Just a short cruise from Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu lies an archipelago of 20 dramatic volcanic isles, the Yasawa Islands, where natural beauty, adventure, and Fijian culture collide.

What’s so good about the Yasawa Islands?

With minimal tourism development and a population of just over 1,000 people across 135 square kilometres, the landscape of the Yasawa Islands remains pristine and the local heritage intact.

Between beach lounging in this quintessential Fijian paradise, pick and choose as many ocean escapades, nature pursuits, and insights into local culture as you like.

And forget what you’ve heard, the Yasawa Islands aren’t just for smooching newlyweds. Young digital nomads, middle-aged flashpackers, groups and solo travellers also have these islands on their radar. With world-class wildlife encounters, fascinating cultural experiences and adrenaline-inducing fun, why wouldn’t they? But, more importantly, do you?

Let me show you just seven of the most awe-inspiring things the Yasawa Islands have to offer.

1. Island-hopping the Yasawa Islands

Can’t decide where exactly in the stunning Yasawa Islands to go first? I don’t blame you. My advice: do them all (or at least as many as you can cram in).

Buy a Bula Pass and pick your paradises by hopping on and off the Yasawa Islands Explorer catamaran. Or, for a ready-planned trip with all the highlights, opt for an island-hopping package with Awesome Adventures.

With the wind in your hair, the Fijian sun on your back and the smell of salty sea spray on your skin, there’s no better way to be transported between the scenic Yasawa Islands.


7 Awe-inspiring Experiences in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands, tammy thurman, boat cruise, islands, blue water

Photography by Andre Leithwaite

2. Swimming in the Sawa-I-Lau Caves

Location: Sawa-I-Lau Island, Northern Yasawa Islands

Ethereal in both looks and spirit, the ancient limestone Sawa-i-Lau Caves are said to be the resting place of Ulutini, Fiji’s ancient ten-headed god.

Like a flooded natural cathedral, the waters here glow a crystalline blue from sun streaming through an open-air, overgrown jungle spire. This light-filled chamber is the main swimming spot but with a guide and a little courage, you can swim through an underwater channel to a darker cave beyond.

Before you leave, an obligatory shout of ‘Bula!’ is required to see if others can hear you from the cave’s innermost depths.

The half-day cave trips are an easy hop from resorts in Northern Yasawa Islands, especially Nacula, Nanuya, Tavewa and Yasawa-i-rara Islands.

3. Snorkelling With Wild Manta Rays

Location: Between Nanuya Balavu and Drawaqa Island, Mid-Yasawa Islands

Donning a snorkel, I drift along the channel beside Drawaqa Island, an arm’s length away from Champagne and Ember.

No, they’re not expensive sparkling wines I’ve smuggled onboard for a bougie snorkel. They’re just a few of the 115+ majestic Manta rays known to grace these Fijian waters.

Between May and October, Manta rays are drawn to the Drawaqa Passage to filter-feed on plankton stirred up within the channel. The Yasawa Islands are one of only a few places in the world where you can swim with these graceful ocean giants in their natural habitat.



Spanning up to four metres long, these gentle marine creatures glide, weave and dance in mesmerising slow-motion. A truly humbling, once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounter to have in the Yasawa Islands.

My recommendation? Stay on the doorstep of the feeding site at Barefoot Manta Resort which has a resident marine biologist. You’ll be woken from your arvo hammock nap by loud bangs of a ceremonial Lali drum – the signal Manta rays have been spotted and it’s time to get your bather-clad backside into a boat.

5. Hiking Volcanic Peaks

Location: Everywhere, but I love Nacula Island

I arrived at my accommodation on Nacula Island mouth agape. The backdrop of rolling grassy mounds with protruding black peaks wildly tugged at my hiking heartstrings. It’s lunchtime and I’m advised to wait until it cools down before I go. But I just… can’t.

One of the resort staff – a young man no more than 17 – insists he’ll guide me to the trailhead. He holds my hand to steady me around a deep pool of mud which he wades through in sandals, and bids me good luck with a shy smile. A thoughtful and gentle act so typical of the Fijian people.

An hour and two litres of sweat later, I’m solo on top of the world. Tentacles of jungle-clad land reach out into the turquoise sea below me, white sand coves tucked into the nooks. For me, this is what heaven will look like.

There are so many ways to enjoy the mountainous peaks of the Yasawa Islands. A free trip to a nearby viewpoint for sunrise with your hotel’s activity guide is just one.

On Nacula Island there’s also the Blue Lagoon Resort to Safe Landing Eco-Lodge walk. A 45-minute meander along coastal paths, past jungle and mudflats to a lookout. On the way, a trail leads to the ghostly remnants of an old village.

Before you set out hiking anywhere in the Yasawa Islands, be sure to let your resort know where you’re going or ask permission first if you’re passing through nearby villages. Some land is privately owned by villages and you must have special consent to enter. Other places you’re only allowed to hike with a guide. Sunscreen, water, and a hat are always a good idea to beat the heat and stay hydrated.


7 Awe-inspiring Experiences in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands, tammy thurman

5. Snorkelling or Diving With Sharks

Location: Kuata Island, Southern Yasawa Islands

I know, I know, you’ve hardly had time to wring out your bathers. Unless you’ve brought ten pairs, soggy swimwear frankly is something you’ll have to get used to. The ocean in Fiji will beckon you daily.

For those wanting a hit of adrenaline, swimming with sharks should be at the top of your bucket list. There are two ways to do it – snorkelling or diving.

Fiji is one of the best countries in the world for shark diving The Awakening Shark Dive at Barefoot Kuata Resort is developed and studied by shark experts and a bucket list dive. Diving 10-22 metres, you’ll encounter Bull, Reef, Tiger, Lemon, Hammerhead, and Whitetip sharks.

But if diving isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out! You can still partake closer to the surface with a reef shark snorkel instead.

6. A Local Village Stay

Location: Naviti or Nanuya Balavu Island

There’s a skill in making someone feel truly at home. And Fijians have mastered it. Moments after arriving, everyone knows your name. They know how you like your cocktail. They know what to give you more of at dinner. But instead of just feeling at home, why not be at home (at least for a short while)?

We all know that slow travel, to wholly submerge yourself in a local way of life, is the best kind of travel. But voluntourism tops even that. You do good and feel good. Simple.

A trip with Vinaka Fiji, a government-endorsed volunteer program, offers visitors the opportunity to live, love, and give back to the Yasawa Islands. Work in education, livelihood, and conservation-related programs for a week to six months. One day you could be eradicating marine pests, the next helping to build a school.


7 Awe-inspiring Experiences in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands, photo credit Vinaka Fiji, mountains, houses, friends, smile laugh

Photo by Vinaka Fiji


For those without the luxury of time, a village visit will give you the same warm fuzzies. You’ll be welcomed to the community with a traditional kava ceremony (a sedative-like drink made from the Piper methysticum plant), a cultural dance and beaming smiles all round.

7. Sunset Sea Tubing

Location: Mantaray Island Resort, Octopus Resort or Paradise Cave Resort, Blue Lagoon Resort

An ice-cold Fiji Gold in hand, some good tunes, and new mates. There’s no better way to wind down after a hard day’s adventuring (or chilling) than to watch nature’s spectacular daily farewell show as you float on clear Fijian waters.


7 Awe-inspiring Experiences in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands, tammy thurman


I know I’ve banged on about how much there is to do in Fiji. But it’s important to slow down too. To share stories. To listen. To laugh. And especially to enjoy ‘Fiji time’ – the locals’ laid-back attitude to having a schedule (and indeed, life).

Seqa na leqa (no worries) is a phrase you’ll hear a lot in Fiji. Use it as the mantra for your trip. Unless of course, you’re thinking about booking in which case do hurry, the good life is waiting!


Photos supplied by Tourism Fiji