Photo: YXO

Fiji is an infectiously happy place, as most Polynesian islands are. This nation, however, boasts particularly boisterous and friendly locals and offers to-die-for fishing, diving, and surfing opportunities — all in a tropical paradise setting. The key word in this land — the first Fijian word you will learn, and maybe the only one you will remember — is “bula” (hello). This word pretty much embodies the Fijian way. You will be welcomed with open arms and often smiled at (so smile back!).

Viti Levu

This island, the largest in the Fijian island chain, is the focus for first-time travelers to Fiji. If you have more time or cash, you can get a taste of the outer-island delights, but Viti Levu — its southern coast in particular — offers just about all you could wish for in terms of outdoor adventure. New arrivals must begin their journey in Nadi (pronounced NAN-dee), on the western coast, then continue along the southern coast to the eastern city of Suva, where domestic ferries and planes depart to outer-islands like Vanua Levu, Taveuni, and the Lau Group.

The Coral Coast

This southern stretch of Viti Levu is where the avid beach-goers, fishermen, surfers, and divers will spend most of their time. Take your time driving along Queens Highway and, in a mere three hours, watch the landscape transform right before your eyes — from dry land around Nadi, to plantations, to a long sandy beach in Natadola, to the spectacular Sigatoka sand dunes, to the tropical rainforests near Korolevu, and finally to the blue ocean stretching far out to the horizon. The Coral Coast ends fittingly in Pacific Harbor, where you can begin another grand adventure by boat, or you can continue along the highway to Suva. If you’re driving, it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of the Coral Coast, but don’t forget to drive on the left side of the road!

Politics

Fiji has experienced two periods of non-violent political unrest, most recently in December 2006. The recent coup, spurred by long-standing disagreements between the government and the military, should not dissuade travelers from coming to Fiji, as the situation poses no threat to tourists. However, with the noticeable division between the ethnic Fijians and the growing Indian population, national unification proves difficult. Therefore, awareness of the most current political situation is still necessary.

ACTIVITIES

NOTE: These activities pretty much require that you bring your own gear. If you’re serious about these sports, don’t expect locals or the resorts to have what you are looking for. If you need gear, you will have the best luck finding it in Nadi town.

Surfing

Viti Levu is a hop, skip, or jump from some of the best surf breaks in the world. Near Nadi, you can find access to to some epic waves around Tavarua and Namotu, namely Wilkes Passage, Lighthouse, Namotu Lefts, Cloudbreak, Restaurants, and Desperations. Traveling east, you can surf at the beach break along Sigatoka. From atop its sand dunes, there are only two fashionable ways down: sand surf or roll. On small or windy days here, you will still have lots of fun body surfing. If you can afford it, there is decent surf on the outer reefs of Natadola or exclusively for Hideaway resorters. Finally, if you’re able to acquire a boat from Pacific Harbor to get you there, don’t miss your chance to surf the gnarly left at Frigate’s Passage.

Keep in mind that if you are not staying at certain resorts/islands, surf spots like Cloudbreak, Namotu, Hideaway, and Frigate’s are remote, exclusive, or only open to the public one or two times a week. Be sure to find out what day you can hit it!

Hiking

There are several beautiful hikes in the tropical rainforests around Korotogo and Korolevu. Waterfalls, steep climbs, streams, greenery — you name it, this lush part of the island has it. Many of the resorts in the area provide guides for a nominal fee. Guides are advisable, as you will learn more about the native plants and local legends.

Fishing & Diving

The reef at Frigate’s Passage has some of the most lively underwater life I have ever laid eyes on. Even on a cloudy day you are sure to see a Spanish mackerel or barracuda swimming by within arm’s reach. Fish, troll, snorkel, dive, swim — just get in the water and take in the tropical wonder that thrives beneath you. It was here that I got my first taste of spear fishing and free/skin diving. I was strangely excited and amazed when sharks pecked away at the coral trout we caught that dangled from the end of our buoy line. I didn’t quite realize how good I had it at Frigate’s until I returned home to Hawaii, where fishing is now only decent.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Most of the accommodations along the coast offer a variety of room options and usually include meals as part of a package price. While most resorts have hot water, the remote ones might not, so it’s always better to ask. Budget for about $50-100 (U.S.) per day for all expenses, including food and excursions.

Rendezvous Resort

Located outside of Nadi and owned by a Fijian-Japanese couple, this resort offers camping, dorms, and private/shared rooms with meals included. It also provides a reasonably priced boat trip to Namotu and Tavarua to surf, fish, or dive. Be sure to negotiate the time spent doing what you wish and going where you want; there are added fees if you go farther than Wilkes or return later than 2 pm.

The Beach House

Due to the filming of Love Islandb on its premises, the Beach House experienced a funky and modern face lift last year. Right off the highway in Korolevu, this pleasant resort is set among palm trees and right on the beach. Options here include camping, male and female dorms, and private rooms with/without bath. There’s a lively vibe to the place, as well as good, reasonably-priced food. You can also, like I did, catch trevally along the beach and cook it up in their communal kitchen. You are sure to chat it up with fellow travelers while you’re relaxing by the pool or in the hammocks or while you’re taking part in one of the many activity offerings.

Batiluva Resort

If it’s Frigate’s you want by day and relaxation you need by night, then Batiluva is the place to stay. After enduring a cold and wet 45-minute boat ride from Pacific Harbor to Yanuca Island, you become the get-away. There’s no easy way to distinguish you from it. You’ll sleep comfortably under mosquito nets in one of the four shared quads or two private rooms. Wake up to the sound of the ocean lapping on the private beach. Then, prepare yourself for a full day at Frigate’s Pass (one-way, it takes another wet 45 minutes by boat from the resort) doing what you want, when you want, until you tell the captain it’s time to head back and take a cold shower (sorry, there’s no hot water shower, ladies!). Meals and transportation to/from Frigate’s are included, but bring your own fishing gear with you (and maybe even leave a good lure behind for the captain, as his lures are old and out-dated). Take an afternoon trip to visit the nearby village to drink kava with the chief and play soccer or make sand castles with the kids.


Matador’s expert on Hawaii, Brenda Yun writes: I’m a surfer girl, creative writing/English teacher who can’t seem to get enough out of life abroad. Despite my annual travels, my six-year old pug keeps me grounded.

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