Where and How to Experience the Fijian Culture
One of the delights of visiting the islands of Fiji is just how accessible the Fijian culture is. Along with a stunning array of islands come the Fijian people with a distinct culture, customs and traditions that are still played out the same as they were centuries ago. Many of the ceremonies listed in this article are performed throughout the daily lives of the locals and not just for the tourists. So when you’re visiting a village, or even chatting to the locals at one of the city markets, you know you’re getting the real deal. Historical places around Fiji also give a great insight into the culture, so we have been sure to add a couple to the list below too.
For more advice on Fijian cultural activities, take a look at How to Have a Real Fiji Cultural Experience.
1. Village Visits and Village Stays
Spending time in a traditional Fijian village, should it be in the heartland of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, or on one of the 300+ remote islands, is a must-do experience in Fiji. There you will experience life at a different pace, spend time learning about the traditional Fijian way of life, and truly disconnect from the hustle and bustle of your life back home. While visiting authentic Fijian villages you will need to be aware of a few customs so get wised up with our Fiji Village Etiquette: What to Do When Visiting a Fijian Village.
2. Join a Kava Ceremony
Made of ground Yaqona root, the kava drink is probably the most prominent aspect of the Fijian culture alive today. Although the drink is addictive, numbing and kind of tastes like dirt, the ceremony itself is a great testament to what the Fijian culture is all about: respect, authenticity and welcoming. A kava ceremony is organised by most resorts on a daily or weekly basis and all steps of the ceremony, although spoken in Fijian, will be explained in English to the crowd. Plus, the kava served to the guest is often heavily diluted with water making it much more bearable for those not used to the taste, so it’s definitely worth a try! If you don’t experience one in your resort, you’ll definitely experience a kava ceremony when spending time in a Fijian village (see above).
3. Firewalking Ceremony
Common to both the Fijian and Hindu culture, firewalking is a cross-cultural experience in Fiji. On the Fijian side, the men of the Island of Beqa firewalk as a rite of passage. The process is quite strenuous abstaining from eating coconut and from sex for 10 days before performing. You can see such performances in Beqa and selected spots on the Pacific Harbour. Hindu firewalking, on the other hand, happens at the full moon and are a colourful event that concludes 10 days of isolation and a strict diet for the men that perform it.
4. Lovo Ceremony
Similar to a kalua in Hawaii or a hangi in New Zealand, a lovo is a traditional Polynesian feast cooked underground. A lovo Ceremony pays respect to mother nature for providing such delicacies and is a welcoming ceremony often organised to welcome important guests visiting remote villages. The food cooks for hours underground and, in turn, becomes juicy and tender making for a great culinary experience. Although it is best experienced in traditional villages, many resorts hire villagers to come and cook Lovo for guests on a weekly basis. It’s a foodie must-do!
5. Meke Ceremony
The meke ceremony is probably the ceremony that will teach you the most about the Fijian legends and myths. Between songs and fire dancing, it celebrates the local legends and tells stories of yesteryears in the most Fijian way. The soothing voices of the local women and the impressive fire bola skills of the Fijian men make for a genuine and memorable evening that is poised to be the highlight of your trip. For this reason, almost all resorts and hotels either organise a ceremony or transport guests to one multiple times per week.
6. Tomb Of Udre Udre
Udre Udre’s Grave is a humbling sight and a stark reminder of the violent roots of the Fijian culture. Surrounded by 800 stones representing the 800 victims of Udre Udre, the tomb celebrates one of the most violent tribal chiefs that the country ever had. Udre Udre is said to have killed and eaten over 800 people during his reign at the peak of the Fijian cannibal period. This achievement, believe it or not, awarded him a postmortem Guinness World Record in 2003.
Check out the Tomb of Udre Udre near Rakiraki on the Suncoast of Viti Levu.
7. Naihehe Caves
Tours of the stunning caves in central Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, will take you through mesmerising landscapes, great cave formations and a few gnarly passages. On top of that, the caves are filled with history from its cannibal-inhabitant past to today’s conservation effort without forgetting the authentic nearby village. The tour with Off Road Cave Safari is a brilliant way to experience it all and challenge yourself along the way! Pickups are available from many resorts so all you need to do is strap on some decent shoes.
Check Off Road Cave Safari out:
8. Sacred Cobra Rock
A rock that grows and cures the sick?! There is much to learn about the Fijian culture and legends including this one. If visiting the island of Vanua Levu, the rock that can be seen in the Naag Mandir Temple is surrounded by a plethora of offerings each one more vivid than last. It is a great photo-op and a truly unique place in Fiji and the world.
9. Sebato Hot Springs
Run by a local village on the back roads of Nadi, the Sebato Hot Springs shows you exactly why the Fijian culture and relaxing come hand-in-hand. While the main attractions of the hot springs are the natural hot pools and mud pools, the experience just feels “Fijian”. You’ll experience the welcoming Fijian hospitality from the family who own the pools, have the opportunity to taste authentic Fijian food while sitting on the floor (the Fijian way!) with the locals, get a Fijian massage from their massage parlour, and buy handicrafts from stalls set up by the local villagers.
10. Handicraft Markets
If you are after authentic gifts and colourful souvenirs then craft markets are a great place to seek true Fijian art. The craft culture of the islands is alive and well even in the day and age of the “Made in China”, from ingenious jewellery boxes to intricately woven patterns without forgetting the impressive skills of the woodcarvers. You will be amazed by what the stalls of the local craft markets have to offer. On top of all that, visiting a craft market is a great chance to discuss with the friendly local craftsmen and women.
Learn more in our guide to Where to Buy the Best Souvenirs in Fiji.