Bula from Fiji!
As I begin to write this post, I’m sitting on a beach cabana looking out to sea, on a 28 degree day in Fiji.
Ahhhh the serenity.
Life’s pretty good when holidaying in Fiji, when all you have to worry about is what your next cocktail will be, and where you’re going to sit on the beach!
From where I’m sitting now, I can see stand up paddle boarders making their way through the waves, old ladies spending a little tooooo much time in the hot sun, someone drinking from a coconut (yes an actual coconut that they cut from the tree!!) and many people just seriously enjoying the chance to sit down, relax and be zen.
This is my first time in Fiji, and it most certainly will not be my last.
Having travelled here to celebrate mine and Sam’s two year anniversary, we came with a mission to not only get some much needed sun, but also to experience the real Fiji, and not just spend time at our resort.
Being a newbie to Fiji (Sam has visited many times before and even lived there for short periods of time), I thought I would list 12 tips for travelling to Fiji, for other Fiji newbies out there too!
1. Fly with Fiji Airways (and select a flight that arrives in Fiji during the day)
Fiji Airways were absolutely fantastic, and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to fly to Fiji. I was particularly fond of them because we were able to bring up to 23kg worth of luggage (perfect as I always overpack), as well as 7kgs of hand luggage, which meant we could carry on all of our more fragile items and have them on board with us. The Fiji Airways cabin crew were all extremely friendly and helpful, and really made the flight quite relaxing and carefree.
The flight from Sydney to Nadi Airport was around 3.5 hours, and actually went super quick – even more so by the fact that we were upgraded to Premium Economy and had some extra legroom! The in-flight service was great, and definitely made the flight a memorable one.
We left Sydney at 2pm, and arrived in Nadi at around 7pm local time. I was a little sad that we arrived when it was dark, as I have heard that the view flying into Fiji is a spectacular one. Next time, we will definitely look at getting an earlier flight.
2. Pre book all your transfers to and from the Airport
Because we stayed along the Coral Coast which is a 60 minute drive from Nadi, we booked a shared transfer to take us to and from the airport on arrival and departure.
This was honestly one of the best things we could have done, because by the time we cleared Customs and Immigration at the airport it was already 9pm local time and we were delirious, tired and hungry. I don’t want to think what it would of been like if we hadn’t of already organised our transport!
We booked our transfers through Pacific Destinations, who were excellent, and also managed our transfers to other activities we had booked for the rest of our stay.
Pre booking all of our transfers meant that they were also pre paid for, so we had $$ to allocate to other expenses (such as food and shopping!).
3. Pick accommodation that suits your needs
When we started planning our trip months before our departure date, we knew we wanted two things: to stay along the Coral Coast, and to stay at a resort that offered an abundance of activities and things to do throughout our stay.
We were able to score an incredible accommodation deal at the luxury 5-star Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa, and wow wow wow was it amazing!
The Shangi-La Fijian Resort & Spa really is a village in itself, and is a great place for two types of people: those who don’t want to step foot outside the resort, and those who want to explore and fill up their itineraries with activities.
Our room overlooked the lagoon pool and beach, and was truly spectacular. We had our own balcony, and were close to all the resort amenities, restaurants, bars and pools. Our accommodation booking included breakfast each morning (which was great for Sam who eats A LOT), and the resort had 4 restaurants to choose from, including one adults only restaurant, which we frequented quite regularly.
The resort also had a fitness centre, day spa, 3 pools, 2 oceanfront bars, a golf course, tennis courts, mini golf, water sport facilities (including complimentary kayaks, SUP’s, snorkeling equipment, wake boarding equipment etc), as well as a beautiful seaside chapel + more!
We really enjoyed our time staying here, and we are already planning our return trip.
4. Plan and book some tours and day activities in advance
Although I never like to book too much before heading somewhere, it’s always good to have a few day trips and activities locked in and paid for before departing.
This makes for planning your time at your destination a little easier, and also means you don’t have to pay more for things once you arrive. The tours that we pre booked included a day zip lining through the tropical rainforest, a trip to Cloud 9 and a day spent at a remote, Fijian village.
Before we arrived, I also booked Sam and I in for a massage at the day spa (more on that later!).
Some days we also winged it as well.
5. Go Zip Lining
Wow was this an experience, and one I don’t think we will ever forget.
When we heard that there was an opportunity to zip line through the tropical rainforest, we knew it was definitely something we wanted to do. We zipped and glided with Zip Fiji along 16 zip lines that took us right through the rain forest, with views of the ocean and other villages in the surrounding area. We felt a serious rush of adrenaline and took in some stunning views, as well as the beautiful flora and fauna.
The tour operators were exceptional, and they even allowed us to walk through a sacred cave where we learnt some really interesting Fijian history and more about their culture.
6. Go snorkeling
Snorkeling is an absolute MUST when visiting Fiji.
Being located on it’s own little island on the reef, the Shangri-La was in the perfect spot for snorkeling.
We took a 5 minute boat ride from the resort to the reef, and had a great time snorkeling around the reef spotting some cool fish, and even a few sea snakes! We also snorkeled more at Cloud 9, where the water was super clear, which made for some great GoPro shots of the fish and coral.
We brought our own snorkeling gear (mask and snorkel) with us, and am so glad that we did, as hiring the gear was extremely popular.
7. Visit Cloud 9
Cloud 9 is another must visit spot in Fiji, and is also one I am glad we pre booked beforehand.
Cloud 9 is Fiji’s only two-level floating platform in the middle of the ocean, and has a fully licensed bar, wood fired pizzeria, jumping platforms, sun lounges, and is surrounded by turquoise blue water and picturesque views.
We originally had our Cloud 9 trip booked for earlier in the week, but having noticed that the weather wasn’t going to be the best, we changed our booking date to later in the week when it was full sun and super warm – BEST DECISION EVER. The incredible weather on the day meant we were really able to have fun in the sun.
To get to Cloud 9 we drove an hour north from our accommodation to Port Denarau, and were then taken on a 45 minute boat ride to the platform.
8. Watch the sunset on the beach
One of my favourite things to do whilst we were in Fiji was to watch the sunset on the beach, and really appreciate life. We were lucky that we had an awesome view from our balcony, but we also made use of the quiet beach time to walk along the sand and soak it all in.
9. Book an afternoon at the Day Spa
At the top of my to-do list every holiday, is to visit a day spa.
Chi, The Spa at Shangri La is a spa that draws inspiration from the origins of the Shangri La legend and was a place of peace, enchantment and well-being.
I booked a 60 minute couples massage for Sam and I before we departed Australia, just so that we didn’t miss out.
The massage was like nothing I have ever experienced before.
We enjoyed a signature Fijian tea beforehand so that we could relax and begin to unwind pre massage.
We were then taken to an ocean view room, where the windows were wide open and we could hear the waves rolling in and out. I think it’s safe to say that we both fell asleep and woke up feeling super relaxed, a little oily and very content.
This was a quality massage in a superb location, and I highly recommend. The hotel even organised buggy transfers for us to and from the spa as well, which was an added bonus!
10. Visit a Fijian Village
With Sam having previously lived in Fiji many years ago, he really wanted to take us out of the resort and visit a remote Fijian village for the day. I was really interested to see how the Fijians really live and learn more about their culture, and why they really are some of the happiest people on this earth.
This day trip was a massive eye opener for me, and is something I highly recommend anyone visiting Fiji do.
We booked the Fiji Village and Waterfall Tour through our tour company, and they really did looked after us well.
The morning started with us being picked up from our resort, along with around 10 other travelers, and taken on a 1 hour 45 minute drive to Nakavu.
The drive to Nakavu was like no other, as we saw many villages, hitch hikers and roadside stalls selling fruit and vegetables along the way.
Nestled on the banks of the Navua River sits Nakavu Village, which is home to over 100 families.
When we arrived in Nakavu, we were greeted by our English speaking Fijian guide, who explained to us a few village rules and regulations.
1. We had to assign a group Chief and Assistant Chief (Sam was Assistant Chief), who would talk on the groups behalf and represent us during our visit.
2. Men are ranked above women in the village. This meant that whilst walking through the village, the men had to lead the group, while the women followed behind. This was also the same for when we sat down anywhere in the village; men were to sit in front and women behind.
3. Women are to wear sarongs that cover below their knees (lucky I bought one with me!).
4. We were to be extremely respectful throughout our visit.
We began our visit with a traditional Kava ceremony.
Kava is made from the ground roots of the plant Piper methysticum, and is consumed as a drink or supplement. The crushed, ground or powdered root is added to water and drunk like tea. I personally didn’t think it tasted very nice, but was still an experience! As no alcohol is allowed in the Nakavu Village, Kava is their drink of choice for stress relief and relaxation.
After the ceremony, we were then shown around the village. The Fijians have pride in their homes and villages, and are proud of the communities they have built.
Before lunch we visited the local school, where we met some Year 7 & 8 students, and spoke with them about Fiji’s biggest love, Rugby Union – which Sam and I are also keen fans of!
The school kids were so kindhearted, and were just SO happy to meet us and show off what they knew about Australia.
Instead of heading home from school and watching TV in the afternoons or playing computer games like most kids do, the Fijian children instead head outside and play with friends in the fresh air, or help their families cook and clean. They aren’t consumed by technology.
Seeing the kids in this village so happy with just being able to kick a football around, made me sad for the children back home in Australia who are given so much, yet are hardly respectful or thankful. Not once did we see a a Fijian child with their head in an iPad or an iPhone (like lots of children were back in the resort!!).
Once we had spent time with the school children, we headed back to the communal village hall and participated in some Fijian dancing, had lunch, and mingled with the village people. We also had an opportunity to purchase some Fijian handmade goods.
In the afternoon we took a short boat ride down the Navua River on long boats where we enjoyed a swim at a cool and refreshing waterfall. Again, this was something else I will never forget.
The tropical rainforest surrounding the waterfall provided a picturesque backdrop, and was a great spot to swim and reflect on the village experience.
11. Go for walks around the resort
Every morning I would wake around 6am and go for my morning walk around the resort.
Some may call me crazy for getting up SO EARLY whilst on holidays, but I did it because it was seriously the best way to start a day in paradise. The air was cool, and it’s always a good feeling when you’re awake before everyone else.
Whilst on my walks I was able to see the sun rising, the first golfers teeing off, as well as prepare my goals and thoughts for the day.
12. Do absolutely nothing at all
When I was talking to my Dad halfway through our holiday, he made a point that Sam and I seemed like we were doing so many activities, that we weren’t getting time to just relax and do nothing at all!
This concept is so foreign to me, as I am the sort of person who likes to be occupied!
So, on our last couple of days, we decided to just relax and chill out and really do nothing at all except sun-bake, rest, watch the world go by and get some much needed R&R. I had also booked our massage on our last afternoon, and this was a great way to end the holiday.
So, can you tell that we loved our stay?!
When heading to Fiji, I highly recommend you step out and experience the real Fiji, which is something you just wont be able to see inside the walls of your resort. Experience their culture and way of life, and you’ll come home plentiful! See what really makes the Fijians so happy with life.
On top of the things above that I have listed, other big holiday positives for us included the extreme friendliness of every Fijian we met, how safe we felt everywhere we went, the cleanliness of the resort and village, as well as the glorious, soul filling food.
Have you been to Fiji? What did you enjoy most about your visit?