Island Hopping in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands
Island hopping in Fiji is one of the most epic trips you can make in the South Pacific. And, if there is one region where you can easily do this, it is the Yasawa Islands group.
The Yasawa Islands consists of around 20 volcanic islands in the north west region of Fiji. The islands stretch for about 140 kilometers north west from the coast of Viti Levu.
There are seven main larger islands (Waya, Naviti, Nacula, Yasawa, Yanggeta, and Matacawalevu) which are each surrounded by a collection of smaller islands.
Incredibly, you can island hop between almost all of the Yasawa Islands quite easily.
Most visitors spend somewhere between one to two weeks island hopping in Fiji along the Yasawa Islands. I only had 9 days in the Yasawa Islands, but could have easily spent double the amount of time here.
Which Yasawa Islands to Visit?
With so many options, the most difficult thing about visiting the Yasawa Islands if figuring out where to go.
It may be tempting to see all the islands in this amazing region of Fiji. Each island has its own attractions whether it be the sunrise hike on Waya Lailai, snorkeling with huge Manta Rays on Drawaqa Island, or visiting the local Fijian villages on Nacula Island.
However, if unless you are going to use the entire 4 month visa on arrival (applicable to Australians), then try not to rush the islands!
A good rule of thumb is to spend at least two nights, three if possible, on each island.
Here are a few islands I visited throughout my 9 day island hopping trip, and a few of others I heard were awesome.
Pronounced “Drawanga Island,” this beautiful island is famous for snorkelling with huge Manta Rays in the channel between it and Naviti Island to the north.
The Manta Ray season runs from May to October, when you can see Manta Rays almost every day. Outside of these months Manta Rays are uncommon but have also been seen.
Most Manta Rays around the world have a black top and a white underside. The Manta Ray colony at Drawaqa Island has a unique genetic disorder making around 50% of them entirely black. Why? No one knows yet. Possibly natural selection.
Even if you’re not visiting during the Manta Ray season, there is another great reason to visit Drawaqa Island. Ever seen a restored coral reef? If not, prepare to have your mind blown.
An onsite team of marine biologists working with The Barefoot Collection has been restoring the coral reef since 2012. years. Their effort includes planting new coral, removing the coral munching Crown of Thorns Starfish, and regenerating the decimated population of giant clams that filters and cleans the water.
The result? One of the healthiest and most stunning coral reefs you will ever have the privilege of snorkeling over. You will find a huge diversity of fish, hard and soft corals, giant clams, and even turtles if you are lucky.
The best thing is that this is all on your doorstep. The coral reef is located just off the north coast of Drawaqa Island, swimming distance.
If you’re a diver, then you will also be pleasantly surprised by the huge range of diving opportunities nearby. Drop into the Barefoot Manta dive shop to see which of the 14 nearby dive sites suits you best.
Where to Stay on Drawaqa Island – Barefoot Manta
Barefoot Manta is the only accommodation available on Drawaqa Island. Lucky it is amazing.
Depending on your travel budget you can choose from dorm rooms, basic thatch roof Fijian bures, or luxury beachfront glamping tents. All room types are essentially beachfront with a very short walk to the water.
The food here is charged at an additional FJD 119 per day. It might sound a little expensive at first but wait until you see the huge portions. Breakfast is great, lunch is great, and dinner is an epic sized portion of the most amazing Fijian food you will eat in the Yasawa Islands.
My tip – if they are serving the local dish called Kokoda (Fijian Coconut Fish), load up, you will be going back for more.
Check Prices and Availability: Barefoot Manta
Nanuya Lailai is one of the smaller Yasawa Islands mid-way up the chain. It is most well-known for the stunning Blue Lagoon on the south west coast.
The name Blue Lagoon can be a bit deceiving as it is not actually a lagoon as you might find in a Cook Island’s atoll. However, it is still a really nice beach.
When I say a really nice beach, I mean it’s an awesome beach. You will find water with the perfect clarity, a long stretch of white sand gently sloping to the sea, all backed by a green lining of coconut trees perfect for lazing about in the shade.
The mountainous island can also be explored by small dirt trails (mud in our case) across to the east coast. On the east coast of Nanuya Lailai you will find a small settlement with friendly locals and another great white sandy beach.
Lo’s Teahouse is a must visit for fresh donuts, amazing chocolate cake, and her refreshing Lemon Leaf Tea. It’s a light drink that hits the spot even on a hot day.
Just beyond the tea house, you will find a secret viewpoint where you can sunbake or get lost in Fiji time gazing across the blue waters to Turtle Island.
Where to Stay on Nanuya Lailai – Gold Coast Inn
Gold Coast Inn offers a few thatched-roof bures right by the beach. With limited electricity, intermittent phone reception, and basic facilities, it is truly a rustic stay. However, the host family is incredibly welcoming, and will cook up three filling Fijian meals each day for just 50 FJD total.
Check Prices and Availability: Gold Coast Inn
Nacula Island is one of the largest in the Yasawa Islands. It is also the northernmost island which the Yasawa Flyer makes its daily round trip to.
You’d easily be mistaken into thinking that more remote means less visited. Most people coming to Nacula Island tend to thin along the same lines. However, you will quickly learn that if the Yasawa Flyer goes there, people do too.
Adventurers can also opt to hike along Nacula Island’s steep mountain ridge. The trail branches off from the Sunset Viewpoint next to Nabua Lodge and continues right up to Nacula Village on the island’s north west coast. There are also trails branching off to other resorts on the island.
With four villages on Nacula Island, this is one of the best places to visit a village and see how the locals live. The most accessible village is called Nasissili. It is just a short 15 minute walk through the jungle from Safe Landing Resort to the south east coast of the island.
The proper way to visit a village is to join an introductory trip via your accommodation. In this way, you will be introduced to the village Chief for a Kava Ceremony and then be permitted access to come as go as you like. You can read more about my time spent in the village in my detailed article on Nacula Island.
Where to Stay on Nacula Island – Nabua Lodge
There are two basic resorts on the southern end of Nacula Island including Safe Landing Resort and Nabua Lodge. The two resorts are both within easy walking distance of one another.
Both Safe Landing and Nabua Lodge are similar in terms of pricing, facilities, and quality of beach. However, people generally suggest that Nabua Lodge has a friendlier atmosphere suiting solo travellers better. I have to agree.
There is also the Blue Lagoon Resort located further around the south west coast which offers a bit more luxury. Judging by the number of people that boarded the Yasawa Flyer here, this also seems to be one of the busiest resorts in the area. Therefore, I avoided this spot.
Yanggeta is located midway up the Yasawa Islands, just a short trip from Nanuya Lailai. With only one boutique luxury resort on the island, there are far fewer visitors than you will find on the other islands.
Yanggeta Island is home to the largest village in the Yasawa Islands with over 500 residents. The island is surrounded by white sandy beaches, and some of the best coral reefs you will ever come across.
For one of the best coral reefs you will ever explore, take a small boat just 10 minutes the islands to Caw Caw Reef. Located along Yanggeta Island’s east coast, this reef forms part of a marine reserve which means that fishing here is prohibited.
Here you will find a lively reef with vibrant coral, and huge and diverse fish population, and a high chance of coming across sea turtles. This may just be one of the best-kept secrets in the entire Yasawa Islands and a true highlight for your Fiji island hopping adventure.
In the late afternoon make your way up the sunset viewpoint nearby Navutu Resort. A quick 10 minute walking trail takes you to a spot with a great view of the neighbouring Matacawalevu Island.
Then at the end of the day you can join a Kava ceremony with the staff from Navutu Resort. Most of them are locals from the nearby Yanggeta Village and have some seriously strong Kava to share. After two hours I earned the name Kava King, see if you can beat that!
Where to stay on Yanggeta Island – Navutu Stars
Navutu Stars is located at the northern end of Yanggeta Island. The resort offers a handful of luxury thatch-roof bures with all the amenities you’re looking for on a relaxed trip to the Pacific Islands.
Huge comfy beds with a direct view of the beach will keep you torn between sleeping in all day and going for a sunrise swim. Fijian handicrafts and workmanship in the ceiling will keep you mesmerized, while decent access to electricity and internet allows you to catch up with posting all your photos online.
After a week of eating Cassava and Taro, it is a refreshing change to see a diverse menu at Navutu Stars. Restaurant quality meals like the Seared Tuna Salad with Capers and Olives work amazingly well with the fresh bread and really cold Fiji Bitter Beer.
Meals will set you back around FJD 100 per person per day in total, but they’re totally worth it.
Check Prices and Availability: Navutu Stars
Waya Lailai is a smaller island located further south in the Yasawa group. This is one of the first stops the Yasawa Flyer makes after passing the Mamanuca Islands. I had planned to visit this island but unfortunately ran out of time.
Many travellers in the Yasawa Islands talk about how amazing the hike is to the sunrise viewpoint on Waya Lailai. It is supposed to be a steep climb with an incredible view. I definitely plan to revisit just for this!
Another key attraction on Waya Lailai is the snorkeling with reef sharks. Don’t worry, they’re small and haven’t been known to attack people… yet.
Kuata Island offers one of the most daunting activities in the Yasawa Islands. Diving with full-sized Bull Sharks, without a cage. Sounds crazy right?
This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Australia, Bull Sharks are known as one of the more aggressive species, but at Kuata Island in Fiji it’s totally different. The Kuata Island shark dives have been set up by a PhD export on sharks together with The Barefoot Collection and have been running since 2016.
Shark dives run each day at 8am and 11am and only take small groups of divers. If you’re not a certified diver yet, you can still join as an introductory diving course.
The main accommodation on Kuata Island is Barefoot Kuata. This is run by the same company that runs Barefoot Manta, so I expect great things too. They also have a similar set up with a dive shop on site run by Reef Safaris.
Transport for Island Hopping in Fiji
The easiest way to get around the Yasawa Islands is with the hop-on-hop-off Bula Pass. You can view the latest pricing on the official website of Awesome Adventures Fiji.
The Bula Pass makes island hopping in Fiji quite economical, with passes starting at AUD 303 for 5 days, and options going right out to 15 day passes.
I’ve also written a full review of the Yasawa Flyer Bula Pass which will save you a few hundred dollars on your trip. Be sure to have a read.
Which of the Yasawa Islands are at the top on your island hopping list?