Nanuya Lailai, the Best Island in Fiji?
Nanuya Lailai is one of the smallest islands in the Yasawa group. At just 1.5 kilometers long, it’s easy to think this tiny island may have little to do.
In fact, I almost made the mistake of giving Nanuya Lailai the miss. With so many islands to choose from, it’s hard to decide what to see and what to skip.
But damn, would you be missing out…
It literally took all of 15 minutes to realize that Nanuya Lailai would be the best island in Fiji!
I only spent three days on Nanuya Lailai but could have easily extended this to one week. Here is an overview of what you can do on this amazing little island.
>> Check out my Fiji Island Hopping guide for more awesome islands
Visit the Blue Lagoon
The name Blue Lagoon can be a bit deceiving. This is not actually a lagoon as you might find in a Cook Island’s or Maldives atoll.
Rather, it is just a really nice beach. But by really nice, I mean awesome.
You will find a long stretch of white sand that gently slopes into the sea. The water has perfect clarity, making you want to swim underwater, no goggles, eyes open. Then, behind the beach, there is a beautiful green forest of coconut trees, perfect for lazing under.
Oh, and there are pretty much no resorts around. So, choose your timing well and you can have the beach to yourself.
Right up the northern end of the beach, you will find the Nanuya Boathouse. If you’re feeling a bit hungry, drop into their little supermarket and ask about the banana bread. 5 FJD for an entire fresh baked loaf goes down so well with a hot cup of tea on the balcony.
The trail over the island starts just behind here.
Hike Across the Island’s Trails
There are two ways to cross Nanuya Lailai from east to west; walk right around the coast, or straight across the middle.
When crossing over the middle of the island you will find a network of small walking trails in the forest. There are some awesome views of the beaches around the island along with some small gardens where the locals grow vegetables like cassava and taro.
Like many of the islands, there are no signs here. Either try to figure the route out on Google Maps or ask the locals where to go first. If walking from west coast to east coast, just stick to the right when the trail forks and you should be fine.
Nanuya Lailai is surprisingly mountainous. Some sections of the trail are steep and slippery, especially after the rain. A personal tip is don’t wear flip flops. I wore flip flops, big mistake.
It takes about 30-45 minutes to cross Nanuya Lailai by these trails. A fun adventure worth doing!
Walk to Turtle Island
Have you ever walked from one island to another?
It sounds crazy, but this was a first for me. Although a complete accident.
Nanuya Lailai and Turtle Island are separated by a small channel less than 100 meters wide. At low tide, it is possible to walk around the south east coast of Nanuya Lailai where the mangroves are and cross the channel to Turtle Island.
Beware, there are plenty of signs along the coast of Turtle Island saying “private island, do not enter.” While you are not supposed to go there, we did, and still came out alive.
The walk around the coast is your other option of getting from Gold Coast Inn on the east coast to the Blue Lagoon on the west coast of the island.
The family at Gold Coast Inn suggests this walk takes 5 minutes at low tide. That must be Fiji time because it took us well over 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Let me know how long it took you in the comments section below.
Drink Tea at Lo’s Teahouse
Tea houses are surprisingly common in the Yasawa Islands. There seems to be one on almost every island.
Lo’s Tea House is a Fiji style café built from coconut trees with a thatch roof. The outdoor seating area looks straight out to the ocean which is just a few meters away. It’s proper beachfront living.
While there is no proper menu, Lo usually has some amazing chocolate cake, freshly cooked donuts on request, tea, coffee, and lemon leaf tea. Go for the lemon leaf tea.
The tea house is located on the east coast of Nanuya Lailai, about 200 meters south of Gold Coast Inn. The easiest way to get here is to walk south along the beach, beyond the rocks, and through the palm trees. Just walk straight until you find the bright green building.
Visit a Secret Viewpoint
There’s a secret viewpoint on Nanuya Lailai that I almost don’t want to tell you about. But since you made it this far…
Just behind Lo’s tea house, there is a small trail. To the right, up the hill is where Lo lives with her family. To the left, up the other hill is a small viewpoint.
Walk around 50 meters up the hill to the left, right to the end where there is a small grassy opening. Across the water is Turtle Island, to the right are the mangroves on Nanuya Lailai, and beyond there is the Blue Lagoon.
Drink Kava with the Locals
Some like Kava, some don’t, and most say it tastes just how it looks. Like muddy water.
I was introduced to Kava while traveling Vanuatu’s outer islands and loved it. You can read this article if you want to know what effect Kava has.
Throughout the South Pacific Islands in general, drinking Kava from coconut shells is a great way to meet and bond with locals. It’s their equivalent to heading down to the local pub for a few pints.
While Kava isn’t on the official menu at Gold Coast Inn, you can ask the owners to prepare some for you which they will happily do. The standard approach is to buy two bags of Kava (10 each) which makes enough drink for two people.
There is also a small settlement just north of Gold Coast Inn. On Friday and Sunday afternoons the locals gather here between the beach and the community hall to drink Kava. I was invited to join them and the local priest for a few shells of Kava, which turned into 10 shells of kava, followed by figuring my way home through the jungle at night.
Tip: if you are offered Kava with the locals, show you appreciation by donating some books and pencils for the children in the village. This is a better gesture than money.
Where to Stay on Nanuya Lailai – Gold Coast Inn
Gold Coast Inn offers a handful of thatched-roof private bures and dorms right by the beach. Your door is about 20 meters to the water.
With limited electricity, intermittent phone reception, and basic facilities, it is truly a rustic stay. Sleeping at night without a fan, while sunburnt, can be interesting. However, the host family is incredibly welcoming which makes this place feel like home.
If you are after a local vibe in Fiji, then Gold Coast Inn is a fantastic option.
On top of the accommodation price, there is a daily fee of 50 FJD for three home-cooked meals. There is also a 20 FJD fee for the boat transfer from the Yasawa Flyer.
Also, don’t be too surprised if you don’t get the exact room you booked. This is Fiji. Just roll with it.
Check Prices and Availability: Gold Coast Inn
How to Get to Nanuya Laiilai
The easiest way to get around the Yasawa Islands including Nanuya Lailai is by the Yasawa Flyer. You can either use the Bula Pass or a single trip ticket.
I’ve written an in-depth review of the Bula Pass which will save you a few hundred dollars on your trip. Be sure to have a read.
The Bula Pass makes island hopping in Fiji quite economical, with hop-on-hop-off passes starting at AUD 303 for 5 days, and options going right out to 15 day passes.