Lautoka, AKA "Sugar City"

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A 20-30 min drive north of Nadi, depending on traffic, is Fiji's 2nd biggest city - Lautoka. While this is not known as a tourist destination, I really like the place. With a population of close to 60,000 it's right on the coast, it has a massive fruit and vege market, and lots of interesting shops if you care to poke around the back streets. It can be very busy, especially if there is a cruise ship docked at the wharf.

Mosque, visible from the main street of lautoka
Jame Mosque, in the center of lautoka

Getting To Lautoka From Nadi

Lautoka is a 30min drive north of Nadi. Maybe more, if it is busy on the roads. A taxi will cost perhaps $40. Local bus far is less than fj$3, and a shuttle is fj$2. If you are taking a rental car from the airport, then turn left as you exit the airport, and follow the road north.

What's Within Easy Walking Distance of Bus Station or CBD?

As I mentioned earlier, Lautoka isn't really a tourist destination. Still, if you are on a criuse ship docked at Lautoka Wharf, or perhaps taking a bus up from Nadi/Denarau for a daytrip, here are a few thoughts.

The Municipal Market: Difficult to miss this place, it's huge. It is also one of the hubs of the city, with everyone coming here to buy their fruit vegetables and spices. Right next door (or accessed from inside the main market) is the Fish market. Also difficult to miss. Not because of the size but the smell of fish. All types of colorful tropical fish for sale as well as tuna, coral trout, slimy mackerel, parrotfish etc. etc.

Bus Station: This is beside the market, and at first glance seems totally chaotic. There are so many buses coming and going, people milling around, you would wonder why there aren't multiple accidents every day. But somehow it all seems to work, and as one bus backs out of a space, another pulls in.

Jame Mosque: Also difficult to miss due to its sheer size, this is on the main street in the center of town. There are numerous mosques and temples in Fiji, with this being one of the biggest. You will often hear the call to prayer (Adhan) ringing out during the day.

Tappos Mall: This is also on the main street, and while not particularly impressive, it makes a great place to grab a snack on those hot summer days. The top floor is all cafes and food courts, but the main attraction for me at least, is the very good Air Conditioning!

Churchill Park: This is next to Tappos, and if any large outdoor events are being held in Lautoka, this might well be the venue. On my last visit, there was a week long festival being held, with the whole park covered in food stalls, kids fairground rides and games, and overly loud music blasting out.

Toy stall at Lautoka festival
How many kids toys is it possible to pack under one gazebo roof?

Lautoka Port, Main Docking Point For Cruise Ships: Nothing of any real interest, in fact you can't even go onto the wharf to look around. When a cruise ship is in port, passengers have their I.D lanyards to allow them entry.

Tavewa Seabus: This is just to the south of the main port, and the Tavewa Seabus leaves from here each morning at 8am sharp. If you want to get out to the Yasawa islands, this is a cheaper alternative to the YASAWA FLYER. Find out more info on the Tavewa Seabus or make a booking inquiry.

Entrance to port, and the lautoka wharf
Entrance to the port, and the Seabus arriving at the wharf

Sugar Mill: Lautoka didn't get it's nickname Sugar City for nothing, as the mill here is the largest in Fiji. At one time, it was the largest in the southern hemisphere. Production is lower than it was 20 years ago, but even so, it still plays a major role in the local and national economy.

During the cutting season, which runs from June to whenever it's finished (usually Nov-Dec) the roads into and out of Lautoka are constantly busy with extremely slow moving trucks carry cane to the mill. You might also see small trains on the narrow guage rail pulling 50(ish) carriages stacked up with cane.

When you think of sugar cane, you also think of the byproduct... molasses. And when you think of molasses, that leads inevitably to the most well known product ever made from that. RUM ;-) Of course Lautoka has to have a rum factory don't they? And they do. The local rum is pretty decent IMO, and it's made right here in Lautoka.

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