Nanuku Island, the private island of the Nanuku Resort on Fiji (Photo by Scott Laird)
Fiji has been open to international visitors since December 2021, and 2022 marks the first time that the Fijian Tourism Expo has been held in person since 2019.
Speakers at the event, including new Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill and Fiji President Wiliame Katonivere, all returned variations on the same theme: Fiji is open, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors. To celebrate the reopening and reboot interest in visits to the country, they enlisted Rebel Wilson to do a promotional campaign, and they certainly hit that inspiration goal.
On my recent visit to Fiji, I was able to explore the country’s largest island, Viti Levu, from Nadi to Pacific Harbour, and I found that to be more than just tourism board hyperbole. This charming country almost seems to have welcoming right in its very DNA. Here are more takeaways from FTE 2022 and a week spent in Fiji.
Travel To Fiji
Fiji is in the South Pacific, roughly two-thirds of the way from North America to Australia. That’s just over ten hours from the U.S. Mainland or around six hours from Hawaii. The country’s flag carrier, Fiji Airways serves Honolulu, San Francisco, and Los Angeles nonstop from Nadi. Flights between Fiji and the United States cross the International Dateline, so overnight departures from the U.S. West Coast arrive two days later; return flights from Fiji arrive the same day (chronologically earlier than the departure from Nadi).
To enter Fiji, travelers must show proof of vaccination. Travelers must also show proof of travel insurance that will cover quarantine costs if the traveler tests positive for COVID-19 while in Fiji (travelers can purchase their own insurance or FijiCare, which is specifically designed for this purpose), as well as proof that a post-arrival COVID-19 test has been booked to be taken within 48-72 hours upon arrival in Fiji.
Good To Know
Once there, the welcome from Fiji’s multicultural population is warm, friendly, and immense. There’s also no language barrier—English is the country’s official language; many Fijians speak it with a distinctively antipodean lilt. Fijian is also widely spoken, as well as Fijian Hindi, as a significant portion of the population are Fijian Indian, a legacy of Fiji’s British colonial past. “Bula” is the Fijian language’s exuberant greeting for everything from welcoming a guest to a friendly hello in passing.
Fiji is also a large country with significant local resources, so it’s not as remote as it might seem. Compared to smaller Pacific islands, pricing for incidentals like food & beverage are comparatively good value. The local currency is the Fijian Dollar.
Luxury Isn’t Required
Fiji is known amongst North American travelers as being something of a luxury escape. However, for every private island with individual residences and private butlers going for thousands of dollars at night, there are just as many properties across the Fiji Islands that are more moderate.
Outrigger Fiji, on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast, certainly has waterfront bures (bungalows) with butler service, but there are also standard ocean-view guest rooms that won’t tax more moderate budgets. There are also the three-and-four star Beachcomber Group of Resorts, including Beachcomber Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands, and the Funky Fish on Malolo Island, where “paradise doesn’t cost the earth”.
Fiji Is For Families
At the gorgeous Nanuku Resort near Pacific Harbour on the south shore of Viti Levu, the luxury experience is in full force, with expansive residence-style accommodations purpose-built for family groups wanting convivial spaces. To ensure that parents can also enjoy their escape, the resort offers a “Bula Buddy” daily nanny program, included in the room rate.
Every child under six has a dedicated nanny from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., while older children can be paired with a buddy during their activities at the resort’s expansive kid’s club. Nanuku Resort will also arrange adults-and-kids family activities to be enjoyed together.
Nanny services are widespread across Fiji’s resorts—either included in room rates like at Nanuku Resort, or very attractively priced. At Plantation Island Resort, already a kid’s fantasy land with a wealth of playgrounds, an activity center, daycare, and waterpark, there are additional babysitting and nanny services available from $3 USD per hour for basic babysitting, up to $75 per day for round-the-clock nanny services.
Water Excursions Abound
Fiji is made up of two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. They’re both surrounded by a number of islets and smaller islands just quick boat rides away. From Nanuku Resort, it’s just a half-hour boat ride to Nanuku Island where guests can snorkel, have a romantic dinner on the beach, or even go glamping overnight.
From Nadi, the brand-new sailing catamaran Sabre is now running sun/snorkel excursions to the Mamanuca Islands, less than an hour’s sail away. Vomo Island has a Sunday-only excursion to its adults-only beach club or guests can take an excursion to Seventh Heaven, a floating restaurant and spa set above aquamarine lagoon waters.
Traditional Experiences Are High Quality
Resort-seekers looking for a more international leisure travel experience will also be well-served. The Denarau Island resort area near Nadi has a wealth of globally-branded resorts, including Wyndham, Radisson Blu, Sofitel, and Hilton. The Westin is closed for a top-to-bottom renovation and is tentatively slated to reopen next year, while the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort has just come off a similar renovation, with spectacular results.
Although it’s a large beachfront resort, and it was fully committed on the nights of my stay, there’s a quiet intimacy to the place when walking along the grounds. Much of the activity seems to take place on excursions away from the property, so during the day it’s a pretty low-key, leisurely experience in guest rooms, on the manicured lawns, or in the craft bure where local ladies shout friendly bulas to passers-by as they arrange colorful local wraps and wood carvings.
The resort is also in the midst of a food and beverage makeover, enhancing rather pedestrian menus with cocktails and bites designed to appeal to more sophisticated palates, with locally-inspired riffs on classic cocktails (many made with locally-produced spirits), and refreshing concoctions that surprise; one might not think cold brew works well with tonic, but it’s a quirky pickup in the midst of a hot afternoon.
The assertion that Fiji is open and ready for travelers is something of an understatement. While some destinations in the Pacific are grappling with the effects of overtourism (and are priced to match), Fiji still has the capacity for growth, offering an extraordinary, organic visitor experience without the jading of more trafficked vacation spots.
It’s entirely worth the long flight.