Find Your Happy in Fiji
Most of us have heard of slow travel. When you're in Fiji, however, it's more about relaxed travel. Whether you're chilling on one of the many beaches, watching locals perform a traditional meke dance or snorkelling among kaleidoscope reefs, you can't help but absorb the archipelago's easygoing vibe - as locals have.
And as if to further enhance its relaxing reputation, Fiji's laid-back charms, authentic culture and exhilarating adventures are pretty easy to access too. Its position in the South Pacific makes it the perfect stopover for travellers en route to Australia and New Zealand. Given the setting, it's no surprise that the joyous atmosphere here is so infectious, and before you know it, you'll be finding your happiness.
Riding the waves
Comprising around 330 islands, all floating in a vast expanse of South Pacific blue, Fiji is a multi-isle cruiser's dream. Small ship tours weave its collection of outposts, and in doing so they showcase Fiji's culture, marine life and compellingly upbeat vibe.
One popular escape is the northern volcanic string of the Yasawa Islands. Here you can explore limestone caves and swim the lagoons of Sawa-I-Lau, where you can take part in crab racing (it's as fun as it sounds) and sample a traditional village lovo (a huge feast cooked in an earthen pit) and meke ceremony at Gunu on Naviti Island.
There are plenty of island stops to be found. The southern Mamanuca archipelago has even found fame on the big screen, with the palms of Monuriki once the setting for Tom Hanks in Cast Away, while neighbouring Monu has kayaking routes among its fringes and coral gardens - Fiji is home to the fourth-largest reef in the world - which are ideal for snorkelling and teem with life.
Even on the main island of Viti Levu, there are opportunities for sailing trips from Port Denarau, Suva, Vuda Marina and Lautoka, giving you the chance to craft your own watery adventure.
History & Conservation
Fiji's indigenous culture thrives across its islands. Nakabuta is a village that specialises in pottery, with sprinklings of handicraft shops selling bowls, plates and other keepsakes, while 200-year-old hillside Navala is a fine example of preserved bures (thatched huts). But at every village you visit, locals are warm and friendly, greeting you with the grass-skirted dancing and rituals that form a meke.
The islands' history as an outpost for traders and settlers still ripples across the region. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the UNESCO-listed port town of Levuka, the old colonial capital of Fiji. Wander its colourful clapboard houses, British colonial churches and museum, while some of the country's milestones are marked here. The Cession Stone commemorates Fiji being ceded to the UK and the anniversary bure here was built for Prince Charles when he announced the islands' independence in 1970.
But a trip to Fiji is good for your soul in other ways, too. Many hotels offer conservation activities to help people make a difference on their travels: Nanuku Auberge Fiji offers mangrove replanting, while Barefoot Manta in the Yasawas gives guests the chance to help take part in reef conservation.
Islands of adventure
Despite Fiji's air of relaxation, there's plenty to satisfy those in search of a shot of adrenaline. Hopping on rail-mounted electric bicycles - known as Ecotrax - is a unique way of weaving through Fiji's landscapes, with a three-hour route veining the jungle and sandy curves of Viti Levu's Coral Coast. The archipelago's mix of rugged peaks and rainforests pocketed with ancient villages is made for walking, too, with a number of hikes piercing its interior.
Trek to Nabalasere's waterfall and cooling pool, and climb Mount Tomanivi (1,324m) - Fiji's highest point - keeping an eye out for long-legged warblers and pink-billed parrot finches. There's no shortage of islands to explore. Horseshoe-shaped Totoya Island is a lush tropical curve while the unorthodox mushroom-shaped islands and hidden caves of the Bay of Islands, set in the north-western corner of Vanua Balavu, charm anyone who floats past them.
Whatever travel adventure you decide to have in Fiji, you'll be sure to leave much, much happier at the end of it.