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Although I wouldn't spend my entire vacation in Nadi, it does make a good base from which to explore Fiji. In fact, you can make day trips from Nadi to other parts of Viti Levu. Some Coral Coast and Pacific Harbour area tour operators provide transportation from the Nadi area hotels.

A Side Trip to Lautoka

Fiji's second-largest city, pleasant Lautoka has broad avenues, green parks, and a row of towering royal palms marching along the middle of Vitogo Parade, the main drag running from the harbor along the eastern side of downtown.

Tourism may rule Nadi, but sugar is king in Lautoka. The Fiji Sugar Corporation's huge mill was built in 1903 and is one of the largest crushing operations in the Southern Hemisphere. At the industrial port you'll also see a mountain of wood chips ready for export; the chips are a prime product of the country's pine plantations.

The stores along Vitogo Parade mark the boundary of Lautoka's business district; behind them are several blocks of shops and the lively Lautoka Market, which doubles as the bus station and is second in size only to Suva's Municipal Market. Handicraft stalls at the front of the market offer a variety of goods, especially when cruise ships are in port. Shady residential streets trail off beyond the playing fields of Churchill Park on the other side of Vitogo Parade. The Hare Krishnas have their most important temple in the South Pacific on Tavewa Avenue.

Getting to Laukota -- Local buses leave the market in Nadi Town every half-hour for the Lautoka Market from Monday to Saturday between 6am and 8pm. The fare is no more than F$3 (US$1.90/£1), depending on where you get on. The one-way taxi fare to Lautoka is about F$25 (US$16/£8) from Nadi. Rosie the Travel Service has a half-day Lautoka excursion from Nadi; book at any hotel activity desk.

When driving from Nadi, you will come to two traffic circles on the outskirts of Lautoka. Take the second exit off the first one and the first exit off the second. That will take you directly to the post office and the southern end of Vitogo Parade.

Where to Stay & Dine in Laukota -- The southern end of downtown gives way to a large park and picturesque promenade along the harbor. Beside it are Lautoka's best digs, the moderately priced Waterfront Hotel (tel. 666 4777; www.tanoahotels.com), which primarily attracts business travelers.

I usually stop for lunch at the Chilli Tree Café (tel. 655 1824), a modern coffee shop at Tukani and Nede streets; it is open Monday to Saturday 7:30am to 7pm. My second choice is Jolly Good (tel. 666 9980), at Naviti and Vakabale streets. This inexpensive outdoor cafeteria is operated by a family who resided in New Zealand before returning to Lautoka. Opening hours are daily from 8am to 10pm.

The Dreaded Degei -- Viseisei village between Nadi and Lautoka reputedly is where the great canoe Kaunitoni came out of the west and deposited the first Fijians some 3,000 years ago. From there, as the legend goes, they dispersed all over the islands. The yarn is encouraged by the local district name Vuda, which means "our origin" in Fijian, and Viseisei, which means "to scatter."

Although it's clear today that the Fijians did indeed migrate from the west, no one knows for sure whether they landed first at Viseisei; like all Pacific Islanders, the Fijians had no written language until the missionaries arrived in the mid-19th century.

The most common story has the great chiefs Lutunasobasoba and Degei arriving in the Kaunitoni on the northwest coast of Viti Levu. From there they moved inland along the Nakauvadra Range in Northern Viti Levu. Lutunasobasoba died on this trip, but Degei lived on to become a combination man, ancestor, and spirit -- and an angry spirit at that: He is blamed for causing wars and a great flood that washed the Fijians to all parts of the islands.

The dreaded Degei supposedly still inhabits a mysterious cave in the mountains above Rakiraki.

Day Trips to Suva

Full-day guided tours go from Nadi to Suva, picking up guests at the Coral Coast hotels in between. From Nadi you'll spend a total of 8 hours riding in the bus for 4 hours in Suva, half of which can easily be spent in the Fiji Museum; so think about staying overnight and riding the Fiji Express back to Nadi the next day. You'll pay about F$90 (US$58/£30) per person from Nadi, less from the Coral Coast hotels.

Take a Day Trip to a Small Island

No visit to Fiji is complete without exploring a small offshore island, so put at least a day trip to one of the Mamanuca or Yasawa islands high on your list of things to do while you're in Nadi.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.