One of the most unusual attractions in Fiji is a short drive away from the airport and the town of Nadi. It might seem strange to visit a hot spring in Melanesia, where the temperature is warm and balmy year-round. But with purported therapeutic properties as well as cosmetic thanks to the mud, why not visit the Sabeto Mud Baths?
…isn’t easy. You’ll have to hire a taxi or rent a car. The mud baths are located in the town of Sabeto, just 30 minutes northeast of Nadi. Part of the road is unpaved and pretty rough, so be ready for that.
If you go by taxi, you’ll have to negotiate a rate so they take you there, wait while you spend a couple hours or so, and then take you back. If you’re coming from Nadi, we hear it costs 60 FJD (30 USD) at a minimum. We were fortunate that our Airbnb hosts were willing to take us for only 30 FJD.
I typically am not one to recommend driving in a foreign country, particularly if you’re going to have to switch sides (drivers in Fiji sit on the right side). It’s tough to be aware of all the local laws, you have to check what kind of insurance you need, and it can be quite frightening depending on how the locals drive. However, having your own vehicle does give you a lot of freedom, and will save you quite a bit of time on Viti Levu, so proceed with caution if that’s what you choose to do.
Finally, there are tours that will take you to Sabeto Mud Baths and the nearby Garden of the Sleeping Giant. They may also include ziplining, a tour of Nadi town, or a guided hike to a waterfall.
Enjoying the mud baths
Upon arrival at Sabeto Mud Baths, you choose whether you’d like to pay just the 20 FJD to enter, or add a massage for 40 FJD per 30 minutes. Bring your own towels or you’ll pay an extra 10 FJD to rent one!
The layout here is a bit jumbled. Ignore all the pools for now; head to the far end of the property where there’s a thatch-covered area with benches and tables. Pick a spot to park your stuff, have a drink of water before going in so you don’t get dehydrated, then change into your swim suit.
Locals will direct you to a grassy area next to a very shady-looking pool that looks more like a watering hole than anything. There are buckets here full of dark gray mud. The coal is to cover yourself in it.
It’s very weird… sort of like slapping wet concrete all over your skin. Just go with it though. The faster you do it, the quicker the whole uncomfortable process will be over. Make sure to cover all your exposed skin–yep, your face, your elbows, the back of your neck… some people even put it in their hair! Ask a friend to check in case you missed a spot. Don’t just put a thin layer either, that’s missing the point.
What is the point? Well, supposedly the mud exfoliates, draws out toxins, and soothes your skin. Combine that with a hot-water soak, and you also get muscle relaxation.
Anyway, after you get a good thick layer of mud, you’ll want to walk over to a grassy field and just stand in the sun to let it dry. It’s an interesting transformation and again put me to mind of concrete. As the mud dries it turns a lighter gray and you can feel your skin tighten as the mud hardens.
When you’re dry and itching like crazy, it’s time to get in the water!
The first spring is the one right next to the mud buckets. It’s all murky and brown, which makes sense since it’s the first rinse.
Getting in the water here feels like you’re walking on bunches of hair or seaweed. It’s super weird! Really it’s just mud that hasn’t dissolved, despite the water being lukewarm. My best advice is to go further away from the steps–the mud is more squelchy and less “hairy” over there.
The second spring is the one closest to the entrance. It’s still brown and earthy, but slightly less so. This is the hottest of the springs, meant to wash out the mud from all your nooks and crannies. I couldn’t stay here for longer than 10 minutes… and watch out for the rocks on the bottom.
The third spring is the blue one under the trees. It’s lukewarm, and very comfortable after the heat of the second spring. This one also has benches built inside the perimeter, so this might be the one you relax in the longest.
The last spring is the big blue rectangular one. This one is also fairly warm. On a hot day, you may want to just rinse off and then bounce out. On a cooler day, it might be nice to linger here as it’s the cleanest pool.
There are showers near the “drying field” if you want to soap off before you leave. Again, you might want a massage–the tables are in the building next to where you left your stuff. Otherwise, there’s not much else to do.
You may want to visit the mud baths later in the day so it’s not super hot out. Plus you’ll be feeling pretty relaxed after your experience and so you may not want to do much afterward!