Romance & Adventure in the South Pacific – Fiji Islands

Celebrities, honeymooners, tourists, and film producers have discovered the beautiful islands of Fiji, a romantic paradise with great hospitality and a unique diversity of culture. Hollywood chose the Mamanuca Islands located just off the coast of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, to film Cast Away with Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt in 2000. We will focus primarily on the southern Coral Coast of Viti Levu as a popular vacation destination. Visitors will find numerous things to see and do on the island from incredible scuba diving, kayaking, and horseback riding to exploring coral reefs and the lush rainforests along the rivers of the interior.

Accommodations:

Turtle Island, a privately owned 500 acre resort, may be beyond the average traveler’s budget, but it is worth considering if you really want to splurge on a wedding, honeymoon, anniversary, or just fulfill a once in a lifetime vacation experience. Among the celebrities who have visited here are Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Federline, Jessica Simpson, and Nick Lachey. Accessible by a short seaplane flight from Nadi, Turtle Island first gained worldwide fame as the film location for the 1980 movie Blue Lagoon. If you’re looking for utmost seclusion, no phone, TV, or pets, you’ll find it here as only 14 couples may stay at this all-inclusive resort at one time. In addition to your private beach, the luxurious accommodations in the thatched roof “bure” or cottage are complete with Jacuzzi, bar, huge rooms, and verandah. Relax with a daily massage and enjoy all-day snacks, picnics, and the island’s evening entertainment with champagne and island cocktails. Gourmet meals are served to a group or to individual couples in their bure, on the beach, or even on a raft in the blue lagoon. Call for rates and information: 1-800-255-4347. Packages available.

If you are traveling with family or friends, consider the Naviti Resort on the Coral Coast about an hour and a half from the airport. The resort features 220 guestrooms, suites, and one-bedroom villas, with ocean or garden views, 4 restaurants, and a “Rugg Rats” club to entertain the kids, ages 5-12. Each of the 3 daily sessions is well supervised, and babysitters are available for the smaller tots under age 5. Adults enjoy the 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, swim-up bar, lounge, and gym, while a variety of outdoor and indoor activities are available for everyone. Rates: $169-$189 dbl, incl breakfast. All-inclusive packages also available.

There are numerous hotels, lodges, and inns in and around Suva, the capital, ranging from budget to upscale. Recommended for low rates are the Raintree Lodge, the Upper Campus bungalows at the University of the South Pacific (USP), and the Southern Cross hotel for its convenient location in the Victoria Parade main business district (avg rate $89). Other hotels with good reviews include the Tamoa Plaza, avg rate $122, JJs on the Park, $157-$243, and the Peninsula, $80-$145. The Holiday Inn downtown is also recommended.

Dining: There are a number of cafès in Suva including the Cafè Tivoli, Jardin, and Kawaha for breakfast, light lunches, or mid-day snacks. Indian curries and fresh seafood are Fiji specialties in most restaurants and from street food vendors. The very expensive ($40-$55 and up) and highly recommended include the excellent Japanese sushi, sashimi, and tempura at Hamacho on the grounds of the Westin hotel in Nadi. Visit Tiko’s Floating restaurant, a 35-year old cruise ship anchored at the dock in Suva, for drinks at sunset, a lobster dinner, and guitar music to complete a romantic evening. Dine outdoors on the jetty of the Wicked Walu at the Warwick resort on Queens Road. The restaurant features six different types of fish and a sumptuous seafood platter for two, which includes oysters, scallops, calamari, prawns, octopus, and lobster ($155). Another option in Suva is L’Opera for traditional Tuscan cuisine.

If beautiful beaches, blue lagoons, and picture perfect scenery are not quite enough, there’s much more to enjoy on a vacation to Fiji.

Things to Do:

Most of us remember the “Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,” and while in Fiji you can stay on his 28-acre island off the southwest coast of Viti Levu. This is primarily a party place for singles or backpackers, with rates from $42 (shared bath) to $100 ensuite for 3 adults. Buffet meals are included, along with lots of free fun activities such as jungle and reef walks, survivor reality show, Polynesian language classes, kayaking, and nightly entertainment.

If you prefer just visiting Robinson Crusoe Island, take an all day/night tour, which includes a BBQ lunch, snorkeling, bush walk, sunset kava ceremony, firewalking, island feast, and Polynesian Dance Show.

Hours: Lv 8am, bus from most major hotels to the Crusoe jetty. A 30-minute boat ride on the Tuva River to the island (possible cannibal sighting as you approach, bring camera). Return 10:30 pm.

Tour: $107 p/p, Tues, Thurs, & Sat.

Bamboo rafting (billibilli ride) or kayaking on the Luva River through the rainforests. Tour leaves Pacific Harbor for the village of Nakavika, lunch on the beach, and follows the river to waterfalls and the village of Namuamua. Return to Nakavika by motorboat. Price: $170 p/p.

Take a walk through Colo-i-Suva Forest Park, climb Mt Korobaba, sail and socialize at the Royal Suva Yacht Club, or visit the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, the amazing orchid collection begun by Raymond Burr in 1977 (10-minute drive from Nadi).

Visit the Fiji Museum in the Thurston botanical gardens in Suva. The museum houses interesting collections of historical artifacts going back over 3500 years such as items used by the cannibals, ships’ figureheads, old relics from the HMS Bounty, and a room full of masi or tapa bark cloth from the mulberry tree. An art gallery features local Fijian artists, with some paintings available to purchase.

Weekly pottery making demonstrations, reference library, cafè, and gift shop onsite.

Hours: Mon-Thurs, 9:30am-4pm, Fri, 9:30-3:30, Sat, 9:30-4. Closed Sunday.

Small admission charge.

Shopping & Nightlife: If you’re looking for action and lively crowds, you’ll find most of the nightlife in the Victoria Parade district. Singles and students from USP hang out at the Golden Dragon Club, while others go to Birdland for rock and jazz, or meet friends at Traps or O’Reilly’s.

Tourists and locals shop at the Municipal Market where vendors sell Chinese, Polynesian, Indian, and Fijian food, produce, spices, and household items. Before you’re tempted to buy yaqona (kava), however, remember the risks and don’t over indulge. You’ll also find handicrafts, artwork, souvenirs, and other items at Jack’s of Fiji, Prouds, Baravi, and the Arts Village in Pacific Harbor.

Getting there: Five flights a week on Air Pacific, 9 hours from Los Angeles to the Nadi airport. Direct flights from Sydney, Tokyo, and Seoul. Rental cars available, avg cost $68/day everything included.

Taxi from Nadi to Suva, 3 hours, $45, Bus, 4 hours, $5. Cheap transportation in town.

Perhaps you’ll agree with another world traveler who wrote after visiting Fiji the first time – this was “the world as it should be.”

Sharon L Slayton

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