The Must-Dos 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 or even scroll through this list of things to do in the Yasawa Islands and 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 Yasawa Islands must-dos!
While you’re here, you might want to check out our Complete Guide to the Yasawa Islands.
1. Visit the Sawa-i-Lau Caves
Delve into an ancient limestone cave on the edge of the azure Blue Lagoon. Carved by constant wave action, the Sawa-i-Lau Caves have spectacular formations, as well as an underwater tunnel to a hidden chamber. This natural attraction is well worth adding to the bucket list. Plus, it’s not that hard to get to thanks to most Yasawa resorts offering trips to the caves. Check out How to Get to the Sawa-i-Lau Caves in Fiji for more information and check out more day trips like this in The Best Day Trips from the Yasawa Islands.
2. Swim with Giant Manta Rays
An unmissable underwater experience makes itself available between May and October every year when giant manta ray glide through the narrow channels of the Yasawa Islands. Watching these graceful creatures, which are around 4m (12ft) long, gliding through the crystal clear waters is a stunning experience. Resorts do snorkelling boat trips during the manta ray season, such as Mantaray Island Resort, Barefoot Manta, Navutu Stars and more. Find out more about this experience in The Guide to Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji.
3. Snorkel or Dive with Sharks
There are very few places in the world where you can jump in the water with tiger sharks, bull sharks, tawny nurse sharks and lemon tip sharks without a cage! Get uninterrupted views of these majestic creatures on a shark scuba diving trip available with the Barefoot Kuata Resort. The team at Barefoot feed the sharks as part of local conservation efforts, while you watch the mesmerising show right in front of your eyes. If scuba diving with big sharks is out of your comfort zone (or budget), then snorkelling with reef sharks is another amazing experience available at Barefoot Kuata, Naqalia Lodge and homestays on Wayalailai Island.
4. 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. Check out more snorkelling hotspots in The Ultimate Guide to Snorkelling in Fiji.
5. 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. Check out walks on the islands at the 7 Best Walks in the Yasawa Islands.
6. 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, Expedia 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.
7. Do a Fiji Cooking Lesson
Available at most 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. See more experiences like this in the 10 Things to Do in the Yasawa Islands for Foodies.
8. Make Some Fijian Crafts
If you need more convincing that the island culture is well and truly alive in the Yasawa Islands, set your sights on the many arts and crafts of the islands. Most resorts, lodges and homestays offer ways to engage this way with the Fijian culture for free or a minimal fee through weaving your own bag, hat or dinner plate! You can even make your own coconut bracelet as your very own island souvenir. Crafting is a great activity for kids, as are the items on our 10 Things to Do in the Yasawa Islands with Kids.
9. 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 teeming 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. Find out more about scuba in the Yasawas in The Guide to Scuba Diving in Fiji.
10. 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. Get more kayaking advice in the 6 Best Kayak Tours in Fiji.
11. Catch Your Own Dinner in Handline Fishing or Spearfishing
Fishing in Fiji is a hugely popular activity, especially with adventurous game fish to catch like yellowfin tuna, mahimahi and giant trevally! While game fishing is highly popular in the Yasawas, we recommend trying something different… Catch dinner using real islander fishing methods! Join the crew of the Mantaray Island Resort for a short stroll to a nearby reef to try your luck at handline fishing. The resort also offers spearfishing trips, as does Naqalia Lodge which mixes stunning underwater landscapes with catching dinner! We also include this activity in our 10 Things to Do in the Yasawa Islands for Foodies!
12. Indulge in a Luxurious Beachfront Massage
A trip to Fiji is about spoiling yourself and that’s pretty easy to do thanks to the help of the Yasawa Islands’ spas. Try a traditional Fijian spa treatment combined with natural Fijian spa products or stick with a familiar treatment to unwind in comfort – you really have a lot of choice at the Yasawa spas! Not only that, but you have some of the most stunning spa settings in the world. The Yasawa Island Resort, for instance, has open-air treatment rooms overhanging the beach, giving you the most spectacular views and soothing island breeze to go with your indulgent treatment. See our 6 Best Spas in the Yasawa Islands for more spas worth trying.
13. Experience 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 that 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. Fly to Your Yasawa Island Resort
While there are many ways to get to the Yasawa Islands from Fiji’s mainland, Vit Levu, taking a 20-30 minute seaplane flight combines luxury and sensational views of the archipelago. Seaplane operators, like Pacific Island Air (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Turtle Airways (on Viator and Tripadvisor), depart from Nadi International Airport and Port Denarau flying directly to resorts. See more activities like this in our 10 Luxury Activities in the Yasawa Islands.
16. Do a Small Ship Cruise Around the Yasawa Islands
For the ultimate convenience with your accommodation, dining, transport and some activities sorted consider a small ship cruise around the Yasawa Islands. Blue Lagoon Cruises offers adult-only cruises around the Yasawa Islands for three, four and seven nights (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), while Captain Cook Cruises offers more family-friendly cruises (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Cruises are a great way to see more than just one resort! Both cruise ships depart from Port Denarau.
17. Stay in One of the Adult-Only Resorts
Looking for a romantic getaway, a solo trip to unwind or a mate’s holiday with a bit of luxury? The gorgeous adult-only resorts of the Yasawa Islands is the way to go! With no guests under the age of 16 and with the Yasawa’s adult-only resorts having a limited number of bures (bungalows), you’ll be sure to enjoy your “Fiji time” undisturbed. Learn more in our list of 5 Adult-Only Resorts in the Yasawa Islands.
18. Island-Hop on a Budget
For a backpacking adventure in Fiji, get yourself an island-hopping pass with Awesome Adventures (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and go from resort to resort around the Yasawas. The Yasawa Islands are blessed with an abundance of budget resorts, lodges and homestays where finding a cheap dorm in paradise is never too hard. Each accommodation is packed with its own selection of awesome activities, so check out our 10 Budget Accommodation in the Yasawa Islands for more information.
19. Try a Traditional Lovo Feast
Visitors to the Yasawa Islands have the privilege to taste the flavours of Fiji with traditional lovo feasts – food slow-cooked in an underground oven. Watch the unveiling of the lovo then tuck into a feast of smokey and tender meat, fish and vegetables. While lovos are a staple of many resorts in the Yasawas, the Barefoot Manta Resort offers guests a unique opportunity to weave their own dinner plates and enjoy a cooking lesson before indulging in a lovo feast. For more activities like this, see our 10 Things to Do in the Yasawa Islands for Foodies.
20. Treat Your Loved One to a Beach Picnic
Mix romance, spectacular scenery and yummy cuisine in a Yasawa Islands beach picnic. Resort chefs will prepare for you a gourmet picnic before you and your lucky partner are taken to a secluded beach. It’s the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion or even ask the “big” question! This romantic dining experience is available at resorts like the Yasawa Island Resort, Barefoot Manta, Navutu Stars and Turtle Island Fiji. Take a look at the other 10 Romantic Activities in the Yasawa Islands for Couples.
21. Embrace Fiji Time
So we’ve mentioned a lot of active activities on this list of must-dos in the Yasawa Islands, but remember, a trip to Fiji should always involve some R&R time. In fact, Fijians have their own ideology that they proudly call “Fiji time” which is definitely felt on the Yasawa Islands. It means that nothing happens too quickly so just relax! You’ll definitely have plenty of opportunities to do just that, whether it’s lounging by the pool, lazying in a hammock on the beach or sipping cocktails at your resort’s bar. Learn more in our What Does Fiji Time Mean? (& What You Need to Know About It).