A day trip to Colo-I-Suva Forest Park, Fiji
When you think of Fiji you imagine sun soaked palm fringed beaches, cocktails by the pool and lazing back in a hammock with a good book. This is exactly what Josh and I did on our very first overseas trip together to this island paradise (with emphasis on the cocktails), way back in 2011.
We were lucky enough to return to Fiji recently to celebrate our beautiful friend’s Luke and Kelsey’s wedding. While the cocktails still played a leading role in the trip, this time around we were determined to explore a little deeper and immerse ourselves in all Fiji has to offer. Teaming up with our good friends the thoroughly well-travelled Shroom and Melon, and the always energetic Randz, we crammed ourselves into our small hire car and set off on a road trip.
Fiji’s main island “Viti Levu” has 2 major roads that follow its circumference (Kings Rd and Queens Rd). The roads are safe and clearly signposted, but this is no highway! Technically, you could drive around the entire island in a day, but with so much to see, why rush? Remember, you’re on Fiji time now! We didn’t make it around the island, but we did fit in a solid 12 hour day of driving, exploring secluded waterfalls, small villages and lush national parks.
Our journey starts in Rakiraki. The lovely people at Wananavu Beach Resort hooked us up with a set of wheels for an absolute bargain at $60 FJD for an entire day. Now, 5 adults squished into a compact eco-friendly car might seem more like punishment than pleasure to some, and if we weren’t with such great company I might just agree with them. But when the car is the right price, it’s the right car… Right? With Melon graciously taking the incredibly unappealing middle-back seat, we headed off en-route to Suva.
Fiji’s roadside scenery was more than enough to keep us entertained on our trip. Fenceless fields of sugar cane seemed to roll on endlessly, crystal clear beaches out one window, and green volcanic mountain ranges stood looming out the other. The road led us by a seemingly endless amount of roadside fruit & veg stalls, and through tiny Fijian villages, usually accompanied by beaming smiles and friendly waves of the locals, followed by the boisterous BULA! Fijians are renown as some of the most friendly and welcoming people in the world, a reputation which is well deserved.
Not long into our journey, in a particularly scenic village we noticed a couple of puppies by the side of the road. Being a car full of dog lovers, we hit the brakes and leapt out to say hello. The puppies were so tiny that their little heads seemed to wobble in the breeze. They lead us down a sandy path, past a beach shack and pig pen, to a secluded beach lined with palm trees and white sandy shores.
Back on the road our path led inland through rolling green hillsides and forest fringed farmland. I had rolled down the windows in an attempt to ease my car sickness from the tight twisting roads, when we spotted a small roadside sign for a waterfall. Keen for a break from driving, we followed the rainforest trail down through floral arches until we came to a river opening. I would love to share where we were at this moment, but we had no maps or mobile reception. The waterfall was totally secluded, not a person in sight! It was a little too cool for a swim, so we took off our shoes and waded through the river to explore the falls and the lush surrounds.
The scenery began to change as we made our way into Fiji’s steamy capital Suva. The sprawling farmland gave way to a densely populated metropolis. After hours of open country roads we were suddenly stuck in traffic, looking for the ever evasive a car park! After a few chaotic moments and last minute turns, Shroom pulled us into a free spot.
We were all pretty hungry at this point, luckily a friendly local pointed us in the direction of a food court at MHCC Meeting Point (Shopping Mall) for lunch, not before he coyly offered to sell us a bit of weed. We enjoyed a bite to eat, a much-needed caffeine hit, and refilled our snack supplies for the journey ahead. After Randz scored himself one of the notorious Fijian $7 bills, we were back on the road for an afternoon exploring Fiji’s mountainous interior, starting with Colo-I-Suva National Forest.
The Colo-I-Suva National Forest Park is a vibrant and lush rainforest covering almost 2.5 square kilometres. We had read about a rainforest waterfall, complete with rock pools and an epic rope swing, and were desperate to check it out! After getting a bit lost, and driving our poor little hire car down some “roads” that were probably best left to a 4-wheel-drive, we finally found the trail that would lead us there, just as the last of the afternoon light was upon us.
We asked directions of a local woman, who turned out to be the Police Officer for the area. She warned us that local teenagers liked to hang out at the falls after dark, and that it would be best if we returned in daylight. It was disappointing to say the least, but we decided to heed her advice and push on with our journey. For those of you that are interested, the waterfall is totally safe during daylight hours, so If you’re thinking of coming here to test out the rope swing, arrive early in the day and you’ll have no problems!
As the sun started to set, we began our journey back to the resort. Not wanting to take the same road twice, we plotted out an inland route down some smaller roads. A quick tip, Google Maps “roads” aren’t always what they seem, especially when you have no reception! The road twisted and turned around the mountain ridge, giving us stunning views of the rainforest valleys below. We hiked up to a hilltop vantage point and soaked in the prehistoric looking landscape below as misty rain clouds rolled gently over the mountain peaks.
After an hour of driving down our “innovative” route, the tar roads turned to dirt, and we found ourselves stuck in traffic yet again. You’re probably thinking, traffic? On a dirt road?… That’s right, a herd of cows headed directly for our car! Somehow, we had managed to drive ourselves directly into a farm. Lucky for us a few locals came to our rescue, herding the cows off the road as they giggled amongst themselves.
We continued down this road for a while. Josh was sure he could see a bridge over the river ahead on google maps that would link us back to the main road and provide quite a substantial shortcut for our trip back to the resort. However, when we arrived at the river, the bridge was no where to be found! The boys came up with a theory that the bridge had been washed away in one of the cyclones that occasionally lash the island. But whatever the reason, the bridge was definitely gone, and we found ourselves at a dead end.
We took a U-turn in front of a small farmhouse, while a very confused Fijian’s family watched on and backtracked quite a way to find a new route back to the resort. Technically, I guess you would say our plan failed. But it created exactly the kind of adventure we’d been craving – A deeper and more intimate look into Fiji’s vast landscapes and culture.
4 hours, 2 toilet stops and 1 huge storm later, we finally made it back in the comforting embrace of our resort. Ready to kick back with a Pina Colada before turning in for some much-needed rest.
Want to see more? Check out my video for the full Fiji experience!
Depending on where you stay on Viti Levu, options for car hire will vary significantly. The main cities of Suva and Nadi have plenty of car hire options, especially if you can pick up your wheels on arrival at the airport.
If you’re staying in a more secluded location like us, check with your hotel, they will often have a rental car you can hire. Ours was only $60 FJD for a full day.
A litre of petrol in Fiji will set you back approximately $2 FJD. Remember to fill up your car before returning it, you’ll save yourself the refill fee!
If you’re planning on stopping in any of the larger cities, parking can be hard to find. There are paid parking lots and on street metered parking. For more information on parking in Suva visit the Suva City Council website.
The Meeting Point (MHCC) is a newly built shopping mall in the centre of Suva. If you’re after a few snacks, a caffeine hit or some lunch, you’ll find it all here. There many clothing shops to sift through, and at the centre of it all, a giant dinosaur! The centre is open 7 days a week, 9am – 9pm and is located on Renwick Rd, Suva, Fiji.
If you’re looking for street food and fresh produce, stop by the Suva Municipal Market. The markets are open everyday, 5am – 9pm and are located on Rodwell Road, Suva, Fiji.
Colo-I-Suva Forest Park
Waisila Falls is famous for it’s deep freshwater pools, perfect for diving and swimming. The walk to the falls will take approximately 45 minutes each way, so make a day of it and pack lunch.
The park is open from 8am – 4pm, and the friendly Park Rangers can be found at the Tourist Information area near the entrance on Princes Road, Suva, Fiji (left side of the road).
For more information visit the Experience Suva website.