We have just returned from a “once in a lifetime” trip to Fiji. I put it in quotes because I really hope that it is not actually just once in my lifetime! I wasn’t sure what to expect other than it looked similar to Hawaii, is known as a honeymoon destination and a getaway for the rich and famous.
Without fail, everyone we talked to about Fiji said it was their dream to go someday. Rightly so, who wouldn’t want to go to an idyllic paradise with beautiful white sand beaches in the middle of crystalline waters? Even with the weather not cooperating for most of our trip, I have to admit that it was still magical, but not for the reasons I had initially thought. Read on for the 5 reasons why you should visit Fiji too.
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1. The People
All things being equal with other island destinations (cost, beauty, etc), the one thing that makes Fiji stand out well above the rest are the people. Fijians are beautiful people inside and out. From the moment you get off the plane until the moment you depart you will hear an enthusiastic “Bula” (which means hello) with a massive smile from everyone you make eye contact with. From the poorest villager to the general manager at high-end hotels, the people are honestly friendly, genuine and so welcoming. They love their country and are so happy that you have come to see their island(s) in the middle of the South Pacific. It is the Fijian people, not just the beautiful scenery that will make you fall in love with this island nation. Bula is still going strong in our household from the morning hello to ‘bless you’ after you sneeze! BULA!
2. The Landscapes
White sand beaches. Check. Crystal clear water. Check. Lush rain forests. Check. The landscapes in Fiji are actually quite varied. Some areas of Fiji are flat, but so much of the islands are mountainous which was a surprise for us. From the lush rain forests on Vanua Levu and Taveuni to the flat sugarcane fields on Viti Levu, all intermingled with rivers and waterfalls crisscrossing the beautiful islands. The towns and villages are reminiscent of beachside communities in India, which made us feel at home, but provides an sense of the exotic for others. The abundance of fruit trees, coconut, banana and mango, everywhere you look is amazing. There is actually so much free fruit that often much of it goes to waste as it falls to the ground and rots.
The beaches. No two beaches are the same. There is a beach for every traveler here. Fine white sand beaches, beaches covered with shells to collect, beaches with lava rocks and colorful coral steps away from shore, you name it, it is in Fiji.
Fiji is an amazing place to get a boat and explore. The islands and beaches that await you are mesmerizing!
3. The Food
When I say the food, I mostly mean the Indian food! After almost a decade in India, I am constantly on the hunt for good Indian food. I was pleasantly surprised how authentic and amazing the Indian food was in Fiji. From the roadside stall selling onion pakora and yellow dal to the myriad of restaurants in Nadi, I was in heaven. Apart from the Indian influences, the traditional and local Fijian food was delicious and perfect for a pescatarian like myself. In the West many people are obsessed with farm to table food – Fiji does this without even trying. The food you eat comes from the island itself or from the surrounding waters. The variety might be lacking at the local markets, but what they can do with limited root vegetables, coconut and fish is amazing!
4. The Hotels
The hotels are absolutely amazing. We stayed in 3 different places during our visit – deluxe luxury, high end and mid range. I can’t say what the budget hotels are like, but from everything we saw, even they would have plenty to make guests happy. From Yasawa Resort & Spa, the quintessential idyllic beach destination that every one imagines to the super high end Nanuku Resort on the Coral Coast with exceptional views, service and lessons in local culture to Koro Sun, a rainforest retreat that makes you feel you are on the set of LOST you are sure to find something you love. Contrary to what people imagine, there are an abundance of places to stay on the islands from budget backpacker to super luxury, catering to all tastes and budgets. I would love to go back and sample some of the backpacker burres (huts) situated on some of the further islands as well as revisit more of the luxurious hotels Fiji is known for.
5. Exceptional Service
This sort of ties into the people and the hotels, but the level of service in Fiji is outstanding no matter where you go. From the taxi driver at the airport to the wait staff at the hotels. Everyone takes care of your every need and makes sure that you walk away with a genuine feeling of love for their country. One of the many examples of the care that Fijians give – my son bought a small wooden drum as a souvenir. As soon as the staff saw it, they promptly replied that he must have a stand for it and ran away with his drum. With less than 24 hours before our departure, they returned with a custom made stand with his name engraved on it. Not one actually, but two, because they wanted him to have options. He was over the moon. They also helped realize my son’s artistic visions by turning his painted coconut bowl into a bucket for collecting shells! I could go on and on about the exceptional service we received even from our taxi driver in Nadi. The people are genuine, helpful and love to show visitors a great time. Vinaka Fiji!
It turned out that it wasn’t the white sand beaches with turquoise waters that stole my heart (although they were beautiful!), it was everything else. I can truly say that a trip to Fiji should be on everyone’s wish list if only to meet some of the nicest people on the planet.
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