Fiji, in the South Pacific, fuels countless tropical fantasies and with 333 islands to choose from, it’s easy to find a sublime stretch of palm-topped sand to suit your style and budget. Names like the Mamanucas and Yasawas roll off the tongue like gentle waves on a tropical beach, and these archipelagos offer everything from luxurious hideaways and rustic eco-resorts to family-friendly hotels. The tourist town of Nadi, on Viti Levu, is the international gateway to these beautiful islands, and the resort areas of Denarau Island and the popular Coral Coast are a short drive away, close to some of Fiji’s top tourist attractions.
But you don’t have to travel far to escape the crowds and find your own Fijian paradise. Lush, rain-drenched islands like Vanua Levu and Taveuni are off the beaten track, with hiking trails, waterfalls and flower-drenched jungles, while pristine Kadavu lures divers to the planet’s fourth-largest barrier reef. Whether you’re an avid diver looking for fish-rich reefs, an eco-tourist, a beach babe or a backpacker, this list will help you find the perfect Fiji island to suit your fantasies. And if you still can’t decide between all these tropical beauties, hop aboard a Blue Lagoon Cruise and sample more than one.
Read also: Most Beautiful Islands in the South Pacific
1 The Mamanuca Islands
A short drive from the tourist centers of Nadi and Denarau Island, the magnificent Mamanuca Islands are among the most popular tourist destinations in Fiji, and with good reason. These 20 patches of sublime white sand and striking blue water boast some of Fiji’s best weather, with plenty of sunshine and less rain than other island groups. What these islands lack in cultural importance, they make up for in dazzling beaches, clear waters and fish-rich coral reefs. Thanks to this quintessential tropical beauty, Survivor and the famous Tom Hanks movie Cast Away were both filmed on islands in this chain.
Coral reefs lure divers and snorkelers, and surfers come here for the world-class breaks, including the famous Cloud Break, a short boat ride from these islands. You’ll find accommodation to suit every budget and style, from thatched rushes (traditional Fijian huts) to luxury beachside villas. Top of the luxury list is Vomo Island Resort, Likuliku Lagoon Resort, and adults-only Tokoriki Island Resort. Popular mid-range resorts include Matamanoa Island Resort, Malolo Island Resort, Mana Island Resort and Castaway Island. Beachcomber Island is a hit with the vibrant backpacker set and if you’re a surfer, Tavarua Island Resort, Plantation Island Resort, Lomani Island Resort and Namotu Island Resort are the best resorts. Most islands are less than an hour’s boat ride from Denarau Marina.
2 The Yasawa Islands
North of the popular Mamanuca Islands, the sparsely populated Yasawa Islands are more remote and less developed than their sister islands further south, but equally stunning. The 1980 film The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields, was filmed on one of these tropical beauties. Surrounded by crystal-clear waters in almost every shade of blue, these islands are often drier than their southern counterparts, and they fold into steep mountain peaks that descend to beautiful white-sand beaches. Popular activities include kayaking, swimming with manta rays and exploring the Cathedral Caves of Sawa-i-Lau . You won’t find any towns in the Yasawas, only small villages, but the accommodation options are diverse, with everything from rustic backpacker accommodation to luxury resorts such asParadise Cove Resort, Turtle Island Resort , and Yasawa Island Resort . Seaplanes, helicopters and speedboats take guests to these resorts from Nadi and you can also visit these islands on a Blue Lagoon cruise or the high-speed catamaran, the Yasawa Flyer .
3 Viti Levu
If you’re visiting Fiji for the first time, you’ll likely fly to Viti Levu, the country’s largest island and international gateway. The main airport is near the town of Nadi , on the west side of the island, where souvenir shops and Indian restaurants line the busy streets. Suva , on the eastern side of the island, is the capital and one of the largest cities in the South Pacific, with a vibrant expat community. If you’re looking for some chic shopping close to the airport, Denarau Island is an exclusive resort enclave with a cluster of large hotels and an 18-hole golf course, about six kilometers from Nadi. Most tourists who stay on Viti Levu base themselves here or on the Coral Coast, about a two-hour drive from Nadi, where there are white sandy beaches and more large resorts on the coast.
But Viti Levu also has a wild side. Moving away from the tourist centers you can explore traditional mountain villages; zip line through the jungle, and raft or kayak down the Navua River through pristine rainforests. Pacific Harbour, about an hour’s drive from Suva, is an adventure sports hotspot, where you can dive with sharks at Beqa Lagoon. About 15 minutes from Nadi, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant , in the foothills of the Sabeto range, is a popular day trip for garden enthusiasts, and after admiring all the orchids, you can soak in the nearby Sabeto hot springs and mud pool . About an hour’s drive from Nadi, palm-lined Natadola beachis one of the most beautiful cliffs on the island’s coast, with gentle surf and decent snorkeling at the eastern end.
4 Ash Valley
Less touristy than Viti Levu, Vanua Levu is Fiji’s second largest island and a popular destination for nature lovers who like to travel off the beaten track. At Wasali Nature Reserve, waterfalls flow down the lush hills and hiking trails lead through the rainforest to hot springs and panoramic views. The town of Savusavu has a colorful farmers market and the sheltered bay is popular with sailors. The island’s dirt roads are fun for 4WD enthusiasts – especially along the scenic side Hibiscus Highway, which follows the coast past coconut plantations and apple-green fields of sugar cane. Other popular activities include hiking and mountain biking through the jungle; river tubing; and bask on the empty, jungle-lined beaches.
Diving and snorkeling are also excellent in the waters around the islands; Jean-Michel Cousteau (Jacques’ son) runs a popular diving center here, with courses for all levels. Top dive sites include Rainbow Reef , famous for its multicolored soft corals, and Namena Marine Reserve , with some of the most pristine reefs in the country. About 20 kilometers outside Labasa (Vanu Levu’s largest city) is the legendary Snake Temple , containing the Naag Baba Mandir, a sacred Hindu growing stone.
Like its much larger sister island, Vanua Levu, to the west, Taveuni is a paradise for hikers, nature lovers and anyone who wants to experience the more authentic side of the country during their Fiji holiday. It is known as the ‘Garden Isle’, thanks to its lush jungles and many waterfalls, fed by frequent rains. The Bouma National Park protects much of the island, with rare tropical flowers and beautiful bird watching; Kula lorises and silktails are among the many prized bird species here. One of the best ways to explore the island is along the Lavena Coastal Walk, a three-mile hiking trail along the rugged coastline, where black and white sand beaches meet reef-dappled waters. Not surprisingly, diving and snorkeling are a highlight; its waters are home to more than 1,198 species of reef fish, nearly 300 different species of hard coral, as well as giant bivalves, turtles, sharks and rays. Top sites include Rainbow Reef, Eel Reef, the Great White Wall and Waitabu Marine Park . Other popular things to do in Taveuni include floating pristine rivers on bamboo rafts, swimming in the natural pools at the 60-foot Tavoro Falls , coastal kayaking, village stays, and climbing the mountain peaks (Taveuni is home to Fijians on second highest mountain, Uluigalau, at 1,241 meters).
6 Wakaya Island
Part of the Lomaiviti Island group east of Viti Levu, 2,200-hectare Wakaya Island is a private property and home to the all-inclusive luxury Wakaya Club & Spa, a luxurious, private retreat in pristine surroundings. Celebrities like Keith Richards often visit these shores, ensconced in large air-conditioned villas strung along a stretch of white-sand beach surrounded by turquoise waters and coral reefs. Each room features natural materials such as woven bamboo, tropical hardwood and lava stone, as well as luxurious Italian linens, Tibetan rugs, high-speed internet, large bathtubs and private gardens. Water sports include diving, snorkeling, fishing and kayaking, while land activities range from nature walks and golf on the 9-hole course,
Official site: https://wakaya.com/
7 Editor’s Pick Toberua Island Resort
About 30 minutes by boat from Suva along the scenic Navaloa River, tiny Toberua Island in the Lomaiviti group is one of the gems of the island of Fiji. Near the sea, the 10-acre Toberua (pronounced “Tomberua”) looks a bit like Gilligan’s Island, with its stretch of white-sand beach, overhanging palms and cute reed rushes. Known for its personal service and friendly feel, the island accommodates guests in 18 lakes along the coast, with a mix of natural textures and modern comforts. The old employees know all guests by name, and no watch or telephone is needed here. Pulsing drums announce that each meal is ready, and the friendly staff will find you on the island to take your order. Popular activities include diving, snorkeling and fishing on the surrounding reefs, kayaking, swimming in the island’s pool, spa treatments, petanque and trips to nearby villages. You can also play “reef golf” on the 18-hole course, although you have to wait for low tide and if you really want to splurge you can book the whole island.
Official site: https://toberua.com/
8 Matangi Private Island Resort
240-acre Matangi Private Island Resort, northeast of Taveuni, is a picturesque island for singles and a favorite wedding and honeymoon destination. The island is actually an extinct volcanic crater, with coral reefs lining beautiful Horseshoe Bay, an enticing curve of white-sand beach lined with palms. The air-conditioned wicker bures combine earthy textures with modern luxury. Some are sprinkled along the coast, while others are split-level treehouses on stilts that extend into the lush rainforest canopy. A luxurious spa stands at the water’s edge. Activities here include diving, fishing, swimming, kayaking, cultural village and waterfall tours and Qamea Island area toursand if nothing else is your idea of paradise, you can just curl up in a hammock under rustling palms and look out at the blue, blue sea.
Far off the beaten tourist track, the pristine Kadavu Island group is known for fantastic diving on the Great Astrolabe Reef , the planet’s fourth largest barrier reef. About 100 kilometers south of Viti Levu, Kadavu Island is the largest of the group, with volcanic peaks and vast tracts of virgin rainforest covering its interior. These jungles support an impressive diversity of birds, including the Kadavu musk parrot, velvet dove and crimson parrot. Tourist infrastructure is practically non-existent, except for a few friendly eco-resorts built along the coast, some with organic gardens and beautiful beaches. Matava and Papageno Resort Fijiare two of the favorites. Guided kayak tours are a great way to explore the coastline, and you can also visit some of the local villages for a dose of authentic Fijian culture. This is one of the few places in the world where you can get off the grid and immerse yourself in untouched natural beauty, both on land and in the water.