What to Do on the Yasawa Islands
If you envisioned your holiday in Fiji to involve small tropical islands topped with lush rainforest, sandy beaches backed with coconut trees, clear waters perfect for snorkelling, then you’re probably picturing the Yasawa Islands. Yasawa means Heaven in Fijian and once you arrive at these picturesque islands you’ll soon find out why. The island group situated north of the mainland has some 30 resorts spread across 12 main islands, as well as an abundance of homestays with friendly locals in Fijian villages. Either pick your base for your time in the Yasawas or hop on and off the islands staying in different resorts through the regular ferry service, the Yasawa Flyer. With that, you’ll be ready to hit some of the amazing activities that this island group has to offer, from unique experiences such as swimming with manta rays to classic Fijian activities that you can do in other areas of Fiji (but somehow something about the Yasawas makes it feel so much better). Start adding your dream activities to the bucket list with this list of things to do in the Yasawa Islands!
1. Snorkel or Dive with Sharks
The Yasawa Islands are one of the best places in Fiji to get up-close to sharks in their natural environment. Jump in the waters of the Moyia Reef, a short boat trip from Kuata and Waya Lailai Islands, and snorkel with Whitetip Reef Sharks among corals and other tropical fish! Alternatively, diving trips depart from Barefoot Kuata Resort where you’ll get to watch dive masters feeding giant Bull Sharks! It’s an adrenaline-pumping and unforgettable experience. Find out more about swimming with sharks in our 5 Epic Places to See Sharks in Fiji.
2. Snorkel in the Blue Lagoon
In the northern end of the Yasawa Islands, the Blue Lagoon is ringed by beautiful islands. As the name suggests, there are many shades of vivid blue within this lagoon thanks to the mix of shallow sandy waters leading to white sand beaches, as well as darker shades where the coral lies. Needless to say, snorkelling in these sheltered waters is a truly inviting experience with calm and clear waters to watch the array of tropical fish below. This truly is a stunning place to visit in the Yasawa Islands.
3. Hike to Volcanic Peaks
Many of the islands in the southern end of the Yasawas have rugged volcanic peaks begging to be climbed! Getting to the top rewards you will sensational views of the surrounding islands and the Pacific Ocean – it’s well worth the effort! Hikes will either be free or you will need a local guide where trails are unmarked – just ask at your accommodation reception. The best time to go is for sunset or sunrise, as it’s not only the coolest time of the day, but it will add a whole new stunning light to the views.
4. Visit or Stay in a Fijian Village
Many of the Yasawa Islands are dotted with villages where Fijians have lived isolated on these islands for hundreds of years. Village visits that are organised with resorts offer a relaxed way to see the Fijian way of life and mingle with the friendly locals. Alternatively, there are several homestays and village stays run by local villagers which can be organised through Airbnb and Booking.com. Staying in a Fijian village is the best way to immerse in the culture and watch ancient traditions being played out as part of everyday life. Remember to respect the customs of visiting a village, such as wearing a sarong (Sulu), don’t wear a hat, and you will need some yaqona (kava root) to present to the village hosts. Find out more in our Guide to Fijian Village Etiquette.
5. Do a Fiji Cooking Lesson
Available in resorts and some homestays, a Fiji cooking lesson is a great way to learn more about the island way of life and learning to cook with tropical fruit, vegetable and fish that you probably have never used back home. Traditional meals include root vegetables like cassava, fresh fish, crab and tropical fruit such as mangos, papaya and the intriguing breadfruit. A must-try is a marinated fish dish called Kokoda, as well as smoked fish. A cooking lesson in a resort will offer a classic “tutor” style lesson while a homestay cooking lesson will feel more like learning on the job as you help prepare the evening meal.
6. Delve into the Sawailau Caves
One of the unique things to do in the Yasawa Islands is to explore the Sawailau Caves. This breathtaking limestone cave formed by years of wave erosion can be accessed with boat trips departing the Blue Lagoon area in the northern Yasawas. Learn about the local Fijian legends of this sacred place, go for a dip in its sheltered waters and even swim to the secret cavern through an underwater tunnel. Half-day tours to the caves can also be organised with Exotic Holidays Fiji.
7. Swim With Manta Rays
If you’re lucky enough to be in the Yasawas between May to October then don’t miss your chance to swim with giant manta rays! These majestic sea creatures are a joy to swim with as they slowly glide beneath you opening their huge mouths to feed on plankton. You can swim with them pretty much any day between May and October as they move through the channel between Nanuya Balavu and Drawaqa Islands.
8. Go Scuba Diving
While sharks and manta rays may take all the limelight when it comes to the marine life in the Yasawa Islands, that’s not to say that there isn’t a whole ocean out there holding an incredible array of astonishing wildlife. The coral reefs are teaming with tropical fish, eels, seahorses and much more. What’s more the water is clear and warm making it the ideal scuba diving environment for both experienced divers and beginners! Most resorts in the Yasawas have their own certified diving instructors to take you to the best dive sites of the area.
9. Go Kayaking
Glide over Fiji’s clear blue waters and enjoy this tranquil way to explore the islands. Kayaking is available at many resorts, usually to hire for free if you’re staying a guest. Otherwise, it’s worth taking one of the guided kayaking trips so you can discover the hidden gems and best snorkelling spots around the islands.
10. Learn Some Fijian Crafts
Relaxing under the shade of a tree while weaving yourself a new hat or basket doesn’t get any more “island life” than this! Many of the resorts offer complimentary or paid craft lessons where staff from the local villages will be happy to show you how to weave using vegetation from around the island.
11. Go Fishing!
Fishing has always been a way of life for islanders so it’s another great way to immerse in the culture. Catch yourself a fish through hand-line fishing, trolling or even spearfishing like you’re on Survivor. Some fishing trips will be a relaxed experience and a great day out on the water, while the more serious anglers among you can join a fishing charter to catch some big game, such as Blue Marlin, Giant Trevally, Yellow Fin Tuna and much more. Check out What Types of Fish Can You Fish For in Fiji!
12. Relax With an Island Massage
Already when approaching the Yasawas you will feel the stress of modern life leave you, but more so when you are relaxing under palm trees being treated to an island massage. Spas and massages are a big thing in Fiji, especially in resorts which will offer traditional Fijian-style massages among their spa menus. Treat yourself in some of the most scenic and relaxing spa settings of the Yasawa Islands.
13. Kava, Meke and Fire Dancing!
The resorts of the Yasawa Islands are pretty exciting places to be, helping you jump straight into the Fijian culture with a Kava Ceremony. Kava, or Yaqona, is a root crushed and mixed with water to make a traditional drink which is shared among the hosts and guests. It has an earthy taste and will leave your mouth rather tingly (and your head if you have too much). Remember if you are doing a village visit that has not been organised through a tour or resort then you will need to bring your own kava root. Resorts will also put on night “meke” shows with traditional dancing, as well as fire shows.
14. Place Your Bets for Crab Racing!
One of the more ridiculous activities on the Yasawa Islands’ resorts is crab racing. After dark, join the staff in collecting hermit crabs to compete in a race. Pick the crab that you think will be the fastest and they’re off! It’s a crazy fun social activity to do with your resort, but don’t worry, no crabs are harmed!
15. Take a Scenic Flight
Sure, the Yasawa Islands look breathtaking from the ocean, but nothing beats the view from the skies! See the Pacific Ocean peppered with paradise island as you soar the skies in a seaplane or helicopter ride. Take a flight from Denarau on the mainland, passing over volcanic ridge and rainforests and land straight at your resort in the fastest way to transfer to the Yasawa Islands.