The Ultimate Guide to Nadi

Nov. 20, 2017, 11:32 a.m.


Nadi Town is Fiji’s international gateway, as home its main airport and as a transit point to the popular Mamanuca and Yasawa islands that tourists flock to throughout the year. Denarau Island is a tourism mecca with upmarket real estate and connected to mainland Nadi by a bridge. Denarau has many holiday homes and is the Pacific's largest intergrated resort island with a selection of international hotel brands. 

Nadi Town is Fiji's third largest and its municipal services are overseen by the Nadi Town Council, headed by Special Administrator Robin Ali and CEO, Peter Dinning. Representing the interests of its local business owners is the Nadi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, under the presidency of  Dr Ram Raju.


Like most local towns, Nadi’s name derives from the area’s indigenous district, known as the tikina of Nadi.  Accounts note that Nadi was an established planting ground by 1870, and even had a Nadi Bay Planters Association.Fiji was a British colony (until 1970) and Nadi was used as a training based for the Allied Forces during World War 2. The country did not have a regular military force and received a large contingent of troops from New Zealand, which assumed responsibility for defending Fiji.

After the Empire of Japan bombed the US-controlled Pearl Harbour in Hawaii in 1941, the Pacific War began and Nadi was soon used as a base by the US Air Force. Fiji’s strategic location made it a refuelling centre and dispersion point against Japanese targets in the Philippines and Solomon Islands.

An airstrip was built at what is now the Nadi International Airport, and the area was home to many American and New Zealand infantrymen, a fighter aerodrome, trans-Pacific airport, command station and bases for coastal, field and antiaircraft artillery units in the 40s. Luckily, a Japanese advancement on Fiji never progressed.

The construction of war-related developments led to the relocation of indigenous villages and the eviction of Indo-Fijian tenants, many of whom moved to Namaka and Sabeto, which sometimes worsened the already strained relationship between these ethnic groups.

In 1947, Nadi was officially established as a township on the higher grounds of its present CBD, near the indigenous villages of Namotomoto, Nakavu, Navoci and Narewa.  

Several businesses were reportedly established to service the Government station that was located here, and though there were calls to relocate the town centre to Martintar (due to flooding), this never happened.

In 1949, Swami Vivekananda High School (now College) opened its doors at Malolo as the first non-Christian and non-government secondary school in Fiji.

After an elected system was introduced in 1967, Dr A.H Sahu Khan was elected as the first chairman of the Nadi Township Board.

In 1972, the Board’s status was changed to that of a Council, as per a new Local Government Act, and National Federation Party executive and Parliamentarian, Hargovind Mavji (HM) Lodhia became Nadi’s first Mayor.

Nadi International Airport was operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, before it was handed to the Fiji Government in the 1970s.

Nadi was regularly inundated with a large host of transit passengers, flight attendants and airline crew, who would have to stay overnight in Suva before Nadi had ample lodgings to accommodate the influx after the 50s.

In 1969, preliminary works began on Denarau Island and it took three years to develop by American, Dennis McElrath, and by 1972, the first resort, Regent (present-day Westin Resort & Spa) opened. The Sheraton Fiji Resort and tennis courts opened next door in 1987 and a year later, EIE International Corporation purchased the development land and the Regent Resort.

Australian airline Qantas formerly had a base at the Nadi International Airport and transferred its operational responsibilities to Air Terminal Services in 1981.

Between 1988 and 1993, EIE cleared the balance of 600 acres of land on Denarau, and the reclamation of large swamp lands to construct an 18-hole golf course, club house and extensive marina dredging and infrastructure, setting in motion what would become the region’s largest integrated resort island, and cementing Nadi as Fiji’s tourist town.

Economy & Main Industries

Tourism is Nadi’s main economy, as well as Fiji’s largest industry, foreign exchange earner and employer. As home to Fiji’s main international airport, there’s a large inventory of backpacker accommodation, hotels and resorts all over the town. Nadi is also home to Denarau, the South Pacific’s largest integrated resort island, with local properties of major hotel franchises including Sheraton, Hilton, Sofitel, Wyndham and Radisson. Fiji’s first Marriot resort is located at Momi Bay, on Nadi’s outskirts.

Off the coast of Nadi lays the Mamanuca group of islands, and beyond that, the Yasawa chain. These picturesque islands are home to a stunning variety of backpackers, 5-star properties, family, and adults-only resorts, and employ thousands from local villages and mainland Nadi and beyond. Most of these tourism properties have staff quarters to house employees from the mainland.

Aviation also provides major employment through Airports Fiji Limited, the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji, Fiji Airways, Fiji Link, Air Terminal Services and other related employers and suppliers, such as ground-handling operators like Rosie’s, Pacific Destinations, Tourist Transport Fiji etc.

Sugar continues to be a mainstay of Nadi’s economy and was Nadi’s economic backbone before the rise and dominance of tourism. Today, there are still many cane plantations in and around Nadi, particularly in Sonaisali, Nadovi, Korovuto, Togo, Malolo, Qeleloa, Mulomulo, Megunyeh, Legalega, Sabeto, Waimalika and other surrounding areas. Many of these are leased parcels of land and owned by Indo-Fijian families.

Key Areas of Development

Nadi’s status as a city in 2017 is expected to spur more development as additional areas fall under municipal authority.

Presently, a new 4-lane highway is under construction to ease traffic congestion. This runs along the main Queens Rd, from the Nadi International Airport to the junction of Wailoaloa Rd in Martintar. This follows the completion of a new 3-kilometre bypass road linking Wailoaloa Rd to Denarau Rd, conveniently connecting key hubs of tourism and recreational activities.

Towards Lautoka City, the Nadi International Airport has undergone major renovations to bring it in line with higher global standards, while the Motibhai Business Park takes shape to centralize the commercial group’s businesses in the Western division. The neighboring area of Legalega is home to quickly developing residencies that include Bigfoot Subdivision, Neelfield, Westfield and Pandana Estate. Further along at Sabeto are new commercial buildings that will cater to the area’s vast residents and the rising residential area of Hidden Valley, at the foot of the Sleeping Giant mountain range.

Naisoso Island is connected to the mainland by a bridge and is a short 5-minute drive from the airport. Already home to a large spread of upmarket houses, it has major commercial marina developments underway and is a residential magnet for astute investors, as home to a portion of rare oceanfront Freehold lots.

Votualevu holds one of Nadi’s largest residential areas, covering Matavolivoli, Carrerras and Kartaram. The Housing Authority of Fiji has developed close to 400 new lots in the area, which has its two commercial areas and various hotels including Novotel, Tanoa International Hotel and the old Kontiki property. Its shopping precinct includes Nadi’s largest furniture and appliances retailer, Courts Megastore, a New World IGM outlet and car dealership.

Wailoaloa (Black Water in vernacular Fijian) is Nadi’s main beach and stretches along parts of Martintar and Namaka. It has a variety of backpacker lodges and resorts; Smugglers Cove, Bamboo Travelers, Aquarius, Wailoaloa Beach Resort, Nadi Bay Resort & Hotel, Club Fiji Resort and the Grand West Villas. Located close to the airport runway, it also has residential Government quarters (called Newtown), a landing for Turtle Airways (the private charters for Turtle Island Resort in the Yasawa islands), the Wailoaloa Boat Club, Nadi Airport Golf Club and greens and various eateries. Wailoaloa has risen drastically in the past few years with new properties under construction including the Pullman’s Bay Resort, Newtown Apartments, Palm Beach Resort & Apartments, Paradise Villas and the Ramada Suits Smugglers Cove, indicating the expanding focal point of tourism developers in the area.

Martintar, a bustling strip of commercial houses, hotels, restaurants and recreational activities, runs along the main Queens Rd and includes Nadi’s only cinema, Life, and Fiji’s sole Burger King outlet.  Its residential areas include the newly opened Mountainview Apartments, while a new business hotel financed by Chinese investors is rising along the Queens Rd, next to McDonalds. There are plans for a 13-level hotel & apartment building by Frontier Investments in the area, which will add to its already large inventory of accommodation.

Fantasy Island faces Nadi Bay and located midway between Wailoaloa and Denarau. The multi-phase resort and residential development has a large number of local and international homeowners in this gated community. There are private resort villas that have changed management hands several times and is now renting out parts of the property. Fantasy has its own marina and has a neighboring twin development – Juxta Beach. Plans are in the pipeline for a resort, yacht club, cultural center, industrial & commercial lots and other residential amenities to complement the existing infrastructure.

Denarau has long held forte as Fiji’s largest integrated resort island and home to the South Pacific’s largest commercial marina, Port Denarau. This is the transit point for passengers commuting to the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands. Its southern side is almost entirely surrounded by water, and home to a large-scale tourism development by Avoser Limited. This includes a prestigious residential land release, Denarau Waters, a 300-room flagship Holiday Inn Resort, marina and commercial and industrial precincts. All lots for this residential precinct have already sold out, while valuations by international valuers, Knight Frank, have boosted its property values. Near Port Denarau are plans for new private resort apartments called Denarau Moorings, along the island’s riverfront.

Sonaisali, located on the outskirts of Nadi’s CBD (towards Suva) is due to come under the municipal boundary expansion planned for the town. Home to a large sugar cane farming community, it’s waterfront tracts have recently welcomed the new hotels of Resort Relax Fiji, Bayview Cove and the Double Tree Resort by Hilton on nearby Naisali Island.  Closer to the CBD, Korovuto has seen the addition of industrial developments by Modern Glass & Mirrors and a GDR shopping complex in Malolo.

Nadi’s CBD is on the banks of the Nadi River and prone to flooding, which has spurred calls in the past for its relocation to either Martintar or Wailoaloa. With the assistance of foreign Government agencies, local authorities have dredged the river and explored other avenues to halt the spate of flooding, which has repeatedly affected business houses and residents in the area. The Nadi District Hospital, Magistrate’s Court, police station and other Government offices are located on the higher grounds of the CBD, which is also giving rise to a new commercial development by the Fiji National Provident Fund, at the site of the former Nadi Hotel.

Nadi is due to upgrade its status from township to city in 2017, and to qualify for this, its population must be at least 20,000. Townspeople presently stand at about 12,000 and therefore municipal boundary expansions are underway to reach the required minimum, for the town to be eligible as a city.

Weather, Climate & Geography

Nadi is located on the Western side of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu. The region is known for its generally warm sunshine and usually only prone to heavy rainfall during the wet season, November- April.

The Queens Rd is a breezy drive over Denarau, Wailoaloa and Martintar, which are generally flat, while Namaka and inner Votualevu are prone to hilly terrain.

Towards Lautoka, Nadi is bordered by the Sleeping Giant mountain range in Sabeto, named so for its profile of a snoozing man. Beyond the Nadi back Rd (Megunyeh and Mulomulo) are the Nausori Highlands, which climb into the neighboring province of Nadroga. The cold altitude of these scenic plateaus is home to hydroponic farms, with its glorious views over Nadi Town and Nadi Bay making it a popular site for wedding and fashion photographers.

Nadi’s terrain encompass flatlands, mountains, beaches and rivers, and this versatility offers many recreational and residential opportunities for both its locals and visitors.

Population & Demographics

Villages that come under the Nadi district (tikina) include Namotomoto, Navoci, Saunaka, Dratabu and Narewa. The village of Narewa is the seat of the district’s paramount chief, the Tui Nadi (literally King of Nadi) Ratu Sailosi Dawai, who passed away in 2016. The district of Nadi is part of the Ba province, one of eight provinces that make up the Burebasaga confederacy.

Other districts in the Nadi area include Sikituru (covering the villages of Sikituru, Moala, Yavusania and Korovuto), Vaturu (Nagado and Natawa villages), Nawaka village and towards Lautoka, the district of Sabeto, which the villages of Sabeto, Koroyaca, Narokorokoyawa, Natalau, Naboutini, Nadele come under.

Nadi is one of eight districts that make up the Ba Province, which has Fiji’s largest population with 238,802 noted in 2014, accounting for 27.6 percent of Fiji’s population. Nadi reportedly has around 12,000 residents, but this number will likely double once town boundary expansions are completed. 

The Fiji Bureau of Statistics notes that during the most recent intercensal period (1996-2007), Nadi was one of three districts in Ba Province to have experienced significant growth, which was in the Nadi-Lautoka urban corridor. Fiji’s national census is conducted at 10-year intervals and is due to conduct its latest in 2017.

Entertainment Attractions

Nadi is home to the South Pacific’s largest Hindu temple, the Sri Siva Subramaniya, which was built in the style of ancient Dravidian Indian architecture and reconstructed from a former, long-standing temple on the same site, before consecration in 1994.  This sprawling, colourful temple directly faces the entrance to Nadi’s CBD and the rest of the town, it attracts countless pilgrims and tourists throughout the year.

A universal meditation center is further up the road, towards Suva, and opened doors in 2014, managed by the Ramakrishna Mission in Fiji.

Culinary enthusiasts are at home in Martintar, Wailoaloa and Denarau, where its cosmopolitan eateries include authentic Japanese, Indian, Italian, Korean and Thai, amongst others.

Wailoaloa is a popular hangout for its array of beach activities, including weekend fire dances and occasional golf while at Martintar, LIFE is Nadi’s sole and first, premium cinema and has a bar for VIP Gold guests. The Martintar strip is also the center of the local night life, with assorted bars and clubs; Ed’s Bar, Ice Bar, White House and the newly opened 8 Knots. 

There is also an office for Sky Dive Fiji, where one can organize a skydive above Denarau, with landfall at the Hilton Fiji Resort beach.

Denarau is a major recreational hub, with a large inflatable water park, retail shopping and dining at Port Denarau, greens and tennis at the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club, and organized day trips and departure points to one of the tranquil Mamanuca islands, including Cloud 9, Fiji’s sole floating restaurant. Heli tours and quad biking, diving and other assorted water and land activities are also popular.

In Sabeto, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant is a drawcard for floral enthusiasts and makes a breathtaking setting for local weddings, with a stunning backdrop of orchids and native flora and fauna at the base of the Sleeping Giant mountains. Down the road are the Sabeto mud pools and hot springs, providing naturally therapeutic elements for indulgent visitors. Thrill seekers will better appreciate the zip lining offered further along, while mountain treks are also possible with local guides. A hilltop campsite is also in the vicinity, giving local school children one of few local camping infrastructures, with a stunning vista from its perch.

Schools & Educational Institutions

There is an assortment of institutions for primary and secondary school education, vocational centers and university colleges.Primary schools managed by religious bodies include Mount Saint Mary’s in Martintar, Nadi Sangam School (CBD) and Agape Mission School in Votualevu.

The Fiji National University’s College of Business, Hospitality & Tourism Studies is in Namaka, while trade schools include the Nadi Vocational Centre (at the site of the former Nadi College) in Nadi Town, and the Vivekananda Technical Centre at Nawaicoba, on the outskirts of the CBD.

Private schools include the Fiji Agape Mission School, American International Christian School, Nadi Christian Community School, T.A Learning Centre and International School Nadi.


Fijian nationals have access to free health care services at the Nadi Hospital, Namaka Health Centre and for babies, at the Namaka Dispensary Clinic.

There are many private clinics in town, such as Zen’s Medical Centre and the Diagnostic & Specialist Medical (DSM) Centre, both of which include ambulance services.

There is also the Heart International (HI) in Namaka, for advanced heat treatment.

Dentists include former Nadi mayor, Dr Hari Kewal (670 0968) in the CBD, Family Clinic & Dental Laboratory (6700899) along the Queens Rd, near Namotomoto village and Shortlane Dental (6721999) in Namaka, as well as the Dental Clinic at Nadi District Hospital, where services are considerably cheaper but only operated on weekdays.

Pharmacies are located throughout Nadi, though only several are open 24/7; such as Medisure at the corner of Concave Drive in Namaka.

Main gyms include Pacific Fitness in Denarau, Nadi Sports & Social Club, Fiji Life Fitness Gym (Martintar), Pacific Fitness (Denarau) and Body Life in Namaka. Most hotels have private gymnasiums for guest use. The Nadi Sports & Social Club includes swimming, tennis and squash facilities.

Emergency Services

The town’s main public emergency provider is the Nadi Hospital, located near the CBD at Koroivolu Lane, and reachable on the number 6701128.

For tourists staying at hotels, management will usually organize and oversee any medical needs that arise.

Private medical centers with ambulance services include the DSM Centre (670 8005) and Zen’s Medical Centre 6703533, both located along Lodhia St, Nadi Town. Zen’s also has a clinic in Namaka, near Nadi International Airport.

For international evacuations, Air Medical Fiji is serviced by Air Ambulance Australasia’s Auckland base in New Zealand and organizes commissioned patient escorts and transportation (+64) 226991800 ,

To lodge police complaints, there is the main Nadi Police Station (670 0222) in the CBD and Namaka Police Station (672 2222) near the Namaka Municipal Market.

Key Transport Services

Buses and taxis are the main modes of public transport. Mini-buses are also popular, especially to commute to other towns and cities, such as Nadi and Lautoka. The main bus stand is located next to the Nadi Municipal Market in the CBD, while coaches such as Pacific and Sunbeam have regular daily pickups at Nadi International Airport for passengers wishing to go to Suva.

Taxis that commute to Suva are parked next to the St Michael’s Catholic Church, CBD.

Carriers are popular for commuters travelling inland and over graveled roads, and are mostly found at the Nadi Municipal Market and in front of Rajendra Foodtown Supermarket in Namaka.

There’s a large spread of rental dealerships in and around the Nadi International Airport; Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Bula Car, Budget, Satellite, Coastal and Carpenters. Sharma’s, AIMS, Angels and other rental car companies can be found in Namaka, with more available along the Queens Rd in Martintar and near the CBD.

Government Authorities

Government ministries and offices are mostly centralized at Ratu Nauliano House in the CBD. This building houses the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ministry of Lands & Mineral Resources, Department of Information, District Office, Ministry of Labour and the National Disaster Management Office (DISMAC) amongst others.

At nearby GT Plaza along Vunavou Lane is the Fiji Electricity Authority and Legal Aid Commission.

Nadi Town Council and the public library operate from Main Street, CBD.

In Namaka are offices for Water Authority of Fiji (Credit Corp building), and the I Taukei Land Trust Board and Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority (FRCA), located at Airport Central Building.

Fiji Meteorological Services is located at Korowai Rd (CAFFE Compound), Namaka, while the Ministry of Agriculture has a facility – the Legalega Research Station- near the airport.

FRCA also has offices at the Nadi International Airport, where the Immigration Department also has a base.

The Republic of the Fiji Military Forces have army camps at CAFFE Compound and Black Rock, Votualevu.

Types of Properties

With limited housing stock, it is common for many low-to-middle income earners to rent a home in the more provident and affordable city of Lautoka (a 25-minutes’ drive away) and commute daily to Nadi for work.

Nadi is home to a considerable expatriate community and there is a vast range of upmarket homes in areas such as Denarau, Fantasy Island, Nasoso, Martintar and Naisoso Island catering to this group. These houses are usually larger, executive style homes, with units such as The Palms (opposite Port Denarau), Sheraton Denarau Villas (Fiji’s first strata-title development) and at Crown Towers, Prime Apartments and Mountainview Apartments in Martintar, amongst others.

Attendees at the English language school of Freebird (in Namaka) and students spending their GAP year at Projects Aboard make up a significant group of homestay tenants in Martintar and Namaka, by renting a room each (or in pairs) with local middle-income families.

Tenants will typically find more affordable flats to rent at areas such as Malolo, Nadi back road, Votualevu and Sonaisali. 

Typical houses are multi-storey concrete buildings consisting of several flats that are all rented out to Nadi’s demanding rental market, or partly occupied by landlords while the remaining units rake in rental returns. These are typically in the CBD, Kennedy Avenue, Martintar, Namaka and Nasoso. Lone houses are more evident in Votualevu’s Matavolivoli sector, home to a large tract of duplicate 3-bedroom houses by the Housing Authority of Fiji and in Namaka and Newton in Wailoaloa, where Government quarters by the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAFF) border the airport runway and Wailoaloa Golf greens. Upcoming subdivisions include Pandana Estates at Voivoi.