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You can easily waste time driving around this area without seeing much of anything, so I recommend a half-day guided sightseeing tour with a reputable company. Round-trip bus transportation from Nadi area hotels is included in the price of the tours and outings; that is, a bus will pick you up within 30 minutes or so of the scheduled departure time for Nadi area trips, 1 hour or more for those on the Coral Coast. Children 11 and under years of age pay half fare on most activities. Most hotel and hostel activity desks, or the reception-desk staffs, will make reservations or arrangements for all activities.

Nadi Town

Along the banks of the muddy Nadi River, the actual town of Nadi earns its livelihood by selling supplies to sugar-cane farmers and souvenirs to tourists. The Queen's Road passes through town as Main Street, an 8-block-long commercial strip lined with stores of every description. The biggest and best are on the north end of town near the river. Many shop owners will beckon you to come into their stores and have a look. By contrast, the teeming Nadi Market, on Hospital Road inland, has a multitude of vendors purveying fresh local produce. It's not as large as the markets in Suva and Lautoka, but it's a fascinating glimpse into how Fijians -- and Third World people in general, for that matter -- buy their fruits and vegetables.

The town's other prime attraction is the Sri Siva Subrahmaniya Swami Temple (tel. 670 0016), on the south end of Main Street; the local Hindu community erected it in 1994. Artisans from India carved the images of the Hindu gods adorning the colorful building, itself dedicated to Lord Muruga, the mythical general said to have defeated evil. The temple is open daily from 8am to 5pm. Admission is F$3.50 (US$2.30/£1.20). Note: You must wear modest dress and remove your shoes when entering the temple, and photography is not permitted inside.

Denarau Island

Only a muddy mangrove creek separates Denarau Island, about 7km (4 1/3 miles) west of Nadi Town, from the mainland. Denarau is home to Fiji's largest real estate development, a huge project officially known in its entirety as Denarau Island Resort Fiji (www.denarau.com). To my mind -- and that of many local folks -- it's a generic tropical resort development bearing little resemblance to the rest of Fiji. It includes several resort hotels, a 150-unit timeshare complex, and numerous homes and condos.

As much as Denarau could be in Hawaii, Florida, or Australia's Gold Coast, it is still the place for play in Nadi. All the resorts have watersports and other activities, which both their guests and outsiders can use, and the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club has an 18-hole golf course as well as top-flight tennis courts.

Except for those paying extra to fly, everyone else heading out to the islands departs from Port Denarau, a modern shopping center and marina where most of the area's shuttle boats and cruises are based. The shopping center has a number of retail outlets, two banks (with ATMs) and a money exchange, an ice-cream parlor, a Budget Rent A Car office, and several restaurants, including Fiji's best Indian restaurants and its first Hard Rock Cafe.

Anyone can ride the free Bula Bus, which runs around the island from 7am to 11pm daily.

Attractions North of Nadi

My favorite half-day tour goes north of Nadi Airport to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant [ST]. In 1977, the late Raymond Burr, star of TV's Perry Mason and Ironside, started this lovely, 20-hectare (50-acre) orchid range north of the airport to house his private collection of tropical orchids (he once also owned Naitoba, a small island in the Lau Group). It sits at the base of "Sleeping Giant Mountain," whose profile forms the outline of a man fast asleep. There's much more here than orchids, however, and the guides will describe a variety of local plants and their uses.

You can get here on your own by rental car or taxi. Look for the sign at Wailoko Road off the Queen's Road between Nadi and Lautoka. It's open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm. Entrance fees are F$12 (US$7.80/£4) for adults, F$6 (US$3.90/£2) for children, including guided tour and a fruit drink.

From there the tour stops at historic Viseisei Village, on the Queen's Road about halfway between Nadi and Lautoka. One legend says that the first Fijians settled here. Today it's a typical, fairly prosperous Fijian village, with some modern houses and some shacks of concrete block and tin, a small handicraft shop, and the usual road humps that bring traffic to a crawl.

Coral Sun Fiji (tel. 672 3105; www.coralsunfiji.com) charges about F$88 (US$57/£29) for its "Orchids and Village" tour.

An Attraction South of Nadi

Installed during World War II to protect the main pass through the Great Sea Reef, the concrete bunkers and naval guns in Momi Battery Historical Park are now under the care of the National Trust of Fiji (tel. 330 1807), which operates the country's national parks and historical sites. The drive to the park is worth it just for the splendid view over the lagoon and western coast of Viti Levu. It's open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is F$3 (US$1.90/£1) for adults, F$1 (US65¢/33p) for students. Turn west off the Queen's Road 16km (10 miles) south of Nadi Town toward Momi Bay. The road toward the coast is paved, since it leads to an on-again, off-again Marriott hotel project being developed on Momi Bay. Turn right at the signpost beside the school and follow a rough dirt track another 4km (2 1/2 miles) to the park. Note: The park does not have toilets or drinking water.

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.