Port Denarau (Photo:NigelSpiers/Shutterstock)
Port Denarau (Photo:NigelSpiers/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Port Denarau

Port Denarau is located on Denarau Island, a former mangrove swamp on the west coast of Fiji's "mainland," the island known as Viti Levu.

Shore Excursions

About Port Denarau


Pro

Day trip to the beautiful Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, or relax at the luxury resort pools

Con

Snorkeling conditions are not ideal as the manicured island was reclaimed from a mangrove swamp

Bottom Line

A refined port with resort facilities and a chance to be pampered


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In recent decades, Denarau Island has become Fiji's five-star tourism enclave. It contains seven international resorts (such as the Sheraton, Sofitel and Westin), along with residential villas and a championship golf course and racket club.

Port Denarau, a small-ship dock with an adjacent yacht marina, was developed in 2007 and is connected to Viti Levu by a short bridge -- only a few yards long -- and is about 20 minutes south of Nadi International Airport. It offers everything an embarking or disembarking passenger needs to fill a few hours, such as cafes with Internet access, good restaurants, a few bars, a children's play area, a supermarket, a post office, banks, several retail stores and even two day spas. The port is also a good place to book day tours, as many tour operators are based there.

Apart from Captain Cook Cruises and Blue Lagoon Cruises (which are accommodated cruise vessels), the port serves as the dock for day-trip vessels that venture out to the offshore islands of Fiji's west coast -- known as the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands. Big cruise ships, such as P&O Australia and Princess Cruises vessels, and those on round-the-world itineraries, anchor in nearby Nadi Bay and tender their passengers into Port Denarau.

From the port, you can take all-day and half-day sailing trips around the islands, fishing trips, snorkeling trips and land adventures, such as 4WD tours and beach excursions.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships operating year-round in Fiji, along with day-trip vessels, dock at Port Denarau, a facility that opened in 2007. Located 20 minutes south of Nadi International Airport and five minutes from the seven international resorts at Denarau, it is a lively precinct with shops, restaurants, spas, banking and Internet facilities.

Large cruise ships such anchor in nearby Nadi Bay and tender their passengers into Port Denarau for pick up by tour operators. Port Denarau (use the word "port" to differentiate it from the resorts at Denarau), is also about a 10-minute drive from Nadi Town where many hotels and restaurants are located.

Port Facilities

Port Denarau is a purpose-built modern complex with many facilities. It not only serves port passengers -- getting on and off day tours, taking transfers out to the Mamanuca Islands and going on fishing trips, etc. -- but it also provides an alternative place to dine for guests staying at nearby Denarau resorts.

It has half a dozen good restaurants, many boutiques, surf shops and souvenir stores, an information desk, bank facilities, an Internet cafe, free Wi-Fi in most restaurants, a pharmacy, two day spas and a children's activity center. It is a very pleasant area to while away a few hours, and live entertainment is provided in the main square during the day -- you're likely to see Fijians singing and playing guitar and ukulele. The adjacent marina is the place to check out luxurious private yachts and boats belonging to round-the-world sailors and local "yachties."

Passengers who check in early for their cruises can leave their bags at the cruise operator desk and sign up with tourism operators at the nearby booths to go fishing, sailing, 4WD riding, island-hopping or jet-boating.

The port is a 10-minute walk to the Denarau resorts or a quick ride on the "Bula bus."

Good to Know

While everyone involved in tourism in Fiji speaks English, watch out for the tricky spelling and pronunciation of Fijian words and place names. The letter "n" is added before a "d" and "g" in most words such as in the town of Sigatoka, which is pronounced "Singatoka," and the island of Wadigi, pronounced "Wangdinghy." The letter "q" has its own rules and becomes a "g" -- the island of Beqa (famed for its fire-walkers) is pronounced "mbega," although the "m" is skipped over. The infectious greeting of "bula" is actually pronounced "mbula"... although the "m" is barely heard. The letter "c" is pronounced as "th," so the Mamanuca Islands are pronounced as "Mamanutha."

Getting Around

Many passengers embarking and disembarking at the port will be staying at one of the Denarau Island resorts. Passengers disembarking from the Captain Cook and Blue Lagoon ships are offered complimentary transfers to their Denarau property and hotels in Nadi Town or to the airport. (Blue Lagoon Cruises also offers a pick-up service from the airport.)

Taxis to Denarau Island resorts are frequent and cost FJ$5 for the five-minute ride.

The Denarau Island-owned Bula Bus is a colorful open-sided vehicle that travels in a loop around all seven resorts and the port all day; day-pass fares are FJ$8 per person and can be purchased from the port complex and resort stores. The bus operates a circuit every 15 minutes from 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. every day.

The local West Bus is a cheaper version and favored by locals and tourists in the know. It runs from Port Denarau to some of the resorts (but not right to the resort doors -- you have a short walk) and also into Nadi Town (about five miles away), all for FJ$1.50 a ride.

You also can take an easy walk from Port Denarau to the Denarau Island resorts; it takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

There is a rental car company at the port and another at the Sheraton Fiji Resort. Four rental car companies are located at Nadi International Airport, 20 minutes away.

The Airport Shuttle Fiji operates services between the airport and Port Denarau and the resorts (and other destinations); however, the per-person rates to Denarau (around FJ$38) are more expensive than a taxi from the airport (which is from FJ$25 to FJ$30 for the ride). The shuttles, however, can be pre-booked and might appeal to some travelers.

Passengers renting cars might like to drive along the coast, south of Port Denarau, to various beaches on the way to the Coral Coast, a tourism enclave developed long before Denarau Island took shape. It's about a 60- to 90-minute drive to the Coral Coast and its many resorts. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road, British-style. Also, drivers should be on the lookout for cows ambling on the road. (Fiji has many Indian residents, and as the cow is sacred to the Hindu religion, cows often roam free.)

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the Fijian dollar. For current conversion figures, visit xe.com or oanda.com. Westpac and ANZ, two Australian banks, are widely represented in Fiji. Port Denarau has a Westpac branch (open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday), as well as Westpac and ANZ ATM's. Some of the nearby resorts have ATM's in their lobbies, and Nadi International Airport and Nadi Town, just 20 minutes away from the port, also have banks. Credit cards are accepted in stores, restaurants and by most tour operators.

Language

English is widely spoken, although Fijian is the native language. Within seconds of arriving in the islands you'll learn the word "bula," which means "hello" but is so versatile it's used as an adjective to denote many touristy things -- such as the Bula Bus, a bus that travels around the Denarau resorts and port area. A Hawaiian-style shirt, for instance, is called a bula shirt. Another word to learn is vinaka (thank you).

Food and Drink

The Port Denarau complex features a clutch of casual cafes and several good restaurants. Food is international with an emphasis on seafood, but you can find authentic Fijian cuisine, which is usually fish, shellfish or meats cooked with local herbs, coconut milk and taro leaves. The restaurants face the water and have views of the maritime traffic and yachts.

Fijian kokoda, a national delicacy, is a type of ceviche dish made with raw tuna or snapper marinated in lime and coconut and often served in a coconut shell. If it's on the menu, order it -- it's delicious.

Restaurants are patronized by day-trippers and Denarau Island resort guests. There are some very good restaurants within the resorts themselves, which are open to the public, the most upmarket being the French restaurant V in the Sofitel Fiji (although it is only open for dinner).

Most restaurants at the port offer free Wi-Fi.

Bilo Cafe & Wi-Fi Lounge is an indoor-outdoor cafe offering sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, cakes, fresh juices and smoothies. Try a fresh fruit juice or cup of tea with a mango-iced muffin. Prices are very reasonable. Free Wi-Fi is for customers only, but there's also an Internet cafe with several computers, where a fee is charged. (Port Denarau; (679) 675-0065; open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

Bone Fish is perched on the water's edge at Port Denarau and offers lunch and dinner. It specializes in seafood, and starters include the scallop and prawn mousse ravioli in gazpacho broth; for non-seafoodies, you'll find stuffed mushrooms with feta and herbs sauteed in thyme butter. Main dishes are big and always feature a pan-fried fish of the day on a bed of crushed potatoes with local snake beans and toasted cashew nut and coriander tapenade, as well as the big seafood platter for two of lobster, crab, marlin steak, spiced tuna, prawn lollipops and tempura fish. If you fancy pina colada prawn shots (i.e. shrimps in the glass), they have it. (Located at the port; open daily for lunch and dinner.)

Tucked away at the southern end of the port but still affording lovely views, Nadina Authentic Fijian Restaurant is a little eatery that gets big reviews. Billed as an authentic Fijian restaurant, the venue emphasizes seafood, herbs, spices and local vegetables. Start with a kokoda or a prawn and duruka (a type of asparagus although much larger) soup, before trying the mud crab with a coconut curry sauce. Look out for the coral trout; it's a sweet fish. (Located at the port; (679) 675-0290; open daily for lunch and dinner)

Indigo features good Indian curry or tandoori dish, as well as Thai, Chinese and Malaysian cuisine. A large indoor-outdoor restaurant, this is the place to savor Fiji crab masala -- mud crab cooked in onions, tomato and coconut gravy -- or a huge tandoori kebab platter. (Located at the port; (679) 675-0026; open daily for lunch and dinner)

Even guests from nearby Denarau Island resorts come to Salt Restaurant at the Sofitel Fiji Resort for the great pizzas. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try a tandoori dish, a fish curry, burgers, fish or calamari. Salt offers reasonable prices and a great view from an open timber deck. (Open daily noon to 10 p.m.)

Shopping

Fijians have been using pure virgin coconut oil for centuries, and they swear it works miracles on your skin and hair. Fiji's homegrown brand of lotions and potions -- Pure Fiji -- is sold in many stores and used in spas. Retailer Jack's of Fiji carries the Pure Fiji line, which includes body lotions, bath oils, shampoos and body butters. Also made by Pure Fiji, in their factory near Suva, is the Reniu brand -- try the watermelon or pineapple- infused body butter.

If you've enjoyed kava (the national -- and quite popular -- drink made from the ground root of the pepper tree) on your cruise, why not take home a tanoa (kava bowl)? They come in all shapes and sizes (and price ranges) and are sold at Jack's. The popular retailer also sells the ultimate in quirky souvenirs: the cannibal fork!

Best Cocktail

Anything that combines the ultra-sweet fruit -- especially pineapple and watermelon -- of Fiji is a great cocktail. If visiting the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, on Denarau, try the Melon Totoka -- a blend of Smirnoff red vodka, triple sec, Cointreau and mint-infused watermelon juice. Bliss.