Bula to Fiji!
The capital of the 330+ island archipelago is Suva, on the eastern part of the main island of Viti Levu. However, you may never even see Suva–your first encounter with Fiji will probably be Nadi Airport and Nadi town.
Before we arrived in Fiji, we heard from many sources: get off the mainland as fast as you can! We took note of this advice, but figured we would try to spend half our trip exploring it. After all, heading off to the island resorts = not cheap. But more on that later.
Where we stayed
We decided to book this amazing Airbnb. It’s super low-key. Just a room and a bathroom shared with any other guests (the family rents one more room out). However, Malti and Sachin were amazing hosts and a great example of why Airbnb does work. They were a huge reason why our three days on the mainland were enjoyable.
They made us breakfast and dinner every day of our stay–all vegetarian meals too, as it was right before the Diwali religious holiday. The food was absolutely amazing and definitely helped us save quite a bit since we only had to eat out for lunch. It was great to share a meal with locals and be a small part of their family and their way of life.
Plus, Sachin was really awesome one day when I asked about breadfruit–which is a thing you must try if you haven’t had it. Turns out his brother has a huge breadfruit tree so he took me and David there, picked a few breadfruit for us (refusing to let us pay), and had Malti cook it for us. Amazing! Sachin also really likes kava, the relaxing (but pretty awful) root drink popular in Polynesia.
If you don’t stay with them, or don’t have a vehicle, then you will probably be fine with just two days, as it can be time-consuming to get around Viti Levu.
Getting around Nadi
Nadi–and the entire island of Viti Levu–are basically served by buses and taxis.
Buses come in two forms: the large rectangular affairs we’re all used to (though slightly worse for wear in this tropical environment) and smaller van-type minibuses. Just find a bus stop and wave them down, but make sure you’re on the correct side of the road (Fiji drivers sit on the right side and drive on the left side of the road) and pay attention to the placard in front that tells you where the bus is going.
The costs are typically the same for either vehicle. It’s 1 FJD (or 0.50 USD) to take the bus anywhere around town. Prices (and travel time) increase the further out you go–it takes 5 hours to reach Suva by bus.
Taxis are just like everywhere. You either agree on a price or get them to set the meter. The latter is the preferred way. Official taxis will bear a logo and have a yellow license plate. You might get cars rolling up to you and asking if you need a ride. Sometimes locals do this to earn a buck or two, apparently, but no need to do it as the official cabs do come fairly regularly.
We had no problems at all with either the bus or the taxis.
Things to see
There’s not a lot going on in Nadi town. It’s not very large–reminded me a lot of Kauai in Hawaii actually, with its super low-key small town vibe.
Downtown centers around the market–definitely worth a visit so you can load up on delicious tropical fruit. It’s a bit quirky that in Fiji, produce is sold by heaps… a vendor will pile up a certain amount of items and charge for the lot. At the time of our visit in late October, mangoes and pineapples were in season. We could get a heap of 5 mangoes for 2 FJD (1 USD), or a heap of 3 pineapples for 5 FJD (2.50 USD). Such delicious fruit at such low prices! Malti always had papaya in her kitchen for us too, so we definitely got our fill in the fruit department.
Nearby is Hung’s Restaurant and Milk Bar, and also Curry House. The latter has amazing curry, but is quite pricey. Hung’s is passable for the price and convenience, such as when you’re getting ready to catch a bus from the nearby bus depot (located across a field behind the market).
Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple
You can’t miss this–you’ll catch sight of the colorful roof as you approach. This is a large Hindu temple (largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere) dedicated to the deity Murugan. The roof is delightfully colorful, the temple itself is quite ornate, and its ceilings are painted with all kinds of Hindu stories relating to Murugan and his holy family.
Photos aren’t allowed inside the temple itself. For $5, you can enter the grounds but must take off your shoes. You’ll also need to wear a sarong as pants of any kind are not allowed for women (and men are also not allowed to wear shorts). Women should also cover their shoulders to enter.
A custodian will meet you and tell you all about the temple, and also explain the murals and stories. You can stay as long as you like–if you visit in the afternoon like we did, the crossing the hot pavement to the temple proper can be a challenge so we took full advantage of the cooler temple floors after our short tour.
That’s kind of about it for Nadi town. There is a handicraft market, as well as some local shopping and a couple of small department stores. Nadi’s pretty urban so if you forgot something, you’ll likely be able to get it at a shop downtown. You can also visit one of the many tour offices to book the tour of your choice.
Up next, we’ll go over an interesting Fijian experience–the Sabeto mud pools.