Fiji: Where NOT to go

David Stanley
Cannibal knives, woven fans and traditional tapa cloth  (Photo: Lonely Planet Images / Liz Thompson)
Cannibal knives, woven fans and traditional tapa cloth
"Your travel agent may or may not tell you, but the beaches on the west, north, and east sides of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, are pretty poor."
David Stanley
Fiji Islands

Denarau beachside blues

Your travel agent may or may not tell you, but the beaches on the west, north, and east sides of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, are pretty poor. Only the Coral Coast in the south has some good beaches but even there, the lagoons tend to be narrow, and strong currents occasionally drag swimmers through reef passages to their deaths. The mainland beaches around Nadi, including those in front of the international resorts on Denarau Island, have murky water with no coral. Some resorts, such as the Hilton, have dumped white sand onto their gray beaches, but that doesn't change much. On the plus side, all of the Denarau resorts have lovely pools. For the sparkling beaches and clear waters of the travel brochures, you should head for the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups.

Tourist disinformation centres

Fiji visitors should be aware that virtually all of the "tourist information centres" found in Nadi are commercial travel agencies that provide biased information. They only promote those tours and hotels that pay commissions, and will even try to dissuade you from going to a resort not on their list. Avoid the disinformation by doing your homework on the Internet beforehand.

Car rental considerations

Fiji's excellent public bus services make renting a car unnecessary. High taxes cause rental cars to be expensive. Collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance is extra and there's usually a "non-waivable excess" amount for which you'll be liable — insurance or no insurance. This can be as high as $6,000 Fijian, and since many cars on the road have no insurance, you could be charged even if you are not responsible for the accident. Unmarked speed bumps in Fijian villages are a hazard, as are local motorists who pass on blind curves, park on the road, and drive at high speeds. On the plus side, Fijians drive on the left side of the road and any driving licence will do so long as it's in English.

Mask and sword sellers

The vendors at the Curio and Handicraft Market in downtown Suva can be aggressive, especially if a cruise ship is in port. Be aware that the masks and "tikis" sold there are produced exclusively for tourists and have no place in Fijian culture. A more authentic purchase would be a carved cannibal fork or a Fijian war club. The fixed-price Jack's Handicrafts outlets around Fiji are a good place to become familiar with prices before haggling at the market. In the main towns, you may be accosted on the street by overly friendly Fijian men with small packages or bags in their hands. These are likely to be "sword sellers" who will ask for your name, carve it on a wooden sword or mask, and then demand a high price for the item. Other times you may be offered an unsolicited "gift". Walk away quickly if you meet such people as they can suddenly become unpleasant.

Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.

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User comments
Hi everyone, I don't know where others stayed but I am planning my third trip to Fiji as my partner and I really liked it. Yes everything moves much slower but you're on holidays so relax lol I went to Plantationisland first which was great for a cheap holiday full of activities, but had too many young children for my liking and was a little run down. Sonasali Island we went next and yes the muddy waters surrounding it weren't great, but the beautiful pool, people and food more then made up for it! And windsurfing in muddy water was a very funny and entertaining experience lol Next March 2013 I'm wanting to head back over, but this time to stay at Mana Island in an apartment suite. Clear waters and peace and quiet sounds brilliant to us!! We keep going back as the people are amazing and it's different to Australia! Some people go overseas but really just want what they have at home... I recommend Fiji as a fun filled relaxing holiday.
Where to go and what to do in fiji my partner and i leave in 12.days any ideas???
iits the laid back feel about fiji and its people that make it a great holiday destination! if you want to experience te real fiji - the lifestlye , the people, the culture and white sandy beaches i sugggest get off the main island of Viti Levu n try the neighbouring yasawa islands! or the northern islands they are paradise, there are so many hidden wonders that we local tourists are aware of such as waterfalls, cave pools etc when you go outside the typical tourist perimetre you're like a celebrity to the locals they will fall in love with your kids and treat you like royalty, resorts are great for families and honey mooners but you can get that just about anywhere else. oh p.s the political issues have been exagerated by the media the locals away from the capital and those in the islands are barely aware of whats goin on, we may be more informed then the are. if you want to unwind the laid back nature of the place n its people is too contagious you'll forget about the real world!
Bula, kaiviti, sydney and fijian girl, sydney. I totally agree with both of you I am a frequent traveller to Fiji. Which makes me wonder just how many times the person writing this story is????? I have timeshare at Denaru Island and can I just say although I agree the beaches are not the best, who needs beaches with the types of pools they have on this Island and the amount of resorts you can walk to or get the Awesome Bula bus from resort to resort please do not be turned off Denaru Island with this story I have taken so many people to Fiji and have really changed there lives to know that there are wonderful people in this world like the Fijians. From Denaru you can access so many island resorts for day tours (highly recommended) a short trip to Nandi. Nandi town at night to eat dinner is great. I have stayed down the coral coast many times and this place is also fantistic I now have many Fijian friends and go to there Villages often Hideaway and Naviti resorts are recommended! xx
The role of the Travel Agent is to be an AGENT. We represent another person's product. We are their agent. They pay us a commission. That is how it works! Its not rocket science. Your article is suggesting to the public that they do not use a Travel Agent. This is exactly why there will be no more Travel Agents in the future because everyone will be using the internet. Remember, without an agent, you are on your own. Good Luck when it all goes wrong.
I've never been to a resort myself, and I agree that some of the beaches of Viti Levu ain't all that. But I reccomend taking the Captin Cook Cruises to the little islands away from the mainland, Nadi, to experience those clear waters, diving and sandy beaches. Or my islands of Vanualevu or Vanuabalavu. In Vanuabalavu, we have our own personal beach haven, lagoon, paradise - Raviravi.. Love it there!!!!!
My partner and I went to Fiji for the first time in Feb this year. We stayed at the Sheraton and experienced the worst service EVER!!! We would not recomend this resort to anyone. Also we found that Fiji was expensive for all activities and food. We did find we had service outside of the hotel and the locals were nice.
In my opinion Fiji should just be avoided altogether. There are much nicer, cheaper and more interesting pacific islands to visit.
I have been brought up around the coral coast and have visited Fiji 8 times in the last 6 years. I have stayed with extended family and visited the beaches around Korotogo and swam and fished with my children without a care in the world. The villagers are very friendly and allowed us access to the sea and the beaches.My only regret was to witnes household rubbish being dumped on the shoreline near Malevu. We hired rental cars and did not have great experiences especially the cars not having spare tyres or tyre changing tools.The prices charged are exhorbitant . The condition of the vehicles are something the LTA should monitor when issuing the renewal licences. I have fond memories of Fiji and its friendlypeople and a lot of places I have visited will be treasured.
We spent 2 weeks in Fiji in March with our 2 year old son and my mother and father. We stayed on the Coral Coast, Mana Island and Denarau. My husband is an avid diver and did some great dives in Beqa Lagoon one with approx 20+ bull sharks! My recommendation to anyone when they travel ANYWHERE is to do your own research. We loved Fiji because we knew where to go to do what we wanted to do and what to expect. The Fijians are amazing with kids and it's cheap! We'll be back next year!!