In this Article by South Pacific travel expert Ian Osborn
Yasawa Island Holidays — Overnight Cruise & Island Hopping — Waya & The South — Naviti & The Middle — Nacula & The North
The Yasawa Islands is a chain of 30 gorgeous sun drenched and often barren-looking volcanic islands extending to the north of the Mamanucas. The islands are renowned for its gorgeous beaches, tranquil lagoons, backpacker resorts, exclusive retreats and luxury overnight cruises.
This is Fiji tourism at its best - remote, unspoiled and uncommercial - but its popularity in recent years has seen a gradual shift from a backpackers undiscovered paradise to a more commercial and well trodden tourist route with ever increasing prices. Nevertheless, the stunning coastal beauty remains and there are enough small hideaways here to fell you are well off the beaten track.
Yasawa Islands Map
Reasons to Visit the Yasawas
Yasawa Islands Holidays Overview
Thrust up from the deep blue ocean with jagged peaks and tranquil bays, the Yasawa Islands is where most backpackers and budget travellers head to. With stunning beaches and fantastic snorkelling, it’s the kind of place where you can lay down a towel and daydream, do a little snorkelling, climb a few hills and find yourself engulfed by the slowly-slowly essence of Fiji time. This chain of islands extend north from the Mamanucas and its a place to go island hopping hopping, snorkelling and simply marvelling at its stunning beaches.
All of the main islands in the Yasawas have stunning beaches and fabulous snorkelling lagoons. Apart from being Fiji's backpacker destination, there are several beautiful small resorts aimed at the honeymoon market as well as fantastic small ship overnight cruises exploring the full length of the chain.
In the south, closest to Nadi taking about 90-minutes to reach by boat, is the Waya Group. Scenically, these three islands are the most spectacular with high rocky peaks and sheer cliffs dropping into deep bays. There are some lovely beaches with budget resorts, particularly the sand spit that joins Waya and Wayasewa islands which can be traversed at low tide. Both islands have excellent walking tracks making this the choice for explorers. Uninhabited Kuata Island has a busy backpackers resort and offers excellent snorkelling and diving.
The middle islands of the Naviti Group are more sparse with only a handful of beach resorts but some excellent snorkelling spots, in particular the popular passage of Manta Rays.
The northern part of the Yasawas, and ironically the most popular as a tourist destination, are the myriad of islands, bays and secluded beaches of Matacawalevu, Tavewa, Nanuya and Nacula which boast between them the outstanding Blue Lagoon Beach, several luxury resorts and lots of budget beach hideaways.
The Yasawas Islands are very easy to reach with the daily passenger ferry Yasawa Flyer departing from Port Denarau in Nadi and travelling right up to Nacula Island in the northern part of the group, and offering a hop-on / hop-off travel pass enabling travellers to visit most of the islands and beach resorts on one ticket. It's a great sightseeing trip along the way taking about 4-hrs to reach the top. Otherwise, equally stunning are the aerial views from helicopter or sea-plane trips which can both be chartered from Nadi Airport.
Waya Island - The Southern Yasawas
The classic high volcanic islands of Kuata and Waya in the south of the group offer stunning beaches backed by rugged cliffs and high mountain peaks and several pretty traditional fishing villages. These islands have some of the best walks in the South Pacific, meandering high up along cliff edges and looking down into deep bays.
Kuata, an uninhabited rocky island with unusual rounded rock faces and overhanging caves, has been designated a nature sanctuary but you’re not likely to see any of the crested iguanas that hide in the forest trees. A deep ocean wall immediately off its west coast has fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling and there are lovely figure of eight swim through pinnacles off the east coast.
Across the bay from Kuata, and sitting precariously under the towering twin peaks of Vatuvula and Vatusawalo, is the old village of Namara and its adjacent community-run resort of Waya Lailai. The 40-minute hike to the summit of Vatuvula is a must, ascending a steep but well trodden track through forest and up through a narrow crag before opening out onto a rocky escarpment that is the summit. For avid hikers, there’s a fantastic three hour walk across the length of Wayasewa to Naboro Village on the north coast where a sand spit separates neighbouring Waya Island. The sand spit connecting Wayasewa and Waya Island is a real gem and you can walk on to the crescent shaped Yalobi Bay surrounded by a majestic mountain ridge. There are hill tracks meandering all around Waya Island making this a hikers paradise and connecting Yalobi Bay in the south and Nalawaki Bay in the north. Between the two bays and sitting on the islands best beach is Octopus Resort making this a great base for exploring the island. If you look west from any of the peaks you should make out flat Viwa island, a small isolated coral island detached from the Yasawa chain and Fiji's western most island.
Naviti Island & The Middle Yasawas
Naviti is the largest of the Yasawa Islands lying in the heart of the group and has half a dozen small fishing villages plus the regions only secondary school. Yasawa has fine white sand beaches of Naviti Island. Naviti has fantastic hill walks along its grassy spine and offering outstanding views along the way. The point at the tip of the southern island has breathtaking views looking down to the smaller islands of Drawaqa and Nanuya Balavu, a protected lagoon with fantastic snorkelling and one of the best places in Fiji to swim with Manta Rays which congregate here between may and October each year.
Nacula & The Northern Yasawas
The small cluster of islands of Tavewa, Nanuya and Nacula form a a protected bay for sailing yachts and provides good anchorage for overnight cruises. There's a cluster of backpacker resorts in this area as well as three upmarket resorts making it the most popular region of the Yasawas to visit. The rolling hills on all three islands have good walking tracks and stunning views of the lagoon - on a good day you can see almost the entire lengthy of the Yasawas. Snorkelling here is excellent, often starting just 20-metres off the beach and you'll see plenty of corals and reef fish and possibly turtles and reef sharks too. The deep drops along the western side of the islands are good too for scuba diving and there's a dive operator based here serving all the resorts.
The northern most island is chiefly Yasawa Island boasting some of the finest beaches in the South Pacific. They say that the fine white sand of Champagne beach will stay on your body until after your holiday ends. There is just one upmarket resort here and walking distance to several beautiful fishing villages with many houses retaining its traditional appearance of thatch roof and bamboo walls. Luxury cruises from Nadi visit and anchor off its beaches and all of the northern Yasawa resorts run boat trips to the Sawa-i-Lau Caves, the scenic highlight of the region.
The caves sit at the base of a high bluff in a pretty bay hugging the south point of Yasawa Island and can only be accessed by swimming underwater through a chamber. The main chamber is around fifteen metres high with limestone pillars and natural sunlight streaming in from above lighting up the stunning turquoise water.
Other Accommodation in the Yasawa Islands
Adi's Place, Waya
Botaira Beach Resort, Naviti
Coconut Bay Resort, Naviti
Korovou Eco Resort, Naviti
Turtle Island Resort, Nanuya
Gold Coast Resort, Nanuya Lailai
Otto & Fanny's Place, Tavewa
Safe Landing Resort, Nacula
Overnight Cruises & Island Hopping
A popular way to see the group is purchasing the Yasawa Travel Pass which includes unlimited return transfers aboard the fast catamaran, Yasawa Flyer, with overnight stops at a choice of 16 budget resorts along the way. For a more luxurious and pampered overview of the islands, consider taking an overnight cruise which lasts from between 3 days and 7 days.