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  • Fiji-islet - Pleasure craft form a ring around an islet resort in Fiji.
  • hammock-fiji - Lean back and enjoy the gentle breezes of Fiji.
  • palms-reach-fiji - Palm's Reach on Castaway Island, Fiji.
  • Fiji-waterfall-cliff-jumping - Come to Fiji and race a waterfall.
  • Fiji-surfing - Fiji boasts some of the gnarliest waves in the world, including an annual Fiji Pro surf contest.
  • Fiji-inlet - A perfectly still inlet serves as a mirror for Fiji's lush scenery.
  • fish-rainbow-reef-fiji - The fish of Rainbow Reef on Vanua Levu, Fiji.
  • fiji-bay - The amazing view at Liku Lagoon in Fiji's Yasawa Islands, where cruise ship passengers can stroll the empty beaches or snorkel on reefs teeming with tropical fish.
  • soft-coral-fiji - Red and yellow soft coral in a reef in Fiji.
  • suva-fiji - Suva, Fiji.
  • beach-leleuvia-fiji - A beach on Leleuvia, Fiji.
  • fijian-children-dancing-meke - Solo, 4, and Mariana, 3, dance to Fijian music during a meke in the small village of Namuamua in the interior of Fiji's main island.
  • kava-ceremony-namuamua-fiji - The ceremonial mixing of kava, made from the crushed root of the pepper plant, in Namuamua, Fiji.
  • beach-matacawalevu-fiji - Matacawalevu beach, Fiji.
  • parrots-beak-Garden-of-Sleeping-Giant-Fiji - A parrot's beak at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant on Viti Levu, Fiji's main island.
  • village-home-fiji - A traditional village home in Fiji.
  • castaway-island-fiji - Castaway Island, Fiji.
  • god-four-arms-nadi-fiji - A Hindu deity at the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu, Fiji.
  • beach-view-Castaway-Island-Fiji - The exquisite view of the reef from the beach on the west side of Castaway Island. Some bures, or cottages, are only 20 steps from the water.
  • Fiji-overlook - A scenic overlook on the coastline of Fiji.
  • Fiji-lagoon-and-islet - Another day in paradise: Fiji's lagoons shimmer in hues of aquamarine, cerulean and turquoise.
  • chiefs-bure-Malakati-Yasawa-Islands - The village chief's bure, a traditional thatched-roof dwelling, in Malakati, a village of 180 in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji.
  • kava-ceremony-mamanuca-islands-fiji - A kava ceremony, this one in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji. No flash photography was allowed inside during the ceremony.
  • heliconia-Garden-of-Sleeping-Giant-Fiji - A lobster claw, or heliconia, at Fiji's Garden of the Sleeping Giant, home to 25,000 species of flowers.
  • Treasure-Island-Fiji - The Tui Tai, a sail cruiser, passes by Treasure Island, one of five resort islands in the Mamanuca group. The shot was taken from Beachcomber Island.
  • Fiji-romance-waterfall - Romance is as easy to find as a tranquil waterfall in Fiji.
  • tropical-bird-fiji.jpg - An orange-breasted Myzomela at De Voeux Peak on Taveuni, Fiji.
  • kava-ceremony-navala-fiji - Kava ceremony at Bulou's Guest House in Navala Village, Fiji.
  • clown-benny-fiji - A Fiji Clown Blenny on a Black-banded Sea Cucumber in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji
  • flower-fiji - A flower in western Fiji.
  • Fiji-warrior-1 - A Fiji warrior in traditional garb.
  • children-swimming-Yasawa-Islands - Local children play in the reef in the Yasawa Islands.
  • Fiji-lagoon-boating - Boating in an azure lagoon in Fiji.
  • fiji-marine-conservation - Just a sample of the brilliant blue waters in Fiji.
  • lindblad-ship-pink-sunset.jpg - Enjoy a perfect sunset on a Lindblad Expeditions voyage.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-clear-waters.jpg - Find those perfect out-of-the-way spots on a Lindblad Expeditions sailing in the South Seas.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-golden-tropical-sunset.jpg - Beautiful sunsets and warm breezes await you on your Lindblad expedition to the South Pacific.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-islet.jpg - Clear waters and warm sun await you in the South Pacific on a Lindblad expedition.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-tropical-reef-boats.jpg - All ages can enjoy glimpsing South Pacific tropical fish from a reef boat during a Lindblad expedition.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-reef-sharks.jpg - Observe blacktip reef sharks — they're timid around people — on a Lindblad Expeditions voyage to the South Pacific.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-scuba.jpg - Get up close and personal with some reef fish on a Lindblad expedition to the South Pacific.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-sea-urchin.jpg - Look but don't touch: a sea urchin spotted during a Lindblad expedition to the South Pacific.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-sunset.jpg - Take in the perfect sunset on a Lindblad expedition.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-thatch-huts.jpg - A Lindblad expedition comes upon locals in thatch huts in the South Pacific.
  • Two-girls-in-Fiji - Two schoolgirls pose for a visitor in Fiji.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-tropical-fish.jpg - Explore a rich underwater world on a Lindblad expedition to the South Pacific.
  • Sun-Princess-Fiji - Sun Princess docked at the Kings Wharf, Suva, Fiji Islands.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-tropical-islet.jpg - Visit out of the way South Pacific islets on a Lindblad Expeditions.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-tropical-reef-2.jpg - Pick some dream islands and wade into a cool South Pacific reef on a Lindblad expedition.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-rainbow.jpg - Find your rainbow over the islands of the South Pacific on your Lindblad expedition.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-tropical-reef.jpg - Find your bliss in the tropical reefs of the South Pacific on Lindblad Expeditions.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-underwater-photography.jpg - Capture your adventures on Lindblad Expeditions to the South Pacific.
  • lindblad-south-pacific-visitors-on-board.jpg - Relax on board after a day exploring tropical islands on your Lindblad expedition.
  • National-Geographic-Orion-and-zodiac.jpg - Explore out-of-the-way island locales on your Lindblad excursion on National Geographic Orion.
  • Fiji-local-girl - A local Fijian girl poses for a visitor.
  • national-geographic-orion-south-pacific.jpg - An aerial of a Lindblad expedition on National Geographic Orion in the South Pacific.

Fiji: Tropical paradise with the friendliest people on earth

our guide

The vibe

The South Pacific island chain of Fiji just might be the closest to paradise I’ll ever get, unless I catch St. Peter napping at the pearly gates. About 1,600 miles east of Australia, Fiji's 333 idyllic islands (110 of which are inhabited) are made for romance and destination weddings, and they're also perfect for travelers looking for an active vacation or for big swaths of relaxation. A few years back I decided to splurge a little by heading to the South Seas for two blissed-out weeks.

The fish of Rainbow Reef on Vanua Levu, Fiji.
WorldFish / Creative Commons BY-NDThe fish of Rainbow Reef on Vanua Levu, Fiji.

This is what I found: blue lagoons and balmy breezes, coconut trees and sugarcane fields, lush rainforests and white sandy beaches, nautilus shells and perfect white orchids, 4,000 square miles of unspoiled coral reefs teeming with impossibly vivid tropical fish, good food, great weather and, everywhere, hearty greetings of “bula!” from passersby on the street. The people, especially, were amazing. 

Fiji is a good vacation choice for several reasons. The place is drop-dead gorgeous. Despite that, it hasn’t been overrun with tourists (Hawaii, by contrast, gets 20 times more visitors). They speak English everywhere here (a former British colony, Fiji became a parliamentary democracy in 1970). And there's lots to discover: You can spend days exploring the main island of Viti Levu; kick back at the water sports mecca of Castaway Island; or take a four-day Blue Lagoon cruise to the northern Yasawa Islands. I did all three, and each was worthy of a full vacation by itself.

Cruise ships that call on Fiji

Top reasons to go

  • Great snorkeling and diving — some of the best in the world.
  • Gorgeous tropical island scenery and sparkling lagoons.
  • Locals are some of the friendliest people on the planet. Bula!
The amazing view at Liku Lagoon in Fiji's Yasawa Islands, where cruise ship passengers can stroll the empty beaches or snorkel on reefs teeming with tropical fish.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableThe amazing view at Liku Lagoon in Fiji's Yasawa Islands, where cruise ship passengers can stroll the empty beaches or snorkel on reefs teeming with tropical fish.

Top things to do & see in Fiji

Suva

A lobster claw, or heliconia, at Fiji's Garden of the Sleeping Giant, home to 25,000 species of flowers.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableA lobster claw, or heliconia, at Fiji's Garden of the Sleeping Giant, home to 25,000 species of flowers.

The charms of Fiji are widely dispersed: You can enjoy a week in Fiji without ever visiting the capital of Suva. If you do, you'll find a city of lush parks, wide avenues and colorful markets. The Fiji Museum, set within the Victorian-era Thurston Gardens, contains traditional canoes, war clubs and tattooing tools. Perhaps most interesting are the remains of the H.M.S. Bounty, which sank in 1789.

By day, lots of folks shop for jewelry and handicrafts from all over the South Pacific. If you're not heading out for scuba diving or snorkeling, consider a swim in one of the area's gorgeous outdoor pools. The best is the Suva Olympic Pool, behind Old Town Hall in the heart of the city. When the stars come out, the restaurants get hopping and the clubs get going. While Suva is on the island's rainy east side, the weather is generally pretty great, and the area is one of the premier places in the South Pacific to scuba dive and snorkel.

Nadi

One of the highlights of my visit to Nadi, on the west coast of Fiji's main island, was a trip to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, a botanical garden of 25,000 species of flowers just north of Nadi that originally belonged to actor Raymond Burr. The grounds are ablaze with pink ginger and red parrots beak, sweet-scented cattleya orchids and buttery dancing ballerinas. You won't see these at your local park!

Beqa Lagoon

Diving in the Beqa Lagoon is an otherwordly experience. Accessible only by boat and surrounded by rainforest and tropical gardens, the all-inclusive Beqa Lagoon Resort is set on a secluded island with no towns or roads, just garden-, pond-view and beachfront bungalows with private gardens, sun decks with hammocks and private pools. 

Water activities

Scuba diving & snorkeling

Snorkeling: Fiji is famed for its coral reefs — and with good reason. You’ve heard of schools of fish? We’re talking universities here. At every spot I snorkeled, while the currents ran hot and cold like a crazy spa, tropical fish flashed by in breathtaking numbers and colors: plum-spotted leatherjackets, snub-nosed parrot fish, yellow-striped butterfly fish, needle-nosed garfish that came up as if to kiss my snorkeling mask.

A Fiji Clown Blenny on a Black-banded Sea Cucumber in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji
Richard Ling / Creative Commons BY-NDA Fiji Clown Blenny on a Black-banded Sea Cucumber in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji.

At Liku Lagoon, a sweep of white sand stroked by mint waters, I followed a school of Day Glo fish along a 10-foot-deep trench to a spot where a half-dozen bright blue starfish rested. Jutting up on both sides of the trench were sandy rock outcroppings covered with coralheads in shades of cinnamon and olive, some corals shaped like antlers, others like blue-tipped brainstems, still others like cabbages and broccoli and spindly porcupines. 

I've gone snorkeling in lots of spots in the Caribbean, Hawaii and the South Seas, but none have come close to Fiji. You can bring your own snorkel, mask and fins, or rent them at a fairly modest cost at scores of rental places around the islands.

Scuba diving: There are lots of first-rate snorkeling and diving sites all around the island. Scubahire Ltd., a reputable company at 75 Marine Dr., Suva (679-336-1088), offers both half-day and whole day expeditions. Scubahire offers several PADI courses, and the instructors are all experts in the sport of scuba diving. You'll find lots of other good choices throughout both the main island and outlying islands. Serious scuba divers head to the Great Astrolabe Reef on Kadavu island, known for its manta rays, billfish marlin and whales; Aqua-Trek runs expeditions there at (800) 541-4334.

Water sports: Fiji is water sports heaven. Windsurfing, waterskiing, surfing, paddleboats, sea kayaks, parasailing, jet skiing, seaplane rides — you name it, you'll find it on one of Fiji's islands. The Mamanucas in particular brim with choices. Hard-core surfers head to Tavarua island, which has two of the top 10 surf breaks in the world.

At the end of the day, after the tangerine sunset melts into dusk, the sky flames up with constellations that will blow you away. 

Local culture 

Kava ceremonies

The ceremonial mixing of kava, made from the crushed root of the pepper plant, in Namuamua, Fiji.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableThe ceremonial mixing of kava, made from the crushed root of the pepper plant, in Namuamua, Fiji.

At some point during your visit, you'll likely be entreated to attend a traditional kava ceremony. Expect to enter a bure (thatched hut) where Fijian men wearing grasslike costumes made from tapa and croton leaves, their faces smudged with black, will produce bowls of kava, made from the crushed root of the pepper plant. Fijians wolf down kava like we drink coffee, and which it's nonalcoholic, it'll numb your lips and taste like bitter dishwater. Ah, cultural immersion! 

Dining

During my travels I mostly enjoyed communal meals. The food was wonderful: chicken curry, sweet potatoes, tuna sandwiches, bananas, rourou (a spinach-like dish made of taro leaves and drenched in coconut milk) and breadfruit, a starchy white fruit that tasted like baked dough. Try some of the local delicacies during your visit: paulsami (baked taro leaves marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk often with some meat or fish filling and a bit of onion or garlic), kokoda (fish or other seafood marinated in lemon and coconut milk), and anything cooked in a lovo or pit oven.

If you'd prefer a sit-down meal, Tiko's Floating Restaurant and Steakhouse, at Sukuna Park in Suva (679-331-3626), serves fresh seafood and succulent steaks. The setting is ideal: Tiko's is a boat on the harbor that sways calmly on the Suva waters with live jazz. Vine Yard Palace, in Old Town Hall, is a popular outpost that serves traditional Cantonese.

Nightlife

Birdland, at 6 Carnavon St. in Suva (679-330-3833), is a local club where you can hear live jazz and blues performed Thursday through Saturday. O'Reilly's, MacArthur Street in Suva (679-331-2968) is lively pub where you can get a knock back a glass of Guinness and chat with the locals.

Shopping

The Government Handicraft Centre, at MacArthur Street and Victoria Parade in Suva (679-331-5899), has a wide selection of pottery, woodworking pieces and woven items. On the western end of the island, the Nadi Handicraft Market offers woven pandanus baskets, mats, traditional tapa cloth and other goods. Boutiques and high-end handicrafts can be found at Port Denarau. In the Yasawa Islands I purchased a traditional carved bowl and set of Fijian war clubs that I've mounted on my wall at home. Make sure to get the backstory! 

Come to Fiji and race a waterfall.
Courtesy of Tourism FijiCome to Fiji and race a waterfall.

Best time to go

High season: May to October (the dry season) 

Low season: November to April (the wet season — Fiji's summer is December to February) 

Temperatures in Fiji don’t vary much all year long: upper 70s during the day, 60s at night. The low season tends to be a bit wetter, with balmy, sunny days sometimes interrupted by sporadic showers. But the low season is still a fine time to visit. During my trip in November, we had 14 days of sunshine.

Fun facts

  • You may have heard about that little mutiny on the HMS Bounty when Capt. William Bligh and 18 of his men were put into a longboat off the north coast of Fiji's main island. In a stretch of sea now called Bligh Water, cannibals in two Fijian war canoes took off after Bligh. But a storm came up and interrupted the dinner party, allowing Bligh and his men to escape.

When you arrive

Docking information

On the main island, cruise ships dock at the Port of Suva.

Getting around

Public transportation in Fiji includes buses, “share taxis” and private taxes. Suva is served by a rather efficient local bus system that can take you around the island. Want to rent a car in Suva? Contact Avis (679-331-3833) on Foster Road. Just remember driving is on the left side of the road. 

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport.

Language: Although the official language of the country is Fijian, English is taught in all schools and is spoken everywhere.

Currency: The Fijian Dollar

Safety: Fiji is one of the safest travel destinations in the world. You'll want to exercise the usual precautions against petty theft. 

Your take

Have you been to Fiji? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? Please share in the comments below.

See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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JD Lasica
I'm co-founder, Editor and chief cat herder at Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.

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Overheard

“More than 4,000 square miles of coral reef are home to an immense range of marine diversity, from 1,000 species of fish to several hundred varieties of sponges and coral. Fiji, in fact, is known as the 'soft coral capital of the world' and is renowned for its Great Astrolabe Reef.”

Islands magazine 

“In spring 2018, Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic is scheduled to begin a series of cruises to the South Pacific, including stops in Fiji’s lesser-visited islands like Taveuni and Beqa, while Fiji Airways inaugurated a new direct flight to Fiji’s Nadi International Airport from San Francisco in fall 2017.”

New York Times

“Each night, the rain comes down, and that sound in the jungle is the second most peaceful sound I've ever fallen asleep to, like the reassurance of true love snoring softly. And each morning, the sun rises into a perfect, cloudless sky. Bula.”

Islands magazine

“Tige points to his map again, and says we're headed for Taveuni to the east, the first of our old-Fiji stops. When we arrive after a long and lonely leg of our cruise, Tige says we're in for some of the best diving in the world.”

Islands magazine

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