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Tips for Fijian Island Hopping on a Budget

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/02/2016 Jenn Brown

So you want to visit Fiji? Want to see as much as possible? Want to spend as little as possible doing that?
There is a great way to see this beautiful island nation without breaking the bank. You can island hop the Yasawa Islands! Many people don't know that you can still access amazing resorts for a steal. Here are some tips on how to do it.
2016-02-19-1455853999-8347148-IMG_20150202_190334.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-19-1455853999-8347148-IMG_20150202_190334.jpg A beautiful Fijian sunset
Transportation:
There is no 'cheap option' for boat transfers thanks to a monopoly on the ferry system by Awesome Adventures. Ferry costs will likely be the highest single cost of your entire trip. I made four transfers total and paid $215 USD. I did go to the 'end of the line' to get to Nacula, so if you stay closer to the main island you may be able to get costs down. But Blue Lagoon Resort is worth the long boat journey!
You can get a Bula Pass if you plan to visit more than 3 islands, which is usually the cheaper option. Three islands or less, its usually cheaper to just book each segment.
Accommodation:
The Bula Pass also comes with accommodation options. After extensive research, I opted to simply book my accommodation independent of Awesome Adventures so I could stay at whichever resort I wanted without having to worry about how many "Coconuts" I had. I found the Awesome Adventures package too confining, but it could work if you don't want to be bothered with researching the resorts.
I visited three resorts over the course of a week: Blue Lagoon on Nacula Island, Manta Ray on Naviti Island, and Octopus Resort on Waya Island. My favorites were Blue Lagoon and Octopus, but there are dozens and dozens of options that have a budget/dorm component.
The trick to keeping prices down? Stay in the dorms. You will be spending so much time outside of your room anyway, it won't matter where you lay your head at the end of the day. If you can't stomach the idea of group sleeping arrangements, the resorts do offer budget private rooms at a slightly higher cost.
Food:
2016-02-19-1455853322-4142460-IMG_20150130_195421.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-19-1455853322-4142460-IMG_20150130_195421.jpg A yummy dessert at Blue Lagoon Resort
The Yasawas are remote, mostly uninhabited islands. There aren't any grocery stores for DIY meals, so each resort provides a 'meal plan.' This plan includes three meals per day for a set cost per day. This cost will range depending on the quality of the resort from $35 USD/day up to $60 USD/day, depending on exchange rates.
The food is consistently fresh and delicious, and most resorts will accommodate special diets. My recommendation is to take advantage of these meals and eat until you are full, and you can usually get away without snacking between meals. However, additional food is always available at an additional cost.
Booze is not included in meal plan prices, but fortunately Fiji Golds (the local beer) and wine tends not to break the bank. I never abstained when I felt like a tipple, and I still got away with spending just over $100/day.
2016-02-19-1455852879-3346714-IMG_20150201_102727.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-19-1455852879-3346714-IMG_20150201_102727.jpg Waiting for the sunset with a Fiji Gold
Activities:
Most resorts will offer at least one free activity per day, and each resort offers different amenities free of charge. For example, stand-up-paddleboarding at Blue Lagoon was free, and kayaking at Manta Ray was free. Just ask the dive shop or front desk what is available free of charge.
Paid activities rarely run over $20 for an excursion, so you can add adventures here and there without increasing your costs. For example, I explored the 'Blue Lagoon' made famous in the Brooke Shields film from our Nacula resort for $26 USD, making it the most expensive excursion of my trip. It included boat transfers, snorkel equipment, two guides, and a swim through a pitch-black underground lake.
2016-02-19-1455854358-2522378-IMG_20150130_162112.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-19-1455854358-2522378-IMG_20150130_162112.jpg A shy boy at the local village excursion
Etiquette:
Tipping isn't necessary or expected at the resorts in the Yasawas, but a big smile, a 'Thank You,' and remembering staff names goes a long way with these gorgeous people.
Otherwise, kick back, relax, and enjoy! The resorts really do take care of everything so you get the five-star treatment at one-star prices.
My trip breakdown:Ferry: $215
Stay at Blue Lagoon: $180
Included: 2 Nights in Air Conditioned Dorm Bed, Meal Plan, Alcohol, and Paid Activities
Paid Activities at Blue Lagoon: Underwater Cave tour, Village Visit
Free Activities at Blue Lagoon: Nacula Peak Hike, SUP
Stay at Manta Ray: $168
Included: 2 Nights in Non-A/C Dorm Bed (NOT recommended), Meal Plan, Alcohol, and Paid Activities
Additional Activities at Manta Ray: Snorkel Equipment Rental, Sunset Cruise
Free Activities at Manta Ray: Ocean Kayaking
Stay at Octopus: $148
Included: 2 Nights in Air Conditioned Dorm Bed, Meal Plan, Alcohol
Additional Activities at Octopus: Nada! Beach Lounging only.
Total cost for one person for 7 days/6 nights in the Yasawa Islands: $711*Note that you will likely need to spend a day or two on the main island depending on your international flight arrival/departure times.
Add your international flight costs to this, and you should have a pretty accurate budget for your own budget trip to beautiful Fiji. Happy planning!
For an overview of my time in Fiji, including full reviews of the three resorts I visited, visit my blog. 2016-02-19-1455853948-1188002-IMG_20150129_143055.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-19-1455853948-1188002-IMG_20150129_143055.jpg You could be here...

FIJI © Takumi Terao via Getty Images FIJI

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