No wonder Australia is going crazy about Fiji opening to Australian travellers on December 1 (bookings – especially for the Christmas school holiday period – are through the roof). One of the world’s most romanticised destinations will soon be available to us – and it’s barely four hours’ flight time away. What’s more – it’s not simply one destination – there are 333 islands, with holiday options all across them. We look at how you can have the best holiday for your budget in Fiji.
With its reputation for luxury island retreats and family holidays, what’s often forgotten is how great Fiji is for budget travellers. You can stay in simple accommodation right beside a $2000-per-night island retreat, and be surrounded by the same wonders.
The best place to experience this is in the Yasawas. This group of 20 stunning islands north-west of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, was off limits to land-based tourism till 1987. Still today, few tourists come. Here you’ll find some of the world’s best private island retreats (like Turtle Island) but there’s also a choice of budget accommodation at islands next door.
Only 25 minutes’ drive from Nadi International Airport, ferries depart Port Denarau Marina from $60 one-way. Or consider a five-day hop-on, hop-off pass from $190.
Local families host travellers in homestays spread across the Yasawas, or consider budget accommodation options such as community-owned Naqalia Lodge. At Barefoot Kuata Resort there’s everything from bures on the beach to dorm rooms. Many of the activities in the Yasawas are free – or you can pay locals to take you snorkelling, or visit sea caves (and there’s always a hammock).
The ferry takes three hours to the far south-east of the group, so for those who’d prefer less travel time, consider the Mamanuca Islands, barely half an hour’s travel from Denarau. Home to a string of 20 tiny islands, the Mamanucas are the Fiji you see in movies. There are budget island resorts too, such as Beachcomber Island – built on its own island – or Mana Island Resort and Spa. Some of the best surf on Earth breaks near these islands – book a boat trip to reach them.
Or consider Taveuni Island. It’s a two-hour flight north, but once you’re there there’s many free attractions since over one-third of Taveuni is national park and full of waterfalls. There are many budget accommodation options on the coastline. If you prefer to stay on Viti Levu, there’s a large range of homestays and budget lodges to choose from.
Families love Fiji. A big reason for this is that Fijians love families. Fiji is famous for having some of the best kids’ clubs of any resorts on the planet. What’s more, most kids clubs cater for various ages and split age groups all the way from toddlers to teens – and a lot of kids clubs in Fiji are free. There are also nanny and child-minding services at all family resorts to allow parents time alone.
It’s hard to go past the resorts of the Coral Coast – an hour’s drive south of Nadi International Airport – for their family offerings. Long-established resorts, such as the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, were designed with families in mind and kids clubs are available to all ages. There’s a range of great family-orientated activities along the coast, while the hinterland just beyond is ideal for the more adventurous. Take a jet boat up the river with Sigatoka River Safari to discover villages lost in time; or for the really adventurous, take a river-rafting tour down Fiji’s version of the Grand Canyon with Rivers Fiji.
Denarau Island – 20 minutes’ drive from your arrival point in Nadi – is also a firm family favourite. Several family hotels have been built here along the coast, where you’ll have the largest choice of family activities of anywhere in Fiji. Or take the kids out on a ferry – or speedboat – to the Mamanucas, a few kilometres from Port Denarau Marina. There are family resorts on their own private islands; try Castaway Island.
Nowhere does exclusive island holidays (Fiji is all about social distancing… by ocean) quite like Fiji. Little wonder Hollywood stars vacation here (some, like Mel Gibson, own their own Fijian islands). Land in Nadi and fly immediately to your own private island retreat by helicopter or plane.
Kokomo Private Island is one of Fiji’s best new luxury island resorts. You’ll be flown on a seaplane by pilots in bare feet for 45 minutes south to the Kadavu Island Group. The island is protected by the world’s fourth-largest reef – the Great Astrolabe – so nowhere in Fiji offers better diving or fishing. There’s no-one around for 50 kilometres and there are just 26 villas set beside the water, with a central communal area with views over a white-sand bay. Guests gather over sundowners to compare their days, especially at the resort’s pièce de résistance, a bar/restaurant serving Asian-style street food that’s built on a timber deck over the water.
There are also isolated luxury island retreats closer to Nadi, like Vomo Island Retreat (30 kilometres to the north-west). A long-time favourite for Australians, it’s only a 15-minute helicopter ride from Nadi International Airport, or 20 minutes by speedboat. Located in the Mamanucas, you’ll have your own 87-hectare private island, with just 32 villas. There are no other buildings – although for bonus romance points (and social-distancing credits) guests can hire out tiny Vomo Lailai, 1.6 kilometres away by boat, for a gourmet picnic on the beach.
There are luxury options all over Fiji. Should you prefer to stay on the main island, resorts like Marriott Resort Momi Bay, just south of Nadi, have overwater bungalows, while family favourite Denarau Island offers five-star resorts, including the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa which has a championship golf course next door and runs several luxury tours.
Also consider a yacht charter – luxury boats operate from Port Denarau Marina, and can take you around the Mamanuca and Yasawa island groups.
Take me there
Fly: Qantas and Fiji Airways will be flying direct from Australia to Fiji from December 1, while Virgin will fly from December 16 and Jetstar from December 17.
Health: Quarantine-free travel to Fiji is only for vaccinated tourists. Prior to travel you will need a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test result (72 hours before), as well as a booking for Care Fiji Committed accommodation (all staff will be vaccinated). You must remain at your hotel until a rapid test (about $23) is undertaken 48 hours after arrival.
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