Have you ever been on a holiday to another country where you’ve visited friends and they gave you the insider’s guide to their home town or city? There’s nothing better than taking out the guesswork and going behind the scenes. Diving deep below the surface and experiencing a destination with the added benefit of local knowledge. We used to live in Singapore and I’ll always remember Mum saying when she visited, ‘Visitors would never to know to find this stuff. Or if they did, it would take hours of research’. The great news is that today I can be that person for you. I LIVE IN FIJI. Yep, the tiny island in the middle of the Pacific is my home.
Let’s dive in!
Here’s My Insider’s Guide to Holidaying in Fiji
I’m a firm believer if you’re visiting Fiji it’s essential to spend time on one of the smaller islands. Before we head out to the smaller islands let’s have a look at where to stay and what to do on Viti Levu, the main island. This is home to Fiji’s international airport and where you’re likely to land when you arrive. Flights do go from Sydney to Suva so check out that option if you’re final destination is Suva. The alternatives are to take a smaller connecting flight from Nadi to Suva during which you’ll see some incredible landscapes. Or to drive 2.5 to 3 hours from Nadi to Suva. This is an interesting drive if you haven’t done it before as the coastline is incredible. Just know there are approx 80-speed bumps and the national road speed limit is also 80 km/hr and in each village you reach, the speed limit will be 50 km/hr. So don’t be fooled by google maps telling you it’s only 90km and thinking you’ll be there in an hour.
Let’s get started in Nadi
Many of the flights from Australia arrive in the afternoon or evening. And most of the ferries leave for the smaller islands in the morning. I recommend spending a night or two in Nadi or Denarau before heading to your island of choice. You’ll have the chance to stop, take a breath and start to unwind. If you’re limited on time and your budget allows, consider taking a seaplane or helicopter from the airport straight to your final destination. As long as you land in Nadi during daylight hours this option is available. Seaplanes and helicopters don’t fly at night in Fiji. You’ll also want to make the most of the incredible views during your daytime flight. Flying to your resort is a holiday experience more than a mode of transport, one I highly recommend. Why not get the best of both worlds – fly one way and high-speed ferry it the other.
Accommodation in Nadi
Budget: Smugglers Cove Beach Resort
Smugglers is located right in the heart of Wailoloa on the beach. It’s one of few locations where you can sit and enjoy drinks and dinner while watching the sunset over the water. With the essentials covered you can sit back and enjoy your first evening on Fiji time.
Mid: The Palms Apartments & The Terraces Apartments
The Palms and The Terraces Apartments are across the road from Port Denarau Marina. No need to walk 10-20mins or to catch the Bula Bus to the port, you’ll be right on the doorstep of everything in Denarau. Both options have pools and Cafe O is in this precinct so they have food covered as well. Staying at either of these hotels means you won’t have more than 100m to walk to reach the boarding area to your island transfer. Being apartments you’ll have a fridge and washing machine, which is handy if your stay is on the tail end of your trip.
High: Sofitel or Hilton
The Accor card makes the Sofitel a great option and gives you 50% off food. For a treat, we love their signature but relaxed restaurant, Solas. The menu is fresh and perfectly combines modern cuisine with Fijian flavours. I love the Hilton for its wide-open spaces and massive pools.
Eating in Nadi
There are some great food options in Fiji. While it’s super easy to stay in your hotel or resort, I’d encourage you to get out and about. You’ll often find the prices more in your favour and frequently you’ll be supporting small business.
Denarau Best Pick
Cafe O, look to the right as you drive into the Port Denarau car park, you’ll see the bright blue Cafe O sign. The cafe is on the ground floor of The Palms apartments, near the main entrance. I recommend the Pot-a-to Cake Breakfast. It’s a delicious stack – homemade hash brown, sautéed local spinach (Bale), poached egg, hollandaise and bacon. The perfect way to start the day.
Best Secret in Port Denarau
A Japanese restaurant called Tatas upstairs above the Westpac bank. We love the bento box and the pork belly soup dish is amazing.
A Personal Favourite
The newest kid on the block “Kanu” on Queens Road in Marintar is single handily the best food in Fiji. Where do I even start?
Chasing The Best Hamburger
Amazing Grill at Woolooloaloa which has some of the best service in Nadi also has the best hamburger. They don’t serve alcohol but are happy for you to buy some from the shop across the road or BYO.
Best Friday Night Drinks
Cardo’s at Port Denarau is a Nadi institution, I’ve been going to Cardo’s since it was the only eatery in Port Denarau and was housed in a demountable building. Any and every Friday night of the year you’ll find a friendly crowd at Cardos.
Top Fijian Choice
Tukuni in Lautoka. More recently opened, they serve authentic Fijian food that raises the bar to a new level. Your mouth will be watering when you view their photos on Facebook or Instagram. It’s a 30min drive from Nadi but worth the trip if you have time. Tukuni is open 7 days and their meals have to be seen to be believed.
Malamala Beach Club
If you’re staying on the mainland for more than one night I recommend a day trip to Malamala. It’s Fiji’s newest offering and well worth the trip. Located only 25 minutes from the mainland you’ll spend the day soaking in some sun while snacking on a pretty rocking menu and sipping some of the coolest cocktail creations I’ve had the pleasure of sampling.
A massage is the best way to flick the switch into holiday mode. Truly feel like you’ve arrived and are escaping from the hustle and bustle of life. Fijian ladies have the most amazing massage technique. I highly recommend Eta from Betta Beauty Eta (837 5879), being a mobile service means she’ll come to your hotel. Just call her and arrange a time, no need to arrange transport or book a taxi.
A short 45 min drive from Nadi you’ll find Natadola Beach, Fiji’s most stunning mainland beach. Go for a stroll and swim before enjoying lunch at Yatale Resort. Their casual and welcoming atmosphere combined with stunning views of the waves gently crashing on the beach is perfect. If you hire a car or better still book a driver for the day ($100-$150 FJD), you could go to Natadola for lunch and a swim followed by my next suggestion on your way home. You might even be lucky and see the mangos for sale on the road in Momi on your way to and from Natadola.
Nausori Heights Road Lookout
This is a secret insider’s tip. Ask your driver to take you up Nausori Heights Road to the top of the range for sunset. Before you go buy some cheese, crackers and a bottle of bubbles, you’re going to need them when you get to the top. Make sure it’s a clear day and then an hour before sunset head off for a drive into the ranges. From the turnoff on the back road, it’s about a 30 min drive. You’ll know when you reach the top as the road definitely flattens out. There are a couple of small spaces to pull the car off to the side of the road. You can then walk the final 10 mins to the top of the peak. I recommend going in comfortable clothes and wearing closed-in shoes if you’re going to walk. The track may be slightly overgrown with long grass. Your snacks and bubbles can either be carried to the peak or enjoyed when you return to the car. On a clear day, the view is spectacular and provides picture-perfect postcard photos. Something different from your typical blue water Fijian holiday shot.
Time to head to an island!
I get messages from long lost friends all the time who are planning to come on a holiday to Fiji. The first question they ask, is where should we stay? My reply, that depends on your budget, the style of holiday you’re chasing and if you have kids or not. Here are my top Fijian island holiday picks, including something for everybody.
- Mantaray Island Resort The best mid-range island resort I’ve been to bare none. Mantaray Island represents great value for money with accommodation ranging from $50 FJD to $500 FJD per night. The owners haven’t allowed fishing immediately off the island for nearly 15 years and it shows in a good way. The coral and fish life is plentiful compared to other islands closer to the mainland. Mantaray Island has some of the best snorkelling in Fiji. Between the months of May and October, you have the opportunity to swim with the manta rays which is a once on a lifetime opportunity. Mantaray Island Resort is a 2.5-hour scenic high-speed ferry ride from Port Denarau Marina. The ferry leaves daily at 8:30 am. Manta Dive Team offer the best value for money dive certifications in the South Pacific. Mantaray Island Resort has become known for diving, offering a wide range of dive courses and locations. This resort has atmosphere and a heart. And, with its reasonably priced food plan, everything is taken care of for you. It’s my number one pick. Mantaray Island doesn’t have a kids club or babysitting. “Be sure to ask the staff about the hidden back beach. Yep, you guessed it. A private beach where you’re likely to be the only one there. Be sure to walk to the back beach as the tide is going out and return if you see the tide coming back in, or you’ll end up sleeping there the night or having to swim home.”
- Malolo Island Resort Located on Malolo Island this resort’s architecture stands out from the crowd. Malolo is an intimate, rustic resort built in the character of Fiji’s Colonial past and has accommodation starting from $750 FJD. Malolo Island’s attention to detail and levels of service catering to guest’s food requirements is wonderful. No question went unanswered, they were so accommodating and I was impressed. I also saw the coolest sailing boat in the kids club area as we walked by on our way to the restaurant for dinner.
- Castaway Island Resort A great option for families looking to explore an island. Castaway caters to families with a kids club and babysitting options. Castaway is a stunning island with a perfectly positioned beach and stunning outlook. All islands are beautiful but Castaway takes pole position for me. The deck overlooking the beach is an ideal location to sit and enjoy a succulent meal of locally caught seafood. The snorkelling around Castaway is great and you don’t have to travel far to reach the locations.
- Paradise Cove Island Resort Paradise Cove Island Resort has opened in 2014. The decor is my personal favourite in all the resorts I’ve seen in Fiji. It’s mix of modern meets Fiji and definitely reflects Paradise Cove’s 5 stars. The beach house offering across the waterway offers a next-level experience. Have a private chef cook your evening meal while you watch the sunset from your beach house deck. Or you could choose to join the other guests for the short walk up to Paradise Cove’s purpose-built sunset viewing deck. Paradise Cove caters to couples and families. Their 2017 offering of an adults-only area including pool and restaurant is great for honeymooners. And the children’s dinner time of 6-7 pm will fill those hungry tummies before its bedtime after a big day. Adults can choose from four menu options enjoying a 5-course meal each evening. The meal plan at Paradise Cove is definitely 5 star. Paradise Cove Island Resort is a 2.5-hour scenic high-speed ferry ride from Port Denarau Marina. The ferry leaves daily at 8:30 am. Seaplane and helicopter transfers are also very popular with guests.
I hope this insider knowledge will help you plan your next holiday in Fiji with ease.