5 Epic Fiji Day Trips To Suit Just About Everyone
Whether you're a party goer or seeking romance, here are fun and efficient ways to see more of Fiji
Fiji’s Denarau Island is a destination of choice for many New Zealanders, thanks to its line-up of five-star hotels a stone’s throw from the sea. It’s a mere three-hour flight from Auckland to Nadi airport, and from here a 20-minute taxi to the hotel metropolis at the water’s edge. That kind of commute is hard to beat for parents contemplating travelling with small children, which is why it’s a decidedly family-friendly affair at the six resorts that fan out across the bay.
What’s the appeal if you don’t have children in tow, you ask? Several of the resorts are connected by more than just an oceanfront walkway. The Westin, Sheraton and Sheraton Villas are part of an integrated complex that share facilities, meaning guests can swim, spa, play golf or dine and charge it back to their accommodation. With a range of restaurants and bars to choose from, all within wandering distance of your hotel room, it’s the ease of a mainland resort holiday that’s the big drawcard.
The beach on Denarau, however, isn’t ideal for swimming, and even lolling around by the pool can get old; especially to a backdrop of wholesome family fun. That’s where island hopping comes in. Just down the road is Port Denarau, where ferries shuttle visitors to the pristine Malolo and Mamanuca Islands, home to luxury resorts like Six Senses and Likuliku, as well as day-tripping destinations like Malamala Island. Viva got on board . . .
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO PARTY
If a dose of healthy hedonism is your modus operandi, may we introduce you to Malamala Beach Club? This adults’ playground encourages copious amounts of eating and drinking poolside, set to a soundtrack of R&B bangers and a heavy rotation of New Zealand tunes.
Just a 25-minute boat ride from Port Denarau, Malamala Beach Club dubs itself “the world’s first beach club located on its very own island”, and like all the best beach clubs in the world, it’s the toe-dipping distance from crystal-clear water to fully-stocked bar that makes it appealing.
General manager Tish Mete (a New Zealander, you have her to thank for the Katchafire tunes) says although they haven’t made the island officially adults’ only, a child’s day pass is the same rate as an adult (FJD169) which means you won’t find many tearing around the island.
Visitors arrive about 10.30am and leave on one of two boats — the 4.15pm or the 5.15pm — sun-soaked and happy. What to do when you’re there? If you’re up for the chaos of the selfie-magnet that is the infinity pool, a poolside day bed is the place to be, with its views across the Mamanucas and easy access to the bar. (Pro tip: It’s best to book these in advance as they fill up quickly.)
If you’ve had enough Denarau-based poolside action, Malamala offers several beachfront cabanas, which are moments from the water’s edge. These sheltered day beds are perfect for groups (up to eight people) and come with butler service — simply pick up the phone to order a Drunken Coconut cocktail or a blackened fish taco, delivered right to your side.
And that’s the beach club’s other point of difference — genuinely good food, crafted by executive chef Lance Seto. Where other clubs slop up booze-soaking carbs to keep punters relatively sober, Malamala has small bites and sharing platters full of bright fresh flavours inspired by the South Pacific.
Try the yellowfin tuna poke bowl; the citrus-cured Spanish mackerel kokoda or the coconut-crumbed prawns. You can eat anywhere, in fact this is actively encouraged with lots of hands-only dishes and serving boards that fit perfectly on a day-bed arm rest.
To drink, you can get into the spirit of things and order a beer bucket, or keep it civilised with bottles of Bolli, loads of New Zealand wines and craft beer from Little Creatures. The cocktails are a good time too — try the Smoking Barrel, which mixes coconut-smoked pineapple with chilli and bourbon, or the Naked Lady — a gin-based concoction with ginger beer, lychee and rare blue butterfly pea flowers. When in Fiji!
And lastly, there’s the option of making the most of that sparkling blue ocean, with water sports such as snorkelling, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Best of all, this is covered by your day pass.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT SOLITUDE
Ever had a desert island fantasy? This is your chance to realise it, with Pacific Island Air’s private island day trip. The destination is a pristine (and deserted) tropical island, perfect for couples seeking some solitary time, or as a treat-you-and-a-friend experience (this trip is priced at $1170 for two adults). Set off on a scenic helicopter ride before being dropped on Yadua Island in the Mamanuca group. Once there, you’ll have the island to yourself, with a picnic lunch, a bottle of Moet champagne and some snorkelling gear — should you care to use it. It’s all very Robinson Crusoe, but just for the day — or half a day if you’re missing the amenities of Denarau already.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SWIM
Like something out of the classic 1995 film Waterworld, Cloud 9 is a two-level floating bar (and watersport haven) moored in the middle of the ocean. Despite the absence of salty sea dog Kevin Costner, it's not hard to see why this floating-fun-pavilion is the destination of choice for private parties and work groups.
The Cloud 9 sundecks have day beds, hanging chairs and sun chairs for lounging between swims. And swim you will with such beautiful water surrounding you. There are wood-fired pizzas on the menu, a fully stocked bar and a revolving list of DJs spinning tunes. Watersports include parasailing, jet ski tours and trips to the world-renowned surf spot Cloudbreak. There are two half-day trips to Cloud 9 available daily from Port Denarau.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT ACTIVITIES
Head to Tivua Island, a tropical atoll and a paradise for colourful coral — there’s more than 200ha worth — on a day cruise with Captain Cook Cruises. It includes all the activities you could wish for, from guided snorkelling and glass-bottomed boat tours, to canoes, a kava ceremony, volleyball, fish feeding, hammocks, a medicine walk and a coconut-husking lesson. If you’re less activity-minded you can always enjoy the tropical buffet lunch and drinks from the comfort of a day bed or bure.
FOR THOSE SEEKING ROMANCE
How about watching a Fijian sunset aboard charter vessel Fiji One? Captain Cook Cruises’ Sunset Dinner Cruise will see you sailing on one of the largest catamarans in the Southern Hemisphere as the sun goes down. The three-hour cruise journeys around the beautiful Mamanucas at dusk, with dinner served along the way.
On the menu? A three-course barbecue dinner and drinks, as well as Fijian cultural show and music to offset that spectacular ocean backdrop. Even better for Denarau-based guests is hotel pick-up and drop-off, making it too easy. Sunset Dinner Cruise departs 5.30pm to 8.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
• Viva stayed at The Westin Denerau Island Resort & Spa. Air New Zealand operate daily direct flights from Auckland to Nadi and seasonal direct flights from Wellington and Christchurch to Nadi.