Kava Ceremony in Fiji Etiquette

When visiting Fiji you will find yourself taking part in many a Kava ceremony.  It is an important aspect of visiting any village and it is customary to present a gift of Yaqona (Kava root) to present to the executive head of the village.

It can be a little confusing when you don’t know what to do, but don’t worry, the Fijian people are very patient and will talk you through the process.   But to make things a little easier for your next trip to Fiji here are some facts and tips on what to expect when partaking in your very own Kava ceremony.

Kava Ceremony Etiquette

  • When entering a village always bring a gift of kava root. It can be picked up at a local market.
  • Women should always wear a sulu (sarong) and dress modestly.
  • Men should dress respectful as well.
  • The eldest man enters the house first followed by the rest of the men and then the women
  • Everyone must sit down and remain seated during the ceremony.
  • You are allowed to take photographs, but it is always respectful to ask.
  • The chief (the eldest man in your group) presents the root to the Village Chief.
  • The ceremony then begins as the villagers grind up the Kava and strain it through a cloth bag into a large wooden bowl placed in the middle of the room.
  • It is then offered to your chief and second
  • Then the village’s executive head drinks the Kava before it is offered to the rest of the room.
  • After that it is shared with everyone.
  • The men drink first and then the women.

When receiving Kava


drinking kava at the kava ceremony

  • Clap once with a cupped hand making a hollow sound
  • Yell: Bula!
  • Drink in one gulp
  • Clap three times
  • Say: Mathe

You will be offered the option of “high tide,” or “low tide”

This means full cup or half cup.

How you will feel.

Once you drink, you will probably feel tingling and numbness in your tongue.

Kava is a very mild narcotic and is known to make people feel relaxed.  You are guaranteed to have a good nights sleep after a couple of high tides and you will wake up feeling well rested and energized.

Fijian people are known to be some of the happiest on the planet and somehow we think that the Kava may have something to do with that.  It was sold as an relaxant in the States in pill form at one time, but they couldn’t capture the exact formula of drinking it fresh from the root.

How it tastes?

Like muddy water, literally.  With a bit of bitterness. It is how should you say…an acquired taste

Once the ceremony is over, the festivities of song and dance can begin.

The Kava ceremony brings two families together and they are now one once the ceremony begins.

After the Kava ceremony, the visitors are free and welcome to enter and explore the village as they please.

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