On the western side of Viti Levu, Lautoka may be the second largest city on Fiji’s largest island, but don’t just stay in town. Sure, Lautoka’s much more working-people real than the touristy capital of Nadi and it’s the heart of sugar cane harvesting with its apt nickname of “Sugar City,” but it’s Koroyanitu National Park and the village of Abaca (pronounced “am-‘barth-ah”) that are a must-see.

Koroyanitu national park wateralls provide spectacular backdrops to amazingly wonderful swimming holes.

Koroyanitu park wateralls provide spectacular backdrops to amazingly wonderful swimming holes perfect for refreshing dips.

The 40-minute vehicle trip from Lautoka to Abaca on a mostly very potholed 4WD road passes by namesake sugar plantations. Then it winds up the mountain, affording great views across to Lautoka and the ocean below.

There are six villages within Koroyanitu National Park that cooperate as part of an ecotourism project funded by The New Zealand Official Development Assistance Programme (NZODA) and Japan National Official Committee of the Pacific Economic Co-operation (JANPEC). The villagers maintain the landscape and tracks, and subsequently earn tourist dollars through overnights in the villages, guided walks, and selling souvenirs and official pamphlets describing the villages and park. So pay your admission happily since it supports the park and the people.

Abaca serves as the Koroyanitu National Park headquarters on the Lautoka side and is a small village set in the middle of practically nowhere in a tropical and somewhat primeval forest wilderness framed by a backdrop of dark green and brown lava-formed mountains from which ribbons of cascading water tumble down into spectacular swimming holes. In typical “Fiji time” manner, the tiny shack of an office may not be staffed, but somebody will saunter over soon enough to sell you a map, tickets, guides or whatever you want. You may even get a visit from shy but curious village kids.

The park itself is a hiker’s and adventurer’s paradise with trails snaking through native Dakua forests and grasslands, past numerous archeological sites, and up, over and into countless waterfalls and swimming holes. If you have the choice, take our word for it, please, and opt to spend a few extra Fijian dollars on a guide. Only with a guide will you will fully discover all the secrets this place has to offer (such as which trails might have recently been washed out by frequent torrential rains or how to avoid standing in thick brush wondering if this was really a trail and if the top was anywhere in your hiking future). Plus, you’ll fully begin to learn the names for untold plants and birds that make their home only in this region.

HITT Tip: Slather yourself in sunscreen and pack along plenty of water – and we do mean PLENTY of water. The first hour of hiking on the Mt. Batilamu hike is across very hot and open grassland, before you enter very hot, humid and dense forest. There is no available water (do not drink from the streams unless you are properly treating the water first). There is no food or drink to be bought or otherwise acquired within many miles so come prepared for a long, hot day.

If you are fit enough to make the steep and challenging hike to the summit of Mt. Batilamu – a.k.a. Sleeping Giant — you will be rewarded with expansive views up along the western coast overlooking Nadi Bay and out to the Yasawa Islands.

Therese Iknoian and Sharon Hampton enjoying the view from Mt. Batilamu (Sleeping Giant in Koroyanitu National Paark) across the Sabeto River valley below.

Therese Iknoian and Sharon Hampton enjoying the view in Koroyanitu Park from Mt. Batilamu (Sleeping Giant) across the Sabeto River valley below.

You’ll even take in views all the way down into the Sabeto River Valley that contains another Fiji wonder worth seeing – the Garden of the Sleeping Giant containing over 2,000 varieties of rare orchids. The marked track leads its way upward from Abaca past Nasivi historic site and takes many four to five hours round trip – depending on your level of fitness and how much time you spend frozen in your tracks taking in the views. Just a bit before the sweeping overlook, there is a rustic (OK, very verrry rustic) hut for overnights, but don’t forget the bug spray. There is also a more casual two-hour hike from NASE Lodge just outside of Abaca that takes in the Savuione waterfall, the terraced gardens at Tunutunu and the Navuvatu old village site.

Sitting on the porch of Batilamu Hut in Koroyanitu National Park

Michael Hodgson, Sharon Hampton and Vaughn Hampton enjoying lunch on the front porch of the Mt. Batilamu Hut. You can stay overnight here to watch sunset and then sunrise with a reservation made at the park office.

HITT Tip:  If you have the time, which unfortunately we did not on this visit, plan to spend the night and enjoy local Fijian villager hospitality. You can arrange this through the local Koroyanitu National Park visitor center, which is loosely open (remember, “Fiji time”…) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12- 5 p.m. on Sunday. Call +679-666 6644, and dial 1234 after the tone. Overnight accommodations, which include local food for dinner and breakfast, are arranged through the visitor center.
Fiji taxi to Koroyanitu. Two upholstered picnic benches are perched, not secured, on either side of a metal truck bed which you will share with several spare tires in various states of disrepair ... a view inside of Riaz's Toyota chariot.

Two upholstered picnic benches are perched, not secured, on either side of a metal truck bed which you will share with several spare tires in various states of disrepair … a view inside of Riaz’s Toyota chariot.

HITT Tip: You can drive yourself, but there are a number of private carrier vans and 4WD trucks (we thoroughly recommend our driver Riaz for both his patience and kindness, not to mention his humor and giggle). They can usually be found at the Lautoka bus stand in the city center. Don’t count on a luxurious limo, but you’ll get there.

To scroll through a full selection of photos of our day visit to Koroyanitu National Park, click here.

Because you aspire to be a traveler not a tourist, be sure to refer to our Explore The World map for recommended travel destinations around the world to help you decide where you’ll be traveling to next. Post your own favorite places you’ve visited and recommend to our map too — it’s easy and fun. IMPORTANT — Map locations are provided as reference only. You are responsible for determining if you have permission to access the points of interest and for all necessary precautions to ensure your safety.
Heads up! This information was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, life is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.
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Michael Hodgson

Traveler at HI Travel Tales
Born to British parents in Canada, Michael Hodgson had been schlepped back and forth across the pond since he was a toddler. In college, he took the big leap and spent a few months in Kenya – and never looked back. His biology major somehow led him into a writing career, focusing on the outdoors, hiking and gear testing. Building on his lifetime of travel with travel writing was a natural, although he still loves to seek out the wilder side of a mountain – or a city -- for a good story. Michael also is a partner in a consulting business (www.NewNormalConsulting.com) built on a passion to help specialty businesses and brands succeed both domestically and internationally.
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