The launchpad for Fiji's thrills, with shops, bars and eateries aplenty
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 the travellers jetting in from across the globe to bask in all that Fiji's islands have to offer who’ve made Nadi (pronounced 'Nandi') a major tourist hub.
Just minutes from the airport, this culturally eclectic city of about 40,000 is packed with shops, restaurants, bars, tour outfits and hotels. It's also 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.
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 starred in 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. Blessed with crystal clear waters, palm-fringed beaches and oodles of coral, the Mamanucas are a resort paradise of restaurants, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, parasailing, dolphin-watching, catamaran riding and sun worshipping. And any other beach-based pleasures you might want to dream up.
Dune it right
Scramble up dunes up to 60m high, explore archaeological sites 2000 years old, marvel at ancient artefacts and catch sight of rare birds in native dry forests. All this can be found by following Queen’s Highway out of Nadi to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park, the first of its kind on the islands and a site that’s under consideration for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Grow for it
Actor Raymond Burr is best remembered as the star of late-night TV staples Ironside and Perry Mason, but this passionate horticultural hobbyist also left this gift to garden posterity. The Garden of the Sleeping Giant is located in the foothills of the Nausori Highlands, 6km north of Nadi airport, and its 2000 varieties of Asian orchids are the big drawcard. The garden’s huge expanses of manicured lawn and rainforest canopy-covered boardwalk make this the ideal spot for some serenity in the wake of an adrenaline-charged visit to the Mamanucas.
Unlike its celebrated counterpart in 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 before emptying into the ocean. Needless to say, a trip along this utterly breathtaking 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, is in a class of its own. Reached via an unforgettable two-hour drive, the Bligh Water is home to strong currents that carry nutrients to the area’s soft corals – see why Fiji is known as 'the soft coral capital of the world'. 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, and July and August are peak period for tourists. The warm and humid wet season, which runs from November to April, typically sees periods of several days of heavy rain followed by periods of intense sunshine. Nadi and the bulk of Fiji’s resorts are on the dryer, western side of Viti Levu.
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 licensed minibus) are eminently affordable and the buses stop just about anywhere, not just at bus stops (so 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 licensed 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
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