Swaying palm trees, opal-blue water, and white sandy beaches… there’s no denying that Fiji paints an idyllic image of paradise. Here’s everything you need to know before you go!

It’s closer than you think.

Direct flights to Fiji depart daily from Los Angeles, landing at the Nadi airport in less than ten hours. From there, all you need to do is a hop on a speedboat bound for the Mamanuca Islands, everyone’s go-to spot for exploring the sun-drenched archipelago.

“Bula!” is the only Fijian word you’ll need.

English is Fiji’s official language, but bula! (pronounced boola) is a word you’ll hear and say everywhere… and I mean everywhere. Much like the Hawaiian “aloha”, the ubiquitous word isn’t just a friendly greeting – it literally means health and happiness, and can be used in almost any context.

The resorts are spectacular.

Live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy in barefoot luxury because Fiji is home to some of the world’s most celebrated resorts. Want for nothing at the newly-opened Six Senses Fiji, which recently made TIME Magazine’s list of the World’s Greatest Places.

The food is criminally underrated.

While fresh seafood and tropical fruit is to be expected, it may come as a surprise that Fiji is a foodie’s paradise. Traditional dishes are a tantalizing blend of Indian, British, and Chinese influences, all made with locally-sourced ingredients – think coconut milk, taro, and fresh-caught mahi-mahi.

Many resorts are under the care of internationally-renowned chefs, but my favorite culinary splurge is Gaiatree Sanctuary, a farm-to-table, three-course adventure, set in an organic spice plantation. Don’t go home without enjoying at least one meal prepared in the lovo – a Fijian take on the backyard barbecue.

Kava will keep you calm.

You can’t go to Fiji without taking part in many a kava ceremony, in which you are invited to share an earthy, slightly bitter drink made from powdered kava root. It’s no Dom Pérignon, but it does give you a very mild euphoric buzz. Tip: If you visit a local village, score points with the chief by gifting him with a kava root!

You won’t need a watch.

The moment you set foot on the island, you’re on Fiji time, a term that embodies the islands’ slower pace of life. Although you may find it frustrating at first, you’ll learn to love the lack of urgency – as the Fijians say, “no hurry, no worries.”

The ocean is your playground.

With crystal-clear water and world-class reefs, Fiji attracts scuba divers from all over the world. Explore vibrant coral gardens that are home to sea turtles, manta rays, and tropical fish, as well as the occasional harmless reef shark. If you prefer to stay above the surface, there’s also kayaking, paddle boarding, parasailing, and surfing – including the Kelly Slater-approved Cloudbreak.

But it’s not all water activities.

While a bikini should be the first thing on your packing list, there are also endless things to do that don’t require getting wet. Party it up at Waitui Beach Club, go for a scenic jungle hike, or set sail to the wind. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix by skydiving with Free Fall Fiji, which promises the most exhilarating, 4,000-meter views.

You can see where ‘Castaway’ was filmed.

If you want to visit the setting of the movie that made you cry over a volleyball, book a day trip to the uninhabited Monuriki Island, where Tom Hanks said his heartbreaking goodbye to Wilson. Don’t get confused by the nearby ‘Castaway Island’ – Monuriki is the true Hollywood star.

It’s a great place to bring kids.

Fiji might be known as a romantic honeymoon destination, but it’s also surprisingly family-friendly. That’s because Fijians don’t just like kids, they adore them. The resort staff will happily dote over your little ones while you enjoy some well-deserved mommy R&R.

You can go anytime.

That’s right – this palm-fringed paradise is a year-round destination, with beach-bumming weather every season. Crowds are at their peak from July through September, and tropical storms have been known to hit during November through April. That said, I recommend booking your Fijian getaway during the shoulder months of June or October.

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