Last Updated on 20/03/2021
Fiji is a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific Ocean. Reachable from New Zealand and Australia, it’s an absolute bucket list destination for anyone who loves pristine waters, sandy beaches and coconut palms. Fiji is comprised of approximately 330 islands so it makes sense to go on a Fiji island-hopping experience to see the country in all its glory.
The easiest way to do it is through Awesome Adventures. Everything from your transfer to your accommodation is booked through them, making it ideal for groups and solo travellers alike. Awesome Adventures is passionate about responsible travel and the majority of the resorts it advertises are eco-friendly. Here’s everything you need to know about island-hopping in Fiji and why you should put this incredible experience on your bucket list now:
Island-Hopping in Fiji: How It Works
Island-hopping is a fun and exciting way to explore the Fiji Islands. The best and most convenient way to do it is with Awesome Adventures. They operate in a collection of islands called the Yasawas and Mamanuca Islands which have a variety of different resorts to stay at.
Awesome Adventures has an island-hopping pass to suit any style, budget and timeframe. Departing almost daily from Port Denarau on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, Awesome Adventures’ high-speed catamaran, the Yasawa Flyer, will take you exactly where you need to go. Awesome Adventures has a multitude of island-hopping passes so here’s a full breakdown to help you decide which one’s for you:
The Bula Pass is your, standard flexible island-hopping pass that allows you to explore the islands at your own pace and you can hop on and hop off wherever you fancy. Depending on the time you have, you can get a pass that lasts 5-15 days. You need to have accommodation booked if you want to visit an island and the pass allows you some degree of spontaneity as you can arrange your next resort on the Yasawa Flyer.
As carefree as that may seem, I wouldn’t recommend it. Spaces on resorts are limited, particularly in the high-season and you don’t want to be clamouring for a resort last minute. I would book all your Fiji accommodation before you go just to be safe.
The Awesome Pass is one of the best island-hopping passes you can do in Fiji because you have the flexibility of choosing your island resorts like the Bula Pass but then you also get complimentary transfers to and from the Yasawa Flyer, including Port Denarau and Nadi. You also have the option to choose your accommodation style based on your budget and add on meal plans so all your food is covered when you get to the island.
The most budget-friendly option, Simple Stays has all meals included in the pass whereas Relaxed Resorts and Relaxed Resorts-Upgrade have options to buy prepaid meal plans. Passes range from 5-15 days and you stay a minimum of 2 nights in each resort.
Awesome Packages are a useful way to see Fiji’s highlights if you’re on a particular timeframe and you want everything sorted for you so you can sit back and enjoy the ride:
The biggest package on offer, the Tropical Island Explorer covers a whopping 12 days, 11 nights and 6 islands. All your meals are included if you go for the Simple Stays accommodation otherwise you can get a meal-plan package or pay the resort directly in Fiji dollars if you go for the Relaxed Stays.
You can also choose to buy all your activities as add-ons in one go. I would advise against this, however, as activities are subject to the weather and how many people want to do it. Wait to book your activities until you get to the resort.
The Fiji Discovery is 9 days, 8 nights and 4 islands. It’s a more succinct version of the Tropical Island Explorer while still hitting the highlights of the Yasawas and Mamanucas. All meals are included if you get the Simple Stays option and activities can be bought as add-ons either as a package or once you get to the resort.
The Coconut Cruiser is the most popular package, covering 7 days, 6 nights and 4 islands. The tour is exactly the same as the first 2 but shorter, allowing you to see all the best bits of the Mamanucas and Yasawas in just a week. If you want to go on a Fiji island-hopping experience but don’t have much time to plan it, this pass is a good option to go for.
Island Time is for those who want a snapshot of the island-hopping experience but are short on time. The package covers 6 days, 5 nights and 3 islands and all meals are included if you book the Simple Stays option.
You can also arrange super short breaks, volunteering experiences, stay on one island resort or build your own island-hopping itinerary through Awesome Adventures.
Fiji Island-Hopping: Sustainability
Awesome Adventures recognise the importance of Fiji’s biodiversity – particularly its marine life. Some of the world’s most beautiful and abundant coral reefs lie just off the coast of the Yasawa Islands. Coral reefs are home to more than 25% of the world’s marine life and at a time when their very existence is under threat from climate change, chemicals and micro-plastics, Awesome Adventures work hard to preserve them for generations to come.
In 2010, they set up the Yasawa Trust Foundation which operates a successful Marine Conservation and Research Programme aided by their Vinaka Fiji Volunteering organisation which you can also be a part of. Just some of the projects they’re involved with include:
Manta Ray Research
Between May and October, manta rays visit the channel of Nanuya Balavu and Drawaqa Islands. They’re an important part of the marine ecosystem as they feed on plankton and clean the marine environment. The Marine Conservation team monitor the manta rays each year to follow their behaviour patterns, keep an eye on the number of arrivals and any changes in the environment which may limit their survival.
Planting Mangrove Nurseries
Mangrove forests are an essential part of a healthy marine ecosystem. Fish use them to provide a safe haven for their offspring and they can help prevent the shoreline from being eroded. Vinaka Fiji Volunteering plant mangrove nurseries at Barefoot Manta Resort and once they’ve grown 6 leaves they get moved to destroyed or damaged mangrove forests across Fiji.
Coral Planting and Reef Rejuvenation
The conservation programme plant coral gardens by gathering tiny fragments of the reef and rooting them onto a metal framework. After maturing for 6 months, the coral garden is relocated to damaged and destroyed reefs.
You can find out more about the Marine Conservation Programme and how to get involved here.
Fiji Island-Hopping: How to Plan It
If you’re planning your Fiji island-hopping itinerary, I would recommend that you stay in a hostel or hotel a few nights before and after to give yourself buffer room. The Yasawa Flyer departs from Port Denarau bright and early at about 8:30 am and you want to get there at least 45 minutes before so you can check-in and sort out your luggage.
There isn’t an option to get a later catamaran as the Yasawa Flyer only departs from Port Denarau once a day. You also don’t want to have to go on a mad dash to the airport once you’ve had the most relaxing time of your life on the islands.
I stayed at Bamboo Travellers Hostel before and after my island-hopping trip. The hostel is located on the edge of the beach on Viti Levu just a 20-minute drive from Nadi. An ideal base for solo travellers and backpackers, the hostel is always buzzing with life and you can easily spend a lazy afternoon sipping cocktails and chatting with travellers from all over the world.
The hostel’s best features are the free airport pickup and the staff who can help you book all your activities. Transfers from the hostel to the airport are just as easy as they can arrange a taxi for you.
Fiji Holidays: The Best Time to Go
The weather in Fiji stays fairly constant all year round with maximum temperatures resting at around 26℃ to 31℃. The peak season runs from July through to September as many Australian and New Zealand families seak out warmer, tropical weather for the winter holidays.
Although it’s considered the best time to visit Fiji, weatherwise, resorts are often a lot more crowded and more expensive in the peak season. If you’re looking for a cheaper and quieter trip, aim to book it in October or from May to June. These shoulder seasons offer slightly more discounted resort prices and temperatures stay in their high 20s.
Between November and April, it’s considered typhoon season. Temperatures reach their peak and the islands are battered by raging storms. Although you can still visit and flights and Fiji accommodation will be nicely discounted, I wouldn’t recommend going at this time, particularly if you want to head out to some of the smaller remote islands.
The unpredictable weather can get you stranded on an island like a real-life castaway as it would be too dangerous to send a boat out. Some typhoons have also been known to flatten resorts.
I visited Fiji at the end of September, and although you could still consider it peak time, it didn’t feel like it at all. Temperatures were a little scorching – you are very close to the equator after all, but the resorts were nice and quiet which was perfect. Since there were only a few of us staying on the islands, the experience felt a lot more personal and we all developed strong and lasting friendships.
Island-Hopping in Fiji: What to Expect
Island-hopping in Fiji was quite possibly one of my favourite travel experiences to date. Each island resort I stayed at was unique but utterly beautiful – like a real slice of paradise on Earth. Fijian are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and every resort made you feel like you were part of a family rather than visitors. Each arrival and departure was particularly special as you were serenaded with a song and laden with wreaths and flowers.
Socialising is a big part of Fiji life and resort hosts make an enormous effort to put on shows and games to entertain you in the evening. Enjoy the ride and don’t take yourself too seriously when you’re invited to take part.
Another important part of Fijian custom is the kava ceremony. Kava is a brown-coloured drink made from Piper methysticum, a plant which is native to the western Pacific Islands. It’s a popular social drink similar to alcohol in Western cultures but it doesn’t get you drunk or high. Instead, it acts as a gentle depressant, aiding relaxation and sleep. You feel a slight tingling or numbing in the mouth but it’s perfectly safe to try. Kava ceremonies have been a traditional part of South Pacific culture for centuries.
My Island-Hopping Route
A coach picked me up bright and early at about 7 am to take me to Port Denarau to get get the Yasawa Flyer at 8:30 am sharp. I made sure that my bag was correctly labelled with the name of my first resort before dropping it off to be loaded onto the catamaran. The next time I’d see it would be when I disembarked.
I had chosen Simple Stays as my accommodation package but even though the dormitories were a little bit rougher than most I didn’t feel like I was missing out. The resorts were still beautiful. There are 19 resorts to choose from. Since I was on a budget I picked the ones that were both affordable and allowed me access to the top activities in the area which you can see below:
Top activities: Snorkelling in the Blue Lagoon and a day trip to Sawa-I-Lau Cave
Nabua Lodge is a remote family-run island resort on Nacula Island about 5 hours on the catamaran from Port Denarau. Located in the famous Blue Lagoon, the water around the resort is striped a stunning dark and light blue. Guests can enjoy a comfortable dormitory or go a little more private in bures (private huts). The showers are located outside and are heated by the warmth of the sun. Spend the afternoon lazing in a hammock with a book and wander up the hill overlooking the resort to catch a glorious sunset.
Top activity: Swimming with manta rays (discover how you can do it here)
Korovou is located on Naviti Island about 3 and a half hours from Port Denarau. A slightly larger resort, you can once again opt for a dorm or bures. In the day you can take handfuls of bread and wade out into the sea to feed the fish and during the evening you can walk along the beach at sunset and spot hermit crabs along the way.
Top activity: Snorkelling with reef sharks
I was lucky enough to stay in a gorgeous private bure during my stay as the dormitory had been filled by a school class from New Zealand (you can find out all about in my guide to snorkelling with reef sharks). Incidentally, the minimum stay at the resort is 2 days but Wayalailai was full the next night so I moved around the corner to Naqalia Lodge. Both resorts are located on Waya Lailai Island in the Yasawas about 2 hours away from Port Denarau.
Top activity: Guided sunset walk
Naqalia Lodge is just a beach across from Wayalailai Ecohaven although an enormous rock jutting out into the sea makes it unreachable by foot. I had a speedboat pick me up instead of the catamaran. This small, family-run resort is perfect for couples and solo travellers. In fact, all the other guests stayed in bures so I had the entire dormitory to myself. Snorkelling with reef sharks and the guided summit walk are available at both the resorts but I had already done them at Wayalailai. I was lucky as the wind had picked up making the sea too rough to swim or sail in.
Top activity: Kayaking
Probably the busiest island resort on my itinerary, South Sea Island is just 30 minutes from Port Denarau and is part of the Mamanuca Islands. South Sea is popular with day-trippers from resorts around Nadi and Port Denarau and this island, which is essentially just a patch of beach in the middle of the sea, can get quite busy. Luckily, there are plenty of excursions like snorkelling and kayaking to even out the crowd. Once the day-trippers go you have the entire island to yourself and you can relax with a cocktail and watch the waves lapping against the shore.
Other Top Resorts in Fiji
The Yasawa Flyer goes to a total of 19 different resorts all of varying degrees of luxury. I chose the more budget backpacker-friendly route while still hitting the main points of interest, including swimming with manta rays and sharks. Some of the best places to stay in Fiji include:
Located on Drawaqa Island near Naviti Island and Korovou, Barefoot Manta is a popular resort for swimming with manta rays. The gorgeous resort is situated between 3 beaches and you can sleep in beautiful bamboo huts. Conservation is a huge part of this island and there is an in-house biology team carrying out important research on the surrounding marine life. Barefoot Manta is part of the Barefoot Collection who are members of the Ecotourism Society.
Another member of the Barefoot Collection, Barefoot Kuata Resort is located on Kuata Island across the bay from Waya LaiLai Island. Known as the gateway to the Yasawa Islands, this eco-friendly resort is surrounded by white sandy beaches. The popular activity is snorkelling with reef sharks but you can also get your PADI diving certificate and dive with bull sharks here.
Blue Lagoon Beach Resort is located on Nacula Island around the corner from Nabua Lodge. As its name suggests, the resort is situated in the breathtaking Blue Lagoon and you can enjoy snorkelling excursions out in the pristine waters or take a day trip to the beautiful freshwater Sawa-I-Lau Caves.
Check out the grid below to help you work out what you can expect to pay for a Fiji island-hopping experience.
* Price is for 9 days / 8 nights with Simple Stays and valid from April 2020. Meals are included. Price does not include the 3% booking fee.
I spent 220 Fijian dollars on activities which comes to a total of about £76. Of course, the price all depends on how many activities you do. If you were to do any PADI diving then the price would be significantly higher. The overall total does not include drinks and extras. I would budget about £150 for activities just to be safe and you can always spend it at the bar if you don’t end up using it all.
Top Tips for an Island-Hopping Experience in Fiji
- Take cash with you to the islands. Don’t rely on there being ATMs or card machines at the resorts, particularly if you go somewhere remote. The best place to get cash out is at the airport although there are sometimes cash points at your hostel or hotel, but chances are they won’t be free.
- Allow yourself some buffer time and book accommodation before and after your Fiji island-hopping experience.
- Book your accommodation in advance. That will save you time and stress worrying about where to go next and if there’s space.
- Take a rucksack with you instead of a suitcase with wheels. Your luggage will get tossed all over the place from the Yasawa Flyer to the awaiting speed boats and onto trailers at Port Denarau. You’ll want to have a securely fastened bag that can weather this type of handling.
- Help Awesome Adventures be responsible and look after the reefs and marine life by only wearing reef-safe sunscreen with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Try to also limit your single-use plastic consumption.
- The water in most hostels and resorts is unsafe to drink for tourists. This may be because our stomachs aren’t used to it or some of the smaller islands just don’t have running drinking water. Make sure you have a good water purifier or stock up on water bottles when you can. There’s always the option to buy water on the islands so you don’t need to take a whole crate with you before you go.
- Take a good portable charging device with you – preferably one that’s solar-powered. Most resorts don’t turn their electricity on until the evening so you won’t be able to charge any electronic devices until then.
- WiFi is patchy on the islands to say the least – although when you’re in paradise you rarely need to be on your phone. If you do want the assurance of being connected, however, buy a SIM card at the airport. You can get a temporary data plan for pretty cheap.
Island-hopping is one of the best Fiji holidays you can do. Have you done it? Are you planning a trip to Fiji? Let me know!