Hawaii and Pacific: Fiji | Tropical Tranquility & Underwater Wonders

by Lori Seto

About 300 islands in the South Pacific and two distinct cultures -- native Fijian and Hindu -- make up the alluring tropical nation of Fiji. Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are the two largest islands; many smaller islands also beckon. Known for its friendly people, lush foliage (one-third of which is endemic), and rich sea life, Fiji is the ideal destination for honeymooners seeking castaway tranquility, an exotic culture, unspoiled beaches, and dreamy thatched-roof bures ("boo-rays," a word meaning both bungalow and sanctuary).

In a Word: Bula!

Although Fijians were once cannibals, they are now renowned for their hospitality. Genuinely warm, playful, quick to smile, and generous, they will embrace you as guests, not tourists.

Why We'd Go: Five Features You'll Never Forget

  • Underwater eyefuls: Called the Soft Coral Capital of the World by Jean-Michel Cousteau, Fiji will surprise and delight. Here you'll see hard and soft corals, caves, grottoes, and a Carnival parade of marine life. Feed sharks, explore sunken ships and a WWII aircraft. Fish tend to visit in stronger numbers from October to February.
  • Kava: Once used as part of a spiritual ceremony, this tea-like beverage brewed from the ground roots of the Piper tree is now a mainstay at every social gathering. You clap once before you drink and three times after. Clap enough and you'll catch a mellow and merry high.
  • Crafts: Pick up some native handicrafts as souvenirs, including beautiful carved tanoa bowls (from which kava is sipped), carved spears, cannibal "brain forks," bark cloth (made from the bark of a mulberry tree and called masi), colorful sulus (sarongs), and woven pandanus-leaf mats and baskets.
  • Nature's bounty: The Garden Island of Taveuni, southeast of Vanua Levu, includes Mount Uluiqalau, notable because it lies at the 180th Meridian, 12 hours east and west from Greenwich, and the Bouma National Heritage Park. Here you can stroll the Lavena Coastal Walk or take the guided Vidawa Forest Walk, ending with a natural water slide and swim in the idyllic Bouma waterfalls, which was a rain-forest movie set for Return to the Blue Lagoon.
  • Sports: Fiji offers terrain to suit every action figure. Trek the Sigatoka sand dunes; scale the vertical face of Joske's Thumb or hike the Mt. Korobaba Range, both on Suva; tee off on palm-studded golf courses by the sea; or careen down the rock mazes of the Wainikoroiluva River on Viti Levu in a whitewater raft.

Pucker Up: Best Time to Smooch

At sunrise, slip out of bed and snuggle under the intensely starry sky. As night surrenders to day, you'll feel like you're witnessing the beginning of the world. The birds in the jungle start to stir and sing, the jungle's outline glows, and soon you're gazing at the awe-inspiring and illuminated arc of the earth.

When We'd Go: Fiji at its Best

  • Best weather: Dry season, called Fiji Winter, from May to October.
  • Best prices: Rates remain the same year-round
  • Festival highlights: Hindu Holi (Festival of Colours) is in February or March (dress down -- revelers squirt each other with colored water); a Hindu religious festival called Ram Naumi (Birth of Lord Rama) is celebrated in March or April; Ratu Sir Lala Sukuma, Fiji's most honored statesman and scholar, is feted with cultural shows and games in May; the Sugar Festival on Lautoka happens in September; Fiji Independence day falls in early October, and the Diwali (Festival of Light) happens during October or November

Before You Go: Need-to-Know Info

  • Entry requirements: Passport (valid for at least three months beyond your honeymoon), return ticket
  • Language: English
  • Currency: Fiji dollar (FJD$)
  • Flight time: 18 hrs from NYC, 10 hrs from LA, 14 hrs from Dallas
  • Hotel tax: 10%
  • Tipping: No tipping expected
  • Getting around: Bus, taxi, ferry
  • Inspiration: Watch The Blue Lagoon
  • More info: Fiji Visitor's Bureau, (800) YEA FIJI
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