Posts Tagged ‘South Pacific Vacations’

Kava Ceremony in Fiji By Frank Lazzaro

May 9, 2014

The Fiji islands are known for their friendly natives and good natured spirit and outgoingness of their people.  Set in the South Pacific, Fiji is made up of over 300 islands, although most visitors touch base on the main 2 islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Kava is the national drink of Fiji, and is also used widely by other South Pacific nations such as Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu. Made from pounding the roots of  the Yaqona plant (Piper methysticum) and infusing the powdered kava root with water, the drink produces a mild sedative and anesthetic effect, as well as a mild euphoria.  Drinking Kava is a social pastime, although it also serves a role in traditional customs related to tribal society. Having made several trips to Fiji, I have always enjoyed experiencing the kava drinking with the locals, both at the resorts as well as in the villages.

Fijian village life revolves around a strong sense of family and community, with the presence of a local chief in each village or province. Fijian villages consist of modest dwellings, and some of the villagers still live in thatched roof homes. Each village typically has a small church and a larger community building where the villagers may gather to eat, celebrate and welcome guests.

We visited Navula Village, on the banks of the Sigatoka River with a member of the staff from our hotel. This village has only recently accepted visitors and we were received warmly. The looks of joy and wonder on the faces of the children in itself made the trip worthwhile.  As a tradition it is customary to bring a gift of kava roots to present to the chief upon our arrival. Once accepted and welcomed, our entire group sat cross legged on the floor opposite the chief and his assistants, who were already mixing up kava in a large wooden bowl in anticipation of our arrival. The kava preparation is and presentation is done with much ritual: chanting, clapping of hands and blessing.  Upon receiving the kava, served in a coconut shell bowl, the participant claps their hands one time and proclaims “ Bula!”, the Fijian greeting which denotes several meanings, (similar to “Aloha” in Hawaiian). The kava is drunk in one gulp, and then the bowl is returned to the host, followed by clapping three times. The kava drink has the appearance (and some say taste) of muddy water. Upon imbibing the drink, we felt a noticeable mild numbness of the tongue and guns.  After several bowls, a feeling of very light intoxication and overall well-being set in.

After and during the kava drinking, many members of the village broke out guitars and serenaded us with their lovely voices. The multi-part harmonies and moving melodies sung by all ages could only be described as heavenly.  No gathering is complete without food, music and dance, and after serving us a family prepared meal of local fruits,  leafy vegetables, starches ( cassava, taro, potatoes)  chicken and fish, we were all encouraged to get up to dance traditional style with our hosts. With a full belly of kava and the delicious lovingly prepared Polynesian style food, no one dared turn down the invitation to strut to the music and learn a few local moves.

Kava is part of daily life in Fiji, both in villages and in urban areas and across all classes and walks of life. ‘Having a grog’, as drinking kava is sometimes known, is used for welcoming and bonding with visitors, for storytelling sessions, or merely for passing time.

To book your Fiji Vacation call 1-866-435-0844 or visit

2 Weeks in the Cook Islands- By Frank Lazzaro

October 28, 2011

Those travelers looking for an authentic Polynesian south seas experience without the exorbitant price tag
should look no further than the alluring Cook Islands. A nine hour flight from  LAX (1 weekly nonstop) mkje the main island of Rarotonga fairly easy to reach and well worth the trip. Once a New Zealand territory, the main language is English, and the exchange rate is quite a bit better than their cousins in
Tahiti. Popular itineraries are 6 day or 13 day, limited by the flight schedules. We opted for the long stay, since it was our anniversary, and spent 7 nights on Rarotonga, and 5 nights on its sister atoll, the amazing Aitutaki.
The Muri Beach Club was a great choice for us: adults only, only 24 rooms, and right on Muri beach, the best on the island. From here you have easy access to the tiny offshore islands ( motus) perfect for a kayak picnic, snorkeling, and swimming in crystal clear water. Other activities on Raro include nature hikes
with the intrepid guide Pa, visits to the waterfall, a myriad of water sports, diving, boating, fishing, and surfing to name a few. An inexpensive and reliable bus service makes transportation a breeze around the island. It is virtually impossible to get lost sinve the island is round ( the bus has only 2 routes- clockwise or “anti”clockwise!). There are so many great dining choices on Rarotonga, with restaurants for all tastes and budgets, and they even have decent nightlife on the weekends. “Island
Nights” also feature traditional Polynesian food and dance almost every night at a different location.

Landing on Aitutaki is like literally stepping back in time to a simpler way of life in a true island paradise setting. Here we opted for Tamanu Beach resort, another amazing little all bungalow hideaway on a stunning palm fringed beach, with top notch snorkeling  just steps from the sand . Home to one of the most beautiful lagoons on the South Pacific, the best way to see this tiny group of islands is by booking a lagoon cruise. Here you will have a chance to snorkel, see giant clams, visit the ubiquitous One Foot Island (one of the most photographed beaches in the world) and have an authentic Polynesian barbecue lunch on an idyllic little island. We lovesd the cruise so  much, we did it twice with 2 different tour companies. Both had something different
to offer, so we were never bored with the locations or activities served. Aitutaki also has some great places to eat, our favorites were Koro Café for
lunch and the Boat Shed for an amazing seafood dinner and drinks. After our 2 weeks in the Cook Islands, we came home feeling so refreshed, relaxed and
renewed in our love that we will always hold that place very close to our hearts. Cook Islands are a great choice for a honeymoon, romantic getaway or
destination wedding. For more information on booking your trip to the Cook Islands, please visit