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You know you want to go to Fiji to experience those pristine white sands and turquoise waters, but with 330 islands, about a third of which are inhabited, how do you choose which island to visit? Whether you’re looking for the ultimate in peace and serenity on a luxury resort in Fiji, or are looking for an island with a wealth of fantastic dining options, markets and more, these islands are the dreamiest picks.
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Kadavu is Fiji’s fourth-largest island, made up of smaller islands like Ono and Galo. It’s incredibly tranquil, surrounded by hundreds of miles of coral and 50 miles of the Great Astrolabe barrier reef that forms sheltered lagoons. Visitors will find it especially ideal for snorkeling and diving among abundant marine life, including sea turtles, all sorts of tropical fish and dolphins. Enjoy walks through the rainforest to view the wide range of birdlife, some of which can be found nowhere else, and learn about traditional culture through welcome ceremonies and basket-weaving workshops too.
The Mamanuca Islands, just off the coast of Denarau, are easy to reach from the tourist hubs of Nadi and Denarau Island and are one of the most popular vacation destinations in Fiji. The ultimate island paradise, Tom Hank’s “Cast Away” was filmed in this chain on uninhabited Monuriki Island which can be visited on a day trip. While there won’t be much in the way of cultural attractions, you’ll be able to enjoy postcard-perfect beaches with plenty of sunshine and less rain than other island groups along with vibrant fish-rich coral reefs. Look forward to a wealth of water sports in the crystal-clear azure waters, including fantastic snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle boarding and parasailing.
The Yasawa Islands lie north of the Mamanucas, more remote and more sparsely populated. This is where the 1980’s film “The Blue Lagoon” was shot, and what you saw on screen may be even more beautiful in real life with the incredibly clear waters that surround the islands in nearly every shade of blue. They have dramatic peaks that spill down to idyllic white-sand beaches, with plenty of opportunities for a Robinson Crusoe kind of experience with no one else around. Activities include everything from swimming with manta rays and kayaking to exploring caves. While there are no cities here, you will find small villages unaffected by mass tourism.
Taveuni is the third-largest island in Fiji, much of which is a national park, offering plenty to explore. Often called the “Garden Island of Fiji,” it’s covered with dense rainforest with cascading falls, dreamy lagoons, coves and craters. It also boasts a wealth of indigenous wildlife and plant species, some of which can only be found right here, like the Tagimoucia flower. One of the highlights is the Lavena Coastal Walk which follows the forest’s edge for three miles alongside white and black sand beaches and villages, leading to a waterfall. It also boasts aquamarine lagoons for exploring coral and marine life like turtles, rays and colorful fish.
The small and secluded island of Beqa, an outlier of the main island of Viti Levu located about six miles to the south, is one of the top spots for diving. It’s teeming with marine life, with the renowned crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Beqa Lagoon drawing visitors from across the globe. Many come for the chance to swim alongside tiger sharks that are regularly spotted here, as well as to soak up the sun and jaw-dropping island scenery. There are nine villages on the island, and four of them, Rukua, Nacva, Soliyaga and Dakuibeqa Dakuni, are notable for their fire-walking tradition, something that you may be able to watch when you visit.
The main island of the Lomaiviti group, Ovalau is an eroded volcanic crater with rugged terrain that was once home to Fiji’s capital. Today, Levuka is one of the few towns in the South Pacific with Wild West-style colonial buildings. Outside of it, you’ll find jungle-covered mountains for hiking and undeveloped coasts with traditional villages. While it’s close to Viti Levu, few travelers visit, making it ideal for those searching for tranquility and isolation without having to hop on a pricey, long inter-island flight. In addition to hiking, diving and snorkeling, take a stroll along the main road in Levuka and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another era of time with many sites of historical interest.
If you’re looking for an island with lots to do, including a wide range of restaurants serving diverse cuisine, lively nightlife and thriving markets, you’ll want to head to Suva, home to the Fijian capital and largest city in the South Pacific. The food here often reflects the islands’ multicultural makeup with everything from Japanese and Chinese to Indian and European. Most of the hotels and all the resorts have bars, many of them hosting live music and traditional entertainment like fire and dance shows. There are some fascinating markets to explore like the Municipal Market with its chickens and rare tropical fruits, while the Suva Handicraft Centre offers all sorts of affordable, authentic treasures.
If you’re looking to get far off the beaten path to a place practically untouched by tourism development, the remote Lau Islands are sometimes referred to as the “real Fiji,” with their virgin jungles, traditional villages and surreal blue waters. The chain of nearly 60 islands, all stunningly bejeweled gems, that are laced across the aquamarine South Pacific. Most visitors arrive by sea using the sporadic interisland service from Suva or via Captain Cook Cruises which specializes in bringing travelers to places without postal codes or postcards. There are just a few villages spread across the entire archipelago, and they see few visitors beyond the appearance of the cruise ships. Residents tend to welcome them with open arms as if they’re long lost friends.