Viti Levu, Fiji: A South Seas Classic
Where: The south and west coasts of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, in the tropical South Pacific Ocean between Vanuatu and Samoa.
What: A no-brainer holiday choice for divers, lovers, fishermen, and any real fan of tropical beauty. It goes without saying also that the pristine barrier reefs of Fiji are prime surf real estate--welcome to paradise, bro. For decades it's been a staple South Pacific surf destination, and not a tube-loving surfer is born who does not wish to board a plane, land in Nadi or Suva, and lock into some deep Melanesian juice, often far from land, and very far from the dullness of home.
When: April through October, generally, when Fiji's reefs reap the result of consistent low-pressure systems in the Tasman Sea, providing numerous swells for marquee spots like Restaurants, Cloudbreak, and Frigates Pass. Southwest swells are the go, but along the Coral Coast the southeast trade winds start to blow come afternoon; these trades are cross-offshore at the Namotu lefts, though. Once November rolls around, rains begin, and the southeast trades slowly swing around to blow northeasterly, grooming Coral Coast waves, which in spring can be surprisingly good, and blissfully empty.
Above: Don’t worry, it’s not always that big…
Why: Fiji's biggest island, Viti Levu, is the archipelago's hub for everything, including surfing, and obviously Tavarua isn't the only game in town. Just north is the Namotu area, a watery playground, and there are numerous surf zones along Viti Levu's pretty Coral Coast, eastward all the way to Suva, Fiji's vibrant capital city. Bottom line is, you can't go wrong with Fiji.
How: Most flights land at Nadi International Airport (NAN), north of Nadi proper, on the west side of Viti Levu, not far from Tavarua. Air New Zealand (airnz.com) and Air Pacific (airpacific.com) offer direct daily flights from Los Angeles, Honolulu, Auckland, and east Australia. Coming from Australia, it is possible to fly aboard Air Pacific directly to Suva, on Viti Levu's southeast shore. If you're not staying at an all-inclusive resort, renting a car can be useful. Driving is done on the left side of the road.
Places To Stay: The resorts are your best bet unless you are set on day-tripping out of Nadi Harbor, which can be a pain in the ass. Try plantationisland.com, tavarua.com, namotuislandfiji.com, and musketcovefiji.com. For a die-hard Frigates surf trip, Beqa Lagoon Resort is by far the best place to stay if you can afford it (bring the wife/girlfriend). On the mainland there is Waidroka Bay Resort, a longtime favorite for traveling surfers as there are four spots within easy striking distance. The best (and only) place near King Kong Left is Nagigia Island Resort, which actually caters to surfers--fijisurf.com. Natadola Beach Resort is pretty tight, too--natadola.com.
Places To Eat: If you are staying in Beqa Lagoon Resort, you'll be eating in the fine restaurant there. If you're coming from the mainland, like Waidroka Bay Resort, you may just eat in that restaurant, too. At the Beachhouse near Korolevu is the excellent Coconut Café. The restaurant at Nagigia Island Resort is really good, and the beer is very cold. Unless you are going to day-trip Wilkes from Nadi Harbor, you'll be eating and staying at either Plantation Island, Namotu, Musket Cove Resort, or Tavarua, and the restaurants in all four places are world class.
Dudes And Babes: Your chance of hooking up is much higher on the mainland, in Nadi or Suva. If you are staying at one of the island resorts, there's no guarantee of anybody who is single being there since the clientele usually are families and couples. But who knows? Anything is possible, right?
Crowd Factor: Loads of surfers fly to Fiji during peak season (April to October), and spots like Frigates Pass and the now-public Tavarua can suffer from an abundance of boat-chartering surfers. Yet the rest of Viti Levu is generally uncrowded, wide open for whatever sort of wave you want to surf, including Namotu Island, just north of Tavarua, which is home to a very popular surf resort and more boat trippers.
Stuff To Bring: Fiji epitomizes the South Pacific, and when you think South Pacific, what do you need there? Boardshorts, tropical wax, light clothing, a few barrel-tuned boards, and plenty of sunblock. A surf hat and reef booties can be handy, too. Money, too, because those resorts ain't cheap.
If The Surf Is Flat: As with any South Pacific paradise, the diving, spearfishing, and snorkeling are world class. There is also spectacular fishing with an unreal variety of fish, including deep-sea game fishing close to the island. Try some kava. If it's windy you could try windsurfing in the lagoon. You can also go for a scenic walk around the island, or a guided walk up Mount Washington (elevation 2,750 feet). For real culture, you should check Nabukelevuira, one of Fiji's most traditional villages.
Dive and Surf!
Many surf trips go hand in hand with crystal clear blue water and beautiful scenery. Diving can make a great side activity, like if it goes flat, the wind turns bad, or you've gotten your 50th barrel in a row and need a palette refresh. Here are a few tips on how to get certified and make the most of dive worthy location courtesy of Jenna Meistrell, a Padi dive instructor.
How To Get Certified:
1. Start by going to padi.com to find a local dive shop in your area, or you can take the course online.
2. Visit your dive shop and sign up for an open water dive course, which runs about $550.
3. You will need to purchase course materials (book, video, logbook) and some equipment--usually a mask, snorkel, fins, booties, and gloves.
4. From there you'll complete the coursework, class work, then move up to some confined water dives (like in a pool), and finally some open water dives.
5. After that you'll have your PADI certification card and will be ruling the undersea kingdom.