When visiting the South Pacific, you will most likely find yourself participating in many traditional kava ceremonies. Visiting any village is an important aspect and Pacific Islanders have followed this tradition for centuries.

This cultural ceremony provides a unique insight into Fijian traditions, fostering community and connection. In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about what to expect during a kava ceremony in Fiji, making sure you’re well prepared to enjoy this unique cultural experience.

It can be a bit confusing when you don’t know what to do in a kava ceremony but don’t worry, Fijians are very patient and will talk you through the process.

What to Expect at a Fijian Kava Ceremony

a Kava Ritual is a traditional ritual in which participants drink kava, a drink made from the crushed root of the yacona (or kava plant). We have participated in several kava ceremonies in Fiji, but they are celebrated throughout the South Pacific. In this post, we are going to talk about the steps taken in the kava ceremony in Fiji, but the surrounding islands are similar.

The ceremony is deeply embedded in Fijian culture and often marks significant events, celebrations and social gatherings. Kava has a calming effect, promoting relaxation and social bonding between participants.

When participating in a traditional kava ceremony, it is important to respect Fijian culture. There are many rules to follow and we are going to go through the steps you can expect.

What is kava?

Kava, also known as kava-kava, is a traditional drink made from the roots of the Piper methysticum plant, which is native to the South Pacific Islands. The drink has been used for centuries in various Pacific cultures, including Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, for its sedative, anesthetic and euphoric properties.

Kava ceremony etiquette

Kava traditions follow the rule that when entering a village in Fiji it is customary for guests to bring a gift of kava root known as yakona. You can buy kava root at the local market. Those roots would be crushed into a liquid and placed in kava bowls for guests to drink. Before people drink from communal bowls.

In recent years, kava rituals have changed, and now they take turns from a large communal bowl using their own bills. (half a coconut).

Process of the Kava ceremony

Dress conservatively as a sign of respect. Women should always wear a sulu (sarong) and dress modestly. Men should also dress respectfully. Many men in Fiji wear sarongs, and you can too! At least, men should cover their shoulders. But it is acceptable to wear long shorts and short-sleeved shirts that cover your shoulders.

If you don’t have a sarong, a long skirt will do. Long shorts are also acceptable. But I always tie a sarong around my waist when entering the village.

The eldest male enters the house first, followed by the rest of the males and then the females. When entering the house, remove any hats and sunglasses. And then greet your leader first as chief or host.

Welcome ceremony

Kaw vidhi usually begins with a welcome ceremony. The village head or designated leader welcomes the guests. Before the ceremony begins, the chair explains the ceremony while the participants are then seated in a circle, with their village chief or leader in the center.

When the ceremony begins, the chief (the eldest man in your group) presents the root to the village chief.

The ceremony then begins as the villagers grind the kava root and strain it through a cloth bag into a large wooden bowl. tanoa. It is placed in the center of the room. It is then offered to your group head.

After your chief has taken a sip, the administrative head of the village drinks the kava next.

Once the two heads of the party have drunk, it is offered to the rest of the room according to rank. Men drink first followed by women.


Kava is served in coconut shell cups called a Bills. The cup is first presented to the principal or eldest member, and then passed around according to rank. When receiving a kava drink, you should clap once, drink the entire contents of the cup, and then clap three times. This ritual is repeated until everyone has had their turn.

drinking kava

When kava comes to you, there are traditions to follow. Be sure to follow these steps when you drink kava.

You will be offered the option of “high tide” or “low tide”. A high tide means you’ll like the whole cup. If you ask for a low tide, that means they will give you half a cup of kava. Locals like to give you a full cup to honor you.

When you receive the coconut, follow these steps and have a great time!

  • Clap your hands once with the cupped hands making a hollow sound
  • Bula: Bula!
  • Drink in a gulp
  • Clap three times with the cut hand to repeat that hollow sound.
  • Say: “Methe” pronounced maw-theo

What does kava taste like? Kava Keek tastes muddy water. There is also some bitterness. How should you say…an acquired taste.

How you will feel after tasting kava

Kava has a distinct earthy taste and can cause a numbness in the mouth. Once you drink kava, you may feel a tingling and numbness in your tongue. Kava is a very mild drug and is known to make people feel relaxed.

It is known for its calming effects, relaxation and promoting a sense of well-being. After a few tides you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep and you’ll wake up feeling well-rested and energized.

Fijians are known to be some of the happiest people on the planet and somehow we think kava might have something to do with it.

Kava was once sold in pill form in the United States as a relaxer, but they never caught on to the exact formula of drinking it fresh from the root.

As the ceremony progresses, participants often engage in storytelling, singing and dancing, fostering a sense of community and connection.

After the kaw ceremony – the celebration

Once the kaw ceremony is over, the festival of song and dance can begin. The kava ceremony brings two families together and they are now one after the ceremony. After the kava ceremony it is a big celebration with dancing and music.

This is a wonderful way to interact with the local villagers. Don’t be shy, join the dance. Fijians are the most friendly and welcoming people.

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

Which islands perform kava ceremonies?

We participated in the kava ceremony in Fiji, but it is an integral part of the cultural fabric in many islands of the South Pacific. Each region has its own unique traditions and ways of preparing and celebrating with kava. Here are the main places where you can experience an authentic kava ceremony:

Vanuatu is often considered the birthplace of kava. Here, kava is central to social gatherings, ceremonies and community events. Kava Bar, Or worthlessThere are popular places where locals and visitors alike can enjoy this traditional drink in a communal atmosphere.

Other countries with kava ceremonies are Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, however, rituals are not as common in Papua New Guinea and are influenced by neighboring Pacific islands. Apparently, Hawaii has also begun to embrace kava and kava bars have emerged as places where people can gather to enjoy kava in a relaxed atmosphere.

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