Fiji has been at the top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. White sand beaches. Swinging palms. Pumping surf. Reefs rich in biodiversity. It is a paradise for lovers of water sports and the ocean.
I first visited Fiji in 2020 at the dawn of the COVID pandemic – my trip ended abruptly when the island nation had its first case of the virus. I have been looking forward to going back ever since and when Fiji reopened its borders I knew it was time to plan a trip.
In May 2022 my boyfriend and I boarded a plane for a 2 week trip to paradise. We spent the first few days surfing, then we boarded a cruise ship where we spent a week touring the islands.
Our final days were spent on the mainland of Fiji, immersing ourselves in the culture and doing some fun day trips. This is a trip I will talk about for years.
Adventurer’s Guide to Fiji
Getting to Fiji is quite simple. You arrive at Fiji International Airport in Nadi and from there there are several options to get to your final destination.
If you’re staying on the mainland, a taxi or shuttle is your best bet. If you’re heading to Mamanuca or Yasawa Islands, the most affordable option is to take the ferry from Port Denarau. Some resorts offer their own transport, so contact us in advance to finalize your plan.
Another option is to get to your resort by helicopter, which is an experience in itself. If you’re heading to Vanua Levu, you’ll need to jump over a puddle hopper to Savusavu and take ground transportation from there.
Where to visit
Viti Levu, the mainland of Fiji
When visiting Fiji, most people spend a night or two on the mainland before heading to the outer islands. Hotels on the mainland are a good stopping point before venturing out to your next destination or a fun place to station for a few days to enjoy cultural experiences and excursions.
If you want to stay somewhere near the airport, Nadi has plenty of options. Port Denarau seemed to be the most popular spot among tourists: it’s home to a number of chain hotels, shops, restaurants, and a free shuttle.
We stayed at the Sheraton and although it was a good place to stay for one night, I was glad I didn’t stay for most of my trip. Another popular destination on the mainland is the Coral Coast – I stayed here for one night on a previous trip to Fiji, and it was definitely a fun place to spend a few nights.
Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands
Located west of Nadi, the Mamanuca Islands consist of around 20 islands and are a great place to post if you’re looking to snorkel, surf or dive.
Slightly further north are the Yasawa Islands, which consist of 20 volcanic islands and are some of the most amazing islands and reefs I have ever seen. Across the two island chains, there are countless resorts and Airbnbs to choose from, ranging from budget to luxury.
We spent our first 4 days at Funky Fish Resort on Malolo Island, which was as funky as the name suggests – it was a great place to access local surf spots. During our trip, we had the chance to visit several other islands.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend splitting your time between Mamanucas and Yasawas, and doing as many island hopping as possible so you can experience a bit of everything.
Vanua Levu is Fiji’s second largest island and is much quieter than Viti Levu, making it an ideal place to visit if you are looking to truly relax and unwind. Labasa and Savusavu are the most popular places to stay, but you can always find something in the more remote corners of the island if you’re willing to dig.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to Vanua Levu on our trip, but I did a lot of research on it when planning our adventure.
Fiji Mainland Excursions
Captain Cook Cruises
We were lucky enough to do a one week island hopping cruise with Captain Cook and it was an amazing week with some of the best snorkeling I have ever had. If you’re not able to do the week-long cruise, they also offer day trips to Tivua Island (highly recommended) and sunset dinner cruises.
Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like running through the forest surrounded by breathtaking views. While in Port Denarau we did the Zipline Nadi tour and had a great time.
The tour includes 16 zips, complimentary transfers, lunch, and refreshments. The views were amazing and it was a fun way to spend the afternoon.
Fiji River Rafting
This excursion was at the top of my list but unfortunately we couldn’t rock it on this trip. The trip navigates the Upper Navua River and features rapids, waterfalls, hidden caves, and lush rainforest, making it a memorable day trip.
Cloud 9 is epic – it’s a floating bar in the middle of the ocean. From the mainland or most of the Mamanuca Islands, you can easily take a day trip to Cloud 9 where you can sip drinks, enjoy homemade pizza, swim in the water, and snorkel.
We really enjoyed our afternoon at Cloud 9 and would definitely return.
Water Sports in Fiji
I live in Hawaii and have visited the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier – and yet Fiji is one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever dived or snorkeled.
The reefs are colorful and healthy, and there is a wide range of marine life. We’ve been to about 10 different snorkeling sites along Mamanuca and Yasawa islands and dived the Yasawas – and we were blown away.
Favorite sightings included clownfish, blacktip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, starfish, jellies, and hard and soft corals.
Fiji is home to some of the best surfing spots in the world. Warm water, vibrant reefs and perfect barrels – chances are you’ll never want to leave.
Cloudbreak is the most famous surf spot in the country, known for its big waves and clean barrels. Other notable breaks in the area include Namotu Lefts, Wilkes Passage, Swimming Pools, Tavarua Rights and Desperations.
There was a big swell while we were there so we were only able to surf Namotu Lefts and Swimming Pools. The conditions were unreal and I scored some of the best waves of my life.
Stand-up paddle and kayak
If you’re looking for a different perspective, paddling is a great way to find it. Stand up paddleboarding and kayaking were fun ways for us to explore stretches of the islands. The water is clear so you can see the reefs from above.
If you have access to a kayak or SUP, I highly recommend exploring. Even if you spend most of your time falling, it’s a fun way to mix things up and cool off.
Fijians are proud of their culture and are happy to share it with visitors. During our trip, we had the opportunity to visit a local school and some small villages, where we discovered the life of the inhabitants.
We were also lucky enough to attend a kava ceremony, where we enjoyed traditional Fijian dishes, music and, of course, kava. Fijians are incredibly warm and welcoming and some of the nicest people I have ever met.
For a destination I have spent my whole life visiting, Fiji did not disappoint. Although we have covered a lot of ground during our 2 week trip, there is still so much I want to see and do.
Although the tan lines are already starting to fade, I know the memories I made during my time in Fiji will last a lifetime. And I have no doubt that it will only be a matter of time before I once again return to tropical waters.