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Cruising Fiji: Snorkeling, kava and secluded beaches

Did we want a swig of kava from the communal half-coconut shell?

We were being welcomed at a remote Yasawa Island village while cruising Fiji.

Seated on woven mats, we had just watched Fijian villagers in grass skirts pound kava (a pepper plant root), still covered with dirt.

Mixing the powder with water, they made Fiji’s potent traditional beverage.

While cruising Fiji, villagers prepare the potent kava drink for us to taste.
Fijian villagers prepare the potent kava drink for us to taste

But kava has been known to put unsuspecting tourists to sleep. Hmmm… Perhaps just one small sip to try it?

Many villages throughout Fiji welcome you with the kava ceremony.

It’s a cultural highlight when on a Fiji cruise – and part of what makes a Fiji holiday special.

Cruising Fiji

Cruising Fiji
Cruising Fiji is one of the best ways to experience the Fijian islands

Fiji is an island country with more than 300 islands.

The two biggest islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, where most of the people live.

Many of the other islands are mere specks in the vast blue Pacific.

Wailagilala, one of the stops on a Fiji cruise that visits Lau and Kadavu

If you picture paradise, chances are it looks a lot like the Fijian islands.

Fiji is blessed with warm azure waters, sugar white beaches, rainbow-colored reefs and unique cultural experiences like fire-walking, hula dancing – and the kava welcome ceremony.

A boat rests on the sand at low tide

And a cruise is one of the best ways to explore some of these unspoiled Fijian islands.

Think beach barbecues, swimming, snorkeling and visiting local Fijian villages.

Snorkeling in Fiji
Who wants to go snorkeling in Fiji?

Cruise lines that cruise Fiji

The two small-ship cruise lines that regularly cruise Fiji and the Fijian islands are Blue Lagoon Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises.

They each have one ship offering itineraries ranging from 3 to 7 nights.

Cruising Fiji with Blue Lagoon Cruises
So blue! So beautiful!

Blue Lagoon Cruises:

We were sailing with Blue Lagoon Cruises.

Operating since 1950, Blue Lagoon Cruises offers comfortable barefoot-and-cutoffs cruises on the 68-passenger Fiji Princess.

Cabins are 117 and 142 square feet in size.

Blue Lagoon Cruises: Fiji Princess cabin
A cabin on the Fiji Princess

For more information about the Fiji Princess, see here.

Captain Cook Cruises:

Especially popular with Australian passengers, Captain Cook Cruises operates the Reef Endeavour in Fiji.

It accommodates 130 passengers in cabins sized approximately 150 and 300 square feet. The ship was refurbished in 2013.

Captain Cook Cruises: Reef Endeavour cabin
Tabua Suite on the Reef Endeavour

For more information about the Reef Endeavour, see here.

Things to do in Viti Levu

Viti Levu is the main island, where international flights land.

It’s home to Suva, the colonial capital. Suva is a popular Fijian port-of-call for bigger vessels cruising the South Pacific (such as some Princess and Celebrity Cruises’ ships).

Fiji Museum:

The Fiji Museum there contains exhibits from Fiji’s cannibalistic past. (Are those the boots of an unfortunate missionary who was killed and eaten?)

You can also see the rudder from Captain Bligh’s HMS Bounty (where the legendary mutiny occurred).

Pacific Harbor:

Fiji fire dancer
How do the Fijians walk on red-hot coals and swallow fire?

At Pacific Harbor, an hour’s drive away, you can watch the famous fire walkers tread barefoot on red-hot coals at the Arts Village.

Denarau Island:

Off the west coast, Denarau Island is a shopping and resort hub connected by bridge to Viti Levu. Its picturesque port and marina bustles with cafés, boutiques, restaurants and adventure tour offices.

Sailboats for Fiji day cruises to the nearby Mamanuca Islands also take off from Port Denarau.

Recommended readingChartered yacht holidays? They’re not just for the rich and famous

Cast away to the Mamanuca Islands

Fiji cruising in the Mamanuca Islands
Beach chairs for two on Malolo Lailai Island in the Mamanucas

Both Blue Lagoon Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises include the Mamanuca Islands in their Fiji island cruises.

With white sand beaches and coral reefs thriving with candy-colored fish, the Mamanucas are perfect for living out your Robinson Crusoe fantasies for a day. Or more…

Fiji cruise
Kayaking while cruising Fiji

Cruise Yasawa Islands

You need to get further away from Viti Levu to discover more secluded islands.

The Yasawa Islands are a chain of 20 islands with volcanic rocky peaks and pristine powder-white beaches – they’re the quintessential, laid-back Fiji islands you really want to escape to.

Nanuya Lailai
Sign on the beach on Nanuya Lailai in the Yasawa Islands

It’s here in the Yasawas that you find the “Blue Lagoon” – a sea of clear turquoise waters sprinkled with teeny tropical islands.

At Nanuya Lailai, the Fiji Princess tied up to a coconut tree, and we spent the day kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and lazing on the beach.

That evening, a barbecue dinner was served under the stars on the sand.

Cruising Fiji: Nanuya Lailai
Enjoying the beach at Nanuya Lailai

Because these islands are more remote, the islanders are more traditional than other Fijians, and that also makes a visit to the Yasawas just that much more special.

Fiji dancers in the Yasawa Islands
Somosomo villagers in the Yasawa Islands sing and perform traditional dances

Get more of that South Seas feeling: Read our post about bures and overwater bungalows in Fiji

Supporting the islanders

One of the things we particularly liked about Blue Lagoon Cruises is that it supports the islanders financially.

The company helps the people of the Yasawas by making payments to access beaches, visit villages and have the locals perform traditional Fijian entertainment and sell home-made crafts and artifacts.

Educational projects are also a focus of attention.

One morning, an excursion took us to a local elementary school, which exists mainly on donations from passengers.

School children in Fiji
Some of these school children would rather watch us than do math

We listened to the children sing, and talked with them about life at the school (many children board during the week, because the cost of daily boat transportation is too expensive).

These Fijian school children love posing for the camera!
These Fijian school children love posing for the camera!

Interacting with the children, it seemed they were having almost as much fun as we were on our Fiji cruise!

Recommended reading: The Alila Purnama in Indonesia – sailing, diving and, oh my, Komodo dragons!

Fiji islands cruise itineraries

Fiji Islands map
Fiji Islands map

Both Blue Lagoon Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises offer shorter and longer itineraries.

See this map of Fiji on Google Maps to locate the specifice Fiji cruise destinations below.

Blue Lagoon Cruise itineraries

Blue Lagoon Cruises offers three itineraries:

  • A 3-night cruise – Modriki Island, Soso Bay and Naukacuvu Island
  • A 4-night cruise – Yalobi Bay, Blue Lagoon, Sawa-I-Lau Island and Drawaqa Island
  • A 7-night cruise combining the above two cruises
Fiji cruising
Typical day cruising Fiji

Captain Cook Cruises itineraries

Captain Cook Cruises offers the following Fiji cruise itineraries:

  • A 3-night cruise – Mamanuca and southern Yasawa Islands
  • A 4-night cruise – Mamanuca and northern Yasawa Islands
  • A 7-night cruise – Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands (combining both of the above cruises)
  • A 7-night cruise – Colonial Fiji discovery of remote northern islands
  • A 4-night cruise – Circumnavigating Vanua Levu
  • An 11-night cruise – Off-the-tourist-track Lau Islands and Kadavu

Liveaboards

Crazy about scuba diving?

There are also a couple of Fiji liveaboards that are available for full-on scuba diving – so you can spend most of your time diving Fiji’s epic dive sites.

Additional Fiji travel information

Check out the Fiji travel guides and books on Amazon. (And just so you know, as an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

More Pacific temptations!

Read our posts on:

French Polynesia cruising | Cruising French Polynesia is as romantic as it gets!

Bora Bora | There are 8 beautiful resorts in Bora Bora with overwater bungalows. How do you choose which one to pick?

Kauai | Discover 21 cool things to do in Kauai (plus the best beaches).


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Photo credits: 1, 4, 10, 12 to 16 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 2, 7, 11, 18 Blue Lagoon Cruises | 3, 5, 8 Captain Cook Cruises


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Muza-chan

Sunday 28th of September 2014

Beautiful place...

Irene S. Levine

Wednesday 24th of September 2014

I love companies that give back to locals~

Jonathan Look, Jr.

Tuesday 23rd of September 2014

This looks like such an amazing experience! I look forward to making it to Fiji. Thank you for sharing. Blue Lagoon Cruises looks like a great outfit.

Frank

Tuesday 23rd of September 2014

Beautiful pics, I'd love to do a South Pacific cruise as well. Hmm, the downside of internet - Fijian kids doing gangsta rap gestures! Frank (bbqboy)

Shikha

Tuesday 23rd of September 2014

I've never done a cruise but to do one that goes around the South Pacific islands would be a dream come true! I agree that even the names of the islands do sound exotic!! Wonderful photos of the islanders :)