Fiji is a beautiful country, and while most of its attractions are water-based activities, which can get quite pricy, there are some colourful sights for you to see when you’re taking a break from the more active, expensive options.
Nadi (pronounced “Nandi” – ‘d’ is ’nd’ in Fijian) is not the capital of Fiji (that’s Suva), but it is often the first city visitors to the country encounter, as it is home to the Nadi International Airport. With its large Indo-Fijian population, Nadi is home to both Hindu and Islamic places of worship, and these are well worth a look.
The Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, reportedly the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere, is a beautiful, rainbow-coloured structure with even more exquisite paintings on the ceilings inside. You can get some good views of it at the southern end of the main road through Nadi, or for a small fee, you can take a tour through with a knowledgeable guide. (You will need to cover up – saris are provided for both female and male visitors).
The Nadi Produce Markets are another must-visit – check out the flowers, live crabs, fresh fish, colourful tropical fruits and vegetables, coconuts, and kava (yaqona) root for sale. I love the way the vegetables are stacked and the pineapples cut into spirals – you’ll find some great photos, and perhaps a nice lunch here. Our favourite is the roti rolls (tuna or potato curry filled wraps) sold at the market (approx. $1). Other options in the area include bakeries and takeaway shops where you can find a meal for well under $5, such as fish and chips, or fish cooked in coconut cream (ika vakalolo) (fish cooked in coconut), or Fijian curry.
Of course, Fiji is famous for its beaches, and while the mainland beaches don’t hold a candle to those on the islands, there are some places around Nadi you can go to cool off. Denarau, where the boats out to the islands leave from, is a more tourist-oriented location with lots of overpriced shops (food etc. is much more expensive here than in town – if you are taking bottled water and snacks etc. out to the islands, make sure to do your shopping at RB Patel or MH in Nadi/Lautoka beforehand).
A more laid-back option is the local and backpacker favourite, Wailoaloa Beach. The name means ‘black water’, so if you’re expecting white sandy beaches, you’ll be sadly disappointed, but I’ve found this a nice spot to stay during our visits to Nadi (usually at Bamboo Traveller’s), and it’s especially pretty around sunset. If you’re lucky, you might even see horses having a swim at the end of a day giving rides. Take a picnic down here for dinner like the locals do. For loose change, a local bus down to the coral coast gives you access to the white sands of Natadola (“Natandola”) beach. (Check out our friend Elizabeth the Island Enthusiast’s comprehensive Natdaola guide for tips!)
If you’re in Nadi, don’t forget to check out Lautoka too. It’s a short bus ride that only costs a couple of bucks.