Wander through tropical blooms in the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. © Westend61

The real Fiji: five grassroots experiences


If you're bored of beaches and tropical cocktails, try some of these authentic Fijian experiences for a taste of real island life. 

1. Visit the market at Lautoka

Lautoka produce market is bustling with action. This is where locals buy and sell their fresh vegetables, fruit and seafood. Baskets of chillies, seaweed and crabs and piles of pineapples and mangoes fill trading tables and spill across blankets on the huge hall’s floors. It’s a colourful, noisy, fascinating scene and, despite the rather dim light, great for photography.

2. Dine at Tukuni Restaurant

Tukuni Restaurant, just north of Lautoka, is the centre of Friends of Fiji, an organisation founded to help heal rifts in the community after the civil unrest a few years ago. As well as promoting organic agriculture, sustainable farming practices and positive lifestyles, Tukuni welcomes visitors and serves wonderfully healthy food. 

3. Wander through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant

Garden of the Sleeping Giant is a magical spot that reveals what can be achieved in a tropical climate with time and determination. Thousands of orchids of every imaginable colour and design line the paths and crowd the slopes of this intensely lush valley. It’s another world in here; wandering slowly through the cool garden tunnels is a delicious way to spend time.

4. Explore Tavuni Hill Fort

Tavuni Hill Fort, a site overlooking Sigatoka River, was occupied by hundreds of people until the 1870s when Fiji’s tribal wars ended and is historically fascinating. Remnants of stone houses, gardens, ovens and defense walls are clearly evident. Grab a brochure from the visitor centre or pay a little bit more for a guide to accompany you on the short, easy walk. 

5. Jet-boat on the Sigatoka River

A Sigatoka River Safari will take you into the wilderness, with a thrilling jet-boat ride to a small riverside village where you’ll be hosted by locals and given insight into a traditional way of life. After a welcoming kava ceremony, you’ll be guided around the village, given the opportunity to talk to local families and fed lunch in the community hall. Yes it’s put on for the tourists, but it is genuine and low-key. 

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