The allure of sun, sand and waving palm trees sees many of us plotting a winter escape and heading off to the fairer shores of Fiji. While island resorts have their own special magic there is also a lot to be said for the main island of Viti Levu. Below, the top 10 ways to spend a day on Viti Levu's west coast.
A plethora of day cruises operate from Port Denarau, with many also offering a stop-off at one of the more remote islands. You can't get more tranquil than snorkelling a distant reef or sunbathing under the sails – but if you're after more thrills, take a high speed jetboat trip to Cloud 9, a luxurious floating bar moored in the middle of the ocean.
Nadi Produce Market
No matter where you're staying on the west coast, the local bus is a great way to get to the Nadi market (and many other places besides) – just ask the driver to point you in the right direction. Self-catering? The market offers a wonderful range of produce: fresh-from-the-garden fruit and vegetables, fresh and fragrant herbs, and baskets laden with glassy-eyed fish. The market is great for photos – and for picking up delicious pool-side snacks – but get there early while the heat is still manageable and the produce at its best.
Sabeto Hot Springs
Cover yourself head to toe in silky warm mud (non-white togs are essential), dry out in the sun, then rinse off in the natural hot pools. A post-mud massage, known as a bobo, is optional, but highly recommended.Whether the pools are truly as therapeutic as claimed is debatable; they're certainly a lot of fun. The Sabeto Hot Springs are roughly a 20 minute taxi trip from Nadi, or book a guided tour through Aqua Tours Fiji.
Garden of the Sleeping Giant
Home to more than 2000 varieties of orchids, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant was once the private collection of Raymond Burr, the star of television classics Perry Mason and Ironside. Today it is a must for fans of this delicate tropical flower – or any garden lover. A wander along the boardwalk takes you through dense rainforest, through landscaped lawns and across lily ponds – if the orchids are not all flowering then the water lilies hopefully will be. Located around 10 minutes north of Nadi, a visit to the garden could easily be combined with the Sabeto Hot Springs nearby.
Fiji Surf School
Sometimes being on holiday is the perfect time to try something new – nobody knows you, so who cares if you make a fool of yourself? Fiji Surf School is aimed at everyone from experienced wave riders to complete novices like me. Even if you're a beginner, the ever-helpful guides almost guarantee that you will manage to stand up and “surf” by the end of this full-day trip based out of Nadi.
Flavours of Fiji Cooking School
Need a break from the beach? A cooking class with Ethee and her team at Nadi's Flavours of Fiji are a fun and delicious day out of the sun. Recipes cover traditional Fijian and Fiji-Indian dishes, with a market tour included in some classes. Class sizes are kept small to provide a full hands-on experience.
Big Bula Inflatable Park
Young teens are sure to enjoy slipping and sliding their way through the obstacles at Big Bula Inflatable Park on Denarau Island, the largest integrated resort in the South Pacific. With athletic young staff to watch over them, it's also a relaxing break for frazzled parents. A day at Big Bula doesn't come cheap, so I advise splitting your visit in two: hit the slides first thing in the morning, leave for lunch, then return in the afternoon for more inflatable fun.
If you've always wanted to try flyboarding, the latest water sports craze in which you're propelled into the air by a water-fuelled jetpack, a Fiji holiday is the perfect opportunity. For the rest of us, there's parasailing, kayaking, windsurfing and other activities – all available through adventure activity specialist Adrenalin Fiji.
Dine at the Port
It's been a long time coming, but the Fiji food scene has improved a lot – it's now possible to eat really well while on holiday here. Nadina Authentic Fijian Restaurant at Port Denarau is one of the best optionf on the west coast. The local owners grow many of their own vegetables, grate fresh coconut to make their coconut milk, and serve up generous portions of full-flavoured modern Fijian food. Try the kokoda, a traditional Fijian raw fish salad.
Sigatoka River Safari
The 25 minutes you spend whipping up the Sigatoka river in a jet boat is brilliant fun and the village experience at the other end is as authentic as an organised tour can get. For these isolated villagers, tourism means a much-needed influx of funds; for tourists it's a lovely way to meet and interact with local families. The tour includes dancing, kava and lunch. sigatokariver.com