Friendly, far-flung Fiji sets a pace for the rest of the world to follow.

The Heliconia blossom is a colorful symbol of the Fijian tropical paradise
Looking for the friendliest place on earth?  Eric Weiner, in his 2008 book The Geography of Bliss, didn’t include Fiji in his search for the happiest place on earth.  However, if friendliness of the inhabitants relates to happiness Fiji would be a great place to begin your search for happiness.  The people are some of the most hospitable and jovial folks on the planet. They genuinely seem to enjoy their days in this Pacific Ocean paradise of 333 islands (106 are inhabited) and another 500+ islets  scattered over 200,000 square miles.  And, why not, it’s a sunny, warm environment filled with views of bright green mountains, white sand beaches and aquamarine ocean waters. Fijians are rich with bounty, derived from both land and sea and there is very little mutiny.

The two main islands, Viti Levu (4,027 square miles) and Vanau Levu (2.145 square miles), make up most of the habitable soil in this country 
whose width and breadth is as large as Texas but whose land mass of 7054 square miles is slightly smaller than New Jersey.  The three main cities of Suva, Lautoka and Nadi (pronounced NAN Dee) are on Viti Levu.  Nadi and Lautoka on the west coast and Suva southeast coast.

Nadi International Airport is located approximately 4/5ths of the way to New Zealand and is a 13 hour flight from Denver with connection via Los Angeles.  While Suva is the largest city and the capital of Fiji, it is Nadi that has the geography and the good fortune to have had the US Army build an airport near Nadi back in World War II.  Thus Nadi is the point of entry for those arriving by air while Suva is the countries largest seaport. Lautoka is fast growing center of the sugar cane industry.

I am here in Fiji on my second visit. The first was a honeymoon trip back in rambunctious first round of military coups when Fiji was mostly off the menu for US travel appetites.  While there is no debating that the majority of visitors to these islands 17 degrees south of the equator and just west of the International dateline are from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and its other Pacific Rim neighbors, Fiji is quickly becoming a special destination for American honeymooners and others U.S. travelers seeking far-flung adventure and seclusion.

Fiji has long been a getaway for the rich and famous looking to gain some anonymity and distance from their notoriety in the United States. Raymond Burr, actor in the long running TV series Perry Mason, was a pioneer Hollywood transplant back in the 60’s. These days everyone from Paris Hilton to Tom Cruise jet off to a South Pacific island hideaway.  Even with a history of being a celebrity retreat Fiji is accessible to US travelers of moderate means and whose fame reaches only as far their Facebook and Twitter pages.  It has now become a popular alternative to Hawaii and the Caribbean for the not so famous too.

I hope you’ll join me for an armchair tour of Fiji here on Examiner to whet your appetite for your own trip to the South Pacific.   I’ll be posting stories about my adventures in Fiji, including snorkeling in the Mamanuca’s, a pub-crawl Fijian-style and insights on the most romantic and beautiful resorts on “the friendliest islands on earth.”

This trip was sponsored in part by the following:

Fox Global Communications

Photography and text copyright Jerome Shaw 2011 / www.jeromeshaw.com . This article and photos may not be reposted or reproduced without prior written permission from the author.  Please contact Jerome on Twitter at @JeromeShaw  or find him on Facebook


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