A FIRST TIMER'S GUIDE TO THE FIJI ISLANDS.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Fiji is one of those places that I never thought I'd actually get round to visiting. It's just so far away from Europe and I don't think I could have justified spending £1000 on flights just to go relax on a beach. Luckily, me currently living in Australia means a birthday trip to Fiji only set me back $500 (flights and accommodation). I've met lots of Australians who take yearly trips here as it's only a short 3 hour flight away. If like me this will be your first time visiting the archipelago of more than 300 islands, here's my advice on where to stay, what to do and of course, where to eat!

tea with gi fiji guide

NADI


When you're flying into Fiji you will most likely arrive at Nadi International Airport, which is a short 10 minute drive to the centre of Nadi and where you will find most of the hotels. I'd recommend staying in Nadi 2 nights and having that as your base for your excursions and tours. 

Where to Stay 


Budget - Bamboo Backpackers

We stayed here on our last night in Fiji and we were pleasantly surprised. We opted for a private bunk bed room with a shared bathroom (as we were getting up at 5am) but the hostel also offers shared dormitory rooms. The hostel is located right on the beach, and hosts kava ceremonies every evening. The hostels restaurant is backpacker price friendly and was probably one of the best meals I had in Fiji.

bamboo backpackers


3 Star - Mercure Nadi 

We started our trip off here and we were in a great location (Queens Road) where you'll find an abundance of restaurants and Fiji's best nightlife. The hotel features pools, hammocks and its own on site restaurant. I thought the piƱa colada toiletries in the bedrooms were a nice touch. What I wasn't a fan of was that the restaurant/bar didn't have a happy hour!!

mercure nadi


Luxury - First Landing

I say luxury, but this resort was actually quite affordable.  Our driver took us here for a quick look before we carried on with our tour as it's the location where the first man stood on the land. The resort has its own private beach, and a happy hour!!

first landing fiji


What to Do


Garden of the Sleeping Giant


So we actually skipped this because plants bore me we planned to go on Sunday and the gardens actually close at 12pm then and we woke up too late. If you are a flora and fauna fan, then this garden features over 2000 types of orchids and plants. It gets its name because if you look at the area from far away, it looks like you guessed it, a sleeping giant. 

Mud Pools


Next to the gardens you will find two mud pool areas you can visit. Sabeto being the newest establishment, and Tifajek being the original. Our driver took us to Tifajek as he told us it was slightly cheaper, and better in his opinion. You cover yourself with mud from head to toe, then move from pool to pool (hot to less hot) washing away the clay and then come out feeling like a goddess.

mud pools fiji

Have a boogie


We didn't plan on having a night out, but once our driver hyped us up about Ed's Bar we thought, yolo it's my birthday weekend. This place is popular with locals and tourists alike, although the place didn't start getting busy until 12pm, so you should go have a few drinks at The Bounty Bar first. 

Visit a Fijian Village (and go chasing waterfalls)


This was probably my favourite part of the trip. We booked a tour through Viator with Discover Fiji Tours that included a visit to a Fijian village, swimming in a waterfall and river rafting. We were picked up in a small coach at 6am and it took 3 hours to reach our destination (don't worry you get a toilet break!). We first took a boat ride to the waterfalls where some of the more adventurous members of the group jumped about (I wasn't feeling as brave as when I was canyoneering in the Philippines). We then head back through a raft and our guide explained to us this is how their ancestors used to travel along the river.

waterfalls fiji


After we head to the village and our guide was incredible - him and the people from the village made us feel so welcome, and he was really funny. We were treated to a kava ceremony, danced with them, had the children of the village sing a few songs for us and best of all, had an amazing typical Fijian buffet lunch prepared for us. My vegan friend was very excited that the vegetarian dishes weren't just salad.

fiji village

Where to Eat 


Masala Twist 


We head here on our first night as it was just opposite our hotel. The restaurant serves a variety of indian and thai dishes. I opted for two side dishes - tandoori chicken and palak paneer. We also shared nan bread with a variety of dips (although we didn't rate any of the dips sadly). 

Tu's Place


This was definitely one of those cases where my eyes were bigger than my appetite. This place serves traditional Fijian dishes at affordable prices. It looked popular and there was only around 10 tables, so make sure you get there early! I tried the creamy moca soup (local spinach soup flavoured with paprika) and the kokoda starter (marinated fish in light coconut milk, similar to ceviche). I couldn't finish this, probably because we had a snack of cassava chips two hours earlier at our hotel. The starter kokoda size was also plenty!

tu's place fiji

Bounty Bar


Bounty serves a variety of seafood, grill and pasta. Prices are slightly higher than normal for Fiji but it's what you would expect to pay for steaks etc. in western countries. Of course, I went for the bounty pineapple boat (chicken cubes with capsicums, mushrooms and pineapple in a white wine and cream sauce served in a pineapple). 

Bulaccino Cafe  


My google maps was acting up this morning, so what we thought was a 10 minute walk to the cafe ended up being a 25 minute walk in 30 degree heat. The viti bowls were worth it though. The cafe has plenty of vegan options and their cake selection looked delicious. I opted for a Votualevu bowl (Organic soursop, jackfruit, starfruit and bu).

bulaccino fiji




MAMANUCA ISLANDS


In this group of islands, you will find the island where the movie Castaways was filmed. So it is appropiately called Castaway Island. A short 30 minute ferry ride from the Denarau port (20 minutes from Nadi town) you will find the tiny island of South Sea Island. A further 15 minutes takes you to the popular backpacker island Beachcomber, which is where I spent my birthday! Since that's the only island we got to visit, I'll go into a bit more detail about it here. 

Where to Stay


Beachcomber Island Resort 


Unless you plan on spending your night sleeping on a hammock, the only place you can stay on the island is in Beachcomber Island Resort, and I wasn't complaining! We had our own private 'bure' (bungalow) amongst the trees and our rooms had air conditioning which was a great plus. They also offer dormitory type rooms, with 26 beds! There are several happy hour offers during the day too. 

beachcomber island fiji


What to Do 


Seeing as you are technically stuck on an island, there isn't a plethora of things you can do. If lying on the sand reading a book with a cocktail is your thing then go ahead and skip to the next section, you're sorted. If not, there are a variety of activities the resort offers. 

Kayaking


We paid $10 each for a 30 minute kayak session, and half way through a massive wave came and we capsized on the shore lol, at least looking back they make for funny stories right? 

kayaking fiji


Snorkling


You can either bring your own snorkeling gear or rent some for $10. It's free to go out on the boat and snorkel, or if you're like me and Nicole and you assumed they'd give you stuff on the boat, you'll get to feed the fish bread. 


Beach Volleyball


I think I spent most of my time here playing beach volleyball with some of the staff members - I have the bruises on my wrists to prove it


Dance in the sand


Beachcomber Island has become the 'party island' and even though there were only 10 of us young folk in the evening, the staff members still made sure we had a great time. They made us all participate in a beer drinking competition, and for someone who doesn't drink beer my competitive side still pulled through.

Where to Eat


There was a compulsory meal plan with your booking which came to 99FJD per person per day. This included breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner.  The food was ok - we still went up for seconds because when you're paying for it, you want to get your moneys worth hey? The vegetarian options were mainly limited to pumpkin and veggies and there'd usually be 3 type of meat dishes. 

beachcomber island fiji

Cloud 9 


Cloud 9 is Fiji's floating bar? restaurant? boat? It's a great place for groups as there's music playing, people jumping off the boat and they also sell oven baked pizzas if you fancy a change from the island food!


YASAWA ISLANDS

We didn't actually have time to visit the yasawa islands, but I did do some research prior to my trip when we were deciding where to go! I also didn't really fancy sitting on a ferry for 4 hours to reach the Blue Lagoon, even if it is meant to have one of the best beaches in the world. Here is a rough guide to what islands to visit if you are island hopping!

Nacula 

The third largest island in the yasawa group. It's one of the most remote islands and has a pristine beach called Navola Bay.

Waya


Octopus Beach is one of the best islands for snorkeling in the region!


Barefoot Manta


Complete with its own resort, as the name suggests here is the best place to go swimming with manta rays! Don't worry, they won't sting ya.

Blue Lagoon


If you've got the time, and want to find the bluest water and the whitest sand then head to Blue Lagoon. Make sure to bring plenty of swimsuits to get all your #goals Instagram photos!


SOME PRACTICAL TIPS FOR FIJI

  • Fijian Dollar is the official currency of the country.
  • Try and exchange your money in your home country, as we found most ATMs charged $10 for a withdrawal, and when you paid with card there was usually a surcharge too. 
  • Bula is how fijians say hello, be prepared to here this very often!
  • Vinaka means thank you. 
  • It's easy to find a driver in Fiji who will take you to all the sites or specific places you want to see, wait for you and then bring you back. Usually for cheaper than the tours you see online! If you are interested drop me a message and I can give you my contact Ali we met whilst we were out there who was great. 
  • Denarau port is your access point to most of the other islands and where you will find more of the bigger resorts. 
  • Make sure you try some kava! It's a 'mildly narcotic drink' made from the powdered root of the pepper plant. It leaves a numbing feeling around your mouth/tongue and is meant to make you feel all relaxed and zen. 
  • As with any group of islands, there are hundreds of possible itineraries for your trip! This is just what we got up to in 5 days, but make sure to do your own research too. 

What's the best island you've ever visited?



tea with gi fiji guide


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