The Instagram Guide to Fiji

The beautiful archipelago is rich with culture and mesmerizing blue water.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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“Bula! Welcome home to Fiji.”

This hospitable greeting is used by Fijians to welcome visitors to their beautiful archipelago. Typically, it’s accompanied by a heartwarming rendition of the traditional Fiji welcome song ("Bula Maleya") or goodbye song ("Isa Lei"), sung by natives before offering handshakes and hugs. The sheer kindness is enough to make you cry.

Fiji has an influx of year-round tourists from nearby New Zealand and Australia, similar to U.S. mainlanders jetting to Hawaii or the Caribbean for a tropical vacation. Though the 11-hour transpacific flight from LAX or SFO to Viti Levu (Fiji’s main island) may deter some Americans from making the trip, Fiji’s 50 shades of blue ocean water are a nice recompense.

The island country's rich culture is woven into many experiences common throughout the country, such as kava ceremonies, family-style meals (Indo-Fijian cuisine is a must-try), Polynesian dance, and fire-walking ceremonies. Thanks to its collectivist culture that values interconnectedness above all else, Fiji has been ranked amongst the world’s happiest countries in past Gallup International polls.

Though it’s unlikely you’ll visit all 333 Fijian islands in a single trip, this Instagram guide, below, will help narrow your itinerary down to the can’t-miss experiences for a South Pacific holiday.

Honeymooners traveling to Fiji often fantasize about idyllic overwater bungalow accommodations with swim-up access. The Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay is especially popular amongst American couples with its 22 overwater bure-style (traditional Fijian cottage) villas, perched over a lagoon at the center of the resort. Nanuku Auberge Resort, known for thoughtfully infusing Fijian culture into its guests’ experience, is situated on a 550-acre beachfront property with luxury villas that have sweeping ocean views, private beach access, and their own pools. The very exclusive, adults-only Royal Davui Island Fiji Resort is located on a private 10-acre island that houses 16 villas surrounded by Beqa Lagoon (great for snorkeling). Bottom line: There is no shortage of romantic vibes in Fiji.

People come from across the globe to snorkel and scuba dive in Fiji. Known as the soft coral capital of the world, Fiji’s reefs are brimming with 1,200 species of tropical fish, plus manta rays, turtles, dolphins, and reef sharks. Pacific Harbour is largely considered the adventure capital of Fiji, but other popular destinations for underwater recreation include Natadola Beach, Savusavu, Supermarket Reef, Great Astrolabe Reef, Rainbow Reef, and the Great White Wall. Get your fins ready!

It wouldn’t be a trip to Fiji without experiencing a traditional kava ceremony. Roots of a kava plant are grounded into powder, strained, and steeped like tea, then drank at room temperature. This daily ritual is done while sitting in a circle around a communal bowl of kava, where the leader serves each person individually. (Rules of etiquette are explained upfront.) Known to have numbing and calming effects, kava is more popular than alcohol in Fiji. The brown liquid tastes quite earthy, but should help you mellow out and sleep.

For a rich cultural experience, it doesn’t get more authentic than visiting a local Fijian village. Sigatoka River Safari tours rotate between 15 villages, bringing tourists via jet boat to the villages for afternoon visits. After a quick walk through a village to see Fijian homes, tourists gather in the community center to partake in a traditional kava ceremony. Once introductions are made, women from the local village prepare a family-style lunch, and later everyone dances to Fijian music. Before leaving, there’s an opportunity to present gifts (typically money or toys for the kids) to the village chief for the entire village to enjoy. Warning: Prepare to get soaked during the boat ride back to Sigatoka town.

Spend the day on a private island at Malamala Beach Club, where you can live your best life frolicking on a pristine beach, splashing in an infinity pool, lounging in cabanas, and enjoying craft cocktails and world-class cuisine. Walk the perimeter of the small island while taking in the serene view of endless ocean. Snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle boarding equipment is available for use, but the must-do activity here is jumping off the end of the jetty into clear blue water. There are no overnight accommodations at Malamala, but the quick 25-minute ferry ride to and from Port Denarau is paired with hotel shuttle service for door-to-door transport.

People may be surprised to learn Fiji has a large Indian population, which occupies between 30 to 40 percent of the country, and its influence on Fijian culture—including religion. Sri Siva Subramaniya is the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere, located in Nadi, Fiji. This bright and beautiful temple is one of the few examples of Dravidian-style architecture seen outside of India. Everyone is welcome here, but conservative clothing must be worn inside (no bare arms or legs!).

If you've fallen in love with Fiji, book a trip here.

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Kai Oliver-Kurtin

Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering travel, dining and lifestyle. As her Hawaiian name might suggest, she’s most happy while bobbing in the ocean.