fiji backpackers enjoying the beach

In this Article by South Pacific travel expert Ian Osborn
Nadi  —  Yasawa Islands  —  Viti Levu  —  Mamanuca Islands  —  Outer Islands

Backpacking around the Fiji Islands

There are three main routes for backpacking around the Fiji Islands. The most popular and consequently the most commercial backpacker route in Fiji is along the Yasawa Islands where roughly 30 budget backpacker resorts are scattered along the island chain offering accommodation in thatch huts and dorm beds. What makes this region so popular is its gorgeous beaches, great snorkelling lagoons and easy access to the accommodation.

To visit the Yasawa Islands, backpackers purchase a travel pass for 7-, 10- 14- or 21-day Yasawa Flyer which enables them to hop on and off the passenger ferry The Yasawa Flyer, and so visit all the beautiful islands along the way. The Yasawa Flyer is a fast and comfortable catamaran which departs Port Denarau in Nadi every day at 8.30am travelling through the Mamanuca Islands and up the Yasawa Islands, returning to Port Denarau at 5.30pm. The ferry stops at all islands along the way as far as Nacula Island in the northern Yasawas. It's a great system and enables backpackers to visit lots of different backpacker resorts and to meet fellow travellers along the way. Packages with the travel pass, accommodation and meals is another great option offered by purchasing the Yasawa Travel Pass:

Yasawa Travel Pass, Yasawas F$ 857 pp for 4 nights - inc. meals & transfers get hotels best rate quote
picture of Yasawa Travel Pass beach
This flexible pass enables travellers to visit any one of ten islands along the beautiful Yasawa chain of islands and stay at any of the 16 accredited budget beach bures along the way. This is the best region in Fiji for relaxing on gorgeous beaches and dabbling in a little snorkelling.


The second popular route circumnavigates the main island of Viti Levy - there are a handful of lively hostels on the Coral Coast and laid back retreats on Nanuya Island on the north coast and on Caqalai Island off the east coast. For more of an adventure, Tavuni in the north of the country is great for eco travellers, explorers and scuba divers.

Nadi and around

Almost all backpackers spend the first day two hanging around Nadi before heading off to other parts of the country. Nadi is home to the international airport and the obvious place to start your holiday with plenty of very affordable accomodation, lots of tours and excursions on offer and other backpackers to meet who can share their own travel experiences in Fiji.

Smugglers Cove Resort, Nadi Bay F$ 155 - 225 per couple / $ 40 dorm get hotels best rate quote
picture of Smugglers Cove Resort beach
Smugglers Cove Beach Resort is a full service small beach resort popular with backpackers stopping over in Nadi before heading off to the islands. Ideally located overlooking Nadi Beach, Smugglers offers modern rooms with a boutique guesthouse atmosphere.

The most popular place to stay in Nadi for backpackers is at Wailoaloa Beach. The ocean here is too murky for snorkelling but the views looking out to the offshore islands and along the coast towards majestic mountains that surround Nadi. If you need shopping, Nadi Town has an excellent selection of Internet cafes, boutique shops, lots of department stores offering cheap clothes and several great restaurants. Bars and nightclubs are hard to find and can be on the rough side - the exception being Ed's Bar in Martintar.

Yasawa Islands

Extending north east from Nadi and accessed by the daily fast catamaran the Yasawa Islands is a chain of 15 beautiful remote islands with a muddle of budget beach resorts aimed at the backpacker market. This is where the young at heart come to travel, to island hop, to experience the real Fiji. In fact, what they experience, are some of Fiji's most beautiful beaches, Fiji beer and a kind of hit and miss Fijian hospitality - sometimes great, sometimes very frusrating. Apart from the beaches, there's excellent snorkelling, several lovely fishing villages to explore, hills to climb, an unusual cave to visit, and then more beaches. This is where travellers meet, swap stories, make friends, form relationships and top up their tan.

The Yasawa Travel Pass enables backpackers in Fiji to purchase a one-off pass entitling them to transfers from Nadi to 16 backpacker resorts along the Yasawa Islands and with pre-paid vouchers for accommodation along the way which can be booked in advance or left as a last minute decision giving travellers the flexibility to explore on a whim. Snorkelling is generally excellent directly off the beaches in all Yasawa islands, although sometimes the best spots are on outer reefs reached by short boat trips. There are hiking trails throughout the hills offering fine coastal views over the lagoons.

footprints leading to a backpackers beach resort

Most of these backpacker resorts are owned and operated by locals and are built on customary village land. Some are very basic with poor standards of hygiene and sewerage systems whilst others are well managed with organised activities and day trips. Accommodation typically consists of one or two thatch bungalows (bures) with en-suite bathrooms, a handful of private bungalows with shared bathrooms and a couple of mixed dormitories sleeping around 8 people. Electricity is powered by diesel run generators and water is cold and usually drinkable. Meals are served as a set menu and are included in the price. Standards of quality and the services provided differ from one place to another and tend to change over short periods. The following have been long standing favourites are are listed in travel distance from Nadi, the closest appearing first:

Coral View Resort, Yasawa Islands F$ 115 - 140 per couple; dorm $35 pp get hotels best rate quote
picture of beach at Coralview Resort
One of the livliest of the backpacker resorts in the Yasawa Islands with large air-con dorms, quaint bures in landscaped gardens and plenty of activities including scuba diving. There's good snorkelling off the beach and some lovely beaches to explore around this small island.
Long Beach Resort, Yasawa Islands F$ 250 - 290 per couple / $ 105 dorm inc. meals get hotels best rate quote
picture of Long Beach Resort beach
Long Beach is a small friendly backpacker resort set on the point of a glorious white sandy beach overlooking a turquoise lagoon towards the rolling hills of neighbouring islands. This is a great place to take in the tranquillity, snorkelling or engaginbg with the nearby fishing village.

Around Viti Levu (the main island)

You can explore the offshore islands of day and sailing cruises or venture into the interior on 4WD tours or along the Coral Coast on historical and sightseeing tours. There is also excellent rainforest along this coast which you can explore on rafting trips or on hiking trails. Backpackers seeking a quieter alternative to the Yasawa Islands might want to consider a trip to Nananu-i-Ra Island with its pretty beaches and laid-back ambience.

Beachouse, Coral Coast F$ 150 - 180 per couple / $ 45 dorm get hotels best rate quote
picture of Beachouse beach
The Beach House is a small friendly family run backpacker hang-out attracting travellers of all ages. With a pretty beach side location, tall coconut trees and mature landscaped gardens, the Beachouse is a long-established backpackers and a great base for chilling or exploring.

The Mamanuca Islands

The Mamanuca Islands directly off the west coast of Nadi Airport are quick to get to and make a great option if you only have a few days or don't want to fuss about travelling too far. These islands enjoy Fiji's sunniest weather, y are easy to explore and are blessed with gorgeous white sandy beaches sandwiched by swaying coconut trees and turquoise lagoons.

backpackers enjoying an island party

The Mamanuca Islands, being closest to Nadi, are a lot more commercialised than the Yasawa islands and most islands have up-market beach resorts. However, there are a couple of small islands with lively budget beach resorts which appeal to the party style backpacker market with a lively atmosphere. The closest of the Mamanuca Islands takes just 30 minutes by fast catamaran ferry.

Bounty Island Resort F$ 165 - 225 per couple / $ 70 dorm get hotels best rate quote
picture of Bounty Island Resort beach
Bounty Island is a small intimate coral island resort aimed at budget travellers and backpackers. The island offers 48-acres of untouched light forest surrounded by golden sandy beaches and a lagoon that provides good snorkelling. There's a lively bar and swimming pool, with accommodation in air-conditioned huts or dormitories.
Ratu Kini Backpackers, Mamanucas F$ 220 - 345 per couple / $ 45 dorm get hotels best rate quote
picture of Ratu Kini Backpackers beach
Ratu Kini's is a budget backpackers on the beautiful whiter sandy south beach of Mana Island. With easy access from the backpacker hostels along Wailoaloa Beach in Nadi, this is a beach lovers paradise where there's little more to do than lounge in the sun and swim or snorkel.

The Outer Islands

For adventurers and diving enthusiasts, the Northern Islands is the best destination, particularly Taveuni. This rain forest clad island has some fantastic walking trails in national Parks with waterfalls and lush rain forest. This is also Fiji's finest dive destination with the fantastic soft corals of the Rainbow Reef a major attraction. Flights connect Nadi and Taveuni twice a day and take 1 hour 10 minutes. Alternatively, Kadavu in the south offers off the beaten track adventures or the Ovalau Region offers great beaches and snorkelling lagoon and is less commercial than the popular backpacker trail of the Yasawa Islands.

Fiji Backpacker Accommodation Options

Hostels

In Fiji, the term “hostel” usually refers to a town boarding house aimed specifically at locals. The common name used is “backpacker resort”, and these can be found throughout the islands and even in Nadi. Most have rooms or lodges crammed with dorm beds but often the price of a simple double room or bure is the same as two dorm beds. Student discount cards such as YHA / Nomads are not accepted in Fiji.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses in Fiji tend to be colonial styled wooden buildings with simple rooms, communal lounges and shared bathrooms, often used by government contract workers in the outer islands or remote settlements on the larger islands. They are usually cheap, with rooms costing around $40 and make convenient bases for travellers wanting to explore off the tourist trail. More appealing to general tourists are a handful of bed and breakfasts around the country, those in Nadi and Suva on the main island attracting business travellers, whilst several charming home stays and self contained cottages in the small towns on Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Taveuni, are mostly operated by expatriates and charge from $100 per night and up.

Village Stays

Village stays are operated by local Fijian families on customary land, opening up their homes to travellers for absolute immersion into the local culture, or building dedicated tourist bures just outside the village environment which gives both parties a little privacy. Village stays commonly cost around $60 per person per night including local style meals, sometimes served with the family and laid out on the floor, Fijian style.

Camping

Camping is not encouraged in Fiji and is perceived as an insult to the local culture when out in the wilds. However, several backpacker resorts permit pitching of tents within their resort grounds and specific organised expeditions, with the consent of village landowners, make temporary camp on secluded beaches.