Suva - Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
Sunny and possibly rainy year round. Tropical storms are possible, especially September to November. Temperatures are usually between 24-30 degrees Celsius, and weather usually sunny.
Sights & Sites
- Rainforest and waterfalls – In my opinion, the best thing about this area is the natural wonders of its rainforest. You can take a tour out to hike through the rainforest, and swim in the four freshwater pools with clear cool waterfalls.
- Suva city – There are a lot of various shops, restaurants, bars and local businesses in town.
- Grand Pacific Hotel – This turnoff last century style grand (as its name suggests) hotel is about a 15-20 minute walk from the ship, to the right when you go out through town, and pass everything until you see its tall, elegant shape on your right. This fancy place is right by the water, where you can swim, or you can pay $20 Fijian and use their swimming pool. They have complimentary Wi-Fi if you buy food or a drink. Happy hour is 4-6pm with discounted cocktails. $18 Fijian down to $12, which is about $6 USD instead of $9, and local Fijian Bitter beer for $6, about $3 USD.
- Fish Market – The local fish market is situated just about 3 minutes walk from the ship. When you are heading out of the port, before going on to the main street, turn right and follow the smell to find an impressive display of today’s catch. Say ‘Bula’ to the friendly fishermen who will proudly show off their wares for tourist cameras, even though it is doubtful they’ll ever have any sales from cruise ship people.
The city of Suva has plenty of places to buy souvenirs. ‘Bula’ dresses and shirts are popular, which are the multicoloured, often with flower prints or tribal style designs, (not dissimilar to factory made Indonesian Batik or Hawaiian shirts). Virgin coconut oil and noni fruit oil are local treasures. These can be bought in the Fiji store and several other local stores. They are really wonderful products, totally natural and smell incredible, and are very well priced ($28 Fijian, about $14 USD for a large 12 oz (354ml) bottle. The noni fruit one is my personal favourite. There are also many handicrafts, including beautifully carved wooden communal bowls from precious hardwoods, a wide variety of jewelery and keychains and magnets. These are available in many stores and are very easy to find.
If you only have two hours
The town is very close by to the ship here. Walk for five minutes and you’ll find yourself in the centre. You can take the street to the right and check out the local fish market, then follow it into town. Shopping is abundant all around the town, as are money exchanges, banks and Western Unions if you need to get some banking done. The Grand Pacific Hotel is about a 15-20 minute walk away if you want to use their facilities or Wi-Fi. You can also take a local taxi there for around $2 to save time if you choose. There are also many local restaurants if you’d like to try some local Fijian cuisine, and some street vendors.
What is it known for?
Suva is known for being the largest city in Fiji, and being quite crowded and busy, with lots of small businesses in the city. The surrounding area is known for its natural beauty and the lush tropical rainforests and waterfalls only about half an hour’s drive out.
Food & Drink
Fishing is still one of the largest industries in Fiji, and this is very evident in the cooking. You can find seafood on almost every eatery and street vendor’s menu. Fiji’s populace is made up of about 50% native Fijians, and about 50% Indian people (most of whom are at least second or third generation). This makes the food of Fiji very tasty and varied, with the Fijian dishes being mostly based o seafood and using the local plants like cassava as the main starchy vegetable used, and also Indian dishes like curry and roti being mainstays. Both culinary routes have influenced the other with some Fijian dishes being spiced up a little more, and more fish and cassava making an appearance within the Indian dishes. This makes for some really tasty local foods to try. Fruit is everywhere in Fiji, and therefore so is fresh fruit juice, such as mango and pineapple, with smoothie stores around in the city. The local beer to try is ‘Fiji Bitters’. A must to try while in Fiji is the extremely popular local cold drink called kava. The drink is made from the ground up roots of the kava plant, then sees the powder sieved through a muslin cloth into a special wooden mixing bowl, then cool fresh water is gradually added into the mixture to make the liquid. Kava is drank at almost every occasion in Fiji, from welcoming new guests, or visiting friends and relatives, so special ceremonies for coming of age or at weddings and birthdays. It looks, and sort of tastes, like mud water, and is a rather acquired taste. After drinking it, your tongue will likely feel quite numb and a little fuzzy, as it has a relaxing effect, which explains its popularity. I definitely recommend trying it at least once while you are in Fiji. You can buy bags of it to take home for family or friends to try, buying it in the tourist souvenir shops or in the local markets. You’ll get a better bargain procuring it from the local markets, with it costing probably about half of in the shops. Be wary though about being able to bring it out of the country, as rules on bringing non factory sealed products out of Australia and New Zealand especially are very strict, so if you leave from these countries in particular, it might be best to pay a bit more for the shop one, so you don’t risk potentially losing it or getting told off by customs authorities.
Suva isn’t the best place for Wi-Fi. In the city centre, you can get Wi-Fi connection for free in McDonalds or Burger King with a purchase, but you can also buy an internet card for your cell phone in any of the many stores selling them. Buying actual Wi-Fi minutes is available in tFL (Telecom Fiji) at Connect Suva Café in Ganilau House along the main street in Suva. It is on your right just over ten minutes walk from the ship in a large new, shiny full of windows building. It costs $1.50 Fijian for 30 minutes, $3 for an hour or $5 for a one hour 40 minutes prepaid card (the price always the same). However, I did this, and had a lot of trouble with the internet cutting out. It cut out four times in the hour and a half I was there, and the speed was rather slow, with a 100mb video unable to be uploaded in that time. The Grand Pacific Hotel has complimentary Wi-Fi is you buy food or drinks, and overall I prefer this for my Wi-Fi needs in Suva. It also isn’t very fast, and not good for uploading or downloading anything. However, you aren’t time based and it didn’t cut out at all, even when the area got busier (with people from our ship). Overall Fiji isn’t a place to rely on having good quality Wi-Fi, but you can use it there for emails, Facebook, uploading or downloading smaller files like photos, and doing research.
The local currency is Fijian dollars which at present is about two to one with USD. Many places will accept USD, AUD, and NZD, but it is good to have local currency if you’re in Fiji for a few days to get the best rates for things. There are a lot of currency exchange places in Suva, and also many ANZ Bank branches and ATMs, and many Western Unions, so it is very easy to exchange, withdraw or send, money. These are all only about a five minute walk from the ship.
Karen’s Top Tip
Go to the rainforest and waterfalls! It is incredible! The natural beauty here is outstanding and is the best part about Fiji. Take a tour, either form the ship, or a local independent one and get out there to see this. Wear your swim stuff under your clothes, comfy, sturdy, waterproof shoes, lots of bug spray, sun screen, a towel, and enjoy.
My experience here
I have been to Suva three times in total so far.
The first time I went there was in November 2015, while working on the M/S Volendam. I walked around a little and ended up at the Grand Pacific Hotel, where I bumped into my dear friend Hina, a Hula dancer from Hawaii. We had been in touch with each other trying to arrange to meet up, as she was on another ship in the same area at the same time. We thought we’d miss each other by a day, but then very happily – and luckily – bumped into each other at the hotel. She was outside by the pool near the water, while I was sitting in the restaurant area with a coffee and using the Wi-Fi when she heard my laugh. We both ran to each other and a huge hug of greeting and loud excited chatter ensued. We had a very nice lunch of local fish together in the hotel, then walked around the city together. Hina, being a Polynesia Ambassador, who has friends in every port in this are of the world, showed me the best local things to buy. We both bought some noni fruit scented coconut oil, and after some trying on bought matching ‘Bula’ dresses. I came back on the ship for work, and then ventured out again when there was a little more time as we had a late sail, with my good friend Yeonae Yam, my loyal, lovely and eccentric friend and Band Leader. Yeonae wanted to grab some local food from a food stall, so we did that, purchasing some tasty looking fried fish, with rice, and cassava, from a popular cart on the corner very close to the ship. We brought it back on the ship and ate it together in the Officer’s Mess with some sodas from the bar. I then found out it was Yeonae’s birthday and her birthday dinner was street food with me. It was simple, but tasty, and with wonderful company, and we both enjoyed it a lot.
My second trip here was in October 2017. This day consisted of a still around town, remembering where the places I’d found last time were, having a little window shop in some stores, and finding internet. I needed to get some Wi-Fi done, and heading out after a safety drill, my destination was the Grand Pacific for some much-needed connection to the rest of the world. First we strolled around town, and looked in the ‘bula dress shop’, had a very tasty freshly made mango smoothie to drink and walk with, then wandered along to find the hotel. Here I used the Internet, and enjoyed a happy hour (4pm-6pm) cocktail for $12 Fijian dollars (which is about $6 USD, usually $18, about $9 USD). To our delight, there was a Fijian dance show on at sunset. It was a late sail again at 10pm, so we had time to see the stunning red orange sunset over the sea. The dancers came right into the terrace by the swimming pool of the hotel, where my friends and I were sitting on the garden chairs. The dancers chanted, used fire – which you could smell – and wore traditional costumes of woven palm frond skirts, and headdresses, with black war like face paints. You can see this in my Karen’s Quick Guide to Suva, link below.
My third visit to Suva was definitely the best as far as really seeing the best of the area is concerned. I went on a local tour to the rainforest. I booked it with Moana Tours www.moanatours.com.fj who wear the blue Bula dresses and shirts, out on the pier. I managed to arrange a two hour tour to the rainforest for myself and three friends, for $60 USD total (only $15 USD each) with the company owner Ayisha, who gave us the special crew discount as I have used their company before and was also booking with them for a tour the following day in Lautoka for a large group. Our driver Micha took us the 30-35 minute drive out of the town, up into the hills, to the rainforest. We parked in the top car park for access to the Upper Pools. I would definitely recommend starting at the upper car park, as you will walk downhill this way to the other three pools after and it is a much easier walk downhill than up. The whole area is in a loop and you can get to all the pools from any of the car parks, but you will want to see all four if possible, so make it easy on yourself and start at the top and work your way down. From here, it is around a ten-minute walk to the first pool, the upper pools. This is the smallest of the four, and is still impressive. On your walk to it from the car park, you start walking through real rainforest, and you’ll hear the call of many species of tropical birds, and hear the buzzing of insects. The further you walk, the more into the forest growth you get, and the more interesting it is. You can swim in any of the pools, but if you’re on a roughly two hour time limit, like we were, I’d wait until pool number two. This one is about five minutes walk further downhill from the top pool. It is larger, with a taller, more impressive waterfall gracing it. It is a delight to swim in the cool, freshwater pool here and stick your head under the rushing water of the waterfall and enjoy being in this natural paradise. Keep walking down the hill down the path and in around another ten minutes or so later, you’ll find yourself in the third pool. This one has again a waterfall feeding into it, it is smaller and cool and pretty. Stop to swim if time allows, but if you’re on a short time span, wait for the fourth and final pool for your next dip. This is where if you’re not with your driver or a local or guide, you start to wonder if you’ve taken the right path or are lost in the rainforest. Do not fret, just follow the most main, worn looking path and don’t veer off it, and keep heading downwards. The path sometimes has you cross a river, which you have to wade through or jump over if you’re feeling very froggy. Bear with it and you’ll get there. The paths are quite slippery in many places, with moss, leaves on the stones, or just muddy, so make sure to wear your most comfortable, durable, good grip, water resistant “Dora the Explorer” type shoes you own. When you reach the final pool you’ll know it was worth the trek, as it is quite a sight. The largest of the pools, with a thinner waterfall feeding it, this pool comes with large rocks around the sides to climb in on, jump off of, and replete with a mammoth rope swing hanging off a gargantuan very strong branched banyan tree. On our trek down from the second pool, we made friends with some local teens and kids who’d been showing off their fearlessness by jumping off rocks and falls for our applause at the second pool. They were all heading here, to swing on the rope swing, and show how far out they could jump, and hone their diving, circling and acrobatic skills from the rope into the cool, deep water below. After watching them in awe for a fashion, thoroughly impressed at the height they were jumping from, as well as their dives and turns on the way into the water, my husband Nick decided to join the club and took a swing. He landed safely in the centre of the pool, with his efforts recorded by me on the Go-Pro. He then went for round two and three, filming himself on the way down. After watching all this impressed for about 20 minutes or so, I finally plucked up enough courage up to try it myself. I gingerly stepped up to the area where the kids were in line waiting for their turn (at the lower level to jump from, not being quite fearless enough to try the highest spot). The longer the wait (which wasn’t long at all, barely four minutes, but it felt a lot longer), the more I was wondering what on earth I was doing there and why would I want to swing out on a rope swing that I probably wouldn’t be able to hold on to properly, or that id smash my legs (or head) on the rocks from. When a boy of about ten handed me the rope and proclaimed, “You can do it! You brave!” I knew there was no turning back. I held the rope tight, took one more foolish look at the rocks beneath me, reminded myself that if a ten year old (and some younger) could do it, then so could I, then swung for it. I felt my heart racing, and the blood pumping through my veins at a very fast rate as I swung out, and remembering Nick’s advice (As soon as you feel the rope slowing to almost a halt, let go as it’s about to swing back!), I felt the rope slow and let go, and milliseconds later I was in the bracing cold water, breathing rapidly, heart going mile a minute, and nose and sinuses completely full of fresh pool water. I had barely heard the wonderful, cheering shouts coming from the sweet Australian family from the ship. Once I resurfaced full of pool water and adrenaline, with the fear still in full swing as it hadn’t properly registered in the three seconds the whole adventure had taken since the swing began, I heard their supportive whooping and hollering and cheers of encouragement with cries of “You did it!” “That was so scary!”, “I’d never do that!” etc. Although half the family were kids, it was still very kind of them and it cheered me on and up immensely, especially knowing my swing was the least impressive and graceful out of any there that day. The local kids joined in the cheering and I was quite happy that I indeed “did it” and hadn’t chickened out, like I was seconds away from doing. We walked from here back up the hill from the bottom pool to the car, where our driver met us, as he’d walked back to collect the car from pool number two, then drove it to the bottom to meet us there. I would recommend doing the same.
We got stuck in traffic for a while on the way back to town as it was now after 1.30pm, when many businesses close in December early, so the 30-35 minute drive took nearer 50 minutes, so be aware of potential traffic if you are coming back near all aboard or your work time. After dropping our wet things off on the ship and collecting our laptops, Nick and I went in search of Wi-Fi. We had not much more than two port hours left so instead of heading to the Grnd Pacific, we opted for tFK at the Connect Suva Café, in Ganulau House on the main street. Details in the internet section above, but in summation, the Wi-Fi wasn’t great, and overall I’d still recommend the Grand Pacific, but this one is close to the ship, and better strength and signal that the fast food joints’ Wi-FI.
My Most Memorable Moment
My most memorable moment was swinging off the terrifying rope swing in the rainforest in Suva. The feeling of exhilaration and fear, while swinging out over sharp rocks that would certainly do a lot of damage, had I landed on them, and looking down at the cold water below, which was a lot further down looking at it from the rope swing than it looked watching others from the comfort of the side of the pool, was one I won’t soon forget. It was scary, the water was bracing, and I wont rush to do it again too soon….but I was grinning from ear to ear when I stopped palpitating and got to enjoy the calls of inclusion and respect from the local kids and the onlookers including the Aussie family from the ship, and my husband and friends. It was good to know that even though I am not the springest of chickens anymore, that I can still keep up with a bunch of teens in a country across the world in the daredevil stakes. More or less anyway.
Video coming soon…