We have discovered the beauty of a layover (technically a stopover?) on our long haul flights. When our kids were much younger, I would pay extra to fly direct to our destination to minimize our travel time. Now that our kids can pull their own luggage and entertain themselves on flights, we have enjoyed adding in an extra stop or two as a way to explore even more places! Our 14-year-old, who planned our 2019 summer trip, took full advantage of this by adding in a 4-day layover in Fiji on our way to Australia. Fiji Airways had a direct flight from SFO to Fiji which made our decision pretty easy. We departed SFO at 11pm and arrived in Fiji at 5am (two days later due to crossing the international date line).
Nanuku – an Auberge Resort
We stayed at Nanuku which is on Nadi. Although it’s on the same island as the airport it’s still a 3 hour drive which feels long after a 10 hour flight. Originally, we had planned to stay at the new Six Senses resort since our son loved Yao Noi in Thailand. However, it had a “soft opening” in 2019 and much of the resort was still under construction when we were due to arrive. So we decided at the last minute to switch to Nanuku since it had amazing reviews and was very welcoming of children.
Upon arrival, we received a traditional warrior welcome. Our itokani (buddy) was dressed in full Fijian dress as a village chief and they beat a wooden drum as they paraded us through the resort entrance to the pool. They gave us all flowers, freshly picked coconut and necklaces for the kids. It was quite a start to our vacation!
We chose a 2-bedroom beachfront residence with a private pool. There were 2 master suites – one upstairs and one in a separate guest house. Our 14-year-old took the guest house leaving our two younger kids to sleep on rollaways in the living room. It would have been more family friendly if one of the rooms had 2 Queens, but the living room was off a hallway and separate from the main living area so it was quiet and private for them. The weather was unseasonably cool and overcast when we were there. We ended up spending a lot of time at our residence pool and the hot tub near the main pool. We walked along the beach but didn’t swim as the water was rather choppy (due to the weather).
Although the weather was not ideal we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the resort. This hot tub was rather secluded and had great beach views. It also had a bell we could ring for drink service. The kids took full advantage of that!
We had 5 complimentary bikes waiting at our residence when we arrived. It made getting around the property a lot more fun! We rode them to meals, the main pool & hot tub and to explore all around the property.
We wanted a chance to explore some of the island beyond the resort, but we also wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to relax. We knew the weather in Australia would be cooler so we wanted to take full advantage of the warm weather and water. As a result, we chose only two activities outside the hotel.
Tubing the Navua River
Our first adventure was a day on the Navua River which actually reminded me of the motorized canoe trip we took in Panama on the Chagres River. We began by boarding a traditional wooden longboat to go up the Navua River. We were going against the current and there were some areas where our guides navigated expertly through rapids and shallow/rocky areas. We passed through deep gorges and past emerald rainforest with tropical birds and giant fruit bats flying overhead.
After traveling up river for about 45 minutes we stopped to visit a remote Fijian village. Here we learned some of their local customs and traditions. Out of respect, women had to cover their legs (by wearing pants, skirts or a towel wrapped around the waist) and we were not allowed to take any pictures. After we passed through the village, we took a hike back to the river through the lush rainforest.
We took the boats back down the river a bit for a refreshing swim in a deep clear pool fed by a cascading waterfall. The kids enjoyed jumping off the rocks into the pool. One of our guides climbed about three-quarters of the way to the top and then jumped in! It was quite impressive!
After a riverside lunch, we all got into tubes and headed downriver. The water was calm with some interspersed gentle rapids and a decent current kept us moving along. It was such a fun & relaxing day!
We coordinated a zip-lining adventure with Zip Fiji in Suva. My kids never get tired of zip-lining so we typically scout out a place on each trip. We were picked up at our hotel and then had about a 45-60 minute drive including picking up a few more passengers and a stop at an ATM.
We quickly got suited up, had a brief safety talk and then we were off. Although I felt safe, I will say that compared to other courses we have been on this one did not feel like it was the same quality. It did not feel as well maintained as some others we have been on and it was also a much shorter course. It was 9 lines long and we sped through. However, at the end of the 7th line, they gave us the option to rappel down from the platform and begin the course again. At first, we all thought they were joking, but they weren’t! So we rappelled down and began again which made the entire excursion seem more worthwhile. The last line over a river was my favorite!
One thing I love about zip-lining is being out in the rainforest and admiring the unique scenery. In that respect, this experience did not disappoint. But it definitely wasn’t one of my favorites either.
As I mentioned, we spent the bulk of our time in Fiji at the resort relaxing and decompressing. I spent some quality time at the gym and we all went to the spa: massages for Mike & I; facials for the kids. We biked, walked, and tested out all of the hammocks & swings.
There were lots of games set up on the beach as well as croquet and sand volleyball. The staff was great about trying to include our kids and engage them in activities. Our 9-year-old was most receptive and sometimes our 12-year-old. Our 14-year-old wasn’t really interested. But each time they ran into one of the kids they always greeted them by name which impressed me.
One of my favorite experiences at Nanuku was taking part in a traditional Fijian meke, which conjures up folk legends, spirits and history through a combination of dance and storytelling. While a lot of the Fijian landscape reminded me of the Hawaiian Islands, the history is much different and to me, that’s part of what makes our experience here unique.
Afterwards we took part in a traditional kava ceremony. We learned about the traditional and cultural significance of this earthy, pungent-tasting drink prepared from the pounded root of a pepper plant species. You’ll be greeted by a resounding “bula!” by the bete, or village priest. One at a time, we were passed a cup of kava. We had to clap three times and then gulp down the entire cup at once and feel your lips go numb and a growing sense of calm (which is normal!).