Savusavu is a lovely place. The town is strung along the waterfront street, backed by mountains and lush vegetation. Boats sit at moorings that run the length of the town, protected by an island just offshore that also runs the length of the town. This island gives this anchorage more the appearance of a river than a harbor, and its lush greenery makes a beautiful backdrop. At spots along the shore, you might see some steam coming up. This is a hot springs area and there are some hot spots along the beach near the Waitui marina and in one of the streams.
The people of the town are primarily Fijian, Indian, and Chinese with a few Anglo expats thrown in. The main part of town is only a few blocks long, with the most prominent businesses being the Copra Shed Marina, the Waitui Marina, and the Surf n Turf restaurant along the water front. An open-air central marketplace (the Savusavu Farmer’s Market) also sits along the waterfront next to a bus depot. On the other side of the street are two small supermarkets, one towards each end of town, and between them dozens of mini markets, restaurants, hardware-type stores, etc. It’s a hodgepodge of things and you never know what you’ll run across. On a hill slightly above town sits the Hot Springs Hotel.
The town has the most activity (crowds) in the farmer’s market and bus depot area, and the grocery stores and small markets do a brisk business. As you get towards either end of town, the feeling is more quiet and peaceful. There are cars and cabs and you need to take care crossing the street as you do not have right of way. (I’m not sure why a town this small has so many cabs; I guess people aren’t big on walking).
Indian food, Chinese food, and Fijian food: these were the mainstays of our eating-out diet in this pretty little waterfront town, with the occasional pizza, pasta, burger, sandwich, steak or Salad Nicoise (they make a fabulous one here) thrown in . We ate well, and for the most part ate cheaply as our US dollar is worth about 2 Fiji dollars. The restaurants range from very inexpensive at the small, hole-in-the-wall type places to more pricey at the waterfront restaurants. We went to most of the places, although not everything. Here’s a list of our favorites (and some not-so-favorites).
This actually has two restaurants and a bar that serves snacks.
The Captain’s Table is The Copra Shed’s more elegant (and expensive) lunch and dinner eatery, and we think it just edges out Surf n Turf as the overall best restaurant in town. It’s a lovely place with a beautiful setting on the deck over the water, and all the food is consistently really good. They serve steaks, seafood, and some Fijian and Indian dishes.
Our favorite thing here is actually a special they serve (they’ll list their daily specials on the blackboard at the door), the chicken tikka masala. It is the best we’ve ever had. They also make an interesting spaghetti bolognese using kidney beans in the sauce and a wonderful Ika Vakalolo (a Fijian dish where chicken or fish is cooked with onion, peppers, chilis and garlic in a coconut lemon broth and served over rice.)
The Captain’s Cafe (aka Captain’s Deck) at the Copra Shed is the place to go for breakfast and coffee drinks. It, too, has a beautiful setting on a deck along the water. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has things like sandwiches, burgers, and some Indian and Chinese dishes that are quite good. They also have some pretty good ice cream.
Our favorite things here were the Chili Chicken (a chinese dish) and their chicken curry. They also make a pretty good quesadilla.
The Savusavu Yacht Club Bar: This is the favorite bar in town as it’s got the best location. It’s in the Corpa Shed building and has a deck that looks out over the water and a pretty lawn area that runs alongside it. It’s a great place to sit and have a drink with your friends in the evening and watch the comings and goings around the anchorage.
If you get hungry and can’t bear to miss the sunset, they have a menu of bar snacks or you can go order some food from the Captain’s Cafe and eat it here. Conversely if you’re having dinner at the Captain’s Cafe and want an alcoholic beverage, you can go get one from the bar and bring it back.
The Friday Night Fijian Show: Every Friday night during cruising season there’s a small Fijian culture show done by local kids on the deck of the bar. It begins around 7. They appear in traditional costumes and give a talk about their ethnic heritage. They go on to perform both traditional and modern dances, and it’s informative and fun! They take donations at the end of the show. Update: I’m not sure they’re still doing this, but be sure to ask.
Surf ‘n Turf
Aside from the Captain’s Table, this is the other nice restaurant in town, and if you were to ask anyone what the best restaurant in town is, they’d say this one without missing a beat. (We would almost say that, but if we had to pick one we’d pick The Captain’s Table). I will note Surf n Turf is the most expensive restaurant in town.
The neat thing about the Surf n Turf is it manages to be both upscale and tropical casual at the same time, and you can eat here expensively or quite moderately depending on what you choose. It could be a burger and beer at lunch or a candle-lit steak dinner. You enter the restaurant from the main street but go down a hall to find the entry, and then the dining area sits mostly on a covered deck by the water and it’s a lovely place.
We have a couple of favorite dishes here: kokoda, the Fijian version of poisson cru (raw cut up raw fish and vegetables in lime juice and coconut milk) and the Salad Nicoise with big chunks of seared tuna. They don’t always have it; but they frequently do. They have specials on their board, and some of them are pretty fabulous.
A casual little Chinese eatery not far up the street from the Waitui Marina. We had initially been warned away from this place by someone who was served food that was too salty; so it took us a long time to go. But when we finally did, we loved it!
The absolute best thing are their dumplings (like potstickers back home). They in themselves would be reason for us to go back to Savusavu! We’d get an order of those, and an order of Mongolian chicken, a sizzling dish, or garlic oil eggplant. If you decide to try the dumplings, make sure to ask for the soy chili sauce (I don’t know the official name of it, but it’s a soy based sauce with cut up chilis in it) along with the regular sauce they serve. Both are wonderful.
They are open for lunch and dinner, but our favorite time to go was lunch as it’s the only air conditioned restaurant in town. Most days it doesn’t matter, but on those occasional days when the trade winds die down or go northerly, we’d beeline here and draw out our lunch as long as we could.
I will caution everyone about a couple of things. Sometimes the place gets groups of people in, and the service gets slow. If you see the restaurant is pretty full or has more than one large group, you might want to go elsewhere. The other thing: if you order something, and the waitress looks at you and suggests you might want to try something else, take her word for it. They’re familiar with western tastes and know when you won’t like something. Trust them.
Hidden Paradise Restaurant
Indian with some Chinese and Fijian dishes.
Warning: Do not confuse this with the Seaview Restaurant at the Hidden Paradise Guest House down the street. You’ll know the Seaview by the fact it’s in the colorful inn building. Walk past that one and go down the street and hunt out the hole-in-the-wall Hidden Paradise.
This is a basic little place with not much in the way of decor, and you have to bring your own adult beverages (luckily it’s right next to a tiny market where you can buy a beer). It’s hard to find as it’s so small and hidden in a building of other nondescript businesses at the south side of town. They don’t have air conditioning, but they have a fan.
The good news: it’s inexpensive and hands down the best Indian food in town. (It’s not just our opinion; anyone we know who’s eaten there agrees). The curry dishes are especially fabulous. They serve lunch and dinner and are definitely worth seeking out.
Chong Pong Restaurant
This sits above the supermarket across from the Farmer’s market but is another one of those places that’s hard to find as there’s just a plain doorway in the side of the building and stairs that lead up. If it’s closed, it’s nearly invisible. They do serve lunch and dinner, although I never did quite understand their hours as it just seemed open sometimes and closed others.
This place is very rustic and plain, with pretty much no decor, and if they had that hygiene rating system here I can say for sure they would not get an A. But it does have some redeeming qualities. The first is that it’s one of the least expensive places in town. The second is that they have great chow mein (I think they best in town). And they third is that they do serve beer.
Decked Out Cafe (aka Diner’s Paradise or Dinner’s Paradise)
I’m not sure why, but they don’t seem to have settled on a name. Maybe they will this season.
Anyway, it’s across the street from the water, with a casual, open-air dining area. It has good food, and probably the best burgers in town (which isn’t really saying much here). One thing they can do very well is pizza, but it’s not consistent. Generally it’s good, but sometimes it’s great. (But on the days it’s not great, it’s good enough.) Be warned that if you order it, it takes about 40 minutes. They do have takeout boxes if you want to order ahead and then take it back to your boat.
Aside from food, this is a popular place for drinks and sometimes live music. It’s casual and relatively inexpensive.
Hot Springs Hotel
The Hot Springs hotel sits above town but it’s an easy walk. They weren’t serving food during the time we were there so I can’t say how the food is, but it’s a nice place to come up and have a drink and get a very pretty view. They also let you use the pool, although it looks a little cloudy. Update: We did have finally have dinner here. It was a big group event, so I don’t really know what the regular menu is like, but the food we had was very nice.
We never ate here as it’s a tiny place and just didn’t look appealing.
We did try to go to their weekly Fijian feast held on the covered deck of the Waitui Marina. Rich and our friends looked at the table of food, and it had that look of room temperature stuff that’s been sitting out awhile and providing entertainment for the local flies. I still would have eaten it, but the thing I had most problem with were the garish flashing Christmas/disco lights strung up over the ceiling. I’m not talking about those pretty twinkling white lights. These are horrifically bright and flashing and could be dangerous for someone with epilepsy. It’s too bad because it looked fun with the other cruisers there, but between the food sitting out and the flashing lights, we had to go somewhere else. Update: It seems they’ve gotten rid of the dreaded flashing lights; so Rich and I were tempted to try it until we heard their chicken curry is full of bones. Once again, we gave it a pass.
The Seaview Restaurant (at the Hidden Paradise Guest House)
Indian with some Fijian dishes with special theme dinners.
This place is nicely decorated, but the Indian food is just OK. They do have special theme dinners (like roast, etc.), but after having the Indian food, we didn’t feel inspired to eat there again when there’s other stuff here we liked so much better.
They sometimes hold an Indian cooking class, followed by a dinner. I never did that because I can’t see wanting to learn to cook Indian style from my least favorite Indian restaurant. (Now, if Hidden Paradise Indian restaurant down the street had a class, that would be a different story!)
The Planters Club
Bar with a monthly Sunday Lovo (Fijian feast)
This place has a happy hour and small TV for sporting events, but it’s a bit of a walk as it’s at the far south end of town. With the deck at the Copra Shed being such a great spot (and having their own small TV for sporting events), it’s not that appealing to walk down here.
The reason you may want to go is for the monthly Sunday Lovo (Fijian feast). You have to sign up ahead of time as it does sell out. The feast is pretty good and a nice way to experience a lovo, but it’s skimpy on the meat portions (they are feeding a lot of people) and not as good as a real lovo.
Eateries around the Farmer’s Market
There are some small places in the Farmer’s market area. We went to one and weren’t thrilled, and didn’t try any others, but other people had better luck.
There is one thing that can be good: there are tables outside that sell pre-made stuffed rotis, like little Indian burritos, and depending on the filling and who made the roti they can be pretty tasty and a very inexpensive meal.
Chinese, Indian and Fried Stuff
This is a small place with a glass counter where you can pick your food. There’s not much choice, but we’d get the chow mein and it was pretty good. And cheap.
NOTES ABOUT PARTICULAR FOODS
Burgers: In all, Savusavu is not a place to come for a burger. Decked Out (aka Diners Paradise) probably has the best in town, and while that’s not saying much, they’re decent. The Surf n Turf serves burgers. We had one when we went to Curly’s seminar and it was pretty good. Otherwise, well, it’s not very good. They do something differently, it seems, when they are gearing up to serve a bunch of them.
Pizza: The Captain’s Cafe (aka Captain’s Deck) has pizza, but their tomato sauce is on the sweet side. This might not bother everyone but I think it ruins a perfectly good pizza. We liked the pizza better at Decked Out.
Ice Cream: Surf n Turf is popular for their home-made ice cream, and they do have a lot of flavors, but we think the Captain’s Cafe’s ice cream was better even if they don’t have much selection of flavors. There’s also a small Indian market where they have good ice cream, Ram Charan’s 1 Stop Shop. The flavors rotate and some are better than others. The passion fruit flavor is fabulous.
The Savusavu Farmers Market or Central Market: This is exactly what you’d picture: A large tented area full of tables laden with produce of all kinds where individual sellers hawk their wares. This is the place to come to buy tomatoes, lettuces, green beans, tropical fruit, taro or kava root, peppers, cilantro or parsley, eggplants, cucumbers, bananas, chilies, and other fruits and vegetables.
It’s busiest (and has the best selection) on Saturdays, and if you love the atmosphere of a bustling market, haggling and comparing prices, you’ll really enjoy this. I found it overwhelming and tried to go early before it got to crowded, then struggled to focus amid all the people, noise, sights, and activity so I could find the items I needed on my shopping list.
MH Supermarkets: There are two MH supermarkets in town. They’re smallish, but you can find a lot of staples there plus produce they don’t have at the central market including carrots, celery, apples, potatoes, onions, garlic, some kinds of peppers, and citrus fruit. You can also buy wine and beer behind a special counter.
Mini Markets: There are too many to name, but these are small one-room places packed with various items. Sometimes they’d be out of something at the supermarkets, but I could find it in one of these if I was willing to hunt.
Savusavu Wines and Spirits: Aside from being a wine store or a place to buy a case of beer, this small market has an amazing array of international items and spices. Many times I couldn’t find a specialty item for a recipe until I came here. Cardamom seeds? Panko crumbs? Tamarind paste? Black sesame seeds? Capers? Roast peppers? Feta cheese? Good parmesan? Good olive oil? Snickers Bars? This is the sort of thing they stock. They have Asian items, Italian items, American items, Kiwi items, etc. Sometimes they have stuffed rotis for sale, and theirs are the best. To top it all off, the store is nice, easy to move around in, and air conditioned. Coming in here is always a pleasure.
Bakeries: There are two bakeries in town: the Hot Bread Kitchen and Lee’s Bread and Cake House. You’ll have to try them both to see what you prefer. Rich and I think the best bread is the brown bread from Lee’s. For some reason, Fijian white bread tends to be so flavorless.
Butchers: There are a couple of butchers in town, and this is the best place to buy chicken, steak, pork, sausages, etc. We liked the butcher in the Waitui marina building, but then we never tried the other one so we don’t really know.
Flora Tropica Gardens: A botanical garden that’s about 5km from Savusavu. It has tropical vegetation and palm trees from around the world. We never made it out here, but other cruisers sure enjoyed it! Hopefully we’ll get there when we come back. www.floratropica.com
Hot Pools at the Savusavu Medical Centre: Savusavu is a volcanic area, there are hot spring pools to sit in, and you can find them at the Savusavu Medical Centre. We never tried them because:
a. It gets pretty warm there and the last thing we want to do is sit in hot water.
b. The idea of sitting in hot pools in a hospital is just not very unappealing.
Cousteau Resort Walk: This is a beautiful walk about 4 miles each way (you can take a bus one way if you wish) that will take you out to the Cousteau Resort area on Lesiaceva Point. Unfortunately we can’t recommend stopping for a refreshing drink at the resort. See our post about this.
Cousteau Anchorage and Snorkeling Spot: There’s a nice anchorage off the resort, and a fun thing to do if you just want to get out of town for a day or so. You can be there in under an hour, but it feels like you’re really out cruising. There’s a great spot to snorkel right there, and even if you don’t want to bring your boat here, you can ride out from Savusavu if you have a fast dinghy. The snorkeling spot has a mooring for the Cousteau Resort’s snorkeling boat, but if they’re not using it you can tie up your dingy there. Rich did a blog post about this featuring the friendly sergeant fish, but the coral-covered rock here has a multitude of tropical fish and a chasm in the middle that makes it a beautiful spot. See the our post for the location of this rock.
J Hunter Pearls: a pearl farm tour and jewelry store. We didn’t do it and don’t know anything about it.
Trip to Labasa: This is the biggest city on Vanua Levu, a bustling town that’s primarily Indian. It’s on the north side of the island, about a 53-mile drive from Savusavu. You can rent a car or opt for the bus. The bus, if memory serves, takes about 3 hours each way, and there’re a lot of stops. There’s a more luxurious bus and a more casual bus. We took one each way, and both were neat experiences.
Labasa is not a place geared to tourists, and once you arrive there you can almost imagine that you’re in India. It’s busy and busting and their central market is much bigger than Savusavu’s and an adventure to visit. It’s hotter and more humid than Savusavu, and not that pretty, but the reason to go is that it’s so exotic. Also, there’s pretty spectacular scenery on the bus ride over here.
The best place to go once you’ve visited the market is a restaurant called The Oriental. It’s right above the bus depot so it’s easy to find. It’s air conditioned and has a pretty extensive list of Chinese and Indian foods and a nice bar. Later in the afternoon, when you’ve seen the city and need to fill time before taking the bus back to Savusavu, you can have a refreshing drink at the poolside bar of the Grand Eastern Hotel. (It’s actually only about as grand as a Holiday Inn, but it’s a reasonably nice place to sit).
There are a couple of side trips you can take from Labasa. We and some friends opted to take a bus from town a few miles to the Snake Temple. It’s a temple built around a large cobra-shaped rock that is supposedly growing. Hindu devotees come here and it’s adorned with their garlands and offerings, and that’s what makes it so interesting to see. (Be warned, this is out in the countryside and while it was easy to take the bus out here, it took awhile to flag down a passing cab to get back. You might want to take a cab out here and have it wait.)
Palmlea Farms Lodge is a small ecoresort in a beautiful and remote setting on the north side of Vanua Levu. They grow their own organic produce and happen to have an excellent chef and restaurant (Rich and I had the best curry we’ve ever eaten here). It’s very possible the place has changed hands since we went in 2014, but I hope any new owners would have the sense to hang onto the chef!
Going for a meal at this wonderful little resort hideaway is a special treat, but it does require some planning. You need to book ahead, and since it’s about 45 miles from Savusavu you’ll need to rent a car. (Since it’s down a long dirt road off the main highway, taking the bus isn’t really practical).
For us, the best way to experience Palmlea was to make our meal a lunch so we could drive the winding mountain road back to Savusavu in daylight. We know people who’ve gone for dinner, but they generally book a room for the night.
Note: One very good option would be to make a day of it by combining a meal here with a visit to nearby Labasa.
Hibiscus Highway to Buca Bay: You can take the 45-mile bus ride along the south coast of Vanua Levu all the way to the town of Buca. It’s supposed to be a scenic ride, although I don’t think you’ll see any of the anchorages until you get to Buca at Buca Bay, where the trip ends. It’s a small town that it might be interesting to see, but we’d go as much for the scenic bus ride as the town itself. It’s a 45-mile trip and takes a 2 1/2 hours each way. I’m hoping we get to do this if we get back here.
Dive Trip to Namena Island: We wrote about this in the Diving section of our Things to Know About Fiji post, but I’ll mention again how much we loved our day trip there. We used Koro Sun Dive, and they were terrific. (www.korosundive.com).
Waisali Rainforest Reserve: This is quite a ways out of Savusavu on the way to Labasa. The bus can drop you off, but then I don’t know how you’d get back without a car. It’s bout 15 miles from Savusavu. We haven’t yet managed to go here.