Fiji Backpackers Guide

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Fiji backpackers are spoiled with choice. The Mamanuca Group are the closest islands to Nadi Airport and offer small islands with nice beaches and a definite party-style atmosphere. The extremely popular and well trodden Yasawa Islands offers picturesque beaches, lots of budget beach resorts and is the place to meet fellow travellers and swap stories. To escape the crowds, head around the main island of Viti Levu which offers spectacular scenery, several lovely secluded beaches and undiscovered offshore islands with small locally owned village resorts - a great place for adventure. The Northern Islands and Southern Islands are less travelled and are both good places for nature lovers and diving enthusiasts. The really adventurous head to the Lomaiviti or Lau Group where travel is governed by spontaneity.

There are Fiji backpacker hostels all around the islands - most of them disguised as budget beach resorts, others as guesthouses. Some are lively and others laid back - prices start at about F$50 for a dorm bed with meals, F$100 for private bungalow - some allow you to pitch a tent for F$10 but the sweltering early morning heat can make this an uncomfortable way to go. Camping in the wild is not encouraged and should not be considered unless first consulting with the local Fijian chief - permission may be given in special circumstances only as it is considered culturally insensitive.

Some of the more popular backpacker routes are described below:

Circle Viti Levu -
best for adventure, villages and beach combing
The main island of Viti Levu has some good varied attractions. It takes an entire day to go all the way around the island by car without stopping so you want at least three days to see the island properly. Heading south from Nadi, it's about an hour to the Coral Coast, a popular holiday destination with several large hotels. There are also several small beach bungalows and budget hostels to spend a few days relaxing on picturesque beaches, although neither snorkelling or swimming is much good here. Leaving the Coral Coast, it's about an hour to Pacific Harbour, the activity centre of Fiji with river rafting, white water rafting and vibrant tropical rainforest, waterfalls and traditional villages in the highlands. The Navua River Resort is the place to stay and organize your activities. Forty minutes further along the coast is Suva, the capital of Fiji. Suva is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with excellent restaurants, lively bars and nightclubs, a good cinema but no beach, although the harbour setting is attractive. There are several budget hostels in town or slightly inland (15 minutes from downtown) is Colo-i-Suva Forest Park where you can visit the rainforest and stay at the Raintree Lodge.

The road north from Suva travels slightly inland through low lying forest all the way to Rakiraki Town on the north coast. There are a few attractions along this scenic route including the offshore island of Caqalai about 20-minutes by boat from Waidalice Village. Caqalai Island Resort is a small coral island with lovely beaches and great snorkelling. From Caqalai, you can take a 50-minute boat ride to Ovalau Island and the old capital of Levuka (colonial heritage trail, lush rainforest with hiking trails, natural swimming pools) - you can also fly to Ovalau from Suva (the flight takes just 15 minutes). Another good place to stay on the main island north of Suva is at very traditional
Natalei Village Beach Resort on a black sand beach and surrounded by tropical forests and waterfalls. The sunny north coast of Viti Levu is dominated by sugar cane fields and mountains. Most of the coast is mangrove forests but off Rakiraki is one of the nicest holiday islands in all of Fiji - Nananu-i-Ra (can be reached by road from Nadi in under 3 hours). This small island with rolling hills is good for exploring, has lots of lovely beaches and several budget cottages. The atmosphere is very laid back and there are no Fijian villages and therefore no restricted protocol to follow. Heading back towards Nadi, about 50-minutes inland from Ba Town is the delightful Navala Village, Fiji's most picturesque village with over 200 traditional thatch bures and not a single cement building except for the church and school. One of the village chiefs has set up a Navua Village Resort just outside the village overlooking the Ba River.

About 30 minutes north of Nadi is the Sugar City of Lautoka. There are few attractions here except for the colourful market Some boats depart Lautoka Port for the Yasawa Islands. A 30-minute rough trail inland from Lautoka leads to Koroyanitu National Park with several nice walking trails with waterfalls and a lodge style accommodation that is barely used. The short trail takes only about 2 hours - however, is possible to walk for days with a guide staying in mountain villages along the way.

Mamanuca Islands
best for easy access and partying
These offshore island off the west coast of Nadi are the stuff of tropical dreams. It's possible to go island hopping all the way through the two groups of islands. The nearest coral island is South Sea Island which takes 30-minutes to reach by boat and just 5 minutes to walk around - a day here is more enough unless you want to do nothing more and watch the world go by. Beachcomber, just 1 hour by boat, is a similar style tiny island but with a bit more of a buzz to it - there are lots of organized activities and the 100-bed mix dormitory encourages a beer-drinking party animal crowd. Funky Fish Resort on Malolo Island is a little more laid back. Mana Island has a large Japanese resort flanked by three backpacker resorts - the beach here is pleasant but unfortunately terribly run with poor accommodation and health standards.

Yasawa Islands Hopping
best for beaches, meeting other travellers and chilling
The well trodden Yasawa Islands comprises a chain of about 20 islands with about 30 budget beach resorts amongst them. The chain is split into four main clumps - Kuata, Waya and Wayasewa at the southern end of the chain are the closest to Nadi taking about 2 hours to reach by fast catamaran. These are all high islands with fantastic hiking trails, glorious scenery and lovely beaches, with great snorkelling offshore. Kuata Island Resort is popular with backpackers, Twin Bay Resort is a lively but more down-to-earth resort with a gorgeous beach and sand spit and has fantastic walking trails and hill views. For those looking for absolute peace and quiet, try Batside Resort on its own secluded beachfrnt with just two bures and gorgeos views to the steep crater across the bay.

Naviti, the largest island of the group, clumped together with several smaller islands, are in the middle of the group and takes another 50 minutes travelling time. At the southern end of Naviti is
Manta Ray Resort on the small island of Nanuya Balavu - this is a lively backpackers resort with lots of activities and well organized accommodation - it is just five minutes from the famous Manta Ray snorkelling spot (season from May to October). About twenty minutes north of the Manta rays is a lovely sweeping beach (not good for swimming) with three resorts including Whitesands and Korovou . There are several nice hikes to secluded beaches and into the hills.

The third section comprises of Matacawalevu, with the intimate
Long Beach Resort on a gorgeosu white sandy beach, Tavewa Island with lively Coral View Resort and Nacula Island with the slightly more upmarket budget resorts of Oarsman's Bay and Safe Landing as well as the distinctly budget Navua Lodge. All the later are another hour travelling time to the north of Naviti island. The furthest island, Yasawa, a long thin island, is in the far north, and has no backpacker resorts.

The majority of the beach resorts throughout the group are run by local Fijians and they will take you on village visits and snorkelling trips to outer reefs. The standard of resorts varies greatly.

The Northern Islands Tour -
best for hiking, nature and scuba diving
Vanua Levu and Taveuni in the north are large islands with a focus on Eco-tourism, the rainforest and scuba diving. Vanua Levu is the second largest island although tourism is centred around the southern town of Savusavu with its surrounding rainforest and nature reserves. Savusavu is the most charming of Fiji's towns with a beautiful marina, lots of good restaurants and cafes and scuba diving, kayaking and game fishing tour companies. the best of the budget accommodation is at Savusavu Hotsprings Hotel which offers dorm beds.

Neighbouring Taveuni has some of the country's best scenery and the largest National Park - Bouma. Here you can experience over 30 waterfalls, several maintained walking trails, lots of bush hikes and a marine park with outstanding snorkelling. Basic accommodation in the National Park is located at
Lavena Village Lodge , or otherwise budget cottages are available near the airport at Bibi Hideaway . The diving here is of world recognition (soft corals are unbelievable) and for those looking to dive the world famous Rainbow Reef, dorm accommodation with dive packages is offered by Garden Island Resort , just 15-minutes boat ride to the dive sites. These islands are less developed than the Yasawas and the local Fijian villages tend to be a lot friendlier and welcoming to outsiders.

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