Fabulous Fiji – A beautiful escape
Even if you haven’t been to Fiji, you have probably seen pictures of it. You know those pristine beaches that have glittering sand that looks like sugar and sparkling water that’s a radiant aquamarine color? Yes, that’s Fiji.
If you want to get away to a place that doesn’t take forever to get to but still feels about as far away as you can get, a trip to Fiji won’t let you down. Unlike places like Bali, the Maldives, Seychelles or the Canary Islands, Fiji is just a short 10 hour direct flight from LAX. That’s one of the many reasons that Fiji is a great vacation getaway destination.
What to do
If you’re sport minded, you can enjoy surfing, kayaking, sailing, fishing, swimming, and of course, snorkeling or scuba diving in excellent spots like the Rainbow Reef and the Great White Wall. If you brave the rapids, you can also go white water rafting on the main island of Nadi. With its abundant rainforests, Fiji is also a good place to go trekking or hiking. You can go on different adventures through a variety of terrains – whether it be a stroll in the Garden of Sleeping Giant or a hike through the Koroyanitu National Park.
If you’re one who thinks that crossing cultural barriers is more thrilling than riding the waves, you can explore the national museum in Suva or join guided bus tours to Vuda Lookout and Sabeto Valley and the many local village excursions in Savusavu and other islands. Here, you can experience Fijian music, witness Kava ceremonies, and even watch as locals concoct their many native medicines.
When I say that Fiji has some of the world’s most stunning beaches, I’m not lying. Gorgeous beaches such as Yasawa Islands, Vatulele, Wakaya and Namena are some of the most popular Fijian beaches and almost look untouched. All of these are ideal places for snorkeling and diving and are some of the favorite destinations for backpackers. Just about any boat charter will also be able to drop you off on one of the dozens of sandbars, making it feel like you are stranded on a deserted island.
Fiji has some of the most charming resorts in the south pacific, making it hard to peg down the best ones. Though my full review of the Fiji Marriott Momi Bay (which you can read HERE) focuses on quite a few negative issues we encountered, overall I still believe it’s the best resort on the main island. When we traveled there back in May of 2017, the resort had been open less than a month. Nearly all of the issues we dealt with were because the staff weren’t properly trained yet and had no idea what they were doing or how to run a five star resort. I am assuming—because of the Marriott brand standards and the positive reviews I’ve seen lately—that they’ve ironed out the kinks. Put simply—and arguably most importantly—we will definitely go back there and look forward to doing so. I would still recommend it as my top pick to friends and family. It is, however, on the spendier side for Fiji, so if you are looking for something more affordable, there are other great options.
The Radisson Resort is a good budget-conscious pick. The resort is surrounded by 10 acres of the beach, has its own lagoon, children's pool, and even a health spa. It also offers an on-site restaurant that serves light meals and buffet dining and views of both the pool area and the ocean. Fiji Beach Resort and Spa Managed by Hilton is a close second. One of the best resorts in Fiji, it has a private beach, an outdoor pool and a fitness facility. The Westin Denarau and the Sheraton (both right next to each other) offer great restaurants and are an easy walking distance between each other, which allows guests the option to easily dine at different restaurants rather than being “stuck” at one resort. The beach isn’t as nice (it’s a bit rocky and unless the tide is perfect, there isn’t much of a beach at all, which is why they don’t make the top of my list. The other amenities, however, make them great options nonetheless. The upscale restaurant at the Sheraton is one of may favorites on the island and each resort has a number of different pools—ranging from communal to kids only and adults only. They also have great swim-up bars that lend themselves to a lively social scene.
The Pearl South Pacific Resort is another resort that’s a good one. This beautiful retreat offers a luxury of penthouse suites, panoramic ocean view, and tropical garden rooms. As if an 18-hole golf course, four restaurants, and six bars are not enough, the hotel also boasts of its own cinema, spa treatment facilities, satellite TV, and wireless internet… if you want to be spoiled on your vacation, you know where to go.
Another great option is to rent a villa. Beware though—standards in Fiji are not as high as we are accustomed to in the US, so even a “luxury” villa might not be up to the standards that you are used to. We rented a villa through VRBO, and while it suited our needs and offered a nice change of scenery from the resort, I am not sure I would stay there again.
We stayed 4 nights and 5 days at the Sapphire Bay Villas in late May after spending the first few days at the Marriott Momi Bay. Perhaps our expectations were high since we had just come from a nice resort, but the villas were not everything we had hoped for. Though the main dining area and open concept kitchen and living room were spacious and well-decorated, that was really one of the only positives. The infinity pool just off the main gathering room was nice, but small. The beds and the pillows were very uncomfortable and the linens weren't great. The woman who checked us in made a painstakingly specific point to tell us that they had counted all the towels, cups, plates, etc. and that we would be charged if anything was missing or broken. That is obviously understandable but her delivery wasn't great. Though the house had nearly all the plates and utensils we needed, there were absolutely no spices or oils to cook with, so you will need to bring your own. The worst part about the house is that it is not protected from the elements and the critters outside in any way. We had tons of spiders, geckos, frogs and mosquitos inside the house, despite constantly keeping the doors and windows closed. The frogs and geckos made for an interesting authentic feel but the fun and games were over when we found a spider the size of a softball hiding inside the toilet.
I do not think I would stay here again. Though having a house and being able to avoid resort prices and being stuck eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at a restaurant, I think we will stick to the resorts next time. I will say there was one very positive thing: the gentleman that the Villa staff called to be our driver throughout our stay, Dharmen (who lives just next door), was one of the most incredible people we met in Fiji. He was so incredibly polite and kind and took us all over town. He even invited us to his home for dinner, which was lovely. Though I will probably not be staying at the Sapphire Bay Villas the next time we are in Fiji, I will absolutely be giving Dharmen a call to just hang out with.
Fiji restaurants are well-known for their attentive service and well-presented cuisine. Despite all its foibles, the restaurant Fish Bar at the Marriott Momi Bay was one of our favorites on the island. Serving up--you guessed it--seafood dishes and authentic Fijian cuisine, Fish Bar offers a semi-upscale dining option for seafood lovers.
If you like continental food, try charcoal-grilled king prawns, rack of lamb, and grilled beef tenderloin at Chefs The Restaurant. For oceanfront dining, head to Coconut Grove Restaurant and try its popular fish and seafood, organic vegetables and homemade pastas. Another great option is Indigo, which is a popular restaurant that serves authentic Indian dishes such as mangrove crab masala, Goan pork curry, and buttered chicken.
South Pacific Butcher
If you did choose a villa over a resort, I would imagine you might want to cook “at home.” That is one of the main reasons we typically get a villa—so we are not at the mercy of the resort for each and every meal. The South Pacific Butcher, on Denarau Road not far from the airport, is a great place to get meat.
We went to this butcher after getting advice from a local ex-pat that it's the best place in town to get meats. We had just spent a few days at the Marriott Momi Bay and were moving to a house, so we wanted to cook a few of the nights. The butcher was relatively easy to find from the woman's directions (just up the road on the left after you make a left at the Denarau roundabout). We bought eggs, chicken and ribeye steaks--all of which were fairly expensive. The only thing that was good were the eggs. The meat smelled funny and tasted even worse, though I don't think it was rancid--just poor quality. I would not buy meat here again.
For a supermarket, New World/IGA is a great option that is also located near the airport and conveniently located near the South Pacific Butcher. Here you can find all your major staples, as well as beer, wine and liquor, toiletries, produce and household items. Not far from here is an open air market where you can purchase fruits and vegetables directly from local vendors.
It’s time to visit Fiji! Now that you have all the information you need, what are you waiting for?
While it’s certainly part of the industrialized world, Fiji is a natural gem that will provide you with a refreshing escape from the hectic everyday life into a land of beauty and wonder. The history, culture and beauty of the Fiji Islands await you. Come and see nature at its best.
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