Travel Guide to Denarau Island & Around
Denarau Island & Port Denarau — Vuda Marina — Sonaisali Island & Momi Bay — Natadola Beach
Denarau Island is Fiji's most commercial tourist hub and has over half of the countries hotel beds. Technically an island reclaimed from mangrove swamps, Denarau lies just offshore from Nadi, connected by a bridge and just 15-minutes drive to Nadi International Airport, hence it's popularity as a tourist destination. The island is a modern lifestyle residence with elegant canalside houses and eight large international brand hotels, including three Sheraton hotels, a Hilton, a Sofitel and a Radisson all side by side and connected by a meandering landscaped footpath alongside the mediocre beach. There's plenty of water activities here as well as a chamionship golf course and shopping / restaurant complex. It's also home to Port Denarau where cruises to the islands and tourist passenger ferries depart.
But Denarau Island is not the only place to stayon the coast around Nadi - there are several other great areas to stay which give a better sense of being in an exotic destination yet close to Nadi Airport with little travelling time lost. Luxurious Momi Bay with its manmade lagoon and the fantastic beach at Natadola are better for those wanting a more genuine holiday experience; whilst Vuda Point, just fifteen minutes drive north of the airport, has great views across the bay and towards the inland mountains as well as day trips and scuba diving / snorkelling excursions to the offshore islands which are, literally, offshore.
The best beach on the mainland is at Natadola, just under an hour drive south of Nadi Airport, but apart from Wailoaloa Beach in Nadi itself there are no other beaches around the area worth visiting. There are, however, splendid mountains and hiking trails inland, most notably the Nausori Highlands and Koronayitu National Park. Navala Village, Fiji's most stunning thatch-house community, can be visited on a day tour although its a 2 hour drive north.
Denarau Island Holiday Planner
Not really an island (although there is a small bridge to cross from Nadi), Fiji's most exclusive "gated" resort community is Denarau Island carved out from a mangrove estuary less than ten minutes drive from Nadi Town. Denarau Island boasts six large international branded hotels offering superficial Fijian environments alongside a grey sandy beach and usually murky ocean. This is an all purpose resort lifestyle where the shopping malls, restaurant promenades, golf course, tennis courts, spa centres and fun swimming pools with slides are the main focus of attention. It's most popular with families, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, as well as hen and stag holidays, weddings and business confernces.
Denarau is a very commercialised tourist centre with six large internationally branded hotels popular with families for its convenience to Nadi Airport, affordability and large resort amenities which include kids clubs and 24-hr baby sitting facilities. It's the kind of place where you really don't do anything more than lounge around a pool with a book or magazine and then showcase yourself at night around Port Denarau with its multi-national restaurants and bars. For the majority who visit Denarau on a package holiday they do little beyond their hotel. Tours do venture into Nadi's hinterland and there are game fishing charters, sailing excursions and day cruises to the islands to fill your holiday time.
The beach on Denarau Island stretches for a couple of kilometres and makes for good beach walking with pleasant views looking back towards the Nadi mountains - however, the sand is tinged brown from the nearby mangrove estuary and the sea is usually too murky for snorkelling. It is reasonable though for watersports with para-sailing, windsurfing and sailing all quite good when the afternoon winds come in off the sea. The nicest beach is on the north side of the island alongside the Sofitel and Hilton with stunning views looking across the bay to Nadi's mountains.
Denarau does have an excellent collection of independent restaurants at the modern but rather tacky looking Port Denarau shopping centre all dressed in corrugated iron. Here you can eat everything from local Indian to Fijian food, plus Italian, Chinese and even kebabs, burgers and pizzas. The waterfront dining tables offer tourists an ambient environment to enjoy their evenings and there are a couple of lively bars serving great local beers, one being the Hard Rock Cafe, the other run by local boy Cardo which is by far the best of the two. Most of the day cruises to the offshore islands as well as island resort transfers depart from the Port Denarau marina.
Vuda Point & Marina - Nadi North
Ten minutes drive north of the airport is Vuda Point and Marina with its stunning views over the bay and of the surrounding mountains. Vuda has an picturesque sandy beach although the lagoon is too shallow for swimming or snorkelling. There are two resorts here which make a pleasant base: First Landing Resort is next to the marina and has the convenience of both day cruises and dive excursions: Anchorage Beach Resort has exquisite mountain views.
Sonaisali Island & Momi Bay - Nadi South
Ten minutes drive south of Nadi Town, past sugar cane fields and Indian settlements, is Sonaisali Island with its large resort. A further 10 minutes south is the turn-off for Momi Bay where a small surf resort is located as well as the Momi Bay Resort with its bungalows perched over a manmade lagoon.
From Momi Bay its a twenty minute drive through pine forests to beautiful Natadola Beach, by far the nicest beach on Viti Levu and with good body surfing and some surfing breaks off the beach. Natadola is a 40-minute drive south of Nadi Town so makes an easy day trip but you can only get there on an organised tour, by rental car or taxi. There’s a large resort here, the magnificent Intercontinental Resort aimed at both families and couples with access to the stunning Natadola Golf Course which is by far the most scenic and challenging golf course in Fiji and the only serious location for a golf holiday. The beach has decent shade and parking beside the beach front and is popular amongst locals at weekends. Locals from the nearby village offer horse-riding along the beach-front which stretches over two kilometres in a pleasant curve shape.