Once a small community of farmers and shopkeepers, Nadi has mushroomed into a mini megalopolis of approximately 25,000 inhabitants – Fiji’s third-largest city. Hawaii’s real estate boom and the recognition that Nadi is Fiji’s tourism capital have resulted in tremendous growth of the past few years. The area surrounding Nadi – a patchwork of sugar cane fields – has the highest concentration of hotels and resorts in the entire country. This is where most visitors spend a lot of their time because of its proximity to the airport (nine km from the town) and the fine weather.
Lautoka, Fiji's seond largest port, is located about 20 minutes north of Nadi via taxi. It's less "commercial" in flavor, with fewer tourist attractions and more of a "local" feel.
Definitely Do Not Miss
Take a taxi from Nadi and visit the Garden of the Sleeping Giant (a 20 minute taxi ride from Nadi) located between Nadi and Lautoka. Pack a picnic lunch and see the 30 to 40 varieties of Asian orchids and cattleya hybrids.
Formerly a huge sugar growing community, Nadi is a hot, dry town, little more than one long main drag. However, it’s growing,mostlyfueled by the tourism industry. Nadi town (along with Suva) is perhaps the best place in Fiji to pick up souvenirs. In additionthere are good places to eat.
Though the town may not appeal to everyone, the surrounding countryside is rolling and verdant. The beaches are relatively unpopulated, and the mountainous region (known as the Nausori Highlands) to the east is nothing short of spectacular. Seeing the Nausori Highlands is well worth it but roads can be rough and/or muddy and car rental agencies wouldn’t be happy if they knew you had plans to explore remote areas.
Having a large Indian population, Nadi is a religious center for Muslims and Hindus. The major place of worship for Hindus is themulti- chromatic new Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple on the east side of town. (See photo above). The Hindu shrine is reportedly the largest in the SouthernHemisphere. Visitors are welcomed but cameras are tabu on the temple grounds. Be sure to take off your shoes before entering.
Lautoka is 24 km north of Nadi Airport. With a population of around 31,000, it is Fiji’s second-largest city and an important business center. From here most of the vessels sail not only for foreign ports but to the outer islands and the resort areas. Lautoka is also a quintessential sugar town, with reputedly one of the largest sugar mills in the southern hemisphere. Although tourism isimportant to the region, sugar is still king here and the sugar industry is the largest single employer in the district.
Tradition has it that within the bounds of today’s Lautoka city limits there lived two tribes. One day a fight broke out between the tribes’ chiefs at a spot known today as Farquahr’s Point. As one chief speared the other he screamed Lau-toka, which means ‘spear hit’ or ‘hit to win’. Thus Lautoka acquired a name. The first sighting of the area was on the dawn of 7 May 1789 when Captain Bligh of HMS Bounty sailed by in his launch with loyal crew members – those who had been tossed out as a result of the famous mutiny. Bligh made rough charts of the shores of Lautoka and sketched the mountains in the background.
At the end of the last century the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) decided to build a mill in Lautoka. Indian indentured laborers and Solomon Island workers were brought in to do the construction and in 1899 the work began. The mill began crushing in 1903 and still operates today.
Lautoka was proclaimed a city on 25 February 1977 and today is the headquarters for important government and statutory bodies such as the Fiji Electrical Authority, the Fiji Pine Commission and the National Marketing Authority. It is the administrative capital of the Western Division, which contains more than 50% of the nation’s population. (Postcard at left depicts Lautoka in more innocent times.)