The soft coral of the Astrolabe Reef in Fiji Of the ‘Outer Islands’, the twenty belonging to the Yasawa Islands are the most famous. Not long ago, a special permit was required to visit these beautiful beaches. A majority of the tiny islands are close together – so close that at low tide, you can sometimes wade between them! They are directly north of the Mamanuca chain.
The area sometimes called the Southern Islands encompasses Kadavu, the nation’s fourth-largest island, sitting 60 miles south of Viti Levu near the highly regarded 30-mile Astrolabe Reef.
The lesser-known Outer Islands include the Lau Islands, halfway between Fiji and Tonga. There are 57 islands here, spread out over nearly 200 square miles, with few visitors. They can only be reached via a private plane or cargo ship from Suva.
Location of the Outer Islands
The Yasawa Islands are approximately 20 miles northwest of Viti Levu. Kadavu is approximately 60 miles south of the main island.
How to Travel to the Outer Islands
The Yasawa islands are so small there is only one airstrip, on the northernmost island that gives the chain its name. Only resort guests on Yasawa are flown in here. However, private seaplane flights and helicopter transfers are available at Vomo and Turtle Island.
The most popular way to reach the Outer Islands is via boat. Catamans provided by the South Sea Cruises depart from Viti Levu, near Nadi airport, and take between 2-4 hours. Fishing boats also make the trip, although they are less reliable.
The MV Yasawa Flyer, also known as the ‘Yellow Boat’, stops at nearly every resort in the chain on a daily basis. Sun Air flies from Nadi to Kadavu, with flights of 45 minutes, while Air Fiji makes the trip from Suva. For more on travel through Fiji, check out the Fiji inter-island travel article.
Why Visit the Outer Islands
A lionfish explores the coral on Astrolabe Reef in Fiji The lagoons and reefs around the Yasawa Islands and Kadavu are noted throughout the South Pacific for their colorful reefs, multitude of fish and untouched beauty. Both snorkeling and SCUBA diving here are excellent.
On land, the natural attractions are equally impressive, with caves and rock formations to explore, such as the Sawa-i-Lau, and smooth, remote beaches. It’s no surprise that the Blue Lagoon movies were shot here!
Many of the people who live in the Outer Islands either work for resorts or live off the land, fishing, making and selling traditional crafts and drinking kava. They provide a wonderful insight into communities still largely uninfluenced by material goods.
There is no public transportation on the Outer Islands. Traveling between them is limited to catamarans, and on golf carts around the resorts. Due to the islands’ small size, a greater variety of available activities are usually found on Viti Levu or other, larger islands.
Additionally, if you plan to travel between the islands, or outside of the resort, be aware that there are numerous backpacker resorts scattered among the Yasawas.