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The Sun Coast, North Viti Levu
The Sun Coast lies along north Viti Levu with the meandering Kings Highway running inland from the coast connecting Nadi and Suva. This is a scenic rural drive passing through endless sugar cane farms, past small Indian dominated settlements and through several small market towns which make a good place to wander around the markets and meet the locals. There are virtually no beaches to visit with most of the coast inaccessible and cushioned by mangrove forests. The main highlights are stunning Navala Village, inland from Ba, The Nakauvudra Mountains between Tavua and Rakiraki (including Fiji's highest peak, Mt Tomanivi) and offshore Nananu-i-Ra Island with nice beaches and great budget accommodations.
Reasons to Visit Sun Coast
- Visit Navala Village
- Chill-out on Nananu-i-Ra Island
- Windsurf at Nananu-i-Ra
- Climb Mt Tomanivi
- Mingle at the Market at Tavua Town
Hotels on the Sun Coast
Ba is the largest town along the north coast but apart from its market there is little to offer tourists. The main reason to visit is to buy Yaqona, a customary gift for visiting a Fijian village, before heading inland to stunning Navala Village. A dirt road heads inland from Ba and into the grassy mountains with the village reached in roughly 40-minutes. The village is one of the few remaining where all dwellings have thatch-roof bures and there are almost 200 bures here. It's apretty site and having completed the customary Yaqona cermony you can wander around the village and take a look inside some of the bures. Accommodation is available in basic homestyle bures just outside of the village at Navala Village Guesthouse, overlooking the Ba River or visit from Nadi on a day tour - travel time approximately 2 hours one way.
If driving from Nadi Airport on the Kings Road, Ba Town takes an hour to reach, but tucked off the highway on the Ba River it can easily be missed. Apart from stocking up on supplies, or visiting the market, it is probably best bypassed for the town has no instant appeal and is dominated by light industry and the Rarawai sugar mill. Ba has a population of around 15,000, mostly Indians, many being Muslims, making it the fifth largest town in Fiji and it’s football crazy. The only accommodation is at the slightly seedy Ba Hotel on Bank Street which doubles as a bar, nightclub (Fri and Sat 8-1pm) and bottle shop, and has thirteen spartan rooms with bouncy beds, tiny bathrooms but air-conditioning.
An uninspiring forty minute drive through sugar-cane fields, heading east from Ba along the Kings Road, brings you to the one-street town of Tavua, a quaint little place with Indian shops selling the wharves and a bustling market where you can chat with the locals and but some provisions.
The Kings Road passes straight through town making it feel busier than it actually is and the roadside is lined with twenty or so small time traders whose tiny shops are packed with all sorts of goods along with the cramped town market at its eastern end. You can easily spend an idle day here chatting with the locals without being pressured to buy anything. Eight kilometres inland at Vatukoula is Fiji’s largest gold mine.
The coast between Tavua and Rakiraki is covered in mangroves and the Kings Highway passes inland through grassy hills. Several unique industries are here including the gold mine at Vatukoula, the cattle ranch of Yaqara and the water bottling plant for Fiji Water, but the main reason for visiting this region is to climb Mt Tomanivi.
Tavua Hotel, North Viti Levu
F$ 145 - 190 per couple / $40 dorm
The Tavua Hotel has a quaint almost colonial style ambience in this quiet market town on the north coast of Viti Levu. Frequented mostly by business travellers and locals on holiday, this is a good base for exploring the town and surrounding countryside.
Rakiraki is set slightly inland from the main road. The town of around 1,500 residents remains dominated by sugar cane farming and apart from a small market and bus stand has little to entice tourists. The only accommodation is the colonial style Rakiraki Hotel three kilometres from the town centre in Rakiraki Village along the Kings Road. The countryside surrounding Rakiraki is good for exploring and there are several walks to waterfalls which are accessible on guided tours.
Rakiraki Hotel, North Viti Levu
F$ 100 per couple
Located adjacent to Rakiraki Village, Tanoa's Rakiraki Hotel is the most convenient hotel for business travellers visiting the northern towns on Viti Levu's sun coast and a decent option for anyone wanting to explore the rural countryside. A swimming pool, bowling green and restaurant.
Nakauvudra Mountains & Mt Tomanivi
Inland is the high plateau around Nadarivatu, a large government run pine forest and the base for exploring the 1,323 metre high Tomanivi as well as several other remote walking tracks criss-crossing between villages.T The two-hour track to the summit is very steep in parts and should only be accomplished with a local guide. The views from the top are good but its the challenge of climbing Fiji's highest mountain that makes the trip exciting. The mountains surrounding Rakiraki are known as the Nakauvadra Mountain Ranges and are steeped in tradition and believed to be the resting place of important Fijian gods.
Just off the coast of Rakiraki is Nananu-i-Ra Island, one of Fiji's most laid back beach destinations. The moment you step onto the beach you can feel the relaxed atmosphere. The island has walking tracks meandering throughout its grassy hills. There are a couple of self contained bungalows for guests. Snorkelling, windsurfing and kite surfing are excellent.
The placid hills of Volivoli mark the northern point of Viti Levu and look out on the offshore islands of Malake and Nananu-i-Ra. This is typical sugar cane farming land with tin shacks spread intermittently along the dirt road surrounded by small five hectare farm holdings.
Access to Nananu-i-Ra Island is ten kilometers east of Rakiraki at Ellington Wharf and on a ten minute boat ride across the bay.
Nananu-i-Ra is a small hilly island surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches. Half of the island is privately owned with plans of luxury holiday homes and resort development managed by the Hilton Group. Thankfully this has yet to materialise and the island remains blissfully down to earth with a couple of budget holiday cottages and backpackers on the laid back south beach. Betham’s has five simply furnished beachfront cottages. At the eastern end of the beach, with two excellent value self contained cottages along the hillside, is Charlie’s. The east beach, on the other side of the hill has better swimming and deeper sands, but the wind is consistently blowing on this exposed windward side of the island which may not suit sunbathers - it’s probably the best spot in Fiji for windsurfing. Safari Lodge offers windsurfing lessons and kite surfing courses.
Bethams Cottages, Nananu-i-Ra
F$ 100 - 160 per couple / $30 dorm
Bethams Cottages is a relaxed budget beachfront accommodation on secluded Nananu-i-Ra Island. With self-catering rooms and dorms, Betham's is a great spot for singles, couples or families looking for a quiet holiday retreat with great walking tracks and excellent scuba diving reefs, windsurfing and kite-surfing close by..
Sun Coast Travel Info
There is no airstrip along the north coast so the only public transport is by bus or mini van. Local buses from each town head along the dusty rural roads and some between the local towns, stopping frequently along the way - to hail one on the roadside simply put out your arm and flap your fingers. Otherwise, the best way to get around is by hiring a carrier van or taxi found adjacent to the town’s bus stand.
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