The Yasawas and Mamanucas are the closest cruising ground to the international airport. A departure from Port Denarau (which is only 20 minutes from Nadi international airport) will see you at Malolo Island, the southern-most in the Yasawa/Mamanuca chain of islands, in a couple of hours.
This chain of islands and reefs is strung out over 80 nautical miles from Malolo to Yasawa-I-Ra-ra. Most of the traveling is inside of the reefs with short passages between many good anchorages and fine beaches. The climate is reliably very sunny being situated on the “dry” side of Fiji. You are likely to see a few boats but the area is still pristine with easy, safe diving and very good snorkeling. Diving is good for novice to moderately experienced divers. It’s a great area for guests that do not like open water at all.
There are a few small boutique resorts in the Mamanucas where you can hire jet skies, go parasailing have a Spa and do the usual resort things.
When you have cruised as far as the most southern island of the Yasawas – Waya Island – from there on Northward up the island chain there are some small backpacker places hidden away on some of the islands. In the famous Blue Lagoon anchorage about midway up the chain is Turtle Island resort (where the film Blue Lagoon was made), a new resort on Nanuya Lailai and in the far north on Yasawa Island there is Yasawa Lodge. That’s about it.
One can easily cruise for 7-10 days in the Yasawa/Mamanucas and find something of interest for every one. Beaching, hiking, kayaks, snorkeling, diving, fishing, cultural village visits and mekes, and water sports.
Most villages will put on a meke (Fijian Dancing) for guests on very short notice. This is very informal and not considered a tourist venue.
The beaches are magnificent. Whiter and more dramatic the further north you go; Yasawa Island being the very best. Just miles of white sand, nobody there except for a few villages and Yasawa Lodge Resort tucked away, almost invisible in amongst the palms.
At Nanuya Lailai Island half way up the Yasawa group Va and Semi can organize a private lovo on the beach for your guests. This is the Fijian way of cooking food on hot rocks buried in the ground. If you bring the food ashore, typically fish, pork, whole chicken, and to be really ethnic some dalo and root kava from the Nadi market; Va will weave coconut frond baskets to hold the food, which is placed on the heated rocks, covered with banana leaves and more coconut fronds, buried for a few hours and comes out tender, juicy, flavoured with the grated coconut.
If you prefer, then Otto and Fanny on nearby Tavewa Island will arrange every thing themselves and put on a lovo for you – but there your guests would be included with their resort guests. Yagona or Kava drinking, Fijian singing to guitars and ukuleles provide a musical delight under the stars. Really a great night out Fiji style! We used to take our guitars and ukuleles and of course the full bar for the guests. I guess this is the nearest thing to a night club but South Pacific style! More on Kava drinking later.
At the southern end of Yasawa Island are the famous Sawailau caves which are worth a visit. You can hire a guide from the village to show you the entrance into the underwater caves. Take torches, masks and snorkels! The lagoon at Sawailau is just great for exploring with kayaks, and the snorkeling is very good off the caves.