I arrived in Fiji a bit sleepy after my long flight from New York City. The break in Los Angeles was nice, as I stretched my legs and rehydrated in the Fiji Airways lounge at LAX, but even then I had another 11.5-hour flight ahead of me.
Some might wonder if it is worth the far trek when we have other tropical islands closer to the East Coast, and until I got to tour Fiji and meet its people, I myself wasn’t so sure.
What changed my mind would also serve as a reminder of the surprises that travel can bring if we take the time and make the investment to do it.
Here are some of the best things about Fiji and why I think it is worth the trip.
The resorts and islands
There is almost every single type of lodging option to be found throughout the very many Fijian islands. Backpackers and adventure travelers can enjoy hostels and budget-friendly home stays; others can choose vacation rentals close to the ocean or further in the countryside. Personally, I am a huge fan of the luxury resorts. I like having access to in-house restaurants, spa amenities, organized activities, and well, all the comfort resorts bring.
Some of my favorites are the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa. Its proximity to the Nadi International Airport offers the option for immediate relaxation after the long flight, whether you choose to do so in the comfort of one of their beautiful rooms or along their private beach.
Viewfinder Tip: One the easiest ways to island-hop is on smaller commuter planes, though other options include ferries and helicopters.
The Nanuku, an Auberge Resort in Pacific Harbour, delivered a wow factor in both hospitality and luxury, maybe even more so because it went beyond anything I expected an all-inclusive to be. The food was incredible as were the people there. I took a sunset cruise, champagne in hand, but that isn’t even the best of it. I found the storytelling and cooking lessons offered at the cultural center to be a beautiful touch in helping to expose the guests to the local culture, and the private villas with private pools and beach access left me in complete awe.
Fiji’s “Garden Island” of Taveuni is packed with things to do and opportunities to explore, both on land and at sea. I stayed at the Paradise Taveuni Resort and hung out with the many divers that visit there. This was how I was left convinced I should pursue my certification, so I could explore the Great White Wall with the other divers, although even the snorkeling trips to places like the Rainbow Reef were pretty special, too.
Yasawa Island Resort & Spa is located on the smallest of the islands I visited. It is home to some of Fiji’s most breathtaking beaches, some great snorkeling and seashell-hunting spots, and six villages to explore if you want to mingle with the locals. But this is mostly where one comes to relax and enjoy what Fiji is all about: natural beauty and serenity.
Savusavu is often referred to as “the hidden paradise of Fiji.” Their village, or “downtown,” isn’t the most bustling spot, and one can easily walk it in a short few minutes flat. That is, of course, if you don’t get distracted in conversations with any one of the friendly locals, many of which I fist met at Koro Sun Resort where I stayed in a water bure, had a massage in the middle of the rainforest, and took in one of the most spectacular sunrises I had seen in a long time.
This is also where I tasted kava for the first time, a local drink made from the root of the yaqona plant. It’s traditional in ceremonial gatherings with village chiefs, but now most commonly enjoyed among friends. It’s an acquired taste, but also a good way to break bread and connect with new friends during your travels through the islands.
The food, culture, and people
As an island girl myself, I had come to expect a lot of the dishes that I tasted, such as the cassava—or as we call it, “yuca”—the taro, and even the Lovo, which is the Fijian version of our pernil (roasted pork), though they cook theirs wrapped in taro plant leaves over hot rocks in a dirt pit. I expected the seafood, fruit, and other vegetables. What I didn’t expect was how much the other cultures in Fiji influenced its cuisine, such as the spices and curries from their large Indian population.
This multiculturalism makes Fiji a unique destination because of how closely each group holds on to their traditions. Driving through, you will not only see various churches, but also some beautiful Hindu temples. Everyone speaks English, and then of course there’s Fijian and Hindi, and every once in awhile you will also hear Chinese.
Beautiful Fijian woman
I thought the way many of the women wear their natural hair was extremely beautiful, and the pride that many Fijians have in their African heritage was felt in their fascinating stories and fables.
Many of the Fijian people confused me with being a local, and I could see in them a lot of the traits of my own Dominican people. These physical similarities were not only wonderful to me, but as some Fijians expressed, also made them feel a certain familial bond toward me.
The sunsets, the ocean, the food, the waterfalls, the natural landscape, and the music—everything I experienced in Fiji was complemented by the people I met along the way. Of the long list of things that make Fiji such a worthwhile destination, it is the people that make the best of Fiji really stand out, and why I would make the long journey back again.
What is your favorite island destination?