Popular Port Denarau Shore Excursions
Day trips to nearby islands are quite popular from Port Denarau. For example, Captain Cook Cruises' beautiful tall ship Ra Marama and its sailing catamaran Fiji One offer daily trips to nearby Tivua Island in the Mamanuca group. The day includes snorkeling and glass-bottom boat rides, a tropical buffet lunch, morning and afternoon teas, beer/wine/soft drinks on the island and a kava ceremony. Passengers can play volleyball, use the kayaks, snorkel or laze on the sand and listen to a Fijian band. South Sea Cruises' day trips venture farther north to the Yasawa island of Botaira for a day on the beach with a two-course seafood lunch and snorkeling. The Yasawa Flyer cruises past many villages and islands, and commentary is provided.
Keen fishermen and women should team up with a few pals in advance to charter a fishing boat (complete with skipper and crew) from Port Denarau. Adrenalin Fiji offers three boats and trips venturing into the Pacific to try and hook marlin, tuna, Spanish mackerel and the local fish, mahi mahi.
The Garden of the Sleeping Giant is nestled beneath the mountain feature of the same name, about a 10-minute drive northeast of Nadi Town. Created as the private garden of the late American actor Raymond Burr (of Perry Mason and Ironside fame), it is filled with fabulous plants and more than 2,000 varieties of orchids. A guide is available to accompany visitors at no extra charge. The garden is small and takes between 90 minutes and two hours to explore, so it's worth combining the trip with a visit to the nearby Sabeto Mud Pools. Here, you roll around in natural mud pools and wash off in thermal spring waters -- but don't expect a five-star spa. This is natural Fiji! The mud pools are meters from the Garden of the Sleeping Giant and a huge hit with visitors; there's an entrance fee and a rudimentary massage costs extra.
The Sigatoka River Safari is a jet boat ride that skims over the river and executes 360-degree airborne spins. It's combined with a village visit, kava ceremony and lunch and is the perfect day tour for those who want to get off the beaten track. It operates every day with early pickups from hotels and Denarau resorts for the hour-long drive to Sigatoka Town through wild rural scenery. At the river, you board a sleek jet boat for a fun and hair-raising ride on the river past farmers, fishermen and wonderful mountain scenery. At the traditional village, visitors don their complimentary "sulu" (sarong) to wear for a guided tour, kava ceremony, a concert and lunch -- followed by dancing.
A visit to Nadi's Hindu temple, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, offers a departure from the usual island, beach and adventure activities. You can't miss the colorful Sri Subramaniya Swami Temple on Nadi's main road. An hour spent here is a very peaceful experience. The complex has a good vegetarian eatery. It's open daily until 8 p.m.
Visiting a cave where cannibals cooked and ate their victims is certainly a must-do in Fiji. The Off-Road Cave Safari, operated by the same company that runs the Sigatoka River Safari, offers a fantastic half-day trip. From Sigatoka Town, passengers board a large 10-seat ATV and head into the jungle, driving through remote villages and past majestic rural scenery. Before entering Naihehe Cave, visitors drink kava with the local priest who guards the cave. It's a tight squeeze into the first cave chamber, but once through the crevice, the second chamber is a vast cavern. The third chamber contains the oven -- a hole in a big stalagmite where unlucky missionaries and other enemies were cooked -- but that was more than 130 years ago.
Best for Quick Swim: As Denarau Island is a reclaimed mangrove swamp, beaches are not white and alluring; however, all the resorts groom their beaches and put on a top level of white sand. Day trippers are usually not allowed to swim at resort beaches because they can take up the deck chairs and other facilities reserved for paying guests. However, keen swimmers are advised to ask at the reception desk of the individual resorts, which might be willing to oblige if passengers have lunch at the facility. Sofitel, for example, only allows access to its pool and beach if a day room is booked. Passengers are advised to buy a day pass on the Bula Bus (which visits all seven resorts and the port in a day for FJ$8) and explore that way. Ask the information deck at Port Denarau about tickets.
Best to Reach by Boat: White sandy beaches are found on the Mamanuca Islands offshore from Port Denarau. The closest is Malolo Island, about 15 miles away, which was set to re-open in late August 2013 after damage from Cyclone Evan. South Sea Cruises runs a day trip that calls at Malolo, Treasure Island, Mana Island and Castaway Island. Passengers get off at their chosen destination and spend most of the day having lunch at the island resort cafe and swimming. The trip departs the port at 9 a.m. daily and returns around 6 p.m. with dropoffs and pickups from the islands along the way.
Best to Reach by Road: Natadola Beach has been called "supremely beautiful" by guidebook writers and Captain Cook Cruises' staff. It's advisable to visit on a calm day. Located about 25 kilometers south of Denarau (between Denarau and Sigatoka), visitors can take a taxi or, for a cheaper option, jump on the local buses that run along the main Queens Road that circles Fiji. The best place to pick up a bus is in Nadi Town. Take the West Bus from Port Denarau to Nadi Town. Ask the Port Denarau information desk for advice.