Let's begin by asking one logical question: What are your interests? Starting from this point, here are some FAQs that may be helpful...
Q: Can you recommend a small island with great beaches, snorkeling and cheap to moderate accommodations?
A: Consider the Yasawa Group. They are northeast of Nadi, and it will take you a half day by boat to get to. See this series of articles for details. (Nananu-I-Ra on Viti Levu is also an option for backpackers).
Q: I only have a few days in Fiji. Where can I go close by the airport in Nadi and find a decent beach resort?
A: Check out the Mamanuca Group. These are the islands right off the West Coast of Viti Levu. Resorts here range from backpacker dives to 5 star properties. The main advantage of the Mamanucas are their proximity to Nadi and generally good weather. Travel time to get there is a an hour boat ride or less boat ride from Port Denarau.
Q: Being near the beach would be nice but I want to explore Fiji. Where can I go and be near the ocean but take some excursions or rent a car and see a variety of scenery, national parks, rain forests and have access to good restaurants?
A: Then the Coral Coast on Viti Levu is the best place to go. There are properties large and small (backpacker to upscale). Go here to see all the attractions. Consider renting a car to see everything and give yourself at least 5 days.
Q: I’m very interested in Fiji’s culture and history. I can do without a beach. Where do I go?
Q: I’m a serious diver, where are the best places to go?
A: Fiji's best dive properties are on Kadavu, Taveuni, Vanua Levu or Beqa. The first three islands will entail air travel, so tack on another US$300. Beqa is much easier to access and if you don't have the time or budget to take a plane, it's a great option. You'll need to get to to Pacific Harbour (by bus or taxi) and then jump a boat for the 30 minutes ride to Beqa.
Q: Where's Fiji's best snorkeling found?
A: That's a tough one. There are good places almost everywhere--the Yasawa Group, Mamanuca Islands, Viti Levu, Kadavu and of course Vanua Levu and Taveuni. If you really want to snorkel and see some bigger fish, as well as soft coral, I would Cruise Fiji on the Tui Tai. You'll be in some very remote places near dive sites where the fish still are plentiful.
Q: I'm young and I'm in the mood to party. Where do I go?
A: Smuggler's Cove on Wailoaloa Beach outside of Nadi seems to be a pretty hot spot if you're young, hip and have some loose change in your pocket. Other places to check on the Coral Coast are the Beach House and Mango Bay. You should also consider some of the many inexpensive resorts in the Yasawa Group, such as Manta Ray.
Q: Isn't Fiji well known for eco-tourism? Can you recommend an eco-resort?
A: Fiji is definitely an eco-tourism destination. There are three properties that I would define as "eco-friendly" and am familiar with: Matava, an eco-dive resort (Kadavu), Matanivusi, a family surf resort (Viti Levu), Nakia, an eco-tourism resort (Taveuni) and Palmlea, Fiji's budget gourmet property (Vanua Levu).
Q: I'm with my signifcant other and we're serious foodies. Where do you suggest we go?
A: Any of the boutique resorts such as Namale, Vatulele, Tadrai, Taveuni Island Resort, Lalati, etc would work in the food department. On the other hand if you don't have the budget for a boutique property, give serious consideration to Palmlea, the property I mentioned earlier in Vanua Levu. Great food, comfortable rooms and nice management. Terrific value.
Q: On arrival and departure from Fiji, I'm looking for an inexpensive place to stay near Nadi Airport, preferably near a beach. Any ideas?
A: I'd consider the resorts near Wailoaloa Beach. I'd recommend Wailoloa
Beach Resort, Smuggler's Cove or Club Fiji. Beach Resort, Smuggler's Cove or Club Fiji. They are a short taxi ride from restaurants and not too far from town. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to the Denarau properties.
Q: What about staying at a hotel on Denarau?
A: Denarau has some very nice properties, a golf course and a dark sand beach not unlike Wailoaloa. It's a self-contained tourist complex. The disadvantage is that it's far from town and rather on the sterile side. The best part of Denarau is Port Denarau, the wharf area adjacent to the hotels. It has an attractive mall-like complex with shops and some good restaurants like Bonefish.
Having trouble planning that perfect trip? I can help plan your trip. In the meantime, here are some options to consider:
Mamanuca Group: Pick a resort that fits your budget. You won’t go wrong with Likuliku, Malolo Island, Lomani, Plantation Island, Tadrai or Musket Cove.
Coral Coast: Bedarra or Matanivusi are good bets for midrange. Beach House and Mango Bay will work for budget. On the high end try Vatulele.
Yasawa Group: For a pure beach excursion the Yasawas is a winner. Try Blue Lagoon Resort, Nanuya Island Resort for budget or Navutu Stars or Yasawa Island Resort for high end.
Beqa: If you’re a diver head over to Beqa. Any of the three resorts on that island are good. If you’re on a budget for Beqa Lagoon Resort. Lalati (higher end) is better if your partner is a non-divers and I’ve also heard good things about Lawaki Beach House.
Viti Levu and Ovalau: Rent a car and do a round the island tour. Stay overnight on the Coral Coast at Bedarra or Matanivusi (if you’re into water sports), the Rakiraki Hotel or Wananavu Beach Resort up north and the Holiday Inn in Suva. Drop the car off in Suva and take the ferry to Ovalau and spend a few days in the old capital of Levuka at Homestay Suva or the Royal.
Vanua Levu: Fly up to Savusavu and take the Tui Tai Cruise. After the cruise stay at one of the properties nearby (ie Hotsprings, Daku, Namale, Jean Michel Cousteau or Koro Sun) or head up to Labasa and stay at Palmlea. Or if you don’t go on the boat spend half your time at a Savusavu resort and half up at Palmlea.
Taveuni: Any of these properties (or a combination thereof) would be fun: Makaira, Nakia, Aroha, Taveuni Paradise, Taveuni Island Resort or on the high end, Taveuni Palms.
Beqa & Kadavu dive Marathon:Spend half your time in Beqa (Beqa Lagoon Resort or Lalati) and the other half in Kadavu (Matava).
Two-Island peripatetic tour: Three days on the Coral Coast (Bedarra or Matanivusi), two days in Suva at the Holiday Inn, three days in Levuka at Levuka Homestay or the Royal Hotel. Fly to Taveuni and spend the of your trip at one of the following: Makaira, Nakia, Aroha, Taveuni Paradise, Taveuni Island Resort or on the high end, Taveuni Palms.
For second island option, instead of Taveuni, fly to Savusavu and spend half of your outer island time at a Savusavu area property (Hotsprings, Daku, Namale, Jean Michel Cousteau, Koro Sun, etc) and the other at Palmlea.
Top photo Yasawa waters (courtesy Marilyn Marsh), Levuka (Robert F. Kay), Snorkeling in the Somosomo Strait (Gemma Molinaro), Smuggler's Cove (Robert F. Kay), Wailoloa Beach Resort (Robert F. Kay), Likuliku (Linny Morris), Children (Gemma Molinaro)
(Map courtesy of Tourism Fiji)