Like a pearl necklace strung across a turquoise sea, the Yasawa Islands are the precious gems in Fiji’s much-bejewelled crown. Located north of the Mamanuca Group, the 20 or so islands and islets of the Yasawas reach 80km northward into the South Pacific Ocean.
In the Yasawa Islands you’ll find the kind of ‘postcard perfect’ tropical islands seen in dreamy Fiji holiday brochures that inspire one to hop on a plane to Fiji with little more than a bikini and sulu (sarong) or board-shorts and floral shirt required. With no shortage of white sand beaches shaded by coconut palms on a backdrop of turquoise water, the Yasawas far-flung location from mainland Viti Levu make them all the more attractive.
Cruise operators depart for the Yasawas from Viti Levu ports of Port Denarau Marina or Lautoka, the two major centres of Fiji’s cruise and boating industry. Though you could also take a seaplane to the Yasawas if boating is not your thing. A water taxi service, the Yasawa Flyer also hops between the islands on a regular schedule, a particularly useful method of getting around if you want to bed down on a few different island resorts.
The Yasawa Islands started popping onto tourist radars not long after Brooke Shields emerged from the Blue Lagoon in 1980 looking radiantly bewildered by her good fortune to be marooned amidst such extraordinary beauty. The name Blue Lagoon is given to the waters that lay between Turtle and Nanuya Laila Islands midway up the archipelago. It’s a particularly popular stopover for cruise ships with passengers keen on snorkelling, swimming or relaxing beneath coconut palms on the beach.
Stunning Turtle Island (or Nanuya Levu is the islands Fijian name) is the home to a small luxury resort across the lagoon often favoured by honeymooners, celebrities and those seeking tropical-infused privacy.
Waya Island has some terrific hikes up and over forest-clad volcanic hills which reward hikers with gorgeous views from the summit, particularly if timed to coincide with sunrise or sunset.
The largest island in the archipelago is Naviti Island north of Waya is home to the group’s highest chief. The church at Soso village is worth a visit for its fine wood carvings. Visit on a Sunday and you’ll also be blessed with harmonic hymns ringing out across the village green. Don’t forget to seek permission though before visiting a village. It’s customary to present an offering of yaqona (also known as kava) root to the chief or his representative before entering a village.
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