Most native Fijians still live in villages, the kind led by chiefs, dotted by open-air homes and traipsed by roving bands of giggling children. And they welcome visitors.
The South Pacific nation of 322 islands (106 inhabited) — once infamous for cannibalizing vanquished warriors and uninformed missionaries — is now celebrated for its hospitality. When we visited, a man hauling freshly harvested sugarcane stopped us on a rural road and wanted to share a chunk of his harvest.
As happy as they are to have you, however, you can’t just show up; certain customs apply. But your resort, hotel or hostel will have a relationship with area villages. Here are the three communities that we found quite welcoming.
Bukama, Yasawa Island
On the high ground of this small, narrow island is a small school that also serves a neighboring village. Once a week, guests at Yasawa Island Resort & Spa are invited to meet the children. First, your guide will present the chief or his representative with cava (a nutty local root with a mild sedative quality), which you may share in a ceremonial drink. During our visit, the children performed several enthusiastic songs.
Vuadomo, Vanua Levu near Pacific Harbor
Directions to this village, from what we gathered: After you pass the wild horses, take a left, drive through a shallow creek and then you’ll see it nestled in the rainforest canopy. This was the most spectacular of the villages we visited as well as the smallest, with only 10 homes. The chief welcomed our guide, a staff member at Koro Sun Resort & Rainforest Spa, and this reporter into his home to accept our cava offering. Then we wandered past the worn lali (a drum used for announcements) and through the one-room church before hiking to a towering waterfall that gushes cool water into a swimming hole.
Nakorovu, Viti Levu near the Coral Coast
When the van pulled up, children began shouting the name “Seru!” Seru, the activities director at Nanuku Resort & Spa Fijiand former trainer of the Fijian rugby team, is the son of Nakorovu’s chief and grew up there. The gang ran alongside us down a muddy path to the banks of a creek, where a woman was catching prawns by hand with her daughter, which she does every day, to sell at a nearby market. (Nanuku can also lead a waterfall hike through Nakorovu.) As the van left the village, we were stopped again, this time by a man offering to crack fresh coconuts for us to drink. We happily obliged.
Fiji Airways offers direct flights to Nadi International Airport as well as domestic flights to most Fijian cities, including Savusavu just down the road from Koro Sun, and Suva near Nanuku.Island Hoppers puddle-jump to the Yasawa airstrip as well as Nanuku’s private airstrip.Pacific Destinationz provides reliable ground transport on the two large islands.