This Pacific Paradise Could Be Your Happy Place
If Fiji didn't already exist in real life, someone would've tried to invent it. Maybe that's why it's been the backdrop of Hollywood movies such as Blue Lagoon and Cast Away.
But even those silver-screen star turns don't do this place justice. You need to see (and experience) Fiji for yourself. The lush green islands ringed by white-sand beaches speckled amidst turquoise South Pacific waters. The friendly locals who welcome guests as they would a long-lost family member. The days that can be wild or mild—depending on whether you're up for adventure or craving some "no hurry, no worry" downtime. The overarching mantra known as "Bula" that can alternatively mean “hello”, “welcome” and “life”.
The island nation is welcoming international travelers again as of Dec. 1, so pack your flip-flops and join us for a quick trip to paradise as we share why Fiji could be your happy place.
It's closer than you think
Get on a Fiji Airways flight in Los Angeles or San Francisco, close your eyes and the next morning, you'll wake up to a view like this out of your plane window.
The overnight 10-hour flight lands in Nadi, a multi-cultural city on the western side of Viti Levu, which is the largest of the 333 islands that make up the nation of Fiji. Two-thirds of the islands are uninhabited, but that still means you're spoilt for choice on where to spend the next week or two.
Many travelers will stay on Viti Levu and take the short drive from Nadi to the Coral Coast on the southern side, with palm-lined beaches, secluded bays, larger family-friendly resorts and the rare opportunity for swim-out snorkeling in the off-shore coral reef that gives this stretch its name.
Others will pick up a catamaran ferry from the Denarau marina with one of three destinations in mind, both each equally spectacular. A 30-minute ride west brings you to the Mamanuca islands, home of private island resorts, flawless beaches and epic waves.
Farther afield (or asea, if you will) are the Yasawa islands, located three hours north of Nadi. Here amid this idyllic archipelago of 20 islands, you'll find dramatic volcanic peaks, Insta-worthy beaches and barefoot luxury resorts.
Those willing to go the extra mile will take a 60-minute flight to Vanua Levu, the second-largest island in Fiji, with lush rain forests, a laid-back vibe and fewer tourists.
There's something for everyone
In a heavenly destination such as this, the assumption is that everyone's here on their honeymoon or romantic getaway while lounging around at a luxury resort. And if that's what you want to do, you'll have plenty of options, whether it's at a spot such as the 100% solar-powered Six Senses Fiji resort on Malolo Island or the intimate Yasawa Island Resort, which has 18 guest bures and 11 private beaches.
But the reality is that travelers with all kinds of budgets can visit Fiji and seek out all kinds of experiences—from those looking for adventures on land (hiking or backpacking) and sea (diving, snorkeling, surfing or sailing) to those looking for an epic place to take the kids.
Fiji is extremely family-friendly (something Australians and New Zealanders have known for years.) In Fijian culture, family and community are treasured, especially the youngest, hence the Fijian saying "a child's feet never touches the ground." Many resorts offer complimentary kids clubs (most often from ages 4 to 12 years old) with activities that range from sand castle building to coral planting to learning traditional Fijian song and dance, all under the attentive eye of their Bula buddies.
It's not just sun, sand and surf
You'd be forgiven if all you want to do in Fiji is sit on the beach, bask in the sun and enjoy a cocktail (or two). But if that's all you do, you're missing some of the best experiences Fiji has to offer. The full Fijian vacation is a mix of chill and thrill, and here's how to strike that balance.
As you can imagine, if a destination can credibly host a television show called "World's Toughest Race", then there's plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities available. Pacific Harbour, located on the southern coast of Viti Levu, is considered Fiji's adventure capital—with options such as off-road driving through the rain forest, zip-lining through jungle canopy and white-water rafting through gorges on the Navua River. Off the coast, the Beqa Lagoon's calm waters are great for kayaking and snorkeling to see the soft coral just beneath the surface.
What lies beneath is actually one of Fiji's biggest draws, with warm, clear waters that make this a diving and snorkeling mecca. The Malolo Barrier Reef off the coast of the Mamanuca islands is one such spot that's perfect for new divers, whether you're visiting Gotham City to see the resident batfish, or going shopping for a Costco-sized selection of sealife at the Supermarket. There's even spots like Natadola Beach on Viti Levu, with a fringing coral reef (so-called because it hugs the shoreline) that is accessible from the beach. Just grab a snorkel and flippers to swim out to see colorful coral, fish and sea turtles.
More serious divers will head to the Somosomo Strait, which separates Vanua Levu from Fiji's third-largest island Taveuni, known as the garden island for its fragrant flora. The waters around the island are just as spectacular, with the Great White Wall and Rainbow Reef among the world-famous dive sites, the latter of which was discovered by Jacques Cousteau. The legendary diver was a long-time evangelist for the underwater treasures in Fiji. His son carries on the tradition by supervising the dive program at the eco-friendly Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort just a few miles away from Rainbow Reef in Savusavu on Vanua Levu.
But the beaches are epic too
Once you've had the thrill, it's time to chill—and Fiji's beaches are up to the task.
Many resorts have their own private stretches of sand or will ferry you over to a private island for a romantic picnic lunch, where it's you and your partner, a bottle of bubbly and a few hours of alone time.
Then, there are the resorts that are their own private island, such as the Matangi Resort off the coast of Taveuni. Here, you can be whisked away to the island's made-for-Instagram Horseshoe Bay, named a must-see in the book "1000 Places to See Before You Die" by Patricia Schultz.
Those same fringing reefs that make for great snorkeling also make for great swimming across many of the islands in Fiji, as the underwater coral protects the beaches from pounding Pacific surf and form placid lagoons perfect for a lazy beach day.
Wherever you go, the Bula Spirit will make you feel at home
The warmth you feel in Fiji isn't just the tropical weather at work. A few years back, the tourism board had a clever campaign promoting the islands' Bulanaires—people rich in happiness. They had no shortage of candidates, as #FijiHappy isn't just a hashtag.
Hospitality and giving are ingrained in Fijian culture, and resorts are often staffed with nearby villagers. As part of a deep hospitality tradition, tourism's return is being welcomed with open arms. Resorts adhering to the country's Care Fiji Commitment program have 100% vaccinated resort staff and follow WHO-approved health and safety protocols.
One final Travelzoo Tip: If offered the chance, don't miss out on a local village visit with a tour guide for a sevusevu. You'll be welcomed into the community in a time-honored ceremony, complete with the drinking of the kava and perhaps a lovo meal—prepared by cooking meats in an in-ground oven of hot rocks covered by palm leaves and dirt. At the end of your visit, you may hear "Sota Tale"—or "see you soon" from your new Bula buddies.