Fiji: A Tropical Paradise
If you’re looking for a tropical paradise, Fiji is definitely a destination you should add to your bucket list. This South Pacific volcanic archipelago, can be a standalone destination for pure relaxation, adventures in nature or marine activities. On the main route between North America and Australia/New Zealand, you can add it as a stop on route to or from your adventure down under to relax and unwind before or at the end of your trip.
Where in the World is Fiji?
Fiji, an archipelago made up of 333 volcanic islands, is located in Melanesia, a region in the southern Pacific Ocean or South Seas. Despite its remoteness, the island chain is located on the main air and shipping routes between North America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, so it’s easy to add a stay on one of the main islands before or after a trip down under.
What’s the climate like in Fiji?
The climate in Fiji is tropical with pleasant year-round temperatures and warm tropical waters, ideal for snorkelling and diving. The mountain ranges on the larger islands can produce clouds and rainfall on their eastern edges between December through April. However, the western sides tend to be drier and cloudless most of the year.
Which are the main islands in Fiji?
Of the 333 islands in Fiji’s archipelago, only 100 are inhabited, with the remainder preserved as nature reserves. The three largest islands are Viti Levu (Great Fiji), home to Fiji’s capital Suva and two international airports, Vanua Levu (Great Land of the People) and Taveuni (the Garden Island) home to Fiji’s national endemic flower, the Tagimoucia.
Some of the smaller islands are the picture perfect Mamanuca Islands, a chain of 20 islands offshore from Nadi and Denarau, the less commercial and more remote Yasawa Islands, and the volcanic island of Beqa, home to the legendary “Fire-walkers” of Fiji, a popular dive spot due to its surrounding 38-mile coral reef.
Fiji at a glance
- Currency: Fijian Dollar
- Winter avg temp: 21-26°C
- Summer avg temp: 24-36°C
- Time Zone: GMT+12
- Capital City: Suva
- Electricity: 240 volts AC
- Language: English, Fijian
- Hello/Good day: Bula (pronounced Boola)
- Good morning: Ni Sa Yadra (pronounced Nee sa yandra)
- Good evening: Moce (pronounced Motheh)
- Visa Requirement: None for Canada (at this time)
- International Airports: Nadi Airport (NAN) and Suva-Nausori Airport (SUV)
Is Fiji safe for solo female travellers?
Fiji is a very safe country to visit even for solo female travellers. With an overall travel safety index of 70 the risk to your safety when you visit Fiji is fairly low. However, I should note that, as I have pointed out elsewhere, you should be mindful of when and where you travel alone.
Fiji has a good network of public buses. They run frequently on the main routes and are considered safe. However, it’s best to check the schedule before heading out and avoid travelling after dark.
Renting a car is also an option on the two main islands which have 90% of the roads, but you should aim to arrive at your accommodations before dark, especially since you’ll be unfamiliar with the roads.
As with all major cities and tourist hotspots, there are unsavoury and dangerous areas. If you’re staying in Nadi or Suva, there is always the possibility of mugging or being robbed particularly after dark, so avoid walking the streets at night even if in a group. Calling a cab is the safest option if you plan to travel after dark.
As usual, if you’re a solo female traveller, you should always take the necessary safety precautions any time of day. Check with the local tourist office and/or hotel concierge about which areas to avoid.
A couple of fun facts about Fiji
- You can be in yesterday, today and tomorrow at the same time! That’s because the “true” 180th meridian crosses through the several of the country’s islands. You could be standing in both the eastern hemisphere and the western hemisphere at the same time in a few places in Fiji. The best place to do so is at the GPS dateline marker on Taveuni island. The political dateline is actually to the east of the country, putting the entire country in the same day as Australia and New Zealand.
- The 880,000 inhabitants that call Fiji home are collectively referred to as Fijians. However, Fiji is a melting pot of different cultures and a diverse fusion of indigenous Fijians (i-Taukei), Indo-Fijians, Chinese, Part-Europeans and other South Pacific Islanders. Most people in Fiji are bi-lingual, speaking either English (the official language) and Fijian or Hindustani.
Why visit these 3 off-the-beaten track islands in Fiji?
Explore Vanua Levu’s rainforest and corals
Despite it being Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu is less touristy than Viti Levu, but it has a lot to offer—especially for nature lovers, adventurers, thrill seekers and marine lovers.
It’s easy to get to Vanua Levu from Viti Levu, including flying from either Nadi or Suva, to the island’s capital, Labasa or Savusavu, by boat, or even helicopter.
Savusavu, often referred to as Fiji’s hidden paradise, is located on one end of a beautiful sheltered bay surrounded by stunning views of lush forest and volcanic mountains. The calm waters in the bay are ideal for diving or snorkelling among the soft corals. Yachts moored in the bay will take you to the best spots or you can charter a private yacht and choose your own island destination—including a private island stay.
For those who prefer dry land, one of the best experiences in nature is a guided walk in Waisali Nature Reserve, an untouched rainforest that is home to exotic birds, plants, and animals. Learn about the flora and fauna as your guide leads you along hiking trails that will take you to see breathtaking views of the island.
If you enjoy a thrill, you can get wet’n’wild on a tube trip down the Sekawa river, hike through the jungle to Nakawaga Waterfall where you can go for a dip with the locals (be sure to ask for directions as it’s not sign-posted) or go for a geothermally heated hot mud spa in the middle of the jungle.
If you’d like to explore the island further arrange a guided tour of the Snake Temple near Labasa on the north side of the island, or explore the Hibiscus highway through the pristine rainforest on the south east coast (the road is rough so arrange for a taxi driver to take you).
And don’t forget to stop for a bite to eat at the famous Copra Shed in Savusavu.
Immerse yourself in nature on Taveuni Island
Known as the Garden Island, Fiji’s third largest island is an eco-adventurer’s and nature lover’s paradise.
Here the weather is hot most days and it’s often humid, which has created a huge emerald mosaic of lush rain forest, gushing waterfalls, vibrant tropical flowers and colourful tropical birds.
Explore the island’s national parks or heritage parks, which make up a third of the island, you’ll discover an array of native plants and wildlife, including the beautiful red Tagimoucia flower, which only grows in the Taveuni mountains.
The hiking trails of Bouma National Heritage Park are ideal for birdwatchers who can spot Kula Lorikeets, Silktails and Orange Doves as well as 100 more bird species that call Taveuni home. You’ll also find Tavoro Falls, where you can go for a refreshing swim.
Climb Des Voeux Peak, the second highest on the island, and enjoy stunning views of Crater Lake and the Somosomo Strait. If you’d prefer a gentle walk, the Lavena Coastal Walk offers 5 km of stunning coastal scenery.
For marine lovers, there are several excellent offshore dive sites in Waitabu Marine Park, including Eel Reef and the Great White Wall, all teeming with colourful fish and soft coral.
Meanwhile, fun lovers can enjoy themselves at Waitavala natural rock waterslides or go on a kayaking tour.
Don’t forget to visit the GPS marker beside the rugby field above Wairiki village. Here you can get your picture taken standing on both sides of the 180th Meridian and be in today and tomorrow at the same time.
Bathe in blue lagoons of the Yasawa Island Group
Twenty sun-drenched islands make up the sparsely populated Yasawa chain, which stretches 90 km from the Mamanucas to Bligh Water, northeast of Viti Levu. If you’re looking to get away from it all, then you may want to consider the Yasawa Islands.
Here, you’ll find no roads, cars, banks or shops, and the locals live mostly in isolated villages. Due to their remoteness, this Yasawa Islands are much less commercial than the Mamanucas.
Nevertheless, a range of accommodation options is available, including family run backpackers, barefoot resorts and more recently, even some upmarket resorts.
The easiest way to reach the Yasawas is on the jet catamaran, the “Yasawa Flyer” from Port Denerau. It will transport you to the Lower Yasawa islands in under an hour. Alternatively you can fly to the islands or cruise the islands on a private yacht. But a stay for a few days on the islands, especially in a family run hotel, is a much more sustainable way to experience the islands
While not as high as the larger islands, the Yasawas offer a variety of landscapes to explore, with volcanic hills reaching 600m, beautiful white sand beaches and blue lagoons—which have been the backdrop for various movies, including the Blue Lagoon.
Snorkelling and kayaking are popular activities on the Yasawas, and of course sailing or cruising the islands. Swimming, fishing, village visits and barbecues are among the activities available for cruisers.
Other activities include exploring the islands, swimming with Manterays, gamefishing, diving among the corals, or for a truly sustainable experience, you can volunteer. Projects help sustain Yasawa’s villages, many of whom are below the poverty level, or you can do marine research to help conserve Fiji’s marine life.
A few travel tips for Fiji
Driving in Fiji
To rent a car in Fiji, you’ll need a valid driver’s licence and drive on the left hand side of the road (cars are right hand in Fiji). The maximum speed limit is generally 60km/h but when you drive through a residential area such as a village, there are speed bumps to reduce the speed to 40-50km/h while on the highway, the speed limit is 80km/h.
Using a Drone in Fiji
If you wish to use a professional drone in Fiji, you must pre-register with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF). Drones are restricted within 5km of an aerodome and if you use it near a property, it’s courteous to notify the owners beforehand.
Tipping in Fiji
While tipping is generally not encouraged in Fiji, feel free to tip someone for excellent service.
Shopping in Fiji
Don’t plan to go shopping on Sunday or on public holidays! You’ll be hard pressed to find retail shops that are open.
Don’t be tempted to take food with you to Fiji. Due to the islands vulnerability to the introduction of foreign pests and diseases and to protect their natural environment, it is prohibited to import vegetable matter, seeds, or any animal products without a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests.
Respect the Local Culture
While travelling the island, it’s important to respect the Fijian cculture. When off resort, dress modestly, especially if you plan to visit a Fijian village. It’s also best to visit with a tour guide so they can explain the many traditional protocols you need to observe.
At the time of writing, Fiji’s borders are closed to international travel. Fiji has taken many steps to ensure the safety of its people as well as visitors through their vaccination programme as well as its Care Fiji Commitment; WHO-approved standard of best-practice health and saftey measures. At this time, vaccination of visitors is not required, but this may change in the future. Be sure to check the Fiji tourism website for the current situation before travelling to Fiji.
While you may think the best way to see the Fijian islands is by boat, there’s a very good reason why you should take a road trip along Fiji’s Coral Coast, especially if you’re staying at one of the main resort towns on Viti Levu. If you truly want to immerse yourself in Fiji culture, visit hidden gems and see stunning coastal scenery, then getting off the resort and taking a road trip along Fiji’s Coral Coast is a must do experience.
If you’re planning on going on a road trip in Fiji, you have a few transportation options to choose from depending on your budget, trip duration, where you’re travelling, how many stops you plan to make along the route and how much you want to drive. Of course, you could book a tour to save you the hassle of driving and planning your route and experiences on your journey, but if you prefer the freedom of driving, it’s better to be prepared and to know what to expect before you go. So below are some useful tips for driving in Fiji, plus renting a vehicle, hiring a taxi or using public buses or private coaches.