Trapped in Paradise

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 18th, 2010

Fiji is ParadiseWhenever I hear the word “Fiji,” I think of those postcards you see in airports – white sand beaches, palm trees, a little boat in the ocean, and the bluest, clearest water in the world. Essentially, my idea of heaven.

With Gary from Everything-Everywhere heading to Fiji, I thought there was no better time to cross off one of my travel goals. Even though I was exploring the south island of New Zealand, I was changing course. Finishing New Zealand could wait – I was on my way to Fiji.

The deep blue water, the white sand beaches, the lush jungles – looking out over the boat to the Yasawa Islands, I was struck by the sheer beauty of Fiji. Paradise doesn’t accurately describe this place. The Yasawas are beautiful. Mind numbingly, stupidly beautiful. Pictures are worth a thousand words so I’ll let the pictures here fill in the adjectives for you. But, in addition to being heavenly, the islands are easy to get around. The Fiji dollar is cheap. There are all your typical island activities to do. Basically, you have everything you need to make this paradise. Throw in the sound of the crashing waves, the relaxed attitude (you quickly discover “Fiji time”), the starlit nights, and you will never want to leave. You are a million miles from anywhere and, after a day here, that’s exactly where you want to be.

the yasawa islands in fiji

Island hopping the Yasawa Island chain, I’ve determined that backpacking in Fiji is like nowhere else in the world. Close to the mainland, these islands are popular with backpackers because they are cheap, easy to get to, and are known for their lively atmosphere. There’s only one boat through these islands and all the islands have two or three resorts you can get dropped off at. The resorts provide all your meals and you book all your activities through them. It’s packaged backpacking. You move from resort to resort like a tour. Except these resorts focus on budget travel, cheap activities, have dorms, and cheap beer. No five star luxury here. It’s not my normal mode of travel but it hasn’t taken away from the experience at all.

kayaks in fiji

While I’m a lover of all things tropical, one thing that has really struck me here has been the locals. Everyone has been friendly and extremely welcoming. They are always saying hello, asking where you are from, how you like it here, and having a 20 questions style conversation with you. At night, they come over and spend time with the guests.

On a clear and balmy night, Gary and I were invited to hang out with the staff of Waya Lai Lai resort (I highly recommend staying there) and drink Kava. Kava is the traditional drink of Fiji. Made from the kava root and mixed with water, it has an earthy taste but, as a mild relaxant, makes your mouth and tongue numb and tingling.

There’s a special ceremony to drinking it. You must clap once before you drink, yell bula, drink in one gulp, and clap three times when you finish. The clapping is out of respect for the drink. They drink this every night and spend the night relaxing. Bowls and bowls of kava get passed around and the night that once started loud, gets more relaxed and quiet. Handing out drinks to us, they always asked if Gary and I wanted high tide or low tide (essentially a lot or a little). Until your last drink. Then they finish you off with a “tsunami.” Needless to say, I slept well that night.

sunset in fiji

Despite being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Fiji is quite accessible. It’s a standard stop on round the world tickets. If you are coming from Australia or New Zealand, you can get an easy stop over flight. I’m not sure why more people don’t take advantage of it but if you want easy living in a south pacific paradise at a budget traveler’s price, make Fiji one of your cross-pacific stops.

comments 36 Comments

Sounds like bliss – what’s not to like?

NomadicMatt

I wanted more fish. Other than that, it was perfect!

Trapped? It sounds more like we’re going to have to pry you out of there with a crowbar ;)

NomadicMatt

most likely!

Wow. I think I just added this to my itinerary for next year. Looks perfect.

I need to look into this kava thing… sounds fun!

Beautiful pics.

Sounds amazing, Matt. I’ll add that to my list of things to do while I’m living here in New Zealand. Beautiful!

Beautiful photos, Matt. Sounds like you’re having quite the adventure, with or without the kava. :)

Oh, I love these pics, Matt! Fiji was one of my favorite vacations of all time. Everything stressful disappeared and I relaxed like I’ve never done before. Hope you have a fantastic time! :-) I’m jealous beyond words. :-)

NomadicMatt

Eventually, we all operate on Fiji time.

Fiji looks absolutely breathtaking. Need to get there asap! Great article.

I am plotting my escape from the dreary cold of NYC now. Fiji is amazingly beautiful. Thanks for the inspiration! “Trapped”, I’m sure. :-)

He finally took the leap and went SCUBA diving too!

James S

So it’s relatively cheap eh? I think a new country just got added to my Australasia adventure coming up next Fall!

NomadicMatt

I spent more than I would have liked but I also got private rooms and learned to scuba dive.

Will you mention the coup and that the government is effectively a dictatorship?

Kine

Ahh, you poor thing who’s “trapped” in Fiji!
Pictures are amazing, and it sounds like it is as well. Keep enjoying!

Ahimsa

Fiji is my least favorite place I have ever traveled to, but it’s my own fault. I decided I wanted a cultural experience and stayed on the main island. I was robbed in Suva and Lautoka was not much better. I was not once actually approached by a non-tout.. I’m sure Fiji is awesome, but in the overly-obvious advice category, you have to get off the main island.

NomadicMatt

I’d give it another chance. The islands are amazing and everyone has been really friendly to me.

what a great place to be trapped in!
I was debating about including Fiji in my RTW itinerary but you just convinced me it´s a go! did you fly there? if so, from which city in NZ?

NomadicMatt

I flew from Auckland.

Wilding Penderis

Dammit!

Now I gotta add Fiji to my list
of places to visit. That’s what’s so
awesome about travel. There is just
soooo much to see!

Awesome stuff man.

Wilding Penderis

VagaBen

Great pictures!

NomadicMatt

Thanks. I appreciate the support! :)

Fidji looks amazing, I’ll put it on my “to visit” list! Thanks for the nice post!

Wow. Simply amazing.. Thanks for the tips and images!

Ah, I have great memories of Fiji when I visited in 2002. There is nothing quite like “Fiji Time”. Fiji Time is the slowest pace of life I have ever witnessed anywhere. Nothing gets done in a timely manner, but who cares, you’re in Fiji! The most relaxing place I’ve ever been by far. Have fun, Matt

In my opinion, clapping out of respect for a drink should be worldwide. :) I never gave that part of the world much thought, now you have me interested. Thanks for the article!

what fun, matt! what did you eat?? great photos…

Marin

Beauty! Jealous..and yep still jealous. Canadian weather just isn’t quite cutting it these winter days..

Everyone I know who’s been to Fiji absolutely loves it. And your right, Matt, it’s super easy to include it in an RTW trip. Air Pacific will typically give a free stopover in Fiji on continuing flights, which if perfect for people traveling between Los Angeles or Honolulu and Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane in Australia. Opportunity!

They’ve also added a nonstop flight to Hong Kong, so if you’re in Asia and going to Melbourne you can still work in a rest day (or week) in Fiji.

Wow, I’m a tad bit jealous right now. Just a tad. ;) LOVING your blog… off to wonder around some more…

Much luv from Texas!

Dan

Hey Matt,

I know what you mean about Fiji and the Yaswara Islands! I also stayed on Waya Lai Lai in 2008. Fantastic little village to stay at, it was great to just chillout with the locals, chatting away eating coconut or just lounging around. Highly recommended!

Dan

Sara

We stayed there in May of 2006!! Loved it, the people at the resort were so nice and it was so relaxing! We headed to Octopus Resort on our last night for a little nicer accomidation. We spent as much money on one night as we did for 3 on Waya Lai Lai!!

Bec

To anyone who loved fiji… i recommend vanuatu. Havn’t been to fiji yet, going later this year, but it sounds similar… friendly locals, great relaxed island atmosphere, beautiful beaches, good snorkelling & diving. Not sure bout fiji but vanuatu also offers some beautiful more inland attractions like a valcano & awesome waterfalls. Hoping fiji wont disappoint after such a wonderful holiday last year in vanuatu.

Great post on Fiji. A Fijian holiday is something that everyone should take up and one that will not be forgotten easily.

It is refreshing to see that people around the world are starting to see Fiji as a great destination.

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