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Most people traveling to Fiji visit its third largest city, Nadi, usually just for the Nadi International Airport. Those entering via plane often go immediately from the airport to whichever island resort they are staying at without so much as a second glance at Nadi Town. While Nadi, Fiji may not be as cultivated and eager to please as the staff and grounds of the expensive hotels awaiting tourists, there is still plenty to check out. Nadi offers classic tropical destination activities like jet skiing, zip-lining, and off-roading, not to mention the biggest draw is getting a glimpse of the warm culture of Fiji. With a diverse population, both ethnically and religiously there’s so much to see, do, and learn in Nadi.
Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple
Arguably the most colorful place of worship anyone could visit, the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple is just one of the many examples in Nadi that demonstrate the city’s wide-ranging cultural diversity. The most important Hindu temple in the area, Sri Siva Subramaniya boasts some impressive wooden carvings of Hindu deities imported from India.
Garden of the Sleeping Giant
Movie and television history buffs will be quite familiar with Canadian-American actor Raymond Burr for his work in Rear Window and as Perry Mason. What you may not know about is his philanthropic pursuits on the Fijian Islands. Besides financing the American Fijian Foundation, he also assisted in building the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. As well as having a badass name, the wild park area has multiple paths that lead visitors through tropical fauna and is perhaps best-known for having over 2,000 species of orchid thriving in the serene escape.
One of the more easily accessed beaches from Nadi on mainland Viti Levu (the island Nadi is on) is Wailoaloa Beach. A wide sandy beach that seemingly stretches for miles, Wailoaloa, for better or worse, is lined with a number of different resorts varying in size and price. While the beach is primarily occupied by tourists, it is not uncommon for a number of local Fijian fishermen to cast their hand nets in the shallow waters early in the morning.
Another slice of paradise, Newtown Beach, just to the northwest of Nadi, has a slightly different vibe when compared to the local islands and Wailoaloa Beach. Newtown is one of the best beaches in Fiji to go for budget travelers looking for affordable accommodations by the sea.
Support Locals at FRIEND
FRIEND (Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development) is a successful NGO located in Lautoka, just outside of Nadi, that focuses on community development for underserved regions of Viti Levu. The program aims to utilize locals’ skills and educate them on things like sustainable living, health, community engagement, and disaster preparedness. To support the organization anyone can pay a visit and purchase some of the handicrafts, locals jams, honey, and teas. Their pickled mango and lime are also popular buys.
Sample Fijian Delicacies
While Nadi and the surrounding area offers some of the most diverse dining options in Fiji — including Mexican, Japanese, and French cuisine — visitors should definitely give some local dishes a shot. While borrowing from the influences of India and Thailand, Fijian food also has some unique flavors.
A must have in Nadi is Lovo. Lovo is a hodgepodge of meats, seafood, and greens. The greens and root ingredients are first infused with coconut then everything is combined inside banana leaves, placed on hot rocks, and buried in the ground for hours. When served, most locals will dress the Lovo with lemon and chili.
Fijians will also be quick to tell all visitors that a true visit to Fiji includes throwing back kava, known more colloquially as ‘grog’. Usually a blend of the crushed root of the kava plant, rainwater, and served in a bilo (a half a coconut shell), the drink is a strong taste of local culture.
For those traveling through Nadi, Denarau Island is often the final destination. Decorated with beautiful mega-resorts and surrounded by wonderful beaches, it’s easy to see why many people who travel here only experience the confines of their host island. With the addition of the 18-hole Denarau Golf Club and the fishing excursions leaving from Port Denarau, visitors wanting more activity than lying by the pool won’t have to go far.
A collection of 20 islands, seven of which are covered by the Pacific Ocean at high tide, the Mamanuca’s are technically the islands closest to the airport. Used as the backdrop to movies like Cast Away, it’s an amazing place to truly feel among paradise. With plenty of resorts to choose from, the islands also have great diving and a world-class surf break.
Only having been opened to tourist traffic some 50 years ago, the Yasawa Islands have yet to be overly developed, thus making it one of the most authentically natural places to visit from Nadi. Diving with manta rays and sharks off the shores of Drawaqa Island is an incredible experience for wildlife enthusiasts. Meanwhile, the Sawa-i-lau caves are awesome to explore and swim in.
Fiji Culture Village
The Fiji Culture Village gives travelers the opportunity to tour a traditional Fijian village. While there, visitors can observe locals making customary pottery and sea-ready canoes in front of a real bure — a tall, thatched-roof construction used as the religious centerpiece of villages. However, meke is the most popular demonstration at the village. Meke refers to the traditional song and dance of the Fijian people.
Kula Wild Adventure Park
An eco-park and nature reserve converted to a family fun park, the Kula Wild Adventure Park showcases Fiji’s stunning nature while also incorporating exciting activities. For visitors wanting an educational experience, visit the interactive Environmental Education Center, see wildlife presentations and explore the natural areas via the boardwalks that circumnavigate the park. For those looking for a thrill, try Fiji’s only roller coaster zip line and jungle waterslide in the country, a day here could be a great gift for an adrenaline junky.