Bula, the ubiquitous greeting and Fijian word for Hello, yet it seemingly embodies more than just a simple “hi, how are you?” It is the spirit of the South Pacific archipelago island nation of Fiji. Bula is a robust and burly word yet it also so soft, mellow and welcoming and that is exactly what Fiji is like.
Over Labor Day weekend this year, my friend and I decided to fly across the pacific to visit Fiji. The green mountainous islands and its crystal clear 50 shades of blue waters have always attracted my attention. We realized too that Fiji can be done on a medium to low budget despite being home to many of the world’s top hotels and resorts. Over all it is definitely cheaper to do than say the Maldives or Bora-Bora. And do not worry about having nothing to do besides laying on the beach. The islands here are packed with things to do. From ocean activities, to inland mud-baths, hiking, water rafting, or exploring local culture and history. Nonetheless, when you step aboard Fiji Airways, you are already welcomed to the country and reminded to start being on Fiji time, meaning its time to just sit back relax and take it easy! Furthermore, I knew I was flying to a place full of warm and friendly people when more than one person onboard my flight to Nadi asked if I was local or visiting and if it was my first time, most passengers on that flight were local Fijians returning home or visiting family, and there were all excited regardless and so happy to hear that I was visiting and all offered advice and tips, just very proud of their heritage and country.
From North America, there are daily flights from LAX to Nadi and weekly flights from San Francisco and Honolulu. We flew from LAX, an 11 Hour flight, then took a short 20 minute domestic hop across the main island from Nadi to the capital city of Suva (Southeast coast of the island). From there we had Toberua Resort arrange a car pick up followed by resort boat transfer (about an hour transfer), this is really the only way to get to the Island, unless you opt to pay or own a private yacht or helicopter.
When looking at where to stay, there were ample choices. From island shacks and hostels in Nadi, to chains like Starwood, to boutique luxury hotels like Six Senses to the ultimate luxury property in the country, Lacaula Island Resort (where one needs to apply to stay at the $40K/night hilltop estate). Average rooms started around $300/night, with shacks and hostels coming around $50-$100/night.
TOBERUA ISLAND RESORT
We managed to find the 3-star 16 Bure (villa) Toberua Island Resort which had amazing rates in the low should season and was of excellent value. The entry room of Tropical Bure, was USD$220/night, plus USD$100/person for roundtrip transfer to Suva Airport and about USD$80 for full board meal excluding drinks (100% worth it). Which was an excellent deal and value, and drinks were reasonable for a private island resort, $5 beers and $10-$12 for cocktails. My 50 minute massage was around $50 and my 1-tank dive was $100, again for a private island resort in Fiji or anywhere really, you cannot beat the value here in my opinion. There are plenty of daily complimentary activities for guests as well, including water activities, and you can also opt in on one of the daily excursions available, each Bure gets a daily activities menu.
Despite being classified as a 4-Star hotel, we felt that it was a 5-star experience. Sure the rooms are very basic when it comes to amenities but nonetheless everything else was exceptional especially the service and value! We thought maybe we would want to do an excursion to Suva or to a nearby local village island to see the local culture, but honestly the resort was so amazing and relaxing we just spent all 48 hours here.
The staff here are exceptional. Welcoming, friendly, willing to assist with anything and also very calm and laid back, all aspects of Fijian hospitality. Miri, Zach, Epele and the rest of the crew were all incredible. Once they all learn your name, that is how you will be addressed! Not once was I asked what room I was in either, which I normally only find in the best of 5 star hotels, granted it probably helped that we were 1 of 3 occupied Bures that night, but still. The staff here really become family, even on our super short stay. It was also so great to have the friendly staff locate your whereabouts on the island to take your next meal order. Catching us wandering and exploring, Epele from the dive shop, even offered to personally take us and show us around the island, including the staff quarters where they grow their own produce and have the island’s own water treatment center, so yes, the tap water is drinkable, it is after all, Fiji Water!
At the staff Happy Hour at sunset, the staff all came to the bar to sing a mix of local, English and religious hymns. All as a part to welcome guests to Fiji and the island. They then gave new guests, my friend and I, an flower lei, which you are, per tradition, supposed to toss out to sea as you sail away from the island, and depending on where it lands, it will determine whether you shall return or not!
Diving is incredible in Fiji and Everett runs a great shop with Epele, and prices are excellent. Worried about the short time between flights, I only opted to do a 1-tank dive. Nonetheless it was incredible, unfortunately I do not have a go-pro so was unable to document it. But I got to see incredible corals, dive through a rock arch filled with stunning corals and saw one of the largest fan corals I have ever seen. Fiji is known for its sea turtles too, though I did not see any this time. There is also an area in the western coast, where you have high chances to spot Manta Rays! But if you dont scuba, fret not, the snorkeling here is equally great. Complimentary masks and fins can be grabbed from the dive shop and you can swim out to the house reefs that offer great corals and fish!
You can also do a little sailing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, all complimentary. And the island is tiny, so kayaking or paddle boarding around it, is easy and just beautiful as you see the ocean change colors and come across a variety of neighboring island scapes.
This is vacation and pampering at its best, so there is definitely a spa with a variety of therapies to choose from. The spa is great, and Vita is excellent and super friendly as well. I felt super relaxed after my 50-minute full body massage.
Other than these activities on offer, both free and not, the rest of the time you can just lay on the beaches, hammocks, the pool, the many jetties, or just lounge in your Bure.
The food here is amazing. Breakfast is a simple buffet of freshly made pastries, fruit and juices (not fresh) plus made to order eggs with sides, including the most delicious homemade hash-browns. Lunch is a 3-course affair while dinner is a 4-course affair. Choices are a mix of local dishes and Western (often New Zealand inspired as the owners are Kiwis). Most of the local dishes were seafood and curry based, and were all delicious and fresh.
The beverage list is also rather extensive. Cocktails are refreshing and tropical, with ample selection of local and imported beers, and when in Fiji try the local Rum or ask if they have Kava to try.
If you are flying Fiji Airways business class or are a Priority Pass card holder, definitely check-out the Fiji Airways lounge at Nadi airport. The space is large, relaxing and the food is excellent.
Robyn and Warren run a great place, surprised its only 3 stars, as the service levels here are better than some 5 star places I’ve been to! Truly an Aman or Six Senses of the 3 star hotels I’ve been at!
Truly enjoyed our stay here. 100% would recommend it to friends, solo travelers, families or couples as it has things for all types of travelers looking for an island getaway. I shall return one day and spend longer than a night!
Vinaka! (thank you in Fijian)