Blue Lagoon Caves Fiji (Sawa-i-Lau Caves): What you need to know
When I was looking for things to do in Fiji, I got really excited when I saw the Sawa-i-Lau caves, aka the Blue Lagoon caves. Located in the North of the Yasawa Islands, this unique swimming hole looked absolutely amazing. I knew I had to visit it during our recent holiday to Fiji.
One of the reasons we stayed at Blue Lagoon Resort was to visit the famous Blue Lagoon caves in Fiji. If you’re planning on visiting them too, here’s everything you need to know about how to get there, and what the experience is like. There’s also an unexpected second cave to visit as well which definitely raised my blood levels. If you’re looking for ideas on where to stay in Fiji, check out our Ultimate Fijian Islands Travel Guide for absolutely everything you need to know about planning your trip to paradise.
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What’s so special about the Sawa i Lau caves?
While the Sawa i Lau caves are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Yasawa islands, it’s home to many legends. It is said a princess hid in the cave with a young chief to avoid her getting married off to another chief. A hawk who also lived in the cave ended up killing the princess and the chief had his revenge on the hawk and killed it.
It’s also home to the resting place and spirit of Ulutini, the 10 headed ancient Fijian god. Apparently each chamber of the caves represent each of his heads. Locals also suggest the caves are home to two fish Dema Leka and Damu Balavu as well as an eel although we didn’t see it in there.
Apart from the local legends, Sawa i Lau caves became famous after featuring in the movie called Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields. Many of the scenes were filmed in and around the caves which has put this secret lagoon on the map.
My experience of visiting the caves
Because I was staying at Blue Lagoon Resort, the Sawa i Lau caves are just a 25 minute scenic boat trip away in the Northern Yasawas. We left at 8:30am for the half day trip to get there during low tide, meaning we were the first group of tourists to arrive at the caves because the day trippers from other islands or Port Denauru hadn’t arrived yet.
When we arrived to the island after the short boat ride, we were told to leave our bags outside of the caves on the small beach. We stripped down to our swimsuits, leaving our shoes and clothes behind, before making our way up a concrete staircase to enter the caves. There’s a door with a lock on the caves so we had to wait for the locals to arrive with the key. I’m not sure why they lock it, but, it certainly felt quite mysterious.
We wanted to bring our camera bag into the cave, and you can because there is a dry spot before you get into the water to leave your camera if needed.
The staircase isn’t very big and within a minute you’ll be entering the caves. As you walk down, you’ll see a sign saying, “Mind your head, do not damage rocks”. I loved that! So, you’ll have to crouch a little to walk down the steps to the cave, but when you get in, you’ll certainly be taken aback by the beauty of it.
Entering the first cave
Entering the first cave, you’ll notice the soft light that fills the space. When you jump into the water, you quickly realise how vast the cave really is. Above you, the ancient limestone formations rise high, framing a large opening in the ceiling. This hole allows sunlight to stream in, subtly warming the cave’s blue waters.
We assumed the water would be freezing due to it being in a cavern, but the water was surprisingly warm. When we visited, it’s not a bright turquoise water, more like a darker version. No one really knows how deep the water is in the cave, but there are a couple of rocks you can rest on in there. In our group, no one wore life jackets – we weren’t offered them. I would recommend children to wear one, but if you can swim, you should be fine.
The second secret cave
Before we entered the first cave, our guides told us about a second secret cave. We were totally unaware of it, and as they tried to make out that it wasn’t a big deal, it felt like it was. They told us how we’d have to swim in an underwater tunnel for four seconds before we would enter the cave. Although that doesn’t sound like much, it felt like it was going to be a little scary.
The cave is called Qara ni Bukete which means the pregnancy cave. Local legend has it that no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, you won’t make it through the underwater tunnel to enter this cave, and you’ll become stuck in the entrance. I didn’t know this at the time, and as we were told it after we had entered it, I kinda panicked as we are going through a fertility journey currently.
On the far right of the first cave, our guide showed us the entrance for the second cave. He started leading people through it, and it looked tiny.
As someone who is claustrophobic, scared of the dark and suffers from anxiety, stupidly I decided it was a good idea to do it.
The scary entrance into the second cave
As I plucked up the courage to take a deep breath, another tourist comes back out saying “that was so scary”. I stop, panic and wonder whether this is a good idea.
I go ahead, take a deep breath, take the snorkel part out of my mouth and swim underwater. As I swim, someone is waiting for me and pulls me up. As I come out of the water, there’s another Fijian guide waiting for me.
Our two heads above the water face eachother, and I quickly realise there’s no space around us. This tunnel is tiny, and I start to panic. He tells me to swim, and all I see it what I think is a long tunnel. My breath gets shorter as I wonder how long the tunnel is and what have I got myself into.
Luckily, the tunnel was short and before I know it, I am welcomed by some of the other tourists from our resort, who are swimming in pitch black with one torch. I freak out, wondering why I agreed to do this. The tourist calms me down, and says I’ll be OK.
Within a minute or two, Steve enters the cave looking as scared as I was. We hear people talking and realise we’ve entered a big cave full of different tunnels. As we swim, we see some floaties and hang onto them as we head down to the next torch full of others who made it in.
There’s something kinda freaky about this cave, there’s an energy that feels so strong in here. And it’s no wonder that locals say that once you enter this cave, you’ve visited the true ‘heart of the Yasawas’. I’m not sure what that means but it certainly had a powerful energy to it.
Am I glad I went into this cave? Yes, I’m pleased that I had the courage to do it and that I faced my fears, but it was scary, especially when once we got out of it and back into the first chamber, everyone commented about the kids in the Thai cave. That’s when I gulped and wondered how I would cope staying in that cave for longer than the 10 minutes we were in there for.
The guides told us there are a lot of caves in this island, but these two are the only ones open to tourists. It would be fascinating to see what else is there to explore, but I’m glad we saw the two we got to.
Bring some cash for the markets
The local friendly Fijians have a few market stalls outside of the cave where you can support them from the neibouring island. We weren’t told there would be a market outside, so we didn’t bring any cash. We would have bought a sarong at least from them, if we had known.
How to get to Blue Lagoon Caves in Fiji
There are various ways to visit the Sawa i lau caves which I’ll mention below.
Do a day trip via your Yasawa islands accommodation like I did
With plenty of resorts nearby, you can easily jump on a tour by the following resorts and homestays for a small fee:
There are a couple of cruises you can jump on from Port Denauru which is on the mainland of Veitu Lavu (near to Nadi).
Multi-day cruises for everyone
If you’d prefer to spend your time in Fiji seeing a lot of culture and islands, you might like the 4 Night Northern Yasawa Islands Cruise. This trip includes the Sawa i lau caves as well as two different islands each day. You’ll visit local villages, and spend your time snorkelling the magnificent coral reefs.
Prefer to spend longer on a cruise? Check out the 7-Night Yasawa Islands Cruise where you’ll get a taster of a different island every day. This is a great choice if you don’t have time to organise island hopping yourself and want to make the most of the Fijian islands.
Looking for one of the best Fiji resorts in the Yasawa Islands? Check out our full in-depth Blue Lagoon Resort review. We share everything you need to know about staying here in our completely honest review.