Dreaming of the South Pacific? Whether you’re after a beautiful swimming spot, the adrenaline of river rafting, activities for kids or an ultra-luxe castaway adventure you’ll never forget, Fiji is the fantasy destination with the lot.
But with more than 330 islands to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start so we found an expert to guide you through paradise.
Having spent her entire career in Fiji tourism, Adeline Lee-Erasito, director of business development at Rosie Holidays, the country’s largest local tour operator, is well placed to offer an insider’s guide to its most amazing offerings.
“Fiji is all about appreciation – of nature and of people,” says Adeline. “Living in Fiji is a blessing. We don’t just have the hardware of the climate and the beautiful environment but we also have the software of what you feel when you’re with the local people. That’s what Fiji is all about.”
Ultimate swim: Sawa-i-Lau caves
“These majestic caves in the remote Yasawa Islands are one of the few times that the reality is even more spectacular than the photographs.
“Hidden on their own little island, they’re ancient limestone caverns that have been carved out by the waves over time. Swimming in the incredible blue-green water with the light coming down through cracks overhead is very special.
“Many of our attractions in Fiji are connected to local legends and these caves are said to be the resting place of Ulutini, an ancient 10-headed god. It’s a magical experience, especially being guided by the locals and listening to their stories.”
Where to stay
Take a three-hour boat tour of Sawa-i-Lau caves from Yasawa Island Resort. This boutique idyll has 10 beaches at the disposal of guests who reside in its 18 thatch-roofed beachfront bures so there’s a strong chance you’ll have a stretch of soft powder sand all to yourself. When you’re done adventuring, rejuvenate with a sandalwood-infused Vakacegu massage (using the traditional Fijian “Bobo” technique) at the open-air spa while being soothed by the sound of the waves. Feeling too relaxed to eat out? Retire to a generous seafood dinner, including locally caught lobster, served on the deck of your bure.
Ultimate wellness experience: Gaiatree Sanctuary
“Gaiatree Sanctuary [reopening in May 2022] is the perfect place for people seeking nature and wellness. It’s located on Taveuni, the third-largest island in Fiji, which is known as the ‘Garden Island’ because it’s so lush and beautiful.
“Gaiatree refers to itself as a food forest – it’s a working farm with an organic spice plantation and gorgeous white-domed buildings housing a nectar laboratory and kitchen. The drive there, along a hilly road and up into the wild jungle, is an adventure in itself.
“The Spice of Life tour explores the farm and takes about two hours. After that you’ll have worked up an appetite for a delicious tropical superfood-infused meal – maybe crisp coconut and cassava croquettes or jungle gnocchi with caramelised white eggplant. You’ll also taste herbal tonics that make the most of seasonal ingredients, some of them native to Fiji, such as different types of lemongrass and butterfly ginger.”
Where to stay
A 10-minute drive from Gaiatree Sanctuary, the adults-only Taveuni Island Resort & Spa is nestled among clifftop gardens at the island’s northern tip. Each of the 12 luxury bures delivers dazzling ocean views from their elevated position, while the open-air restaurant serves locavore excellence in the form of seafood from surrounding waters and tropical ingredients from the resort’s own organic garden. Think: lemon and coconut-marinated mahi mahi starring in the delicious national dish, kokoda.
Ultimate adventure: Rafting and tubing the Upper Navua River
“Rafting and tubing through the Upper Highlands of our main island, Viti Levu, is a fantastic adventure that reveals a different side to Fiji.
“People associate us with beaches but this rafting trip shows off the interior’s pristine wilderness. The Upper Navua River is a stunning ecological reserve with more than 50 waterfalls.
“The trip organisers will pick you up from the resorts around Pacific Harbour, on the island’s southern coast, and a rugged drive of about 90 minutes will take you high up into the mountains where you hike through the rainforest to the river.
“Rafting through kilometres of high-walled canyons and over rapids is great fun and best suited for children aged over eight.
“Another unique aspect of this tour involves stopping for lunch at a waterfall before being taken for a ride on traditional bamboo rafts by the local villagers.”
Where to stay
Close to the spot the Navua River meets the ocean at Pacific Harbour, Fiji’s adventure capital, the luxurious Nanuku Resort Fiji is a convenient base for an action-packed stay. Snorkel the kaleidoscopic coral reef of the serene Beqa Lagoon, take a traditional bilibili raft through the mangrove forest or a zipline whizzing across the rainforest canopy. Want to take it down a notch? The resort’s infinity pool with swim-up bar and a hot tub overlooking the ocean will help you recalibrate to “island time”.
Tucked away in its own rainforest-surrounded bay on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast, Waidroka Bay Resort is renowned for its stunning snorkelling spots and laidback atmosphere. Family-sized bures hugging the beachfront nail a rustic-chic vibe, complete with hammocks for lazy swinging on each private deck.
Ultimate kids’ day out: Ziplines and waterslides at Kula Wild Adventure Park
“Kula Wild Adventure Park, near Sigatoka in the south of the main island, is Fiji’s biggest family park and there’s something for everybody.
“My children love the rollercoaster zip-rail and the 100-metre-long jungle waterslide with all its twists and turns. If you have small children, there’s a toddlers’ splash pool and a jungle canopy boardwalk that’s ideal for strollers.
“The park is also an ecological reserve and runs a breeding program for endangered native animals and reptiles, such as the crested iguana and hawksbill turtle. Children can hold the creatures and learn about them. There’s even a program where kids can be a park ranger for a day, preparing the special diets for different species, hand-feeding the baby animals and learning to do health checks.”
Where to stay
A 45-minute drive from Kula Wild Adventure Park, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa ups the family-friendly ante with a 105-metre-long pool and a list of fun activities that’s just as lengthy – from cooking classes to traditional dance and beach games at the Planet Trekkers Kids Club for ages four to 12. Have a teen in tow? Beach football, volleyball and touch rugby sessions will entice them to get involved so you can enjoy a hot stone massage at the spa with its open-air beachfront treatment cabanas.
Less than a kilometre from the adventure park, the sprawling Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort boasts a huge lagoon-style family pool and traditional Fijian feasts cooked in an underground lovo oven at its Vale Ni Kana restaurant. If you fancy sunset drinks at the adults-only hilltop Kalo Kalo Bar or Pacific-style fine dining at Ivi Restaurant, the resort’s nannies are on hand to entertain the kids.
Ultimate relaxation: Sunrise breakfast and bubbles on your own private island
“There’s nothing like the feeling of having a whole island to yourself. A champagne breakfast on Mociu Private Island is an experience you’ll never forget. It’s exclusive to guests at Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Malolo Island Resort.
“A 15-minute speedboat ride will take you from the resort to this little island in a protected nature reserve. You can take a short hike to the topmost point to enjoy the sunrise then head back down to the beach, where your breakfast will be waiting.
“Then just laze on the thatch-roofed daybed or explore the water, which is shielded by a fringing reef and has amazing snorkelling. The staff will leave you with a walkie-talkie but otherwise you’re all alone.”
Where to stay
An ultra-luxe haven for adults in the stunning Mamanuca archipelago, Likuliku Lagoon Resort mimics a traditional Fijian village on a palm-fringed crescent of beach. Deluxe overwater bures have glass floor panels revealing the marine life below, while you can toast the sunset with a passionfruit Bellini at the button-cute Masima Bar at the end of its own jetty.
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Image credits: Tourism Fiji (Sawa-i-Lau caves and Upper Navua River Rafting).