sofitel Fiji Resort             dren in mind. See p. 137.
& Spa, the Radisson Resort Fiji Dena-           •   Mana Island Resort (Mana Island,
rau Island, and the Westin Denarau                  the Mamanucas; & 665 0423; www.
Island Resort & Spa are all equipped for            manafiji.com): Relatively large Mana
families with children. Of them, the                Island Resort caters to everyone and
Radisson, has Fiji’s best swimming-pool             gets many day-trippers from Nadi;
complex. See chapter 5.                             but the beach is safe, and it has one of
   Likewise, the Outrigger on the                   the better children’s programs in the
Lagoon Fiji, the Warwick Fiji Resort &              Mamanuca Islands. See p. 137.
Spa, and the Naviti Resort on the Coral         •   Plantation Island Resort (Malolo-
Coast all have plenty to keep the kids              lailai Island, the Mamanucas; & 666
occupied. See chapter 7.                            9333; www.plantationisland.com):
   Here are my recommendations among                The largest resort in the Mamanucas
the smaller resorts.                                has long appealed to Australian fami-
  • Treasure Island Resort (Luvuka                  lies, offering a wide range of accom-
     Island, the Mamanucas; & 666 6999;             modations and activities, including a
     www.fiji-treasure.com): Modest but
                  T H E B E S T C U LT U R A L & E N V I R O N M E N T A L E X P E R I E N C E S   9

    children’s program with a full-time                  and the Coral Coast. You may
    babysitter. See p. 135.                              exhaust yourself chasing the young-
  • Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji (Coral                  sters around its sprawling grounds,
    Coast; & 800/688-7444 or 650                         but the hotel has plenty of activities
    0044; www.outrigger.com): The                        for all ages. See p. 155.
    beach and shallow lagoon at the Out-               • Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands
    rigger leave much to be desired, but it              Resort (Savusavu; & 800/246-3454
    has an exceptional swimming pool.                    or 885 0188; www.fijiresort.com):
    See p. 156.                                          Although it appeals equally to cou-
  • Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa                     ples, Fiji’s finest family resort encour-
    (Yanuca Island, the Coral Coast;                     ages parents to enroll their kids in its
    & 866/565-5050 or 652 0155;                          exceptional Bula Club, thus keeping
    www.shangri-la.com): The country’s                   the youngsters educated, entertained,
    largest resort with 442 units, “The                  and out of sight from breakfast to
    Fijian” has a better beach and lagoon                bedtime. See p. 222.
    than its big rivals on Denarau Island

 6 The Best Cultural & Environmental Experiences
The Fijians are justly proud of their                    from 5 B.C. to A.D. 240 have been
ancient culture, and they eagerly inform                 found among these dunes, which
anyone who asks about both their ancient                 stretch for several miles along Viti
and modern ways. Here are some of the                    Levu’s southern coast. See p. 153.
best ways to learn about their lifestyle and           • Tavuni Hill Fort (near Sigatoka, the
explore the environment of their islands.                Coral Coast; & 650 0818): This best
  • Fijian Village Visits (nationwide):                  example of a traditional Fijian fort
    Many tours from Nadi, the Coral                      stands atop a hill east of Sigatoka. It
    Coast, and most offshore resorts                     renders both a glimpse of what war
    include visits to traditional Fijian vil-            was like in the old days and a splen-
    lages, whose residents stage welcom-                 did view over the Sigatoka River Val-
    ing ceremonies (featuring the slightly               ley. See p. 154.
    narcotic drink kava, or yaqona as it’s             • Kula Eco Park (Korotogo, the Coral
    known in Fiji). The hosts then show                  Coast; & 650 0505; www.fijiwild.
    visitors around and explain how the                  com): Opposite the Outrigger on the
    old and the new combine in today’s                   Lagoon Fiji, this nature park exhibits
    villages. See “Exploring the Nadi                    most of Fiji’s endemic species of
    Area,” p. 100.                                       birds, reptiles, and mammals. Chil-
  • Kalevu South Pacific Cultural Cen-                   dren are given a chance to handle
    tre (the Coral Coast; & 652 0200;                    some of the creatures in a petting zoo.
    www.fijiculturalcentre.com): Oppo-                   See p. 154.
    site Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa,             • Waterfall and Cave Tours (the Coral
    this cultural center exhibits handi-                 Coast): On walking tours offered by
    craft making, cooking, and skills of                 Adventures in Paradise Fiji (& 652
    Fiji, Samoa, and other Pacific islands.              0833; www.adventuresinparadisefiji.
    See p. 153.                                          com), you will be welcomed into a
  • Sigatoka Sand Dunes National                         Fijian village plus see a cave and one
    Park (near Sigatoka, the Coral Coast;                of the country’s many waterfalls. See
    & 652 0243): Ancient Fijian burial                   p. 154.
    grounds and pieces of pottery dating
10     CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI

  • Arts Village Cultural Centre (Pacific       You’ll see an enormous amount of
    Harbour; & 345 0065; www.arts               tropical produce for sale at Suva’s
    village.com): A reconstructed tradi-        main supplier of food. The market is
    tional Fijian village built of thatch       especially active on Saturday morn-
    and other local materials is the cen-       ing. See p. 182.
    terpiece of this cultural center, which   • Rainforest Walks (Savusavu): No
    has fire-walking shows in addition to       wires are in place to allow exploration
    demonstrations of old-time Fijian           of the canopy, but earthly gravel path-
    skills. See p. 165.                         ways lead to a waterfall in Waisali
  • Rafting on the Navua River (Pacific         Rainforest Reserve (no phone), a
    Harbour): The Navua River begins in         116-hectare (290-acre) national forest
    the highlands and ends on the south-        up in the central mountains of Vanua
    ern coast of Viti Levu, on the way          Levu. See p. 219.
    cutting two gorges, one of them           • Adventure Cruises on the Tui Tai
    dubbed the “Grand Canyon of Fiji.”          (Savusavu; & 885 3032; www.tuitai.
    Rafting on the river—either by inflat-      com): Passengers on the small but
    able raft through the white-water           luxurious sailing ship Tui Tai spend
    gorge with Rivers Fiji (& 800/446-          much of their time snorkeling, div-
    2411 in the U.S., or 345 0147; www.         ing, and mountain biking, but they
    riversfiji.com) or while riding lashed-     also get to visit Fijian villages on
    together bamboo poles (a bilibili raft)     remote islands such as Kioa. See
    through the lazy lowlands with Dis-         p. 220.
    cover Fiji Tours (& 345 0180;             • Bouma Falls and Lavena Coastal
    www.discoverfijitours.com)—is one           Walk (Taveuni): Although Taveuni is
    of Fiji’s top outdoor experiences. See      best known for world-class scuba div-
    p. 166.                                     ing, it’s also one of the best places in
  • Fiji Museum (Thurston Park, Suva;           Fiji to explore the mountainous inte-
    & 331 5944; www.fijimuseum.                 rior. Bouma Falls National Heritage
    org.fj): The small but very good Fiji       Park (& 888 0390) has three water-
    Museum has a terrific collection of         falls, and the Lavena Coastal Walk
    war clubs, cannibal forks, and other        (& 923 9080) leads along the island’s
    ancient artifacts, plus the rudder of       nearly deserted east coast to yet
    HMS Bounty. See p. 182.                     another falls—though you’ll need to
  • Suva Municipal Market (Usher St.            swim to reach it. See p. 233.
    at Rodwell Rd., Suva; no phone):

 7 The Best of the Old South Seas
Fiji is developing rapidly, with modern,        look” at their shops. The town was
fast-paced towns replacing what were            laid out by the British, with broad
once small villages and sleepy backwater        streets, shady sidewalks, and pleasant
ports. However, a few places still harken       parks. See “Lautoka,” in chapter 5.
back to the old South Sea days of coconut     • Sigatoka: The riverfront town of
planters, beach bums, and missionaries.         Sigatoka, on the Coral Coast, isn’t as
  • Lautoka: Fiji’s second-largest city is      pleasing to the eye as Lautoka, but it
     still small enough to walk around,         still makes its living not from tourists
     and it’s genteel citizens normally         but from trading with the farmers in
     won’t hassle you to “come in, take a       the picturesque Sigatoka River Valley.
                                                 THE BEST DINING EXPERIENCES              11

    It’s the only place in Fiji where I’ve         • Levuka (Ovalau Island): No other
    seen Muslim women wearing head-                  town has remained the same after a
    to-toe burkas. See chapter 7.                    century as much as has Levuka, Fiji’s
  • Kadavu: The long, skinny island of               first European-style town and its
    Kadavu, some 100km (60 miles)                    original colonial capital in the 1870s.
    south of Viti Levu, has a road on one            The dramatic cliffs of Ovalau Island
    end, but you must take a boat to                 hemmed in the town and prevented
    reach all its best spots. That’s one bit         growth, so the government moved to
    of evidence of how little Kadavu has             Suva in 1882. Levuka looks very
    changed. Unlike Fiji’s other large               much as it did then, with a row of
    islands, it has no sugar-cane farms, no          clapboard general stores along pictur-
    mongooses, no iguanas, no myna                   esque Beach Street. See chapter 12.
    birds, and few if any Fiji Indians. The        • Savusavu: You’re apt to see more
    result: It’s like the rest of Fiji used to       Americans strolling the streets of pic-
    be. See chapter 9.                               turesque Savusavu than anywhere else
  • Suva: The British are long gone, and             in Fiji, since so many of them have
    Suva today is the largest, most vibrant          purchased land near there, but the
    city in the South Pacific islands. But           town still has the feel of the days
    among its new high-rise office towers            when schooners would pick up cargo
    are grand colonial buildings, orderly            at places like the Copra Shed. See
    parks, and a mixed population that               chapter 13.
    dates back to the days of the Raj. See         • Taveuni: Fiji’s lush “Garden Island”
    chapter 10.                                      has changed little since Europeans
  • Rakiraki: On the northern tip of Viti            bought land holdings and started
    Levu, the Fijian village of Rakiraki             coconut plantations in the 19th cen-
    and its surrounding countryside seem             tury. You can stay with descendants of
    caught in a time warp, provided you              one of those early planters at Vatuwiri
    don’t notice the few small real-estate           Farm Resort (& 888 0316; www.
    developments creeping into the hills             vatuwirifiji.com; p. 240). With a large
    (will we Westerners ever stop wanting            population of indigenous plants and
    to buy our own piece of paradise?).              animals, Taveuni is a nature lover’s
    See chapter 11.                                  delight and the best place to go hiking
                                                     in Fiji. See chapter 14.

 8 The Best Dining Experiences
You won’t be stuck eating only island-               and dining complex, Indigo is the
style food cooked in an earth oven (see              second-best Indian restaurant in Fiji,
“Eating & Drinking in Fiji,” in chapter              behind Saffron (see below), but it also
2), nor will you be limited by New                   pulls from Southeast Asian culinary
Zealanders’ and Australians’ traditionally           tradition with Thai-style crab and
bland tastes, which until recently pre-              Rendang curry. Most dining is
dominated at many restaurants in Fiji.               alfresco. See p. 122.
The Indians brought curries to Fiji, and           • Bullacino (Nadi Town; & 672 8638):
exciting new restaurants are offering cui-           I’ve had terrific breakfasts and lunches
sine from around the world.                          at this sophisticated coffee shop
   Here are some of my favorites.                    beside the Nadi River. Unfortunately,
  • Indigo (Denarau Island; & 675                    it is not open for dinner. See p. 122.
     0026): In the Port Denarau shopping
12    CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI

 • Chefs The Restaurant (Nadi Town;               inexpensive, Maya Dhaba is Suva’s
   & 670 3131): Along with Indigo,                most sophisticated restaurant, offer-
   this formal restaurant is the creation         ing authentic Indian cuisine at
   of Chef Eugene Gomes, who came                 extraordinarily reasonable prices in a
   here from Goa, India. The service is           hip, urbane environment. Both meat
   attentive, and the international fare is       and vegetarian dishes appear here.
   very good. See p. 123.                         See p. 194.
 • Saffron (Nadi Town; & 670 1233):           •   Old Mill Cottage (47–49 Carnavon
   Another Eugene Gomes creation,                 St., Suva; & 331 2134): Diplomats
   Saffron consistently serves Fiji’s best        and government workers pack this
   northern Indian cuisine, and it’s tops         old colonial cottage at breakfast and
   for vegetarians, too. See p. 123.              lunch for some of the region’s best
 • Nadina Authentic Fijian Restau-                and least expensive local fare. Offer-
   rant (Queen’s Rd., Martintar, Nadi;            ings range from English-style roast
   & 672 7313): While most resorts                chicken with mashed potatoes and
   serve native food only on the buffets          peas to Fijian-style palusami (fresh
   at their nighttime island feasts, this         fish wrapped in taro leaves and
   little restaurant serves great Fijian          steamed in coconut milk). See p. 194.
   fare—such as the luscious ota miti,        •   Surf ’n’ Turf (Copra Shed, Savusavu;
   the tender young shoots of the wood            & 881 0966): A veteran of Jean-
   fern served with coconut milk—                 Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort,
   round-the-clock. See p. 124.                   Chef Vijendra Kumar is very good
 • The Outer Reef Seafood Café/                   with tropical lobsters, and he often
   Sandbar Restaurant (Queen’s Rd.,               accompanies them with ota miti, my
   Martintar, Nadi; & 672 7201): No               favorite Fijian vegetable. See p. 227.
   other restaurant has as wide an array      •   Coconut Grove Restaurant (Matei,
   of seafood as this stylish outdoor cafe.       Taveuni; & 888 0328): I love the
   Much of it is flown in fresh from Aus-         fresh banana bread and the Thai fish
   tralia. See p. 124.                            at Ronna Goldstein’s little hotel on
 • Vilisite’s Seafood Restaurant (The             Taveuni. Adding to the enjoyment is
   Coral Coast; & 653 0054): This sea-            the view from her veranda of the
   side restaurant, owned and operated            rocky islets off Taveuni. See p. 241.
   by a friendly Fijian woman named           •   Tramontu Bar & Grill (Matei, Tave-
   Vilisite, doesn’t look like much from          uni; & 888 2224): The pizzas and
   the outside, but it offers a handful of        other fare at this local restaurant
   excellent seafood meals to augment a           aren’t that great, but it has a million-
   terrific view along the Coral Coast.           dollar view of the Somosomo Strait
   See p. 162.                                    from its clifftop perch. See p. 242.
 • Hare Krishna Restaurant (16 Pratt          •   Vunibokoi Restaurant (Matei, Tave-
   St., Suva; & 331 4154): I always               uni; & 888 0560): This plain restau-
   have at least one lunch at this clean,         rant on the front porch of the
   casual vegetarian restaurant. Choos-           inexpensive Tovu Tovu Resort has
   ing is easy, since everything is pre-          one of the best Friday night buffets of
   sented cafeteria-style. See p. 193.            Fijian lovo food (cooked in an under-
 • Maya Dhaba (281 Victoria Parade,               ground oven). See p. 242.
   Suva; & 331 0045): Although
                                           THE BEST DIVING & SNORKELING               13

 9 The Best Buys
Take some extra money along to spend             cotton, Fijians used tapa, the beaten
on handicrafts, black pearls, and tropical       bark of the paper mulberry tree,
clothing. For the locations of the best          known here as masi. The resulting
shops, see the shopping sections in chap-        cloth is painted with dyes made from
ters 5, 10, and 13.                              natural substances, usually in geo-
  • Black Pearls: Long the specialty of          metric designs that have ancestries
     French Polynesia and the Cook               dating back thousands of years. Tapa
     Islands, black pearls are now being         is an excellent souvenir because it can
     produced in Fiji, and they are reason-      be folded and brought back in a suit-
     ably high-quality. The top farm is          case. Woodcarvings are also popular.
     J. Hunter Pearls (& 885 0821; www.          Spears, war clubs, knives made from
     pearlsfiji.com; p. 221) in Savusavu.        sharks’ teeth, canoe prows, and can-
     The peculiarities of the seawater in        nibal forks are some examples. Many
     Savusavu Bay result in unique yellow        carvings, however, tend to be pro-
     pearls known as Fiji Gold. The farm         duced for the tourist trade and often
     shop is the best place to buy them,         lack the imagery of bygone days, and
     but they are available in some              some are now machine-produced.
     hotel boutiques and in the Tappoo         • Tropical Clothing: Colorful hand-
     department stores in Nadi Town and          screened, hand-blocked, and hand-
     elsewhere.                                  dyed fabrics are very popular in the
  • Handicrafts: Although many of the            islands for making dresses or the
     items you will see in souvenir shops        wraparound skirt known as a sulu in
     are actually made in Asia, locally pro-     Fiji. Heat-sensitive dyes are applied by
     duced handicrafts are some of Fiji’s        hand to cotton, which is then laid in
     best souvenir buys. The most wide-          the sun for several hours. Flowers,
     spread are hats, mats, and baskets          leaves, and other designs are placed on
     woven of pandanus or other fibers,          the fabric, and, as the heat of the sun
     usually by women who have main-             darkens and sets the dyes, the shadows
     tained this ancient art. Before the         from these objects leave their images
     European traders brought printed            behind on the finished product.

 10 The Best Diving & Snorkeling
With nutrient-rich waters welling up         The best areas to dive are listed here.
from the Tonga Trench offshore and See “Diving & Snorkeling” under “The
being carried by strong currents funnel- Active Traveler,” in chapter 3, for addi-
ing through narrow passages, Fiji is tional advice and information.
famous for some of the world’s most col-     • Shark Diving (Pacific Harbour): The
orful soft corals.                             dive masters lure tiger, bull, and other
   All the islands have excellent scuba div-   sharks by feeding them in these excit-
ing and snorkeling, and all but a few of       ing dives off southern Viti Levu. It’s
the resorts either have their own dive         not for novices. See chapter 8.
operations or can easily make arrange-       • Beqa Lagoon (off Beqa Island): Beqa
ments with a local company. Many dive          Lagoon has soft corals, especially at
operators will take snorkelers along; that’s   Frigate Passage, where they seem to
my favorite way to go snorkeling in Fiji.      fall over one another. See chapter 8.
14     CHAPTER 1 . THE BEST OF FIJI

  • Great Astrolabe Reef (off Kadavu):             now a protected marine reserve pop-
    Skirting the eastern and southern sides        ulated by both soft and hard corals.
    of Kadavu, the Great Astrolabe Reef            See chapter 13.
    has lost much of its reef-top soft corals    • Somosomo Strait (off Taveuni): The
    but still has plenty over the sides. It        narrow passage between Vanua Levu
    also attracts Fiji’s largest concentration     and Taveuni is Fiji’s most famous site
    of manta rays. See chapter 9.                  for soft corals, especially its Great
  • Namena Marine Protected Reserve                White Wall and Rainbow Reef. The
    (off Savusavu): This magnificent bar-          snorkeling is very good here, too, but
    rier reef that nearly surrounds                watch out for strong currents and
    Moody’s Namena resort (p. 227) is              sharks. See chapter 14.

 11 The Best Offbeat Travel Experiences
Some cynics might say that a visit to Fiji         to do, but sliding along cables strung
itself is an offbeat experience, but these         across a rainforest canopy in Fiji
five really are.                                   strikes me as offbeat. You can do just
   • Getting Asked to Dance (nation-               that with ZIP Fiji (& 930 0545;
     wide): I’ve seen so many traditional          www.zip-fiji.com) in Pacific Harbour.
     Fijian meke dance shows that I now            See p. 166.
     stand by the rear door, ready to beat a     • Jet-Skiing to Your Hotel (Taveuni):
     quick escape before those lovely              You can get to your Fiji hotel by taxi,
     young women can grab my hand and              ferry, boat, plane, seaplane, helicopter,
     force me to make a fool of myself by          even on foot, but only at Paradise
     joining them on stage. It’s part of the       Taveuni (&/fax 888 0125; www.
     tourist experience at all resorts, and        paradiseinfiji.com) will you have the
     it’s all in good fun.                         option of riding a jet ski. See p. 235.
   • Rise of the Balolo (nationwide):            • Living on a Copra Plantation
     Dawn after the full moon in October           (Taveuni): The first successful indus-
     sees thousands of Fijians out on the          try in Fiji was extracting the meat
     reefs with buckets to snare the wig-          from coconuts and drying it into
     gling balolo, a coral worm that comes         copra, from which the oil is extracted
     out to mate only then. Actually, the          for cooking, cosmetics, and other
     rear ends of the worms break off and          products. In the 19th century, Euro-
     swim to the surface, spewing eggs and         peans created large copra plantations,
     sperm in a reproductive frenzy lasting        many of which are still operational.
     only a few hours. Fijians consider the        You can actually share one of them
     slimy balolo to be their caviar.              with the descendants of the original
   • Sliding Through a Jungle Canopy               English planter at Vatuwiri Farm
     (Pacific Harbour): Those of you who           Resort (& 888 0316; www.vatuwiri
     have been to Costa Rica or the Ama-           fiji.com). See p. 240.
     zon may think it’s an ordinary thing

								
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