With dazzling beaches, world-class diving, five-star resorts and adrenaline-fuelled adventures, Fiji is truly heaven on earth.
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I dare say it just *might* be my favourite country on the entire planet. Which is a pretty big statement coming from someone who’s been to nearly 80 of them.
This tiny piece of paradise in the South Pacific has more than 300 islands–264 of them are inhabited–and there are less than one million people. Do the math: that means plenty of space to enjoy your own private escape away from any crowds.
While the jaw-dropping scenery is reason enough to visit, it’s the incredibly friendly, happy Fijians who really make the islands shine. When they greet you by saying ‘welcome home!’ they mean it, and you won’t ever be able to walk past someone without hearing an enthusiastic ‘bula!’ (hello).
Here are just 10 of the reasons why you need to book a trip to Fiji immediately…and take me back with you.
1) The people
Everyone is just So. Freaking. Nice. Like, they actually smile 24/7. Even when you’re driving by some random person walking along the highway in the oppressive heat, they’ll still look up at you with the biggest grin and wave. At some resorts you’re greeted with a warm hug every morning, and can expect to be serenaded with a traditional song at least twice a day.
Frankly, us Canadians are pretty well known for our politeness, yet these guys still put us Canucks to shame.
The motto here is ‘no hurry, no worry’ which is apparent in the laid-back vibe, and Fijian culture is all about welcoming everyone and being good neighbours. The villages don’t even have fences around the houses, to encourage random drop-ins and visits.
From boat captains to bartenders to village chiefs, every single person I encountered during my weeks-long trip was welcoming, gracious, eager to help however they could, share stories about their lives, and curious to learn all about the world beyond Fiji’s sun-kissed shores.
Not that they plan on leaving: when we asked one tour guide who drove us back to the airport where he would go if he could travel anywhere in the world, his response was “why would I go anywhere else? I live in paradise!” Touche.
2) It’s (relatively) easy to get to
Even being the geography nut that I am, I have to admit it took a bit of sleuthing to find this small chain of islands on a map, and assumed it would take 30+ hours of flying to get there. Wrong!
In fact, if you’re flying from the west coast of North America it’s actually faster to get to Fiji than it is to head down to the Caribbean. My 17-hour route was a quick flight down to LA, a three hour layover then a 10 hour direct, overnight flight straight to Nadi. It was literally dreamy: thanks to a first-class upgrade (thanks Fiji Airways!) I enjoyed a flat-lay seat and slept almost the entire way there.
Compared to my flight to Curacao a couple weeks later when my 22 hour ordeal meant three flights crammed into economy on domestic flights and springing for a hotel in Miami for the 7 hour overnight layover ($$), let’s just say the South Pacific is a little more appealing.
Also, did you know that Fiji is a common layover for flights to Australia and New Zealand, and some airlines will include a multi-day stopover there for free?
Oh, and it turns out the time change isn’t that bad: even though you’ll lose a day crossing the international dateline (which you get back on the return flight because #math), jet lag is rarely an issue because it’s technically only a few hours different from MST or PST versus going to, say, the Maldives which is 11 or 12 hours.
3) It’s the ultimate destination for romance
Name a more romantic place than Fiji. I’ll wait.
Seriously though, between the luxury resorts, private plunge pools and intimate candlelit dinners on overwater platforms, we felt like we were on our honeymoon the entire trip even though there ain’t no ring on this finger!
It’s no surprise that Fiji is popular with newlyweds wanting a secluded escape as well as couples celebrating milestone anniversaries, and it’s easy to indulge and reconnect with your partner during massages, snuggling on sun beds, and sunset walks when the entire sky dances with vibrant orange and rose hues.
At the exceptional, all-inclusive Turtle Island resort (which just so happens to be my favourite place on earth which is a story for another day), couples get to pick which of its seven private beaches they’d like to spend the day on.
A gourmet picnic spread out under a shaded pergola was waiting when we arrived, and we were given a walkie-talkie to call for a pickup to ensure we were undisturbed for the entire day. Ummm HELLO talk about setting the stage for romance!
Oh, and if it’s an overwater bungalow you’re after, Fiji has that too. Likuliku Lagoon Resort has nearly a dozen overwater bures set over a protected marine sanctuary, complete with soaker tubs, an outdoor shower, large deck and glass floor for looking right down into the vibrant natural reef.
However, all this is not to say that Fiji is only made for couples: I spent the last few days of my trip with a few girlfriends after my honey flew back home, and we had a great time doing adventurous activities like snorkel trips and waterfall hikes.
The islands definitely have something to offer all types of travellers, from young families to surfers to backpackers on a budget.
4) The culture
The opportunities for cultural immersion in Fiji are endless, and beyond the constant chorus of bulas and vinakas (thank you) are traditional songs, dances and experiences.
At Nanuku Resort we wove coconut fronds around fresh fish and veggies, then watched as they were cooked in an underground pit.
Fire dancers delighted the crowds at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort in Nadi, whirling and twirling blazing sticks in rhythm with the pulsating beat of a drum.
A day trip with Sigatoka River Safari is one of the top Fiji tourist attractions for good reason: we got to take an exhilarating jet boat ride along the majestic, emerald-toned Sigatoka River to one of the local villages and see their homes and community gathering spaces.
The whole village (minus the kiddos who were at school that day) greeted us with a kava ceremony, a long-standing tradition which I felt incredibly grateful and honoured to be part of.
Then, we sat down for a lunch feast and had lots of time to meet everyone and learn more about their customs before singing and a fun dance party broke out to see us off for our wet and wild ride back down the river. Click here to book
5) Kava ceremonies
The main cultural experience and one of the best things to do in Fiji is taking part in a kava ceremony, and this is one you won’t want to miss–especially if you’re looking for a natural alternative to your Xanex.
Also known as a yaqona ceremony, this traditional drink is made from grinding the roots of a kava plant, then serving it in a large wooden bowl. There are a number of steps to the actual ceremony that I won’t bog you down with, so let’s get to the part you’re probably wondering about.
Kava is not addictive and has medicinal properties that act like a sedative or euphoriant. Basically, it makes you chill AF, and the next best thing to alcohol for Fijians who don’t often drink.
Many resorts hold nightly kava ceremonies so their staff can unwind after a long day, and guests are often invited too which is a great way to interact with the locals while getting a buzz that won’t leave you with a hangover. Win win!
6) It’s like the Hollywood of the South Pacific
While visiting the Mamanuca Islands which are a short boat ride from the main island of Viti Levu, I joked that I felt like I was on the South Pacific version of a Hollywood bus tour. There are movie and TV sets everywhere!
The Fiji islands have been a backdrop for productions of Bachelor in Paradise (Australia), Love Island, and most notably a few seasons of Survivor. In fact, you can take a boat trip out to Mana Island and see the obstacle course and tribal council torches still set up in the water.
Some scenes were shot on the beautiful beach at nearby Mociu (Honeymoon) Island, and Likuliku Lagoon Resort arranges guided sunrise hikes complete with champagne.
The most famous production that Fiji has hosted is undoubtedly Cast Away starring Tom Hanks, which was filmed on Monuriki.
While Wilson the volleyball is nowhere to be found, you can walk on the same beach where Chuck spent all those lonely days, the bush where he dragged the body of the pilot, and the peak he climbed up to try and signal for help.
Insider scoop: a helicopter was brought in to shuttle Hanks to the top, even though it’s technically only about a 20 minute walk up. Movie stars, I tell ya.
Over in the Yasawas, Turtle Island hosted the entire production of The Blue Lagoon back in the ‘70s. Guests can book Villa #7 which Brooke Shields lived in during filming, see spots that appeared in the movie like Paddy’s Island, and keep an eye out for some familiar looking staff members who were even in the film!
7) The massages
During my two weeks in Fiji, I got five massages.
Yes, FIVE MASSAGES. And let me tell you, each one was heavenly.
Normally I’m lucky to get one or two a year, but in Fiji they’re actually very well priced for the most part. At the Sabeto Mud Pools (a must-do when it comes to Fiji attractions) it costs about $30 USD for an hour-long rub down or $18 for 30 minutes, which feels incredible after caking yourself in mud and relaxing in the hot springs.
If you opt to spend a day at the Malamala Beach Club, be sure to book in for a body wrap or deep tissue massage–a one hour experience will only set you back about $27 USD.
8) There are countless islands and beaches
Pristine blonde beaches? Check. Swaying palm trees? Check. Hammocks swinging over the gem-toned water, and deserted sand bars? Yup, Fiji has those too.
There are countless beaches on the hundreds of different islands that make up Fiji, so if soaking up the sun is your jam then this is your place. Opt for a resort that has cabanas and loungers overlooking the ocean, or book an excursion to head out and explore a more secluded spot.
Popular day trips include sailing over to South Sea Island, the island sanctuary of Tivua, and beach hopping around the Mamanuca Islands. You can also book this excellent catamaran cruise which has entertainment, food and drinks, snorkel stops, a slide for easy access to the water and anchoring at a stunning sand bar.
9) You can party on a floating bar
These floating platforms are anchored in the Mamanuca Islands, and are one of the most popular day trips from Nadi since they’re just 45 minutes by boat from Port Denerau. At Cloud 9, we spent the day lounging on sprawling sun beds overlooking the water, jumping off the second storey into the clear water to snorkel and sipping on cool cocktails.
Some days there are even live DJs, and the whole thing can be rented out for private parties. How’s that for wow factor?
10) There are adventures for everyone
While Fiji is the ultimate place for relaxation, there are also lots of fun activities for those who manage to pull themselves away from the beach. Go on a sunrise horseback ride, try deep sea fishing, spot spinner dolphins in Volivoli and snorkel with sea turtles.
High octane activities include zipline tours, whitewater rafting down the Navua River, and swimming under a cascading waterfall in Nabalesere. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, you can even go diving with tiger sharks near Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu.
Now do you see why I love Fiji so much? What are you waiting for–time to book your own trip to this paradise on earth!
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