Vanua Levu for Foodies
In Fiji, it’s all about relaxation and, dare we say, the food! Fijians have a vibrant culture surrounding food, from traditional hunting methods passed on through generations to sharing food in grand feasts known as a lovo. For a truly authentic Fijian foodie experience, make your way to the less-visited of Fiji’s two large islands, Vanua Levu, where the culture has mainly gone unchanged for the local Fijians for hundreds of years. There’s also diversity, with a strong Indo-Fijian population particularly in the town of Labasa, where trying the flavoursome curries and even learning how to make their dishes yourself is a must. We’ll guide through the flavours, food-related activities, restaurants and accommodation with this guide to Vanua Levu for foodies.
Before we jump into the foodie guide to Vanua Levu, be sure to bookmark The Complete Guide to Food in Fiji, which has even more advice.
10 Things to Do on Vanua Levu for Foodies
- Indulge in a traditional Fijian lovo
- Treat her to a private beach or sandbank picnic
- Mingle with the locals at the Savusavu and Labasa markets
- Take part in a Fijian or Indo-Fijian cooking class
- Learn about traditional medicinal plants on a medicine walk
- See how Fijians welcome each other in a kava ceremony
- Learn all about the crafty coconut in a coconut demonstration
- Experience mud crabbing after dark
- Have a private dining experience on the beach, by a waterfall or on an overwater jetty
- Learn how to make pina colada with fresh pineapples.
For more information on each activity, head to our 10 Things to Do on Vanua Levu for Foodies.
How to Get to Vanua Levu
Vanua Levu is Fiji’s second-largest island, situated northeast of Viti Levu. Because most travellers arrive in Fiji via Nadi International Airport on Viti Levu, the most common way to get to Vanua Levu is via domestic flight or by ferry. Once you arrive in Vanua Levu, many of the resorts will offer transfers, while car rental and public transport are readily available. Find out more about transport in Vanua Levu in 6 Ways to Get to Vanua Levu (& Get Around Vanua Levu).
Vanua Levu by Plane
The easiest and quickest way to get to Vanua Levu is via a domestic flight to Savusavu Airport from either Nadi or Suva Airport. Flights take approximately one hour. Find out more about the airlines flying to Vanua Levu in our Vanua Levu Transport Guide.
Tip: if you’re flying with Fiji’s local airline from overseas, book your flight all the way to Savusavu to get the international luggage allowance for the entire trip. Otherwise, the domestic luggage allowance is 15kg (33 pounds).
Vanua Levu by Ferry
For those who want to save a bit of money, get the local’s experience, and who have plenty of time on their hands, there’s also the option to take one of the ferries to Vanua Levu. Ferries travel between Suva and Savusavu with bus transfers to the most populated cities on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Expect bus and ferry services to take approximately 4h30mins to 11 hours (i.e. Fiji Time). See How Much Do Water Taxis & Ferries Cost in Fiji? for approximate prices, while more details on ferry services and schedules are available in How to Take the Ferry to Vanua Levu.
Foodie Activities on Vanua Levu
Sharing food is an integral part of the Fijian culture so foodies will find a vast array of food-related activities on Vanua Levu. Here are just a few examples of what you could be experiencing.
Fijian and Indo-Fijian Cooking Classes
A foodie favourite on the islands of Fiji, Fijian cooking classes are a must! Learn how to cook Fijian food as people have done for hundreds of years in a Fijian cooking class with Savasi Island Resort. They’ll teach you how to prepare banilolo (steamed coconut bread) or kokoda (fish marinated in coconut milk), as well as how to weave staple Fijian ingredients into your own cuisine. Or if you prefer to just watch, the chefs at The Remote Resort do Fijian cooking demonstrations at the bar every Monday. Alternatively, choose between Fijian and Hindi cooking with a cooking class at Sigasiga Sands Resort. Other resorts that offer cooking classes include Nukubati, Koro Sun and Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat.
A traditional method of cooking food wrapped in banana tree leaves underground, the Fijian lovo is a mouth-watering experience usually saved for special occasions. However, guests have the opportunity to experience the smokey flavours and melt-in-your-mouth textures for themselves at resorts like the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort complete with Fijian serenaders. Lovos are also available at the Koro Sun Resort, Savasi Island Resort or help prepare one yourself at the Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat. At Nukubati Private Island, you can also experience a Tatavu, otherwise known as a Fijian barbecue.
Private Beach or Sandbank Picnic
For something utterly romantic, treat your loved one to a private picnic on the beach or on a secluded sandbank. Nukubati Private Island‘s signature activity is their sandbank picnic where they’ll set up a Champagne lunch for you amidst the Great Sea Reef complete with tables, chairs, an umbrella and a radio to call when you are ready to be picked up. Trips to deserted beaches complete with a private picnic can also be experienced with the Koro Sun Resort, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort and Emaho Sekawa Resort.
Savusavu and Labasa Markets
Mingle with the locals and check out the fabulous array of tropical fruit and vegetables for sale at the Savusavu and Labasa markets. Pick up local favourites such as cassia bark (cinnamon), wild honey, bush dhaniya (coriander), avocado, fresh mullet, cabacaba lobster, sici shells and some of the sweetest fruit! They are great places to pick up ingredients if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation (listed beside the article). Savusavu Market is located in town next to the bus station, while Labasa is located by the river by the bus station.
Go Mud Crabbing After Dark
Experiencing hunting the local way with Savasi Island Resort. Their mud crabbing experience takes you beside the mangroves and estuaries to catch crabs when they come out after dark. Learn traditional hunting methods then take your catch to the kitchen to enjoy a dish made with your freshly caught seafood. Note that this is a seasonal activity.
Coconut palms are plentiful on the island of Vanua Levu, as are the uses for coconuts. Learn how to make coconut milk, oil, chutney, brooms, mats or snacks at the Sigasiga Sands Resort. The Remote Resort offers Coconut 101 classes to learn how to craft all sorts of objects with coconuts. Similar experiences are also available at Koro Sun Resort, Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat, Savasi Island and Nukubati.
Best Restaurants on Vanua Levu
Between Vanua Levu’s resorts and towns, there are some amazing and diverse eateries. From classic Fijian to Indian to Korean, flavours from all over the world can be sampled here. Check out some of your best options in our Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants on Vanua Levu.
Best Restaurants on Vanua Levu
When you’re out and about exploring the island, make sure to stop by Savusavu’s Surf ‘n’ Turf. They have a wide offering from pasta dishes to upscale seafood dishes. We like their relaxed patio terrace to watch the boats in the harbour. On the other side of the island in Labasa, the Indo-Fijian town’s collective menu is mainly that of Indian and Chinese food, with one of the best Indo-Fijian restaurants being The Banana Leaf Restaurant, but make sure you can handle the spice. As for the resorts, all of them on the island have something to love, but a mouthwatering coconut mud crab prepared at the adult-only Latitude 17 restaurant of the Koro Sun Resort is an absolute must!
Cheap Eats on Vanua Levu
For that “street food” experience where you can often enjoy some of the most flavoursome meals on the island, head into the towns of Savusavu and Labasa. For example, try Chinese stir-fries, Indian curries, burgers and Thai food at the Taste of Hidden Paradise Restaurant. The Captain’s Cafe is a popular option to indulge in curries, pasta dishes, pizzas, burgers, enchiladas and more for around FJ$7-$20. Over the hill on the other side of Vanua Levu in Labasa, the Oriental Bar & Restaurant offers plenty of Chinese cuisine with a few Fijian options to choose from among their Fijian decor. For more recommendations, see our Top Cheap Eats on Vanua Levu.
Perhaps to celebrate a special occasion or “just because”, try a private dining experience during your stay on Vanua Levu. At the Namela Resort & Spa enjoy a romantic meal in some amazing locations around the resort, including beside a waterfall or a candlelit sea cave by the beach. Alternatively, dine under the stars with a private table set up on the beach at the Nukubati Private Island resort. A romantic set-up on the resort’s pier is also available at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort and The Remote Resort.
Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants
With a diverse population on Vanua Levu, vegetarian food is not too difficult to find. In Labasa, restaurants like Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant offer a full menu of Indian vegetarian cuisine. Alternatively, most resorts on Vanua Levu can cater to your dietary requirements when advised prior to your arrival. At the Palm Grove Restaurant at the Koro Sun Resort, they have a full vegetarian menu.