There’s more to these enchanting isles than dreamy resorts, divine spas and delicious seafood. Adventure seekers can discover vibrant coral reefs or go river rafting down soaring canyons. Although your holiday tan will eventually fade, the spirit of the islands and the warmth and friendliness of the Fijian people will be etched in your mind forever.
Drink kava with the locals
No trip to Fiji is complete without sharing a bowl of kava with the locals. The much-loved national drink is made from the crushed roots of yaqona, a member of the pepper family. Kava, which is mildly narcotic, was traditionally only drunk for ceremonial purposes but these days you don’t need to look far to find a kava bowl. The taste and appearance is kind of muddy and it takes just one or two serves to make your mouth go numb (much like local anaesthetic at the dentist) but if you drink a lot you’ll probably experience slight euphoria. Familiarise yourself with the correct etiquette as drinking kava is serious business!
Visit the Fiji Museum
Packed with intriguing treasures, the Fiji Museum in Suva is a must-visit. Displays include an impressive war canoe, bamboo tattoo implements and ancient artefacts. You’ll also discover all kinds of grisly relics from Fiji’s cannibalistic past, including rib-breakers, axes and cannibal forks. The Masi Gallery has a wonderful display of cloth made from the bark of the mulberry tree, which is an integral part of life in Fiji and is used for traditional wedding attire. The Indo-Fijian Gallery tells the story of the indentured labourers who came from India in the 1800s, while the museum gift shop has some great buys, including books, pottery, carvings and paintings.
Catch Fiji’s best surf breaks
Fiji is home to the epic Cloudbreak, which is consistently ranked among the 10 most challenging surf breaks in the world. As with all the big breaks in Fiji, it can only be accessed by boat so serious surfers should think about checking in to nearby Mamanuca Islands surf resorts. Other renowned breaks in the vicinity include Cloudbreak’s little brother, Restaurants, and Swimming Pools, which is named for its clear, aquamarine water. The mighty Frigates Passage (“Fiji’s Pipeline”) is about 20 kilometres offshore from Pacific Harbour and can be accessed from low-key surf resorts scattered along the Coral Coast. Beach breaks in Fiji are limited due to the protective barrier reefs that fringe much of the islands but Sigatoka Rivermouth has a decent wave. Beginners and bodyboarders can take to the smaller waves at Natadola Beach and Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa on the Coral Coast.
Dive or snorkel Fiji’s coral reefs
With more than 10,000 square kilometres of pristine coral reefs, Fiji has plenty to dazzle snorkellers and divers here in the “soft coral capital of the world”. The sea harbours more than 1500 species of marine life and in many areas it’s so clear you won’t even need a mask and snorkel. Divers can also sign up for memorable manta ray encounters. The beauty of Fiji’s reefs is they’re everywhere – no matter where you’re staying you won’t be far from an underwater wonderland. Many resorts have their own dive set-ups or will happily organise a dive operator for you. More advanced divers might choose a live-aboard experience that navigates through the stunning reefs of the Bligh Water and Koro Sea.
Explore Kula Wild Adventure Park
Encompassing five hectares of coastal forest open to the public, this enchanting sanctuary is alive with birdsong and has plenty of opportunities to handle wildlife such as bright-green crested iguanas and baby snakes. A fast-flowing stream meanders through the park while elevated boardwalks and bridges lead you through the forest. Walk-in enclosures provide a natural habitat for birds and reptiles and the aquarium brims with soft corals, tropical fish and turtles. The park also operates as a breeding and education facility with all proceeds going to protecting endangered species in Fiji.
Get your adrenaline pumping on a river rafting tour
With its source high in the misty mountains on Viti Levu, the Upper Navua River (“River of Eden”) sweeps through pristine wilderness in the island’s scenic highlands. Half of the 26-kilometre rafting tour by Rivers Fiji twists through narrow canyons where palm trees cling to the banks and steep volcanic walls are covered in swathes of rainforest. Grade 3 rapids provide ample excitement while dozens of waterfalls add to the wet-and-wild experience. Professional guides come from surrounding villages and share a genuine love of the river and traditional culture.
Be pampered at Pure Fiji Day Spa
Treat yourself to a day of bliss in the sultry island capital at Pure Fiji Day Spa. Start with a warm foot soak in a fragrant coconut milk bath followed by a warm seashell massage, a Beqa hot stone massage and a purifying facial with hibiscus and beach almond. Or choose the herbal detox treatment that includes a lymphatic drainage massage and a ginger root mask wrap.
Hike into nature
Fiji’s national parks sprawl across lush highlands, dip down to steamy rainforests and hug picturesque coastlines, offering hikers everything from leisurely afternoon strolls to rigorous mountain treks. For longer hikes enlist a guide to lead the way and learn more about the culture, wildlife and traditions. Talanoa Treks is a dedicated hiking company that works closely with local communities and offers a number of treks lasting one day to three nights.
Rejuvenate at Bebe Spa, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort
Translating as “butterfly”, Bebe clings to the top of Heavenly Hill and is an enchanting cocoon-like sanctuary from which you’ll emerge relaxed and radiant. Bebe Spa’s private treatment rooms have sweeping views of the Coral Coast; some have sunken hydrotherapy tubs on the balcony. An extensive menu leaves you spoilt for choice, with treatments combining ancient techniques, Pure Fiji oils and world-renowned Pevonia spa products.
This piece was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated.