One of the first questions taxi drivers ask upon picking tourists up from Fiji's gateway airport in Nadi is, "Which island are you going to?" They're referring to those that make up the two groups to the west and, to be sure, the assumption that you're traveling farther is an easy one. A short ferry ride from Nadi, the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands seem to be in a world of their own. While Viti Levu's main concern is cutting and processing sugarcane, here it's all about the weather and the catch of the day. Translucent, warm surf and glittering white shores allow these islands to fulfill the glossy brochures' promise and satisfy the snow-plowed commuters' dreams.
The movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks was filmed on the small uninhabited island of Monuriki, but there are more hospitable places to stay in the Mamanuca Islands. These offer the greatest balance of accommodations of any one region in Fiji, with resorts catering to singles, couples, families, the cousins your spouse wanted to invite, and a few that will please all four. The more remote, volcanically formed Yasawas are traditionally a stronghold of all-inclusive hostels, but seaplanes now crisscross the group conveying guests to ultraluxury resorts. Happily, the mid-range is now making a showing here as well. The Yasawas are home to the Blue Lagoon, used in the eponymous film starring Brook Shields and noted as one of the most pristine among many breathtaking coral-crowned pools.
You'll find all the trademarks of the world's pristine tropical escapes—fantastic snorkeling, parasailing, waterskiing, and good scuba diving—here. Divers can have their pulses checked with a shark-dive at "Supermarket," one of many sites on the Mamanucas' Malolo Barrier Reef, or by mingling with pelagics in the swim-throughs up north.