Discover Fiji – a Guide to the Paradisiac Islands at the End of the World
Fiji is one of the most remote and far destinations one can travel to. Located almost in the middle of Pacific Ocean, Fiji is a dream to many. The country is made of 333 tropical islands that are pure description of bliss: palm lined beaches, amazing coral reefs, turquoise waters and unique landscapes. There are 2 major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu and they contain most of the population. However, it’s the tiny and idyllic surrounding islands that attract visitors from all over the world. Read this guide to find out how to have the best FIJI TIME!
- Mamanuca Islands
- Cloud 9
- Yasawa Island
- Kuata Island
- Barefoot Manta
- Practical Infos
- Where to Stay
Nadi (Flying in)
There are 2 international airports in Fiji: in the capital city Suva and in Nadi. Nadi seems to be more popular with tourists as it allows an easily access to Mamanuca Islands and Yasawa Islands- the dream islands. We flew from Christchurch in New Zealand to Nadi directly.
↬ Note : We stayed for 2 days on Viti Levu (the main) island at a resort. We decided not to really talk about it in this Fiji guide, as the experience was far from perfect.
We’d say that the best idea is to head to the nearby islands straight away and skip visiting the Viti Levu. We visited ‘the most beautiful’ temple on the island as it was recommended by locals and remained slightly disappointed as Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple cannot be entered by foreigners without a group.
Your experience in Fiji depends mostly on your budget. Therefore, if you can spend a nice amount then we highly recommend you to choose a hotel on Mamanuca Islands. Those islands have some of the bluest waters one can imagine. Imagine a worry-free and idyllic escape. However, Mamanucas might be not accessible for many, as average hotel night start at 300-400 EUR a night.
None of the hotels will mention this prior to booking… As most of hotels are located on deserted islands, on top of daily rate, you are obliged on most islands to buy a sort of ‘all inclusive’ package. This contains 3 meals a day and snacks, usage of all equipment like kayaks, snorkels, paddle boards etc. and all entertainment. It is mandatory therefore you have to add it to an already pricy hotel stay.
Most of the islands in Mamanuca Archipelago are really tiny. Think of an island of less than a kilometre square, one resort and 360 degrees view of the ocean.
Cloud 9- Fiji Floating Paradise
One of the coolest things to do while staying in Nadi or in the Mamanuca Islands, is spending a day on a floating bar surrounded by nothing, but crystal, blue waters.
The easiest way to get to Cloud 9 is via their official boat departing from the port of Denarau in Nadi at 9AM and 1:15PM daily (departs might be canceled due to weather conditions). The trip takes apx. 45 min.
The tour costs 229 FJD and includes 2 way boat transfer and 60 FJD voucher for food and drinks.
The distance from Mamanuca Islands is much smaller, but you have to arrange the transfer directly from your hotel (probably at extra cost).
The second most popular archipelago to visit are the Yasawa Islands. Those islands are bigger and some of them are populated by locals. There are villages next to beautiful resorts.
Those islands should also be on your list if you are looking for a bit more adventure and don’t have a big budget. There is a big choice of resorts for all type of travellers: luxury, mid-priced and even backpackers. That’s right- Fiji can be visited on a budget. There is a fair choice of resorts accommodating single travellers in dorms.
The first stop for us was the idyllic island of Kuata and the only resort located there: Barefoot Kuata. We chose this place based on opinions, our budget and activities. Kuata ended up being the paradise we were hoping for and if you follow this Fiji guide, you’ll want to stay there! 🏝
The island is ideally located an 1.5h ferry ride from Denarau. From the moment a small boat picked us up and we arrived on this idyllic beach lined with palm trees and colourful corals, we felt like in paradise.
The resort package (obligatory, costs 119 FJD) allowed us to use the snorkels, kayaks, paddle boards and participate in activities organized by the crew like traditional cava ceremony.
One of the great things about Kuata, was the fact that the island is bigger and there are things to explore. We set for a 40 min long hike to the top of the mountains, climbed rocks to view the ocean from the other side and kayaked all around. We also did the coolest thing ever: diving with bull sharks 🦈!
↬ Read : Diving with bull sharks in Fiji
We stayed in a lovely tent right in front of the beach and loved every minute of our stay. We’d wake up to the most beautiful sunrises, snorkel just 10m off the beach between amazing corals and spot black tip sharks almost every time.
Barefoot Manta on Drawaqa Island
Barefoot Manta is a sister resort of Barefoot Kuata, located an extra hour ferry ride away. This resort is especially famous for manta migrations happening almost on a daily basis between May and October. Your chances of swimming with those gentle flat giants are almost guaranteed. We visited in January, therefore we were not lucky. 😔
Manta has also one of the most beautiful coral reefs right off the beach. The mountains of colourful corals majestically sit just meters from the surface. No need for diving equipment. Just grab a snorkel and fins.
↬ Note : Pack a long sleeve swimwear. It might seem strange, but there are tons of what we learned is called a ‘sea lice’ just drifting in the waters. They are basically harmless, but sting quite painfully.
Manta is smaller than Kuata and unfortunately was not as fun as the first location. The common area was a covered, really dark space, the food was served on plates, not as buffet. Even if it was tasty and the crew did their best to meet my food requirements (which I have a few since suffer from IBS), the portions were just too small. We were hungry pretty much all the time while on this island. Chips or oreos were the only ‘extras’ that we could purchase 😅
Our favourite day we spent on Manta, was technically not on the island. We kayaked 30 min to the nearby island just in front and had a wonderful time there. The island is deserted and we were the only people on the beach (island). We swam naked, danced (we took our waterproof speaker with us), took tons of pictures and enjoyed the day.
Citizens of 107 countries are not required to obtain a Fiji visa when travelling to Fiji. It includes most of European countries, Australia and USA.
↬ Note : You passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Sim Card and Reception
Purchasing a sim card at arrival is not necessary, specially if you are planning to head to the islands direct. There is no cell service on most islands. Also all the resorts have wifi. Be aware that the wifi signal goes on and off often as the islands are really in the middle of nowhere.
We suggest to take this time to disconnect with the outside world, leave the phone behind and really enjoy the nature and paradise.
Best Time to Visit
Best time to visit Fiji is during the dry season lasting from May to September. The temperatures are pleasant and there is low chance of rain.
We’ve heard that October and early November are a good period as well, as the weather is still nice and the prices drop.
We visited over NYE and early January and dodged a huge cyclone by just a week. We were lucky to have lovely sunny weather. All tourists who stayed on the islands during the cyclone were stuck in rain and strong wind for at least a few days.
Getting to and Between Islands
There are 2 ferry companies operating from Denarau port in Fiji.
The ferries are very comfortable and fast. The easiest way is to book the tickets online directly at the websites.
Have in mind that the transfers aren’t cheap.
Transfer from Denarau to Kuata costed us 155 FJD/pp, from Kuata to Manta 100 FJD/pp and return to Denarau 175 FJD/pp. Total of 885.80 FJD (including fees) around 350 EUR for 2 people for 3 transfers.
Fijian cuisine is delicious and healthy. Some of the popular ingredients in Fijian food are coconut, cassava, taro, rice and all type of fish and sea food. The dishes are light are very tasty. Make sure to try Kokoda, a fresh sea ceviche with lime juice, Lovo, fish or meat cooked in banana leaves in an ground pit filled with hot stones and mahi mahi- traditional grilled fish.
The Mandatory Resort Package
Most hotels require you to purchase a ‘resort package’ as soon as you arrive on the island (to be payed on top of the stay). It includes 3 meals a day and afternoon snack, usage of sport equipment: snorkels, kayaks etc and entertainment. The cost of the package vary depending on the type of the resort you stay in. For us in a 2.5* it was 119 FJD (50 EUR) per person per night. The more expensive hotel you choose, the more expensive package will get.
There is a variety of accommodations in Fiji. Most resorts and hotels are located on small and private islands.
- There are few places that host backpackers with prices starting as low as 53 FJD (21 EUR) per single bed in a shared dorm.
- For a double room, or a lovely tent on the beach with a private bathroom in a 2,5* resort you would need to pay around 350 FJD (140 EUR) for 2 people.
- A double room in a 4* resort would cost 750 FJD (300 EUR) – 1100 FJD (450 EUR).
- Stay in 5* resort can cost as much as 2000 FJD (800 EUR) per night.
↬ Find all the best deals for Fiji Islands (Mamanucas) on booking.com