Bula Fiji: A True Home Away From Home

Lush green gardens, deep blue ocean, perfect waves, volcanic mountains, smiling faces, and palm trees swaying by the turquoise sea… isn’t that the description of Fiji you have in mind? Well, I can tell you that it IS all that, and so much more! 

Bula Fiji! A True Home Away From Home!

 

 

Flying into the Yasawa Islands!

 

Fiji is made up of about 330 islands, and only 110 of them are inhabited. These islands are smack in the middle of nowhere (well, not nowhere but you know… far) in the Pacific Ocean. They are surrounded by Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the west, Samoa and Tonga to the east and New Zealand to the south. Both the main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of just under a million. Needless to say, there are quite a few untouched areas, and that is what makes Fiji so beautiful. With so many pristine coral reefs that surrounds the islands, it is an underwater paradise. It’s also great for diving, since there are steep drop-offs right off the coast of many islands. Needless to say, Fiji promotes itself! Being so close to New Zealand and Australia, many of the visitors to the islands are from there! It was a nice change of pace to be so far away! Fiji Airways is the national carrier, and also offers free stopovers for many destinations! Although I didn’t have time to visit New Zealand or Australia, my experience with Fiji Airways was delightful. It is a long 10-hour flight over from Los Angeles, so be prepared! However, the crew onboard and the flight itself was pretty much next to perfect (well, as perfect as a long haul flight can be!). Fiji is definitely a tropical paradise, but if you need to stay connected while on vacation, I would suggest getting a SIM card upon your arrival in Nadi airport. There are two providers in the arrivals area, and it was by far the best way to have data. Wifi, on the other hand, is usually fast in the main towns, such as Nadi and Suva… but once you head out to the islands, it’s hit or miss. Also, many resorts and hotels charge extra (at insane rates) to use their wifi, so be prepared. The SIM card I bought was with Digicell and cost $35US for 10GB of data. I was very happy I had taken this option, as I found the wifi to be SLOW, unreliable and intermittent once away from the main island. Do note, however, that data coverage is spotty once you hit the Yasawa islands, so digital nomads – take note!

In Nadi

Nadi, in my opinion, is a one-night-stay kind of place. It is most likely where you will land if you’re coming from an international destination, so it’ll be the first you’ll see of Fiji. It’s not a bad place at all, just not much to do. Nadi is referred to by the locals as “the burning west”, and it lived up to it’s name: it is hot and sticky!

Denarau island, a man-made island right out of Nadi town, is where all the resorts are and the marina. Before construction took place, it used to be all mangroves. I was told that since they “destroyed” the mangroves and converted it to a resort area, that the floodings into Nadi have been much worse. It kind of saddened me to learn this, but if you want more information about the floodings that happen in Nadi, you can find it through my good friend Google.

Denarau is also where the day trips to the islands leave from, and also Captain Cook Cruises. You can read my write-up about my experience with them here .

I stayed in Nadi on two separate occasions, both were one-night stays in between my transfers to/from cruise/resorts. Needless to say they were short stays, so I didn’t really get to see much of it. It’s not very big, but there are a slue of hotels on the main highway in between local restaurants and shops that are conveniently located, and some offer free airport shuttles. I have to admit, hotels in Nadi (or maybe even Fiji as a whole) have slightly lower standards than North-Amercian ones. For example, if a hotel is rated a 4 star, I would rate it a 2.5 or 3 star by North American standards, for the same price. I would suggest reading reviews before booking to make sure it’s within your comfort range. The hotels tend to be on the pricier side, but I guess that’s what happens near an airport and marina. If you want one of the fancier high-end hotels or resorts in the area, you’ll have to stay in Denarau (about 20 minutes away from Nadi) for about 3x the cost. Hotels there are outrageously pricey and crowded!

There are a few activities to do in Nadi such as the Hindu Sri Siva Subramaniya temple, the Nadi handicraft market, the garden of the sleeping giant, and the Sabeto Mud Pools and Hot Springs, just to name a few. The only one I visited was The Sabeto Mud pools and hot springs, as it was part of the activities offered during port day with Captain cook cruises. The Sabeto hot water springs are one of Fiji’s hidden gems. It is a natural therapeutic spa, also known as the Sabeto mud baths. The mud at the bottom of the area is said to be of therapeutic benefits for the skin and rejuvenation. It was definitely a fun thing to do! I was accompanied by a nice Swiss family and their 3 kids who also enjoyed it a lot. Definitely a nice thing to do for a morning or afternoon activitiy. The Garden of the sleeping giant is also down the road so both can be combined, although we didn’t have time for both. At the mud pools, there is also a massage hut with some ladies offering some massages after the mud baths. We ended up taking the 15-20 minute massage at a very reasonable price. It is definitely worth visiting for a few hours while in Nadi or nearby areas.

Newly built in Nadi, and a 5 minutes drive away from the airport, is the Rejuvenation centre, also known as the transit lounge. It’s a nice place to go relax if you have a long layover, or a lot of time before your flight.

I visited the centre on my last day in Fiji, when I had about 5 hours to kill. They have a spa onsite, a movie room, a shop, a gym and a healthy restaurant. You can rent a private room if you want to get some sleep, and they also offer free transport to/from Nadi airport.

I opted for a one-hour massage before my long 26-hour journey back home, and it was very relaxing. The therapists are very good, and offer a range of services from massages to facials.

If you want to relax in an air conditioned space for a few hours, instead of enduring the heat of Nadi with luggage and all, then I highly recommend it. The staff, as everywhere in Fiji, were very friendly!

Visit them here for all their prices and services offered!


Where I Stayed In Nadi

 

The first hotel I stayed at for a night in Nadi was Tokatoka Resort

This hotel is literally across the street from the airport, so you can’t beat the convenience. They also offer a free shuttle as well (even though it’s across the street, it’s still quite a walk in the heat with luggage).  The reception area is large and inviting, and the staff very welcoming. There was a tour desk, a lounging area, and a souvenir shop all in the main reception area. There is a spa and a gym on the grounds, which seemed to be quite nice, and the spa had some good prices too! The grounds of the hotel are quite lovely. They even have a waterslide at their pool area. The pool is quite large, with sun loungers and umbrellas dotted along the poolside. The main restaurant is also located by the pool, and this is where they serve the breakfast buffet.

I only had the breakfast buffet, and it was ok. There wasn’t much choice, so I would say it was quite basic. I didn’t have anything else to eat at the restaurant, so I can’t comment further on the food.

My room was located on the ground floor and it was a studio, which means there was a separate living room and bedroom. There was a mini-fridge, sink and kettle. There were two tv’s, one in the bedroom and one in the sitting area. My room was facing the Main Street, so it was very loud. Fijian style homes have wooden shutters and mosquito nets on the windows, but it doesn’t cut out the noise in the least bit and always sounds like the windows are wide open. It’s also not possible to have the shutters open (for natural light) and air conditioning on at the same time, so it’s one or the other.

All in all, it was a nice place to stay for a night as a layover, but I wouldn’t suggest any longer than a night or two at the most. I would also suggest asking for a room away from the main street and not on the ground floor.

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The second hotel I stayed at post-cruise was Mercure Hotel.

Again, I only stayed here one night. It was a nice hotel, quiet and central. They offer airport transfers as well. My room was large and clean, with a nice view of the pool. The breakfast was quite excellent, offering a huge continental buffet, and also a hot order, offering made-to-order eggs and the like. I was quite impressed with the food actually. I had also ordered a fish burger that was really good as well. The grounds are very nice, with lounge chairs, sun loungers by the pool, all lit up with tiki lanterns at night for a cozy environment. All in all, the location and cleanliness of this property is a win, and I would definitely suggest staying here if you plan on staying in Nadi for a night or two.

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And now, the island resorts! 🙂

I had the ultimate privilege to stay at 2 wonderful resorts before and after my cruise. One was off the coast of the main island, and the other way up in the Yasawa islands. Both were incredible in their own way and charm, and here is my detailed write-up about them!

** The 2 Resorts I Stayed At **

 

  Toberua Island Resort was my first experience of my Fijian vacation, and I can say with certainty that they did not disappoint! Set on 4 acres of beautiful lush gardens off the coast of Viti Levu in the Lomaiviti island group, this quaint little resort of only 16 bures is a little slice of paradise! It started with a private pickup at Suva airport, a 10-15 minute taxi ride over to the boat taxi landing point. From there, a 30 minute ride over to the island and voila, I was finally in paradise after so much traveling! Needless to say I was exhausted from all the traveling, but the warm Fijian welcome by the staff was ever so lovely! I was met by a signing crew as well as Robin, the manager on sight, and I knew my time there would be inviting and relaxing. I was put up in a deluxe bure, with a patio overlooking the ocean. My absolutely favourite part about it was… THE SWING! I would literally sit there for hours! It was so quiet and peaceful, and a perfect spot to unwind and recharge from the long travels behind me! The Bure itself was superb… impeccably clean (the whole resort was!), comfortable and spacious. I had a comfortable king size bed, a lounge area overlooking the patio and ocean, and a big bathroom with doors that led to an outdoor area. the hot water seemed to be intermittent, but it’s island life. A side note: this is an ecological resort, and there is no air conditioning anywhere on the island. I was there during their “fall season”, so it wasn’t that hot or humid, but I probably would not be able to endure the heat of the summer without some A/C. The food was exquisite! The chef has been at the resort for 30 years, so he must be doing something right! The menu consisted of a variety of dishes and catered to different diets as well. Lunch and dinner were always a la carte, and the way they presented it was very cute: a member of the staff would come find guests during the day and timed a few hours before mealtime, have them look at the menu and choose what they wanted to have. This way, there was hardly any waiting when arriving for their meal at the main restaurant. Since it’s a small resort, it was a very nice way to personalize and cater to each and every guest. It was always at least a 3 course meal, with an appetizer, main dish and dessert. The menu varied from one day to the next, and every single dish I had I enjoyed thoroughly. As for the breakfast, it was both continental and made to order. The cold buffet was laid out in the main restaurant building, and was self serve. At the same time, they offered a hot menu, which consisted of eggs of choice and a choice of two sides. It was a nice blend of fresh fruits and pastries, and good old eggs’n bacon (if that’s your thing! I’m vegetarian so I opted for hash browns instead!). The rest of the grounds were very well kept and exceptionally clean, with an activity centre, a spa, a small gym and lush gardens to walk through. The only downfall is that there is no long stretch of beach to walk on, so if that’s your thing, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that note. However, there was a nice house reef that was easy to snorkel out to, and also daily activities to participate in, such as how to tie a Fijian sarong called a bulu, snorkelling, to tea time in the afternoon. There’s also a pool table in the lounging area in the main outdoor building by the bar. It was a nice place to mingle with the few other guests who were there. There is also a very lovely pool area by the main office and shop, lined by palm trees and lounge chairs to lull away the afternoon in the sun! At low tide, the island almost triples in size and a part of it becomes a golf course!     As mentioned before, I was there during the off-season, so it was quieter than usual (which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion). I loved being there simply for the relaxing vibe and perfect weather: sunny with a nice breeze! These photos may give you the urge to visit, and if you need more information, please check out their website here.

Toberua spa
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Yasawa is one of the Fijian words for Heaven, and this resort is just that! I ended my Fijian vacation at this resort, and it was a nice way to seal in a beautiful trip! Yasawa Island Resort and Spa is a small luxury all-inclusive boutique resort located on the biggest island in the Yasawa group. When I say all-inclusive, I mean it. Aside from alcoholic drinks, everything is included in the nightly rate (meals, non-alcoholic drinks, activities, room service etc). It was a royal treat for me!

You can see on the map where it is, to give you an idea!

  The remoteness makes you feel a world away, and the only way you can get here is a short 30 minutes charter flight, or by boat. There are no scheduled flights here, and the airport is basically a simple grass landing strip and a hut in between the hills. The island itself is a 22km paradise land and is mainly underdeveloped and a tropical jungle. There are only a handful of local villages ( I think 5 or 6), and aside from this resort, there’s not much else! It feels like it’s a world away, and it is so so wonderful!

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Upon our arrival at the “airport”, we were all greeted by the staff with a beautiful flower lei, a cold towel, some fresh fruit and water while we awaited to be transported to the resort some 10 minutes down the dirt road. Once the group arrived, a typical musical Fijian welcome by the staff was performed and a fresh coconut delivered in hand! So refreshing! We were invited to have lunch while the staff brought our luggage to each individual Bure. All the meals are a la carte, and are absolutely delicious! Claire, the head pastry chef, and her husband the head-chef, came here from South Africa and have taught the all-Fijian local staff their tricks and how to make food as exquisite as it is! Every little detail was thought of; from the presentation to the mix of ingredients. All was extremely delicious! And all was inclusive! My favourite dish was the seafood platter! OMG deliciousness all over! Just look at it! Luckily, I had met another solo traveler named Suzanne from Sweden, and we got along very well and had our meals together for good company (something I enjoy when traveling alone!)… so this dish was definitely one we shared together!   With only about 12 bures at the resort, it felt secluded (in a good way!), intimate and relaxing! It was like a little hideaway jungle experience… with the luxury to go with it! What more could I expect! I had an oceanfront deluxe Bure and it was amazing and huge! It had a large deck with lounge chairs and a sitting area overlooking the beautiful ocean. There was an outdoor shower area that linked straight to the bathroom, with large windows, a double rain shower, and two sinks. Pure Fiji products (my fave!) were provided, as well as beach towels (in the room and by the pool). The bed oh-so-comfy and faced the deck area ( and ocean) so the views were hard to beat! There was also a sitting area on the lower level of the Bure, with a coffee machine, tea, and a mini fridge filled with whatever drinks I had requested at check-in (they make you fill out a sheet for requested drinks such as soft drinks, water, beer, etc). There was an air conditioner unit in the Bure as well, however it didn’t get very cold since it was a large bure, but was ok for me and just right for sleeping.

The staff were very friendly and courteous, and always greeting me with a “Bula!” as I walked by them. They were always willing to help and offer their services, yet respected everyone’s privacy adequately. The infinity pool was just lovely and refreshing, and overlooking the beachfront. I believe it was salt water, which I loved, and I really enjoyed lazing around the poolside. It’s by the main building where the restaurant and juice bar are, with comfortable sun chairs and umbrellas. That Fiji sun is hot hot hot, so some shade is always inviting! The beach is very lovely, and you can walk on it for as far as the eye can see… so for anyone who adores walking the long stretches of beach, this place is for you!

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They offered a range of activities, from visiting the blue lagoon and Sawa-i-lau caves, to private picnic on a deserted beach! Since I had already done the caves on my captain cook cruise (see here for that write-up), I opted for a lovely deserted beach picnic with my new friend Suzanne! Little did we know that the staff sets everything up before we arrive, so the lounge bed and umbrellas were already on the beach! The 20 minutes boat ride was very scenic, with the blue ocean and green mountains in the backdrop! The beach we were taken to was on the tip of Yasawa island itself, and the turquoise ocean was exquisite!

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A little bit of trivia: the whole resort had been rented out for the French, Swedish and Polish versions of Survivor (google it!), and it was closed for 8 months in 2017! Apparently, it was a huge fiasco to cater to that many people, but definitely good for the resort and the local villages.

The staff, aside from a few people, are all from the local villages on the island, and they are remarkable in their service and incredibly friendly (everyone n Fiji is!).

The wifi is only available in the main building and is free of charge, and sometimes quite spotty. The idea behind not having the wifi available throughout the resort is for people to really enjoy and disconnect from their daily lives! Even with a local SIM card I had purchased upon arriving in Nadi, the service on the island was very intermittent since it was fairly remote!

This resort lives up to its name: Heaven! I would return in a heartbeat! <3

 


My Fiji trip was an incredible and diverse adventure that most people only dream of, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to go and see it for myself. The Fijian people are incredibly welcoming, funny, and genuine. If you haven’t yet made your way to these majestic islands in the South Pacific, I would suggest putting it high on your bucket list! It is even more beautiful as the images! Thank you to all who contributed in making my visit to this country a very memorable one, and thank you – my readers – for taking the time to read my blogs, view my images and support my work! As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to connect with me!

Love and Light,


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