More than just a source of pristine bottled water and an idyllic honeymoon destination in the South Pacific, Fiji is a friendly place whose residents welcome travelers with a heartfelt "bula!" (health). Its cultural mix shows up in its traditional fire walking ceremonies, Indian restaurants, Chinese supermarkets, and the European influence of Christianity. More than 100 of Fiji's 300-plus islands are inhabited. Seek out Robinson Crusoe-like isolation on tiny Monuriki or pampered indulgences in resort-heavy Nadi or Denarau.
Suva, the capital city on the largest island (Viti Levu) is home to half of Fiji's population and the Fiji Museum, which tells the country's story through musical instruments, cooking tools, and war clubs. It's miles and miles of windswept, undulating sand, some dunes as high as 60 feet, at the island's Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park. Hop over to Nadi on the west coast for the colorful Hindu Sri Siva Subrahmaniya Swami Temple, the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Eating and Drinking
If asked, say yes to a drink of pungent yaqona, a relaxing traditional drink made from kava root. For a no-frills lunch in Nadi tuck into a filling pumpkin curry. Fijians love their lashings of coconut milk, served with ota miti, the tender young shoots of the wood fern, or in palusami to steam fresh fish wrapped in taro leaves. Juicy pineapples and mangos from Suva Municipal Market will satisfy any sweet cravings.
On the island of Viti Levu, hike the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park and explore the ecotourism village of Abaca -- from here you can reach forests of the protected native Dakua tree, sacred to Fijians. Sea kayaking is popular among many of Fiji's small islands, especially the shores of Kadavu. Divers love the narrow passage between Vanua Levu and Taveuni, Fiji's most famous site for soft corals, especially its Great White Wall and Rainbow Reef.
Complete escape is what the sunny, secluded beaches of Monuriki are all about, and this is also where Castaway with Tom Hanks was filmed. Halfway between Nadi and Lautoka and off the beaten track, you'll find Sabeto Hot Springs, home to therapeutic yet refreshing muddy waters. Swim in the warm bays on the Yasawa Islands, or enjoy the deep white sand and turquoise lagoons of Matana Beach on Kadavu.