We’ve all seen those gorgeous images of turquoise South Pacific waters strung with luxury overwater bungalows. Fiji is home to many of those boutique dream resorts, lending the impression that there’s little else to do but lounge and sunbathe from sunrise to stunning sunset (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But rest assured that there are wondrous sites to see and “nowhere-else” experiences to be had when you visit Fiji. So before you sink too deeply into that hammock, set your sights beyond the horizon to the next island … and the next … and get ready to experience the magical Bula spirit of Fiji.
Did you know that Fiji has its very own species of clownfish, with just one stripe? There is no shortage of beautiful reefs all over Fiji, and they are ideal hiding spots for colorful tropical fish like Nemo. You’ll definitely want to gear up with snorkel, mask and fins in Fiji, and explore various reefs searching for clownfish. It won’t take long to find a pair playing peek-a-boo among the corals … and with a bit of luck you might even find Dory, too.
Dive with sharks
Once you’ve mastered hide and seek with the clownfish, perhaps you’re ready for more excitement under the surface. Shark diving is a popular activity throughout Fiji, and there are several great spots, particularly for certified divers, to get face to face with bull sharks, hammerheads, white tips, silvertips, reef sharks and more. Beqa Lagoon and Pacific Harbour are the most accessible shark dive locations, while Barefoot Kuata Island offers a shark dive with a focus on conservation and protection.
Sip Kava, Clap and Drink
The Sevusevu ceremony is a traditional Fijian ritual to mark many occasions, including welcoming visitors to a village. Don’t arrive empty-handed: The customary gift is a package of yaqona (kava root) presented to the village elder and chiefs. Prepare to sit on a grass mat around a bowl as the kava is pounded into a powder and mixed with water. The result is a mildly narcotic drink that is then passed around in order of rank. Clap once before and three times after drinking a cup, and let the story-telling begin. Good luck telling your story, the kava will numb your lips and tongue!
Go Set-Jetting (or Set-Boating, Rather!)
Many previously unknown spots around the world have gained popularity after serving as TV or movie locations. This practice of set–jetting, or taking a “location vacation,” has definitely put uninhabited Monuriki Island on the travel map, thanks to the Tom Hanks’ Castaway. Here, you can befriend your own “Wilson” coconut to keep you company, and resist the temptation to dismantle the rocks that spell out “HELP ME!”— because you really won’t want rescuing!
If you were that kid with Brooke Shields posters on your bedroom wall in the 1980s, then visiting the film set for The Blue Lagoon is a must. Paddleboard around the tranquil lagoon and enjoy the scenery of Nanua Levu as you wrack your brain to remember the name of Brooke Shields’ co-star.
If the Survivor series is more your speed, spend some time tracking the challenge courses on Vanua Levu, or rent the entire Exile Island for a real test of survival.
Immerse Yourself in Mud
Venture into a natural mud pit and get slimy and dirty with the locals who swear by the healing properties. Rejuvenate both body and mind by glooping mud all over yourself, and then baking dry in the sun (it’s a natural sunscreen). Finally, rinse off in a geothermal hot spring, and if that’s not enough, add on a massage — all for less than the price of any hotel spa. The mud baths on Viti Levu are owned by a local Fijian family, so it counts as a “fully immersive” Fijian experience.
Surf World-Class Reef Breaks
Fiji boasts legendary surfing spots, and if you didn’t pack your board, you’ll find plenty of outfitters ready to provide you with one. You’ll need more than a board though —most of the best waves are reef breaks and to access them, you’ll need a ride out by boat. Numerous resorts near Malolo Reef put you in the heart of Fiji’s surf scene, accessing famous breaks such as Restaurants, Namotu Lefts, and Cloudbreak; but if you’re looking for a more remote wave, check out Maqai Eco Surf Resort on Taveuni.
Climb a Sand Dune
Sand doesn’t just sit on beaches in Fiji. At the Sigatoka Sand Dunes on Viti Levu, it gets swept up from the winds to form mountainous peaks and shifting valleys. The dunes are home to some of Fiji’s most diverse wildlife. The sand gets hot, so leave your flip-flops back at the pool and wear good closed-toed hiking shoes. When you reach the water, go barefoot and cool your toes in the waves.
Swim in a Cave Grotto
The Sawa-I-Lau Cave, in the volcanic Yasawa islands, is formed by deep underwater limestone that rises almost 50 feet above the surface. Shafts of sunlight illuminate the grotto, where you can search the walls for ancient cave paintings and inscriptions. The very bravest can venture to an adjoining cave by way of an underwater tunnel, with the help of a local cave guide, and a very deep breath.
Go Island Hopping on an All-Inclusive Cruise
If you prefer to see as many islands as possible without packing, moving and unpacking every other day, then you’ll want to check out Captain Cook Cruises. Pick from 3,4, 7 or 11-day itineraries, all of which depart round-trip from Port Denarau, stopping at various spots in the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands. Every day includes a different snorkeling spot and beach activities, plus cultural experiences like visiting a local school or village. And every evening, a new sunset view.
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