A fresh tropical breeze, calming ocean waves and tables of handmade items crafted by local artisans. This Fiji market may be the best place to find the perfect unique souvenirs and gifts.
I had barely stepped out of the taxi at First Landing Resort when another driver greeted me with a hearty “Bula!" and offered to take me back. I told him I had already arranged a ride home after I finished exploring the Vuda Beach Market but he insisted I make note of his number anyway, just in case.
“You call me when you’re ready to go,” he said. “Other guy brought you here, I bring you back. We share - it’s fair!" Giggling at his own rhyme, he flashed a contagious Fijian smile and left my side as suddenly as he'd appeared.
I continued walking down the lovely covered walkway to the First Landing Resort. It was a bright, sunny Saturday, and I was looking forward to exploring the Vuda Beach Market (pronounced 'voon-dah'), which I’d only heard about a couple of weeks before from another guest on the Vanua Chocolate factory tour. The beach market takes place on the second Saturday of each month and is a great place for families, couples and solo travelers to find unique, locally-made souvenirs and gifts.
The market was larger than I expected. I walked through the stalls slowly, careful not to miss anything, and was surprised at the diverse assortment of products for sale. One table was covered with handmade jewelry, another offered an assortment of used books. I passed colorful kaftans, vibrant potted orchids and jars of decadent-looking cookies. A teenage girl sat behind a table of beautiful paintings and nearby the familiar faces of the chocolate company offered samples of their delicious products. I was offered samples of homemade coffee cake and a small taste of wine. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed - no one was pressuring me to buy anything, in fact, every vendor seemed to enjoy being there as much as I was.
Things to know:
• The market happens the 2nd Saturday of each month. Dates and timings can be found on the Beach Market's official facebook page.
• Entry to the Vuda Beach Market is free, though you will need cash if you want to purchase anything. If you’re short on cash, the resort offers a money change and “cash out” service at reception. An ATM can be found at Vuda Marina, which is about a 10-15 minute walk down the road.
• While some items can be found in shops around Fiji, many vendors sell exclusively at the market. Some may also offer the ability to purchase items online.
What to bring to the Vuda Beach Market:
• Sunscreen. The sun is strong in Fiji and most of the market is outdoors.
• Cash in Fijian dollars. If you want to buy anything, this is the chance to get rid of your coins! As mentioned above, there is an ATM at nearby Vuda Marina, or you can ask the reception staff about their “cash out” service.
• Bug spray. Mosquitos can be a problem all over Fiji, especially in the wetter (summer) months, and I recommend applying bug spray throughout your vacation to avoid the risk of contracting tropical diseases like dengue or zika.
• Swimsuit. You may want to take advantage of the fact that the market is right on Nalamu Beach. I saw a few families splashing around in the water during my visit, and it looked like fun!
Where to grab a post-market lunch:
You may not be hungry after sampling some of the delicious baked goods and local snacks at the market, but if you are there are several places nearby to stop for a delicious lunch, or just relax with a refreshing drink:
• The Boatshed Restaurant & Bar is located about a 15-minute walk down the road at Vuda Marina and it's a great place to watch the boats coming and going from the harbour.
• For those looking for a bit of a fancier vibe, Raymond’s restaurant is located a 10-minute drive up the road at The Orchid Hotel. Originally owned by Hollywood actor Raymond Burr, the restaurant specializes in seafood and uses fresh organic produce. Reservations are required.
• First Landing Resort’s own Mai Kana restaurant is located right beside the market and it's a fantastic place to grab some food & drinks and relax with your feet in the sand.
The resort is a beautiful location for the market, offering vibrant tropical foliage on one side and the turquoise waters of Nadi Bay on the other. The resort gets its name from being near the location the first Melanesian settlers are believed to have landed in the 1500’s. This historic event is marked by the footprint-shaped Left-Foot Island, which you can access from a bridge that connects it to the beach. It is also the point where British missionaries first came ashore in the 1930’s.
How to get to Vuda Beach Market:
The Vuda Beach Market is located at First Landing Resort just outside of Lautoka, approx 15-25 minutes north of Nadi. A taxi from Nadi only takes 15-20 minutes and should cost about $25. If you take an unmetered taxi, make sure to agree on a price before the trip starts. Many drivers will also be happy to pick you up when you’re finished, or you can ask the resort staff at First Landing to arrange one for you.
What else to do on a Saturday afternoon:
The Vuda market usually runs until early afternoon, which leaves plenty of time to enjoy the rest of a sunny Saturday. If you’re not sure how to spend the rest of your day, here are some options:
• The Garden of the Sleeping Giant is a beautiful garden that was owned by Raymond Burr when he lived in Fiji. The garden features many varieties of orchid, pathways through the lush tropical jungle and a short hike to a lookout where you can see Nadi bay and the surrounding hills.
• The Sleeping Giant Zipline is a great activity for adventure lovers, offering 5 ziplines and guided tours to the nearby waterfalls. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed by both adults and children.
• For true adrenaline lovers, Skydive Fiji offers jumps from up to 14,000 feet, giving a great birds-eye-view of the area. It’s located in Denarau Island and offers free transfers in Denarau and Nadi.
• Denarau Mini Golf is a great family activity, featuring an 18-hole course with a tropical theme. The reception desk sells refreshing drinks for hot days, including slushies and beer.
• Wailoaloa Beach is the nicest beach in Nadi and a popular location for both families and backpackers. After a splash in the water, you can relax at one of the laid-back restaurants along the beach such as Bamboo Hostel's beach bar or the rooftop patio at the Ramada Hotel’s Club 57 bistro, which offers beautiful views of the surrounding area.
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