When I first started planning my trip to Fiji I was staying in New Zealand. And because the Pacific Islands are where New Zealanders go on holiday - everyone had an option and advice on what to do and where to go. And the one thing that everyone said to us was, "Don't stay on the main island - go straight out to the islands"
This was something that I considered at length. But Fiji is a country made up of 333 islands - many of them having their own resorts, their own taste of island life. Local or resort - it had become a dizzying concept.
Though I vowed never to do so again, I was again seduced by the amazing photography and the thrill of a new adventure and bought a Lonely Planet guide to help make my trip planning a little easier. I spent almost two months reading over and over every aspect of what the guide suggested, what it said about the local customs - and where it recommended I go.
In the end I split my judgment of the trip somewhere between the New Zealander's advice, the Lonely Planet guide, and my own idea about the place.
For starters - if you have bought a Fiji Lonely Planet guide I would recommend you throw it out immediately. It caused us nothing but problems, and in every instance we relied on it's information it left us stranded, confused, or lacking in cash.
(It might also be worth mentioning the side note that I met the Lonely Planet travel writer in Fiji while I was there - on two separate islands, and saw the way they review resorts. Not encouraging)
I did book accommodation for a few nights on the main island, just to give it a look before we decided what island chain we might move on to - ignoring the adamant New Zealander's claims to get out of Nadi and Viti Levu as soon as we could.
It is true, it's no where near as luxurious as some of the island resorts. But Fiji can easily come off as just a touristy destination if you let it, it seems many of the tourists that come here do forget that this is not another Hawai'i. This is another country, with an entirely different culture. And it is, in fact, a third world country where a lot more is going on than just the resorts
It may be that in your trip to Fiji you are just looking for the beautiful beaches, resorts and island drinks. And if that is the case then going straight out to the islands may be just the thing for you. But I would highly, highly recommend that you spend a least a few days on the main island getting to see the more local size of Fiji. There such a cultural difference between the native Fijians and the Indo-Fijians. In everything from food to religion to general lifestyle.
The cane fields and local villages of Viti Levu may not be the beaches of the Yasawa Islands, but they are interesting and unique in their own regard. The little local churches where Fijian women sing gospel music walking down the road home on Sunday was a beautiful way to wake up.
As was the call to prayer and local Muslim church that rang through the hills in the evening.
There's so much more to Fiji than just the resorts - and though after leaving our hotels on Viti Levu near Nadi we did go on out to check out two of the island chains, another couple we met with at Stoney Creek resort headed south along the coast of Viti Levu and stayed at the little resorts there - and said it was the best bit of their trip.
Go out to the islands and enjoy the stunning beach life of Fiji - but give a day or two to Nadi, Latouka, and Viti Levu to see the other side as well - it added so much to our trip that we did so.