The rugged, volcanic atolls that comprise the Yasawa Islands are one of the most spectacular tourist destinations in Fiji.
Located off the coast of Fiji’s mainland, the Yasawa Islands are a small archipelago made up of tall, rocky peaks surrounded by pristine white sands and turquoise-blue lagoons.
The relatively remote location off the coast by Nadi makes the Yasawa Islands a favorite getaway for both backpackers and honeymooners.
Backpackers head to the budget, beach accommodation to spend their nights at the bars while honeymooners head to the secluded resorts.
There’s exceptional diving and snorkeling, fiery tropical sunsets and plenty of time to drink beers on the beach when you visit the Yasawa Islands.
To inspire your trip, here’s our guide to visiting Fiji’s best island getaway!
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Fiji (Travel Guide)
Ultimate Yasawa Islands Fiji Guide
Table of Contents
Location of the Yasawa Islands
The island nation of Fiji consists of an archipelago of 330 islands and 500 islets. These islands sit in the South Pacific Ocean and are officially part of Melanesia.
The Yasawa Islands are a small archipelago consisting of around 20 islands and atolls. The island chain is located off the north-west coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.
How to Travel to the Yasawa Islands
The Yasawa Islands are usually grouped together with the Mamanuca Islands, another small archipelago found to the south.
The Mamanucas are generally busier however and more developed as they are closer to the mainland.
The Yasawa Islands are further out but still relatively simple to travel to as they are accessible from Nadi, the main transport hub in Fiji.
From Nadi, where you’ll find Fiji’s international airport, you can take a Sea Plane across to the Yasawa Islands. It’s a short hop with spectacular views as you fly over the Pacific Ocean.
If you’re on a budget however, then a Sea Plane might not be an option for you. Instead, you’ll want to head to Denarau Port.
You can arrange private transfers with the hotels and resorts, however, the best way to travel to the Yasawa Islands from Denarau Port is to jump on the Yasawa Flyer.
This fast catamaran departs once a day at 08.45 AM. The catamaran calls in at the individual islands and resorts in the archipelago before returning to Denarau by 6 PM the same day.
Many travelers will purchase a hop on hop off ticket for the Yasawa Flyer and use the service to island-hop through the Yasawas.
When you are on the Yasawas though, you can also hire local water taxis to take you from one island to the next, or arrange pickups with your hotels and resorts.
The islands themselves are small and can generally be traversed on foot or by boat.
Best Time to Visit the Yasawa Islands
Fiji enjoys beautifully warm, tropical weather all year round, but travelers should be aware of both the wet and dry seasons, as well as the peak and low seasons when it comes to tourism.
Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year, with slight rises in summer bringing things to just over 30 degrees celsius.
Summer is also the wet season, and from November through to March you can expect daily rainfall and if you’re unlucky, the odd tropical cyclone too.
The rainfall is never usually too bad though and you’ll still find that the Christmas holidays are an exceptionally busy time, as Australians and New Zealanders head here on vacation.
Dry Season is April through to October when temperatures are just a little cooler and there’s no rainfall. June, July and August can be incredibly busy, as again, Australians and New Zealanders head here for some winter sun.
If you want lower prices and less crowded beaches and resorts, then time your trip to coincide with the shoulder seasons.
February, March and April can be a good time, as can September, October and November. Just avoid any school holidays.
To help you to plan your Pacific getaway, here’s our month by month guide to choosing the best time to visit Fiji.
A Brief History of the Yasawa Islands
Today the local Fijians of the Yasawa Islands rely primarily on tourism for their main income, as well as basic fishing and farming.
While it might seem like a paradise, for much of the human history of the Yasawa Islands, life has been incredibly tough.
The sun is fierce, freshwater is difficult to come by and the rugged atolls aren’t exactly suited for growing too many crops.
For centuries, the islands were isolated, even from the rest of Fiji, and it wasn’t until the late 18th century that Europeans charted the islands.
Again, they would remain isolated until as late as the 1980s, when tourism began to be welcomed by the locals looking for new economic connections with the wider world.
Now, it’s a popular tourist destination, yet still remains delightfully undeveloped.
Where to Stay in the Yasawa Islands
There are a great range of hotels waiting on the islands, but unlike the Mamanuca Islands, the Yasawas are surprisingly budget-friendly – at least by Fijian standards.
The Yasawa Islands have a few high-end resorts – where the Honeymooners will head to – but aside from these, most of the hotels are aimed at backpackers and budget travelers.
You can find great value dorm rooms or guest houses across the archipelago, but still, remember that prices for food and drink will be inflated due to the remoteness of the islands.
Bring supplies from the mainland, and bring enough cash to pay for your accommodation and for meals every day.
Our top recommendations for where to stay in the Yasawa Islands:
- Coralview Island Resort ** Where we stayed**
- Yasawa Island Resort & Spa
- Blue Lagoon Beach Resort Nacula Island
Read reviews and check prices with our Hotel Search Engine, that gives you the best hotel deals found on the web. Our search engine pulls results from all of the major booking places, including Expedia, Hotels, Booking and more. All the options, all the deals, all in one place and just for you.
Costs in the Yasawa Islands
It is possible to visit the Yasawa Islands on a backpacker budget, with high end luxury and everything in between. That said, the options on that spectrum are somewhat limited.
Throughout the Yasawa Islands, it is very common to find only one property per island, so once you make your commitment to where to stay, you’re going to be working out of that location as a base for your visit.
Changing locations isn’t easy and requires arranging private transport, so you’ll want to plan your trip with good research ahead of time.
As far as prices are concerned, the following information can be used for budget considerations and help you to plan a budget for your visit.
Various Costs in the Yasawa Islands:
Homestays & Hostels: Prices for basic hostel accommodation range from $35 FJD to $45 FJD, depending on the season. This price is for a multi-bed dormitory-style room. Private rooms with shared bathrooms range from $175 FJD to $200 FJD.
Budget Hotels: These will be two to three star hotels that offer basic, private rooms with private bathrooms. They start around $200 FJD.
Mid-Range Resorts: The next step up will get you into a resort but not a high-end one. These typically offer a nicer property with private rooms and private bathrooms. Prices start around $300 FJD and go up.
High-End Resorts: If you value the finer things in life or are looking for a resort-type experience, then you can find it in Fiji. Higher-end resorts offer large rooms, private beaches, often have all-inclusive programs and generally start around $500 FJD or more.
Food & Drink: It’s important to research your food options when you are looking for accommodation in the Yasawa Islands. Because these islands are remote, you will not have a large variety, if any, for dining. You will be limited to what is offered by the property you are staying at. Daily meal plans at hostels and budget hotels will cost around $120 FJD per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Domestic beer will cost around $10 FJD. With higher-end resorts, you can expect to pay more, in all cases. Resort prices are often double that of the hostels and budget hotels.
Accessing Money in the Yasawa Islands:
While you’ll be able to find plenty of places to use an ATM in Nadi and Denarau, be sure to take out plenty of cash before you head for the Yasawa Islands.
You will not find ATM’s anywhere on these smaller islands. Additionally, it is best to plan for mostly cash use, as the internet and phone signal is not reliable, meaning that credit cards are not always a possibility.
Budget Needs for the Yasawa Islands
Establishing a budget for the Yasawa Islands doesn’t have to be a challenge. We’ve done the research, made the trip and have the answers to help you plan depending on your travel style.
Of course, there is always some leeway for personal interests and spending habits, but this budget information should provide a good baseline for your planning.
Budget Estimations for the Yasawa Islands:
Backpacking Budget: $200 FJD per day will get you a dorm bed, island hopping pass and hostel meals. It does not include activities or any meal plans.
Mid-Range Budget: $550 FJD per day will include a private room, meal package, some drinks, a couple for day tours and an island hopping pass.
Luxury Budget: $1,000 FJD per day (or more) will land you at a nice resort and include a meal package, drinks, day trips and island hopping pass.
These estimations above include the necessities of your visit, but don’t account for spending on souvenirs, excess tours, etc.
Prices will also vary depending on the season, so you can add around 20% to those prices if you are visiting during the peak months of June, July and August.
Best Beaches in the Yasawa Islands
You’ll be hard-pressed to not find a fabulous beach during your visit to the Yasawa Islands. The archipelago is known for its fine white sand beaches and bright turquoise waters.
Being made up of 20 different islands, it is possible to find a variety of beaches, both popular and lesser known, if you spend some time exploring.
Below are some of our favorite beaches in the Yasawa Islands:
- Blue Lagoon (Nanuya Lailai): In our opinion, this is hands down the most beautiful beach in the Yasawas. We visited 3 times during our visit!
- Nanuya Levu (Turtle Island): This is a private island and with that comes one of the most stunning beaches in the Yasawas.
- Tavewa Beach (Tavewa): We stayed on this island and loved walking the beaches here. They are more untouched than others and great for exploration.
- Likuliku Bay (Waya): This beach is wide and offers white sand with some great snorkeling.
- Nalova Bay (Nacula): One of the most remote islands in the Yasawas, get away from the crowds on this long stretch of sand.
Best Places to Dive in the Yasawa Islands
Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world, meaning you can get into some pretty amazing scuba diving here, if that’s your thing.
The Yasawa Islands are no exception to this and you’ll be able to explore the underwater world at a number of great dive sites through these islands.
Below are some of our favorite dive sites in the Yasawa Islands:
- Barefoot Manta Island: Famous spot for scuba diving with Manta Rays, which is the highlight of this site.
- Sawa-i-Lau Island: Spectacular advanced diving for caves and narrow underwater passages. It also offers some great reef diving.
- Nanuya Lailai Island: Features beginner safe coral garden dives where you can see tropical fish and reef sharks.
- Naviti Island: Features both beginner reef dives and advanced cave diving. The south channel also features a Manta cleaning station where you can dive with these incredible sea creatures.
- Tavewa Island: It offers one of the most diverse varieties in dive sites for any island in the Yasawas. You will get wall drops, coral gardens, soft coral and pelagics here.
15 Best Things to do in the Yasawa Islands
1. Enjoy the Beaches
One of the main reasons to visit the Yasawa Islands is for the beaches. This truly is a tropical paradise and all of the islands in the chain have beautiful beaches to explore.
You can sit back and relax in the sand, sunbathing and doing little at all except relaxing.
Every guesthouse and hotel has its own private beach, but some of the best beaches to head to are the Yasawa Island Beach Resort, Octopus Resort or Nanuya Island Resort.
2. Visit the Blue Lagoon
One of the most spectacular spots to visit is the Blue Lagoon, which is located on Nanuya Island. This incredible, natural lagoon is framed by a beautiful waterfront and beach, and the water is perfect for swimming or a spot of relaxed snorkeling.
You can stay at the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort where you can wake up with unspoiled views over the beach and the lagoon.
3. Hit the Hiking Trails
While there aren’t any long-distance hiking routes of course, there are plenty of small hikes across the islands.
Given their rocky, volcanic nature, each of the islands has at least one tall lookout point. Get up early to avoid the heat and trek up to the viewpoints for incredible views over the neighboring islands.
4. Try Out Kayaking
The waters around the Yasawa Islands are remarkably still, especially in the dry season.
The islands are, for the most part, very close together, and if you’re a strong paddler and have a solid kayak, then you can spend the day island hopping from beach to beach.
Most of the resorts will have sea kayaks available for rent, while you can also join sea kayaking tours or hire a local guide to show you to the best, hidden lagoons and beaches.
5. Partake in a Kava Ceremony
Fiji is famous for its local Kava Ceremonies, a traditional practice involving the preparation and then consumption of the alcoholic Kava drink.
Kava is made from a native plant, and the ceremony that surrounds its preparation is steeped in legend.
For many, joining a local Kava ceremony and trying this alcoholic and mildly sedative drink is one of the best things to do in Fiji.
The Yasawa Islands are still very traditional and you will quite easily find local Kava ceremonies occurring across the archipelago during your stay.
6. Swim in the Sawa i Lau Caves
One of the best places to visit in the Yasawa Islands is the Sawa I Lau Caves. This beautiful, limestone cave is hidden away from view and is steeped in local lore and legendary stories.
The cavernous cave can only be reached by boat, and inside you can find gleaming turquoise water and hidden, underwater tunnels connecting smaller caves.
7. Take a Scenic Flight
You can take a Sea Plane from Nadi across the Pacific Ocean to the Yasawa Islands, but those same air companies can also arrange flightseeing tours of the area too.
Splash out and enjoy an epic flight over the 20 or so islands that make up the archipelago, as you admire the crisp white sands of the beaches and the deep, blue turquoise lagoons from high above.
8. Snorkel the Reefs
You can’t visit the Yasawa Islands and not go snorkeling in the still, perfectly clear waters that surround the archipelago.
The snorkeling here is some of the best in the world, and from the beaches, you can walk out and quickly be surrounded by marine and colorful coral reefs.
Bring your own gear or hire a mask, snorkel and fins for the day from any hotel that you’re staying at.
9. Try Scuba Diving
If you’re qualified, then the only thing that’s better than snorkeling in the Yasawa Islands is diving.
There’s an exceptional range of dive sites surrounding the islands and you can join day trips that head to more remote parts of the coral, areas that are virtually undisturbed by tourism.
The best time for diving is between May and October when the water visibility is at its best and when you can find large numbers of Manta Rays in the water.
10. Swim with Manta Rays
No matter where you find yourself staying in the Yasawa Islands, you’ll want to arrange a day trip to swim with Manta Rays at Barefoot Manta Island.
This place is world famous for viewing Manta Rays, as it reliably offers sightings of both black and chevron Manta Rays. The main season for this is between May and October, outside of this tours are not offered.
Trips are offered to snorkel with the Manta Rays from the resort on the island and can be booked as day trips from surrounding islands.
11. Try Your Hand at Fishing
With deep channels and healthy reefs that flow between the islands, you have a great opportunity to try your hand at sport fishing.
It is possible to charter fishing trips from almost every resort in the Yasawa Islands and trips can be catered based on your needs.
12. Plan A Village Visit
While the Yasawas might see like an exclusive resort paradise, it is important to remember that the people that own and operate many of the properties still live on the islands.
To learn more about Fijian life in the Yasawas you can ask your resort about booking a visit to one of the villages. Guests to villages must visit by invitation or tour only.
Once there, you can partake in kava ceremonies, witness church services, eat traditional food and see dance performances.
13. Take a Cooking Class
If you’re interested in island cooking then you should certainly sign up for a cooking class at your hotel.
You will learn about the ingredients that are used in the islands, how they are sourced, how they are prepped and how the meals come together.
These are interactive tours that will require active participation. Be sure to bring your appetite.
14. Snorkel with Sharks
While the Manta Rays are a definite highlight for many people, you can also snorkel with sharks if you’re a bit more daring.
The lush coral gardens that line the reef shelves around the islands offer the perfect living conditions for a variety of reef sharks. This offers the perfect opportunity to hop in the water with them.
Don’t worry, reef sharks are docile and as long as you are respectful, do not mind having snorkelers observing them from above.
15. Watch a Fijian Fire Dancer Show
Hundreds of years ago in Polynesia, the ancient art of fire dancing was started. Today, it is possible to see these performances in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji.
These performances use various techniques that involve fire, knives twirling, dancing, chanting and flashing. There is often an interpreter and storyteller present as well.
You’ll see dancers dressed in traditional island costumes, intensely focused as they perform these ancient rituals for entertainment.
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