Most people “visit” Nadi as their entry and/or exit to Fiji. They arrive at the airport and as quickly as they can, head off to some island adventure in one of Fiji’s ~300 islands. But this is where I spent the bulk of my time in Fiji, and found it a great stop for backpackers. While in Nadi, both times, I stayed at Bamboo Beach Backpackers and loved it so much I stayed twice. All of the hostels are in a very small block together on the beach, so easy to get to each other. And all you’ll have to do is ask around and you’ll find plenty to do.
You’re in Fiji, so of course you’ll be on the beach. I have found, twice now, so it’s confirmed, that napping on the beach is an excellent way to combat jet lag. You’ll have no trouble finding a lunge chair or hammock, no matter where you’re staying. You can walk most of the bay in which the hostels are located without running into another person. Or, if you prefer to be in the water, you can rent a kayak, paddle board, etc.
If you’re feeling especially active, you can link up with the surf trips to take you out of the protected bay into the surf spots, of which you have many options. No matter what you like to do on the beach or in the water, you can probably find it. Many of the hostels even have kayaks and equipment that is free to use, or low cost to rent. The hostels will also arrange beach volleyball and rugby to play, so just keep your head up and you’ll find something.
Get Covered in Mud – Visit the Hot Springs
Nestled in the mountains of the sleeping giants (take one look at the silhouette of the mountains and you’ll get it) is the Sabeto Hot Springs. The visit to the hot springs was a highlight of the trip and there are several ways to pull it off. You can coordinate a booking through several of the hostels, but it’s likely to cost you upwards of ~$50 USD. I was invited by a trio at the hostel who had coordinated with a taxi and this worked out to about ~$10 USD each. We learned from the taxi driver you can take the bus, which drops the price further. Entrance to the hot springs itself is ~$5 USD.
The hot springs have been around for centuries and do not see an exceptional amount of tourist traffic. When you arrive, you’ll go through several stages of the process – covering yourself in the mud, letting the mud dry (while you hear the history and power of the hot springs), clean off the mud, and bath in the hot pool. The mineral-rich mud and waters will leave your skin soft and your spirit refreshed.
Our group of 4 had the whole place to ourselves and it was a beautiful and calming afternoon. There are showers and bathrooms there if you’d like to rinse off and/or change. I didn’t want to rinse any of the new found softness from my skin, but was happy to brush my hair before the humidity puffed it up like Monica from Friends.
This is a must-do in Nadi, even if you are just in transit.
Kava is a long-time tradition in Fiji, and other Pacific Islands. It is a root that is ground up and used in kava ceremonies all over the islands. They can be relaxed or boisterous, and aren’t to be missed. In the hostel, kava is a daily activity, accompanied by guitar and singing. But you can also find it to be more quiet, relaxing and almost anti-social when just with the locals, a time to relax for the day. Everyone will sit on the floor while the master of ceremonies mixes the kava. It is scooped into a coconut shell and each participant gets their turn. Before drinking you clap and say bula, and after, you clap three times and say vinaka. Don’t worry if you don’t remember though, the rest of the participants will keep you in line.
Here’s a video of my new favorite song – Don’t Touch My Papaya
There is a major resort located on the bay, but you can also access it via the public roads. I did this day trip with the hostel and for ~40 USD you get transportation for the day, lunch, snorkeling (and gear) and spear fishing. This could easily be done without accompaniment or a guide, you just need to get yourself to the beach. From afar we could see all the resort-goers taking in beach activities, so if you’re interested in horseback riding on the beach or anything along those lines, you can go to the resort.
The snorkeling was great and we saw tons of fish and types of coral. There were some surfers out on the water, but the break is right on the reef, so this spot is for more experienced surfers.
This is a day trip that there is no way I could get you to without a guide. Namely because it gives the feel of a local spot – I went with the hostel and we didn’t see any other people while we were there for the day. For ~$40 USD, you get transportation for the day and lunch to a secluded spot of freshwater pools. You can spend the day lounging on the rocks in the sun, spear-fishing, or as we did, cliff-jumping from varying heights.
Explore the City/Hindu Temple
To be honest, there is not much to see or do in downtown Nadi. But it’s worth a walk about if you’re interested in doing a minimal amount of shopping, or want some ice cream. The gem of the downtown visit for me was the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple. Say that ten times fast. It sits at the end of the main street and catches your eye with its colorful façade.
The temple was rebuilt from 1992-1994 because of flood threats, but has been a presence in Fiji for 100 years. I didn’t understand at first why such a major Hindu temple would be in Fiji, until I better understood this history of indentured labor brought over from India by the British to work the sugar farms. When brought over, the Indians kept their culture strong and represent almost 40% of the population.
The temple is open to visitors, but be sure to wear appropriate clothing. Upon entry, they will lend wraps to be sure you’re covered appropriately. It costs $5 for tourists and is worth it – you can take pictures outside of, but not inside the temple. Be prepared to have your neck craned up the whole time looking at the beautiful murals on the ceiling. If you can avoid too hot of day, that would be helpful – you’ll have to take your shoes off and the ground gets pretty hot.