Food is a big part of daily Fijian life, and consequently the country has a wide variety of dining options, from markets to upscale restaurants. Most dining, however, is casual and represents a wide cultural mix: indigenous Fijian, Chinese, Indian, etc. Nadi and Suva have the most options to choose from; food tends to be more traditional in the more remote areas.
Breakfast is usually served early, and tends to be bread, fruit, and sometimes fish. Fijians snack regularly throughout the day, and markets are a great place to find a morning snack. Nearly every sizable town in Fiji has a local market that sells fruits, vegetables, and cooked-on-the-spot snacks like roti parcels (Indian flat-bread wrapped around curried meat or vegetables) or salted peas. Saturday markets are especially colorful and worth the trip.
Lunch and dinner depends on where you're dining: you'll find excellent seafood in the top-end waterfront restaurants, or spectacularly spicy traditional Indian cuisine. Restaurants tend to be good value for money—around $20 for dinner and one drink in a mid-range restaurant—but they also tend to close early—usually around 9 pm.
Traditional dining (particularly in the outer islands) is a unique experience. Foods include baked or boiled fish, dalo (taro root), lolo (coconut milk), corned beef, and tavioka (cassava). Two Fijian specialties include kokoda (raw fish marinated in lolo and lime juice) and lovos (chicken, pork, dalo, and lolo wrapped in banana leaves and steamed on hot stones in an underground oven). Meals are communal, with men and guests eating first, and food tends to be eaten with the hands while seated on mats on the floor. If you're dining with a family or in a village, don't start serving yourself or eating until your host asks you to. Many Fijians are religious and may want to pray first.
Being vegetarian in Fiji is easy, as most of the traditional food tends to be starchy carbs or fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the Indian food is vegetarian, as well. The only place it gets tricky is in villages, as your host may not understand the concept—it's easier to use health reasons or religious beliefs as an explanation.
Kids, also, can feast on their fill of breads and fruit. Baby food is available in supermarkets, and fast-food options can be found in Nadi or Suva. Make certain you use bottled (or boiled) water for infants.
One trick of traveling in the islands: drinking hot tea helps to both warm you up and keep you cool. In some of the outer islands (Kadavu, for example) there is a native drink called "lemon leaf tea," a local lemon-tasting tree leaf dunked in boiling water, that is refreshing and rejuvenating.
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Along with the regular cuisine types that you'll find in most guides, we've introduced two Fiji specific cuisines in this book. Pacific Rim is a fusion of cuisines from Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, and the countries of Southeast Asia that feature seafood, tropical fruits, and vegetables. Examples (from celebrity chef Emeril) include lobster spring rolls, chile-baked crabs, and salmon teriyaki.
Fijian cuisine features seafood and fish, usually cooked in coconut milk (lolo in Fijian) and/or lime juice, as well as carbohydrate-heavy native vegetables including the potatolike cassava (often fried), yams, breadfruit, and the taro root ("dalo") and its spinachlike leaves (rourou). Pork, chicken, and beef are also featured and traditionally cooked in a shallow underground oven as part of a large special-occasion meal (lovo). The most well-known Fijian dish is kokoda (pronounced "kokonda"), a cevichelike dish of raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice.
Most major credit cards (Visa, American Express, and MasterCard) are accepted in restaurants.
As a whole, dining in Fiji is pretty casual, but if you're going to an upscale resort restaurant, it pays to ask if a reservation is required. We only mention reservations when they are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. The country is pretty casual about dress, too, but too much skin is a cultural don't, so make certain you cover up, whether you're visiting a village or lounging pool-side at a backpacker's. We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie.
Alcohol is widely available: it's sold in most restaurants, bottle shops, and some supermarkets. Fiji Bitter and Fiji Gold are two quality local beers, sold for around $4 a glass. Wine is usually imported from New Zealand or Australia, with a decent bottle averaging $15. A 750ml bottle of Fijian rum runs about $40.