Fiji has always been a destination that intrigued me. When you look at the Pacific Ocean on Google maps, you have to zoom way in to even see that it exists. When living in the US I assumed it was a destination only for the rich and famous. However, after talking to Aussies, you begin to realize that there are accommodations for every budget. Traveling from California, you can easily plan a trip to Fiji for less that going to an all inclusive resort in the Caribbean! No joke!
So once I moved to Australia and began my extensive research that goes into all of my trips (I am aware that I’m addicted), I found several options that suited our style and budget. Now I feel very blessed to have friends that are as, if not more addicted to travel than I am. A random facetime session with Tanya resulted in the Freunds booking a flight to Fiji a day later! We were going to be stranded on a remote island with two of our favorite people!
Now when going to Fiji you have to know where to go. We stayed on Denaru Island (part of the main island) for one night before catching a ferry to the Yasawa Chain. If that had been our sole destination I would have had a completely different perspective on Fiji. Despite the Westin being lovely, their beach was murky and muddy and was like any other mega resort. It wasn’t until we got on the Yasawa Flyer for Nacula Island that we started to experience the remote and unspoiled beauty of Fiji.
The Blue Lagoon Beach Resort is located on an island with only a couple indigenous villages. The hotel is all inclusive because there is nowhere else to go. Partnering with the local community, the Blue Lagoon provides jobs and funding for village projects and scholarships for students at the boarding school on the island. Visiting the village and the school was definitely a highlight. We attended an Easter Sunday service at the church and received an adorable concert from the students. They even sang McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut! It was refreshing to see kids being kids without the excess of modern society.
The beauty of the island is that you can do as little or as much as you’d like! We snorkeled, hiked, kayaked, and even swam in the cave from The Blue Lagoon film (our guide pointed out that Tanya and I were sitting on the rock where Brooke Shields got her period)…in the movie…weird. A highlight included swimming underwater through a tunnel into a pitch black cave. Nightly entertainment included international crab racing, movies under the stars, village choir performances and stargazing.
Cava ceremonies were practiced every night before dinner. Cava is a root that is wrung out between wet cloths infusing the water with the plants residue. The result is a brown earthy tasting liquid said to have hallucinogenic properties. Despite 5 cups full, It just made my tongue numb and a tad sleepy. Originally the ceremony was only open to the village chief and his buddies. Now it is practiced in every hotel and offered to men and women. When offered a coconut cup filled with cava you clap and say “Bula,” you drink and give it back saying “Motha?” (we never got the last part right).
When our last day rolled around I was sad yet excited. We were taking a sea plane back to the mainland. We pulled up to the celebrity hot spot Turtle Island (rooms start at $1,500/night) where we boarded our Turtle Airways flight. In the copilot seat, I got to “fly the plane” when the pilot took his hands off the controls. The views were amazing! Once on land and after very weird negotiation with our driver, we had an authentic Indian lunch in Nadi. Unfortunately our adventure didn’t stop there. Marc and Tanya boarded their flight to Australia…just as ours was cancelled until the next day. Luckily we had given them one of our mobile phones so we could give them the bad news when they landed.
Fiji is so much more than a beach destination, it is a rich cultural experience. Here are my tips below to planning a memorable trip:
Where to stay: The Blue Lagoon has two sister properties located in the Yasawa Islands, Octopus and Paradise Cove Resorts. These three hotels all have beautiful beaches and close ties to the local Fijian communities. The Yasawa Islands are known for the best beaches and weather in Fiji.
Transportation: Getting to Fiji from the US is a 10 hour, non stop over night flight. Have a glass of wine with dinner, watch a movie, have a snooze and wake up in paradise. Traveling to the outer islands can be done by sea plane, boat charter or ferry. When looking at prices, remember that quotes are normally in Fijian Dollars.
When you steer clear of mega resorts, your activities become much more culturally authentic. The best part is that you can do as much or as little as you want, you’re in paradise.
Note: All of my friends with kids, Fijians love children and are so good with them. It’s a very family friendly destination!