By Donna Heiderstadt
Hawaii Travel Expert, about.com
Spread across 18,372 square miles of the South Pacific, and consisting of 333 islands, of which 110 are inhabited, lies the Republic of the Fiji Islands.
[post_ads]While Fiji's landscape is not quite as jade-green as Tahiti's, its waters are equally crystal-clear, making for some of the planet's best diving amid stellar coral formations. Also unlike Tahiti, Fiji is not known for its overwater bungalows (although there are a few), but rather for thatched-roof bures (bungalows) set discreetly in the sand along miles of pristine beaches (where a few famous movies were filmed).
If a trip to Fiji is on your calendar, it's likely you'll be heading there with your significant other. Fiji's secluded private-island resorts are romantic South Pacific hideaways designed with two in mind.
And yet families will also find Fiji welcoming, as some resorts cater to parents and children.
Here's what you need to know to plan your visit:
Where is Fiji?
Fiji's islands are located in the South Pacific, about 11 hours by air from Los Angeles and four hours from Australia. They are divided into several groups.
There are two main islands: Viti Levu, the largest, is home to Nadi International Airport as well as Fiji's capital, Suva; both its southeast coast, known as the Coral Coast, and Denarau Island near Nadi, are lined with resorts.
Vanua Levu, the second largest, is located to Viti Levu's north and is home to a number of resorts catering to divers, as it's flanked by one of the world's longest barrier reefs.
The third largest island is Taveuni, known as the "Garden Island of Fiji" and covered in tropical rainforest.
The fourth largest is Kaduvu, which is least developed, making it ideal for hiking, bird-watching and eco-adventure.
The rest of Fiji's islands are divided into groups.
Off the coast of Viti Levu are the Mamanucas, 20 volcanic isles surrounded by reefs and dotted with small resorts.
The Yasawas, which consist of seven main islands and numerous small islets, stretch in a northeasterly direction off of Viti Levu.
Here, upscale resorts are popular with couples, budget properties with backpackers, and pristine waters with divers and yachters.
More removed are the Lomaivitis, which consist of seven main islands, one of which houses The Wakaya Club & Spa, one of Fiji's most exclusive resorts.
When to Go:
Fiji is a tropical destination with year-round air and water temperatures of about 80 degrees and two main seasons, summer and winter.
The ideal time to visit is during the clear, dry winter months of May to November. Yet even during the more humid summer months of December to March showers can be sporadic (typically late-afternoon and overnight) and there's usually plenty of sunshine.
How to Get There:
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the U.S. gateway to Fiji. The islands' official carrier, Air Pacific, offers daily non-stops to Nadi International Airport (NAN), as well as a codeshare connection to/from Vancouver, and nonstop flights three times a week from Honolulu.
How to Get Around:
Since Fiji has dozens of islands with resorts, the two main modes of transport are air (via domestic carrier or private seaplane or helicopter) and sea (via scheduled ferries or private boats). On the main island of Viti Levu, taxis and buses provide land links between Nadi International Airport and the resorts on Denarau Island and along the Coral Coast.
Fiji's domestic air services include Pacific Sun (Air Pacific's regional carrier) and Pacific Islands Seaplanes, and Island Hoppers Helicopters.
Regularly scheduled service is available to both the Mamanucas and Yasawas on ferries or fast catamarans, and some resorts offer private boat transfers.
When booking your resort stay, check its website for details on air and sea transfers.
Is Fiji Expensive?
Yes and no. The larger resorts on Viti Levu, such as the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa or the Shangri-La's Fijian Resort & Spa, offer affordable nightly rates (starting at about $169 per night), but guests may find food to be pricey. Almost everything except seafood, some vegetables and tropical fruit has to be shipped in.
Many private-island resort rates (which can range from $400 to $1,000 per night) may seem quite high at first glance, but that's because they are all-inclusive, meaning all meals and some beverages are included in the nightly rate.
In general, the most secluded resorts tend to be the costliest. Adding to the expense is the seaplane or helicopter transfer required to get there, which can be up to $400 per person one-way. The most affordable are budget properties that cater to backpackers and some divers.
For a complete listing of Fiji's resort options, see Fiji Tourism's accommodations guide.
Do I Need a Visa?
No, citizens of the U.S. and Canada (and dozens of other countries) need only a passport valid for at least six months after their visit and a ticket for return or onward travel. Entry visas are granted upon arrival for stays of four months or less.
Is English Spoken?
Yes. English is Fiji's official language and most people speak it, but Fijian is revered and learning a few key words and phrases is considered polite.
Do They Use U.S. dollars?
No. Fiji's currency is the Fijian dollar abbreviated as FJD. One US dollar converts to a little over 2 Fijian dollars. You can exchange money at your resort, or Nadi International Airport and most banks in major cities have ATM machines.
What Is the Electric Voltage?
It is 220-240 volts, so bring an adapter set and a converter; the outlets are three-pronged with two angled bottom prongs (as are used in Australia).
What Is the Time Zone?
Fiji lies on the other side of the International Date Line, so it is 16 hours ahead of New York and 19 hours ahead of Los Angeles. You will lose almost an entire day flying to Fiji from Los Angeles, but regain it on the return trip.
Do I Need Shots?
None are required, but making sure your routine vaccinations, such as diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus and polio, are up to date is a good idea. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are also recommended, as is typhoid. Also, bring bug repellent, as Fiji has its share of mosquitoes and other insects.