Why you should go:
Tavarua is home to two of the best lefts in the world and a right that rarely breaks, but does a nice little impression of Backdoor in perfect conditions.
Pure paradise. There is no other way to describe it. You can walk around the entire island in fifteen minutes, and all you'll see are beautiful white-sand beaches surrounded by peeling lefts that actually become more hollow as they race down the reef. The island itself is inhabited by a local tribe from the big island of Fiji and their chief, Druku.
With the exception of the occasional rare day of foul weather, you are pretty much guaranteed to score while you are on Tavarua. Guests stay for a week at a time, and it's very rare for there not to be swell sometime in that window. There's a reef about a mile out from the big island that's the home of the infamous Cloudbreak. The first surfers to camp on these beaches didn't even venture out there for the first five years, instead, they waited for the reef that surrounds tiny little Tavarua to break. This reef has a left called Restaurants and a right that is simply called “The Right,” which faces the dining, extensive deck, and pool areas. When The Right breaks, it's easily one of the best waves in world. If Restaurants is breaking, that means there's enough swell that you could have surfed the best waves of your life all day at Cloudbreak, leaving your arms like noodles, barely strong enough to lift that cold beer to your face as you watch the boat drivers get shacked.
Do yourself a favor and listen to boat drivers. The guys who run the island call them lifeguards, but on a good day most of the boat guys could take down a Hobgood in a heat at Cloudbreak. If you pay close attention to the times the boat drivers are getting ready to surf, you'll get the best waves. They have it wired tighter than any guest ever will.
When to go:
Tavarua is a year-round destination, and it's usually booked full at least a year in advance. There's often a “week leader” who is responsible for filling up the 40 or so beds for the week. Some week leaders include Rusty Priesendorfer, Bob McKnight (CEO of Quiksilver), and Bob Hurley. Space on Tavarua is so in demand, the only way to get on the island with less than a couple years of planning is to be invited. The summertime heat can be nauseating, and you'll be living in the pool, so try the early fall (September through November).
Where to stay:
On Tavarua, everyone lives together in a community that may resemble a hippie camp you read about in some anarchist handbook. Community dinning takes place regularly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but if you miss a meal because you were surfing or sleeping one off in your bure (bungalows the guests stay in), the sweet ladies in the kitchen will whip you up a sandwich in about fifteen minutes–in Fijian time, that's really fast. Over the last couple years the bures have been amazingly renovated, and most have running water with hot showers and private bathrooms. The “family” bures have two bedrooms and can comfortably sleep six.
*Have the lifeguards take you fishing
*Take a day trip to the island from the movie Cast Away
*Get ripped on the rum slushies while lounging in the pool
*A sturdy leash
*Multiple boards of varied lengths
Look out for:
There's a good chance that on the boat ride in you'll see waves at Restaurants like the ones you have been drawing on your Peachee folder since fourth grade. If it's your first time on Tavarua, it will be hard to not sprint right into the lineup, but you should try to restrain yourself. The waves are perfect, but like most perfect surf, it's really fast, very shallow, and the reef is extremely sharp. Remember, you have all week.
Booking a trip to Tavarua runs about $2,500. That includes airfare, accommodations, and meals. It does not, however, include your bar bill, and depending on how good the waves are, this can be another serious expense. The island is run by Tavarua Island Tours, but there's no official Web site (when you have something everyone wants, there's no need to advertise), so your best bet is to use a surf-specific travel agency to book your reservation. Try Quiksilver Travel at quiksilvertravel.com or Wave Hunters at wavehunters.com.
Tavarua is about the same distance from Sydney as Cabo San Lucas is from Los Angeles. Considering its location, you'll be surprised at how Americanized it is. You might be offered Vegemite with your toast, but it's just as easy to get a Pop-Tart. If you haven't dropped all your money on your bar bill, try taking a helicopter back to the big island for your flight home. This form of travel will wrap up your trip with some of the most incredible views of your life. The driver will take you over Cloudbreak almost upside down at 90 miles per hour. You won't forget it.