Why take a road-trip along Fiji’s Coral Coast
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.
Where is Fiji’s Coral Coast?
The Coral Coast is an 80 km (50 mile) stretch of stunning coastline on the southern shores of Viti Levu, the largest island of the Fijian archipelago.
If you’re from North America, I’m sure you’ve heard of Fiji, and probably have a good idea where it is, unless you’ve been living under a rock. This tropical paradise has been the filming location for many movies and TV shows, including the hit TV show, Survivor.
For those who haven’t heard of Fiji and don’t know where it is, it’s a chain of 333 islands in the middle of the South Pacific, north of New Zealand and East of northern Australia. Most of the country is in fact located just east of the 180th meridian, aka the dateline, which dissects Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island. It is therefore the first country to welcome the rising sun each day and, theoretically, the last to see the sunset (depending which side of the dateline you stand).
Due to its location, it is also a stopover destination between mainland USA and Australia or New Zealand. Since there are no poisonous snakes, spiders or deadly diseases, such as Malaria, in Fiji, it’s ideal for solo travellers, couples, families and groups who are looking for a tropical island destination with white sand beaches to relax and unwind. It’s also an ideal travel destination for anyone seeking an adventure packed vacation, authentic cultural experiences, stunning scenery and natural habitats to explore.
Fiji, the place where happiness finds every visitor
As mentioned, Fiji’s archipelago is made up of over 333 island, the majority of which are mountainous and volcanic. Around 100 of the islands are inhabited while many have been left as nature reserves. The three main islands, Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, plus the Mamanuca Islands (where Survivor is filmed), the Yasawa Group and Kadavu, as well as many other small outlying islands have lots to offer a variety of travellers.
Stunning white sand beaches, inviting warm waters, unspoilt, beautiful environments and wildlife, a warm climate all year round, international standard accommodation, exciting dining and nightlife, as well as a ton of daytime activities and experiences, both on land, in the water and in the air. Add to all that, the Fijians are really friendly people. Is it any wonder that Fiji is known as “the place where happiness finds every visitor?”
Getting around Fiji
Needless to say, with 333 islands, getting around Fiji often requires hopping on a plane or boat from time to time, and many of the islands are well serviced by various domestic airlines, seaplanes and helicopters as well as ferries, cruise ships and private charters. You can even kayak between some of the islands. However, if you’re staying on one of the bigger islands, a road trip is an ideal way to get off the resort to explore and experience island life.
There are no railway lines (except for the old sugar cane tracks, some of which are now used for scenic rides on old steam trains or eco adventures on a velocipede), so you can’t take a train, but you can get around the main islands by bus, taxi (often with the driver as your guide) or rental car. Which option you choose depends on your budget, how much driving you want to do and whether you want a friendly guide.
Although there are several places to explore by road, in this article, I’m going to highlight why I think you should take a road-trip along Fiji’s Coral Coast.
Plan at least one Fiji road trip
If you’re vacationing on Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, and you’re staying in one of the main resort towns of Nadi (pronounced Nandi) or Suva, you should at least spend a day or two exploring other areas of the island, especially if you want to experience Fiji culture and hospitality.
Even if all you plan to do on your vacation is spend your days on the beach or by the pool and your evenings enjoying the Fijian city nightlife, you’ll regret travelling all that way and not experiencing more of what Fiji has to offer if you don’t.
So, plan at least one road trip to explore more of the island’s stunning natural beauty, to learn about the country’s history and culture from locals and to experience friendly village hospitality.
Tip: Although Fijian locals are welcoming and friendly, entering some Fijian villages, especially the more remote ones, is like entering a home. You wouldn’t just enter someone’s home who you don’t know. So, be respectful. You must wait at the edge of the village to be invited in. To avoid disappointment, it is a good idea to arrange a village visit in advance to make sure it’s convenient or visit as part of an excursion. That said if you arrive at a village by chance, you may still be invited in if a local sees you waiting nearby.
Why road-trip along Fiji’s Coral Coast
One of the best places for a road trip on Viti Levu is without doubt the Coral Coast. You can choose to travel by public bus or private charter, rent a car, or even hire a taxi with a local guide (see tips for getting around on land in Fiji here).
The 80 km (50 mile) stretch of stunning sandy beaches and bays is situated along the Queens Road between the main resort towns of Nadi and Suva. It is therefore easy to get there from both towns and is an ideal area to explore in a day or over a few days.
The drive takes around 50 minutes to 1-1/2 hours (without stops) but, of course, the idea of a road trip is to explore along the route, so it will take you much longer. Be sure to head out early in the day if you’re making a return trip the same day as you’ll want to be back by dark, so you’re not driving on unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar country at night.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle Nadi or Suva for a few days, the Coral Coast has plenty of places to stay along the route, from popular international hotels and luxury resorts to budget accommodation options for travellers on a tight budget. Be sure to book ahead so you’ve got somewhere to stay, especially in high season and particularly if you’re travelling by bus either alone or even as a group.
What you’ll see, do and experience along Fiji’s Coral Coast
Swim, snorkel or go beach-combing
On your journey along the southern Coral Coast, you’ll pass through spectacular scenery, Fijian villages, sugar cane fields, pine plantations, coral lagoons and beaches. As you drive, you can’t help but notice the huge coral reef that dominates the southern coastline.
The reef system forms a chain around the offshore islands and shelters the mainland along the shore. Stop at one or more of the many small beaches and bays and spend the morning beach-combing, swimming and/or snorkelling in the calm waters exploring the coral’s nooks and crannies. Or if you’re feeling a little more energetic, kayak along the shores or try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding.
A round of golf on a course to die for
On the western end of the Coral Coast, not far from Nadi, you’ll pass the Natadola Golf Course, a championship golf course, and one of Fiji’s best. If golf’s your thing, you can stop for a round of golf on what many say is a golf course to die for. Be warned: the breathtaking views of coral reefs, surf breaks and sparkling Pacific Ocean as you play might be a little distracting!
Walk on the Sigatoka Sand Dunes
As you continue your journey, you’ll also pass Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, one of the first national heritage parks in Fiji. Located at the mouth of the Sigatoka River, the sand dunes rise steeply and extend for several miles along the coast—quite a sight to behold. At the park, you can take a one or two hour walk, or take a guided tour with one of the local rangers, to see old archaeological sites and ancient Lapita artefacts or you can go bird watching in one of the Native Dry Forests.
Go on a Sigatoka River Safari
If you’re an adrenaline junkie (or even if you’re not), it is worth taking a side trip along the Sigatoka River Valley, known as Fiji’s “salad bowl,” where you can go on a river safari—an exciting half day tour on a high-speed jet-boat that takes you into the heart of Viti Levu where you’ll get a sneak peek of Fiji life at a local village (invited, of course).
Shop at the Sigatoka Markets
If speeding on a jet-boat is not your thing, you can spend a couple of hours shopping like the locals at Sigatoka markets in the heart of the town. Purchase fresh seasonal fruit, such as bananas and pineapples, jewellery and floor mats and other locally made souvenirs.
Create your own Art and Crafts
Also in Sigatoka, you can visit the Namana Arts Gallery to see locally made arts and handicrafts. You can even learn how to create your own jungle jewellery, print tapa, paint your own sarong as well as try your hand at Fijian weaving. A little further along from Sigatoka, you can even make your own unique glass artwork.
Nearby, in Korotogo, you can visit the family-friendly Kula Wild Adventure Park, Fiji’s only wildlife park. Expect to spend at least a couple of hours interacting with animals, ziplining, having fun in the splash park, or if you book 48 hours in advance, on an adults only, behind the scenes guided tour.
Get off the beaten track
Further along the coast, if you prefer to spend your time in nature and getting off the beaten track, take a detour to visit the Biasevu Waterfalls or Savu Na Mate Laya Falls, both situated near the village of Biausevu. A 30-minute walk from the friendly village will lead you to the Biasevu falls, where you can swim, jump and play in the water.
A road trip is an ideal way to see more of Fiji’s stunning landscapes, experience the local culture and meet its friendly inhabitants. Fiji’s Coral Coast is especially ideal if you’re vacationing on Viti Levu at either Nadi or Suva and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the two busier resort towns. The above highlights are just a few of the activities and cultural experiences you’ll find if you take a road trip along Fiji’s Coral Coast.
PS: If it’s your first visit to Fiji, before you go on a road trip, read these tips for driving, renting a car, hiring a taxi or using public buses in Fiji.
Credit: Tourism Fiji’s Matai Travel Specialist course. Visit Tourism Fiji‘s consumer website.
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