DANA BRAUN, OWNER OF DANA BRAUN TRAVEL DESIGN, IS A FIJI TRAVEL SPECIALIST. ‘Matai’ in Fijian means to be knowledgeable or to be an expert in something.
There's a good reason this is a "Bucket List Destination" Fiji isn't an easy trip for most. In fact, its pretty darn daunting - even for a travel professional. So sadly, this type of a vacation remains a fantasy for most. But it doesn't need to be.
WHEN TO GO?
Bargains to Fiji might be found during the low season from November to April. Last-minute deals are possible at this time, as well as during the shoulder months of May, June and October. By contrast, May to October is the most expensive time to visit Fiji, with peak prices in June and July.
There are quite a few carriers, but don't expect a non-stop flight if you aren't from the west coast. From LAX, the flight is 9hrs 45mins. From Vancouver, 6hrs 50 mins with 2hr layover in Hawaii. From Honolulu, the flight is 6hr 45min.
Flights from Detroit will take anywhere from 20-30 hrs depending on layovers and will cost $1,400+ on average at the cheapest. This is the first thing I advise my clients to consider when planning a trip to Fiji. You will spend at least 2 whole days of your vacation time getting to and from your destination.
Coming from the United States of America, you are required to travel with a passport that is valid for 6 months after your time of travel.
WHERE TO STAY
One thing I was surprised to learn during my Fiji Specialist training was that Fiji is composed of 300 islands. You heard me right - 300. So which one do you choose to vacation? I'm here to help:
NADI & DENARAU - You'll Start Here
Main international gateway into Fiji and the transit point to the islands and other parts of Fiji.
Easy transfer from airport to area hotels.
Ideal for travelers wanting to experience Fiji’s culture and diverse scenery with a wide variety of touring options.
Excellent transit choice for stopover passengers or pre and post island stay.
Wide range of accommodations for all budgets.
Variety of restaurants, souvenir shopping, banking facilities, etc.
Port Denarau Marina complex offers excellent shopping and recreational facilities for all walks of life, complemented by scheduled entertainment throughout the day.
The area boasts numerous hotels of varying degrees of price and luxury. Historically it was seen as the ideal place to start your trip or use as a base for exploring.
THE CORAL COAST
Heading southeast from Nadi, the road to the Coral Coast follows the Queens Road; the road trip would normally range from 50mins to about 1hour 30mins depending on the final destination.
The Coral Coast can be accessed by car from either Nadi or Suva. You can choose to either hire a rental car or take a shuttle/charter or public bus.
This is one of the first areas to be developed in terms of tourism infrastructure on the mainland.
If you’re on your own or with a group, the Sigatoka River Valley known as Fiji’s “salad bowl” is worth a side trip.
There are two villages at Nakabuta and Lawai that specialise in pottery making.
It is one of the first regions to have a national heritage park – The Sigatoka Sand dunes.
As you drive around the coast, the reef system forms a necklace around the islands and shelters the resorts on the mainland.
The Coral Coast extends from Momi approximately 20km/12miles south of Nadi and extends for more than 62miles to Pacific Harbour. The paved highway passes through spectacular scenery, Fijian villages, sugar cane fields, pine plantations, coral lagoons and beaches.
Nadi, Denarau and the Coral Coast:
Several good family-orientated resorts can be found around Nadi and along the Coral Coast. These resorts are easily accessible from Nadi Airport – between 20 minutes and two hours’ drive. The resorts offer good value for money. Denarau offers a number of resorts offering varied accommodation including suites, luxury villas and five star international hotels. Many have impressive pool and spa facilities and cater well for children and families. These regions have the added attraction of having more sightseeing and tour options available to fill family-focused days, including day trips to outer islands.
THE PACIFIC COAST & OUTLYING ISLANDS
The area is known as the adventure capital of Fiji – big fish feeding, game fishing, reef fishing, white water rafting, jet skiing, surfing, sailing, kite boarding, hiking or scenic tours.
It is a 2½ hr scenic drive from Fiji’s international airport in Nadi around the Coral Coast to Pacific Harbour, or less than an hour from Suva. Snorkel or dive in Beqa Lagoon named by Jacque Cousteau as the ‘The Soft Coral Capital of the world’.
Explore the lush, interior rivers, waterfalls and native villages.
Beqa, which is an off shore island of Pacific Harbour, is home to the firewalkers of Fiji.
THE SUN COAST
This part of Fiji is diverse and beautiful with cane fields, cassava patches, villages and volcanic outcrops.
Contains sites of historical interest showcasing early settlement, and the sugar town of Lautoka.
Home to the Vuda Point Marina, making it a popular spot for boaties.
These small island offer the ideal family holiday location with delightful beach resorts, safe swimming lagoons, snorkelling from the beach, lots of activities, lively kids club, fantastic weather and just a 40-minute ferry ride from Nadi Airport.
Proximity to the mainland make the Mamanucas a very popular holiday choice with a number of outstanding islands and beautiful resorts.
The islands are easily accessed by boat, plane or helicopter.
Fiji’s most popular islands for day trips from the mainland, or longer stays.
THE YASAWA GROUP
Much less commercial than the Mamanucas, the Yasawa Islands offer stunning white sand beaches, blue lagoons and a variety of terrains.
The Yasawa chain is composed of 20 or so sparsely populated islands. There are no roads, cars, banks or shops and most of the locals live in small, isolated villages, surviving on agriculture and tourism for their livelihoods.
The land is mostly hilly; four of the larger islands have summits close to 600m above sea level.
These islands are a good choice for a more intimate beach holiday with the family – you won’t find motorised watersports here or kids clubs, but the beaches are wonderful, usually with snorkelling reefs right off the beach. The islands take around three hours to reach by passenger boat.
Savusavu is a natural, lush and beautiful paradise on Vanua Levu often referred to as Fiji’s hidden paradise – Fiji’s other big island. A big, calm bay teeming with fish, fringed by untouched mountains and old copra plantations.
Founded before the Deed of Cession, Savusavu was originally established as a centre for sailing ships trading in sandalwood, beche-de-mer and copra. Savusavu continues to be a copra town with a processing mill in Balaga Bay at the very bottom of Savusavu Bay.
The renovated Copra Shed still exists today as the main facility for the Copra Shed Marina.
Just a short walk up the hill behind the Morris Hedstrom supermarket is the site of Savusavu’s geothermal hot springs. Many local women use the bubbling springs for cooking and an afternoon visit is worthwhile to see the pots of root crops steaming atop the springs.
Savusavu is home to one of Fiji’s first and best known pearl farms – J Hunter Pearls and is one of the main attractions for the township.
Home to a few national heritage parks – Lavena Coastal Walk, Tavoro Falls, Bouma National Heritage park, Waitabu Marine Park.
Fiji’s national endemic flower, the Tagimoucia, a beautiful sweet scented flower grows only on Taveuni.
Climb Des Voeux Peak, one of the high peaks and be rewarded with breath-taking views of Crater Lake and the Somosomo Strait.
The actual 180th meridian, which bisects Fiji in three places, passes diagonally through Taveuni. However, because the island, and hence the country, could not be divided into two different days, the geo-political dateline was drawn to encompass all of Fiji to the west of the meridian.
There is a new GPS sited marker situated aside the rugby field above Wairiki Village.
For those looking for a bit more adventure, and don’t mind extra travelling to get there by small plane or boat, there are several fantastic outer island resorts for families. Here, you can experience the real Fiji with the resorts offering a quiet ambience, usually with excellent snorkelling, hiking trails and the opportunity to visit an authentic Fijian village.
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