Nadi, located on Fiji’s largest island of Viti Levu, is its transportation hub; playing to host to the country’s international airport and gateway port to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. Whilst it isn’t the island nation’s capital city (that honor goes to Suva on the far eastern side of Viti Levu) it is undoubtedly the center of Fiji’s ever-growing tourist industry and it’s also the home of the island’s luxury accommodation hub, Denarau. It’s therefore incredibly likely that you’ll spend at least some time in and around Nadi. So what exactly does it have to offer? From quintessentially Fijian island vibes and tropical gardens nestled at the foot of mountains to the largest Hindu temple of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and more adrenaline activities than you can shake a stick at, Nadi has it all!
Nadi Top Tips
Nadi International Airport is Fiji’s main airport located on the main island of Viti Levu. It’s just on the outskirts of town so it’s a fairly short ride to most hotels in central Nadi. It’s also about 20 minutes from Denarau. Local buses located just across the road from the airport can take you in to the center of town. However, it can all be a bit confusing in the heat after a long flight. As a taxi to the center of town only costs about $15, that seems a more sensible choice. Of course, if you’re staying in a hotel or resort make sure you check if they provide a free shuttle service before you shell out the cash on a taxi.
If you plan on basing yourself in Nadi then one of the first choices you’re going to need to make is whether to book accommodation in Nadi Town or out on Denarau Island. In honesty, Nadi itself isn’t all that fantastic. That said, there are a whole bunch of affordable hotels along the main road in Martintar and Namaka. In contrast, and if you’re looking for a more luxurious beach-front experience, then the resort hotels on Denarau are perfect. Although officially an island, Denarau is actually a separate community linked to the Viti Levu mainland by a short bridge. The island has its own hop-on-hop-off service called the Bula Bus which stops at each resort, the golf course, the Water Park, and Port Denarau.
Fiji consists of a mindboggling 330 islands and deciding which ones to visit (even on a day trip from Nadi) can easily become overwhelming (FOMO becomes a real problem). The good news is that Nadi, which is on Viti Levu Island, is the country’s transportation hub. Not only is it home to the international airport, it’s also home to Port Denarau and a fairly decent bus network. If you’re interested in navigating your own way around Viti Levu then some of the more popular bus operators are Total Transport Fiji, Sunbeam, and Pacific Transport. If you decide you’d rather use taxis then it’s good to know that licensed taxis are always supposed to be metered (although you can still negotiate and many I used didn’t have any meters). Ride shares are also pretty common. If you’re looking for something cheaper than a taxi then you might want to consider hailing a passenger truck or minivan. Just beware that they are sometimes crazy uncomfortable and packed to the brim with people. If you’re heading out of Nadi to the Yasawa or Mamanuca island chains (the closest islands to Nadi) then there are plenty of boat services available. The one I used was South Sea Cruises, but you might also want to check out Sea Fiji or the private boat taxi service provided by Mamanuca Express.
Two of the biggest things that’ll probably impact your decision on what time of year to visit Nadi are price and weather. To start with, there’s no getting away from it; Fiji can be a very expensive destination. Those sky high prices are unsurprisingly at their most eye-watering when the weather is at its best; between July and September. The prices are at their lowest during the pacific cyclone season; between November and April. That gives you two short and sweet shoulder seasons; between May and June and October. Whichever season you choose the temperature tends to remain fairly stable (high 80’s Fahrenheit). The only difference between the seasons is the potential for torrential rain and hurricanes (which tend to put a bit of a dampener on beach days). So now let’s put that into perspective. I’ve visited the South Pacific on four occasions during the cyclone season. On one occasion I didn’t see the sun for a week and had torrential downpours every afternoon (that flooded roads). On one occasion I missed a cyclone by just one day that forced my hotel to be evacuated. On two occasions I had glorious weather and clear skies. Cyclone season, when the prices are at their cheapest (and the beaches are much more relaxing) therefore gives you a 50/50 success rate. In summary, I’d probably go for one of the two shoulder seasons to avoid both the crowds and the sky high prices whilst minimizing hurricane chances.
There are a bewildering number of activities, tours and excursions available that depart from Nadi; everything from sky diving and shark diving to island day trips and boat excursions into Viti Levu’s tropical interior. Most of these activities can be booked at resorts and hotels upon arrival. However, it’s worth noting that during the high season things can get booked up pretty quickly. So you might want to consider looking at (and booking) some of these trips before you leave. Where available I’ve provided direct links to the booking websites below and in the additional resources section at the bottom of the page.
Island Escapes: If you’re in Fiji for a prolonged holiday then you’ll most likely spend a portion of your time hopping between those 330-odd islands. But what if you’re only in in Nadi for a few days and want to get your slice of island paradise? The good news is that Port Denarau, about 15 minutes outside of Nadi, is Viti Levu’s port gateway to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands and day trips are an entirely feasible (although perhaps not ideal) way to begin that exploration. Some of the most accessible islands from the port are Malamala Beach Club, South Sea Island, Malolo, Castaway (yes, the same one that Tom Hanks was stranded on), Mana and Beachcomber; all of which are in the Mamanuca chain and within an hour of Denerau. Day trips to each of these islands can be booked though South Sea Cruises / Awesome Adventures Fiji (Sister Companies) which operate handy transfer services across the entire Mamanuca and Yasawa Island chain. If you want to head out a little further to the Yasawa chain then you have a couple of options. Kuata Island is the closest to Denarau and provides the opportunity to snorkel or dive with sharks (including the notorious Bull Shark) courtesy of the Barefoot Kuata Resort. Alternatively you could do a day cruise (but not actually getting off the boat) that takes you all the way to some of the northern-most of the 20 Yasawa Islands. Whatever you choose you’ll be slurping on a cold beer under the shade of a tropical palm tree; so how can you really go wrong?
Cloud 9: Nestled amongst the waters of Vanua Malolo on Ro Ro Reef is the incredibly unique ‘Cloud 9’. Located a mere 40 minutes from Port Denarau by Cloud 9 transfer service is what can basically be described as a floating pontoon paradise. Surrounded by nothing but coral reef, turquoise waters, alcohol and gourmet pizza you too could spend the day lounging on a day bed, snorkeling amongst clown fish, jet skiing and parasailing. Just be aware that Cloud 9 is pretty popular, so if you do plan to visit then I’d advise that you book in advance. It’s also worth noting that jet skiing and parasailing need to be booked at least 48 hours before you arrive.
Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple: Having recently undergone a bit of a renovation, the Dravidian styled Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple is an absolute riot of colour and is the largest Hindu temple of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Dedicated to Murugan, the deity god of nature, the complex can be found in the center of Nadi town and is worthy of a visit for, if nothing else, its intricately carved wood working. As with most places of worship you’ll need to ensure that you dress conservatively and remove your footwear before entering. Also be aware that whilst photography is allowed in the grounds you can’t take photos once you’re inside the temple itself.
Sabeto Valley: The Sabeto Valley area is located about 10 minutes north of Nadi International Airport and sits nestled beneath the Mountain of the Sleeping Giant (aptly named because that is what it supposedly looked like – I struggled to see it myself).
The most famous of the valley’s attraction is the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. Established in 1977 by Raymond Burr (yes, that’s right, the guy from Ironside) the 20 hectare gardens are home to an impressive orchid collection and a number of lily ponds and jungle walking trails. I spent around an hour or so wandering the gardens and was rewarded with approximately 15 mosquito bites. My takeaway from this is that you should probably douse yourself with repellant before you head into the gardens.
Further up the valley you’ll find both the Sabeto and Tifajek Mud Pools and Hot springs. If your idea of a fun afternoon involves sitting with strangers in a pond whilst caked in mud then this might just well be the place for you! In seriousness though, the mud pools and springs are said to have rejuvenating qualities for the skin; so perhaps this is the place to come to relieve some of that sunburn you recently acquired on the beach. Both sites also offer changing rooms, showers and massages.
The final stop on your Sabeto Valley self-guided tour is actually located within the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park; which feels a million miles away from the tourist crowds in Nadi despite only being a 15 minute drive away. The Sleeping Giant Zip Line Fiji Eco-friendly Adventure Park (yes, quite the mouthful) is a stop that should quench the appetite of both the adrenaline junkies and nature lovers in your group. In addition to 5 zip lines spanning 600m at speeds of up to 40km/h the guided ‘safari’ (more of a nature walk) takes you to two remote jungle waterfalls and an ancient cannibal rock village. As a delightful side note, I thought that at this point I’d mention that it was only in 1870 (when king Ratu Seru Cakobau ceded to Great Britian) that the end of cannibalism in Fiji was ushered in. In fact, Fiji’s most notorious chief (Udre Udre) actually holds the Guinness World Record for being the most prolific cannibal (I can’t imagine he has many challengers these days). He is said to have eaten a whopping 999 people. Not relevant to zip lining, but I found it interesting!
Cultural Activities: Disregarding my discussion of cannibalism above (which is thankfully no longer an approved cultural activity) Nadi has a plethora of events and shows that showcase the culture of the islands. The one you probably won’t be able to avoid (nor would you want to) is a kava ceremony. Kava is the unofficial national drink of Fiji, a mild sedative, and most definitely an acquired taste. It’s consumption is typically accompanied by strictly orchestrated ceremonial proceedings (such as a welcome ceremony to an island, resort or village) followed by a whole bunch of tourists grimacing after realizing that it doesn’t taste quite like the Cava they’re used to from Spain (Fijians don’t stress the spelling difference when they offer you one).
If you’re looking to experience one of Fiji’s famous fire shows (you know, the ones that seem to appear on most of Fiji’s marketing brochures) then you should consider taking the trip out to Robinson Crusoe Island for the ‘Legends of the Pacific’ show and dinner. The show, which runs every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday is admittedly a solid hour’s drive from Nadi (and a boat transfer out to the island itself). But these transfers can all be arranged through the island’s resort on their website (and through most resorts and hotels in Nadi). If you opt for the full day trip then you’ll also have the opportunity to use the resort’s snorkel and kayak equipment as well as partake in kava ceremonies, crab cooking lessons, traditional Fijian fire walking and jungle walks. It’s well worth the hour transfer. Closer to Nadi, you might also want to consider the ‘Fire on Water’ show held at the Radisson Blu Resort on Denarau once a week, or the Tuesday/ Thursday/ Friday night shows at the Fiji Culture Village (which is itself well worth the visit even during the day).
Sigatoka River Safari: A careful mix of adrenaline and culture, the Sigatoka River Safari includes a jet boat ride up the Sigatoka River followed by a visit to traditional Fijian village deep within Viti Levu’s interior. Working with 18 different villages (to avoid encroaching too much into a single village’s traditional lifestyle), the safari has also been designed to directly and indirectly support rural community development projects; meaning the money you spend on the tour also, at least in part, goes to a good cause. Expect kava ceremonies, village tours, singing, dancing, stunning scenery, and high speed jet boating! Certainly a unique combination.
Snorkeling and Diving: 1,200 species of fish. 390 species of coral. Up close encounters with bull sharks, manta rays and five of the world’s seven species of marine turtle. Need I say more? (spoiler alert: I will). Although Viti Levu’s most famous dive and snorkel sites (Shark Reef, Pacific Harbour, Beqa Lagoon, and the Coral Coast) aren’t directly on your doorstep in Nadi that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get some excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities (including at those sites if you don’t mind transfers and have some time on your hands). After all, Fiji has been called the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World’! Most hotels and resorts in Nadi have dive shops that’ll help you find the perfect trip for you. I personally opted to seek out sharks off of Kuata Island, whilst Manta Rays are also a possibility if you fancy splurging on a flight on a sea plane to Manta Ray Island with Pacific Island Air.
Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park: 3km west of Sigatoka Town (an easy hour drive from Nadi) is the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park; 650 hectares of impressive sand dunes standing at between 20-60m tall. The park is open from 8am-5pm daily and walkways start from the information center – where you can also request a guided tour with a ranger to learn more about the site’s archeological status, flora and fauna. Just be aware that the walking trails are quite steep in places so a reasonable level of fitness is recommended.
South Sea Cruises Website: https://www.ssc.com.fj/
Cloud 9 Website: https://www.cloud9.com.fj/
Awesome Adventures Fiji Website: https://www.awesomefiji.com/
Garden of the Sleeping Giant Website: http://www.gsgfiji.com/
Sleeping Giant Zipline Website: https://www.ziplinefiji.com/
Robinson Crusoe Island Website: https://www.robinsoncrusoeislandfiji.com/
Sigatoka River Safari Website: https://www.sigatokariver.com/
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