Add it to your bucket list: Tips for Island Hopping Across Fiji

by Brian Carroll on October 15, 2013

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Well, 10+ months later, I'm happy to finally get this post up, which had been sitting half completed in my archives. I'm just going to assume that my procrastination in writing this correlates directly with the fact that every time I've thought about finishing it, I then recount being on an isolated beach in Fiji with rum filled coconuts and understandably, distraction sets in... Thankfully, I've overcome that mental roadblock and can now share with you my experiences and tips about island hopping so hopefully you can turn something like this into a great trip for yourself in the future.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably seen some version of these Corona commercials before - in our often self-induced hectic lives, it's basically what we all dream of and in many senses what Fiji offers - provided you know where to go...

That said, before I ever set foot in Fiji, I asked many people who had been there if it was worth a trip, given the fact I'd already been in Hawaii.  Granted that the experience you get in Hawaii can vary greatly ranging from Honolulu's tourist crammed streets to the calming peace of Kauai's natural landscape, I assumed that a visit to Fiji would fall somewhere in between.  Thankfully, I made the decision to find out firsthand.

Throughout my time abroad, I always planned my travel itineraries independently, which provided some challenges as information and means of contact weren't always plentiful.  Figuring out how to island hop in order to get the best experience took a bit of research and some luck.  Here's some tips I'd recommend based on what I experienced:

1.  Limit your time on the mainland: Not all of Fiji is made up of those crystal clear waters that you envision - the main island is a perfect example.  You really have to get away from everything to get the best "beach experience."  Granted I can only speak to what I saw on my ride through the main island, but my impression was that mainland poverty was prevalent (and yet, so was an atmosphere of happiness among the locals) and infrastructure was sparse.  I spoke to others who really enjoyed their time on the mainland, but for me, my focus was on getting out to the unspoiled waters further off the coast, so that's where I headed.

2.  Decide on the islands that interest you: Outside of the main island, getting around Fiji requires hopping on a boat.  Fiji as a country is made up of 332 islands, 110 of which are inhabited (thanks Wikipedia).  The main island chains off the coast are the Mamanuca and Yasawa island chains.  The Mamanuca chain is much closer to the main island and features "Castaway Island," home to the Tom Hanks movie "Castaway" and his trusty buddy Wilson.

"We might just make it. Did that thought ever cross your brain? Well, regardless, I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this shithole island, spending the rest of my life talking......TO A GODDAMN VOLLEYBALL!" (Hmm...I guess I found the islands to be much more appealing than Tom Hanks)

Since these island are closer, they are much more accessible by private water taxi.  The Yasawa islands on the other hand, stretch further north and provide prettier places the further out you go. So once you've decided where you want to go, it's time to arrange aquatic transport which brings me to my next point...

3.  Get your boat ticket upfront (I recommend purchasing before you even arrive, in case they sell out in high season):

fijiboatjpgTo get to the island chains, travelers need to get an island hopping pass (called the BULA PASS), which allows you access to the main boat transportation in Fiji, all of which is arranged by Awesome Fiji AdventuresThis large speed boat stops at all the resorts along the chain for drop offs and pick ups at designated times.  It is THE way to get around.  Personally, I made the decision to travel as far out as I could on the front end and then island hop back.  In all it took me 5 hours on the boat to get to my first destination (Blue Lagoon Resort), which is one of the last accessible resorts.  So if you get seasick, be aware and plan to spend your time hanging outside on the boat deck.

4. Coordinate your flight times with the boat schedule if possible: When you get a BULA PASS to island hop, you need to be aware that the boat only leaves the main island and returns to it at a few specific times (check the schedule on Awesome Fiji Adventures).  This means that if you don't properly plan your airplane arrival/departure times, your anticipated 7 day trip out on the islands may in reality turn into 5, since you'll have to spend a day on the front and back end stuck on the main island to ensure you can catch your departing flights/boats. Knowing this upfront and coordinating accordingly will ensure you get as much beach time as possible.

5.  Don't wait to book your lodging: I made the decision to book my BULA PASS (boat transportation only) and my accommodation independently of each other, which saved me a bit of money and guaranteed me a spot at the resorts I wanted.  Space can fill up quickly at well regarded resorts which from my experience, had a blend of honeymooners, families and backpackers.  At every place I stayed, you paid a single fee which included your lodging and meals (drinks and additional activities were separate).  It worked very well and I can say that the food was quite good - Fiji fare as well as your traditional food, including burgers.


Destination 1:  Blue Lagoon Resort

bluelagoonI did my homework on places to stay and this resort did not disappoint.  Accommodating no more than probably 100 people, it was maybe 100 yards from my bed to the beach and the resort featured a crystal clear reef and a dining area in the sand.  Activities were abundant and included snorkeling, going to a local village, a trip out to the cave where the actual film Blue Lagoon was produced, volleyball, Kava drinking (YUM...not really), guitar playing, $15 coconut oil massages and maybe most importantly, beach relaxing with a book and a beer (Fiji Bitter was the most common beer and not bad).

During the day, people would be involved in a variety of activities or none at all.  Each night there would be happy hour, followed by dinner and then some sort of resort activity/event - most notably hermit crab racing.  Hermit crabs were scattered along the beach and we each had to go pick out the one we wanted.  As you walked along the beach you'd have to look close to find them as they'd hide in their shells and play dead if they saw you coming.


Furthermore, once you grabbed one that looked like a winner, you had to deal with the fact that they'd keep trying to pinch you, and every so often they'd get a good pinch in.  But hey, I was looking for a real fighter in the first place, so a pinch was a sign that they'd do well.  Unfortunately, mine wasted his energy on pinching me rather than racing...

The waters out at this resort were simply unbelievable. I'd never in my life before seen so many shades of blue and green in the ocean.  It was so nice and peaceful that you could just sit in the water and read a book.


water2 water3

I spent four days at this resort and enjoyed every minute before I grabbed my BULA PASS and hopped back on the boat for four days at this resort's sister property, Octopus.

Destination 2:  Octopus Resort

octopus The day we were dropped off at Octopus Resort, the tide was high and the waves were rough, so we were dropped off on the backside of the island and hiked into the resort in 15 minutes.  The great thing about all these resorts is that when you check in, you are greeted with a drink:)

drink Furthermore, the staff at both resorts (which is made up of local villagers who live in other parts of the island) were very friendly, welcoming and quite good singers, musicians and volleyball players to boot.

Anytime you visit a new resort, the first night, you are offered to join some of the locals in the tradition of drinking Kava.  Kava is essentially an alcoholic drink that comes from tree roots - it tastes like drinking muddy water.  But hey, it's a cool experience that you have to try at least once.  Another real cool experience I was looking forward to was the opportunity to swim with Manta Rays.  Manta Rays look kinda like giant (non-lethal) sting rays and are in the waters certain months of the year, which just so coincided when I was there.  You can actually only go Manta Ray swimming from a couple of the resorts based on my search - Octopus as well as another place aptly named "Manta Ray Resort."  Unfortunately for me though, the one day this was available, the water was too choppy and they had to cancel this trip.  Thankfully, I now have a reason to return.

Destination 3:  Beachcomber Resort

beachcomber beachcomberWhile the first two resorts I stayed at were much more relaxing and family friendly, I scheduled a few nights at Beachcomber Resort, which is where you go if you want to party.  In terms of facilities and beach, it was definitely a step down from either Blue Lagoon or Octopus, but hey, that's not the reason you come here.  You come here for the drinks, the fire dancing and the drinks;)  It so happened that when I was there, the resort was probably at 30% capacity, so it was a bit more sedated than I'm sure it can be at other times.  That said, I had a great time and  ended up meeting a very nice English couple (Ben & Katherine) a group of English girls and a fella from Venice Beach, CA as well - go figure.

All in all, Fiji was a great experience and a place I plan on returning to again. Google

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