The launch pad for all the thrilling experiences for which Fiji is renowned, Nadi is an attraction in its own right with shops, bars and eateries galore
Hindu pilgrims flock to this city to visit Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple, the largest shrine of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, but it’s travellers jetting in from across the globe to bask in all that the Fiji islands have to offer who’ve made Nadi (pronounced “Nandi”) the major tourist hub that it is. Just minutes from the airport, this culturally eclectic city of about 40,000 is packed with shops, restaurants, bars, tour outfits and hotels and is home to Newtown beach, the Sleeping Giant orchid gardens, Waqadra Botanical Gardens and the “presidential village” of Viseisei, which is said to be the landing point of the first Melanesian canoeists to visit Fiji and the site of the islands’ first settlement. Beyond that, Nadi serves as the gateway to top attractions like the lush Sabeto Mountains, stunning Natadola Beach, the fun-packed Mamanucas and breathtaking Yasawa islands, the cultural riches of Sigatoka and the high-end resorts of Denarau Island, among others.
Things to do
So gorgeous that they served as the backdrop for both the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away and TV’s Survivor: Fiji, The Mamanucas are a chain of 20 islands near Nadi and the resort hub of Denarau. What’s on offer here? Better to ask what’s not? Blessed with crystal clear waters, palm-fringed beaches and oodles of coral, the Mamanucas are a paradise of resorts, restaurants, snorkeling, swimming, diving, kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, parasailing, dolphin-watching, catamaran riding and sun worshipping. Did we overlook anything? Rest assured, even if we did you’re almost sure to find it there.
Dune it right
Not enough sun and sand for you? To summit sand dunes ranging from 20-60m in height, explore archaeological sites tracing 2,000 years of Fijian history, feast your eyes on ancient artefacts and catch sight of rare bird species in native dry forests, simply follow the main Queen’s Highway out of Nadi to The Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, the first facility of its kind in the islands and a site that’s under consideration for inclusion on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Grow for it
Actor Raymond Burr, a veteran of the golden age of American TV, is best remembered as the star of late-night TV staples Ironside and Perry Mason but this lifelong horticultural hobbyist also left a gift to posterity in the form of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. Located in the foothills of the Nausori Highlands, 6.5km north of Nadi airport, the garden’s 2,000 varieties of Asian orchids are the obvious draw here. The garden’s huge expanses of manicured lawn and rainforest canopy-covered boardwalk at the base of Sleeping Giant Mountain make this place the ideal spot for a bit of serenity in the wake of an adrenaline-charged visit to the Mamanucas.
Unlike its celebrated counterpart in the US state of Arizona, Fiji’s “Grand Canyon” – Viti Levu’s waterfall-fed, rapids-rich Upper Navua River – carves a deep, volcanic rock-walled pathway through nearly 30km of pristine rainforest that’s alive with wildlife and utterly breathtaking in appearance before emptying into the ocean. Needless to say, a trip along this stunning river gorge is a whitewater-rafting enthusiast’s dream.
There’s no shortage of dive sites in Fiji but the Bligh Water off the glorious northern coast of Viti Levu are in a class of their own. Reached via a two-hour drive that is an unforgettable experience in its own right, the Bligh Water are home to strong currents that carry nutrients to the area’s soft corals, which make the reefs a sight unlike any other. Toss in huge schools of tropical fish, barracuda and turtles and you’ve got the diving trip of a lifetime.
Travel time 10 minutes
Taxi Approx FJ $15
Coral Sun Fiji bus transfers FJ $15-20, twice a day at 7.30am and 1pm (one-way from the airport to Nadi, Denerau Island and elsewhere). Return transfer bookings must be made 36 hours in advance.
Airport Shuttle Fiji operates a 24-hour luxury vehicle transfer to any resort, marine operator or private residence on Viti Levu. Bookings must be made 24 hours in advance.Back to top
When to go
June to September marks Fiji’s cool, comfortable, dry season. The warm and humid wet season, which runs from November to April, typically sees several days of heavy rain at a time followed by periods of intense sunshine. Nadi and the bulk of Fiji’s resorts are on the dryer, western side of Viti Levu. July and August are peak period for tourists. Hindu Holi or the Festival of Colors is celebrated in Fiji in February or March with much splashing of coloured water while Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is marked with fireworks and candles in October or November. The Bula Festival is Nadi’s annual, city-wide celebration, featuring music, performances and parades, while Viti Levu’s Sugar Festival takes place in September.Back to top
The fares for local minibuses (with number plates bearing the letters “LM” for licenced minibus) are eminently affordable and the buses stop just about anywhere, not just at bus stops, which means that if you’re in a hurry this is not the way to go. Taxi fares are also cheap and drivers are even willing to negotiate lower prices. Just settle on the fare before you start your journey. Use only taxis with number plates bearing the letters “LT” (for licenced taxi). There’s no dispatcher for taxis so ask your driver for his card (with phone number) so you can call next time you need transport.Back to top