Bedarra Beach Inn, is a modern boutique resort that looks to be a cross between a mansion and a tastefully done bordello. It’s a two story affair with a cavernous Great Hall houses the bar, lobby, internet café and tour desk. There is also an outside patio with a large dining area, a sun deck with loungers and a nice pool. Bedarra (pronounced beh- dahrah) is located about 400 meters west of the 5 star Outrigger Resort, no more than ten minutes drive from Sigatoka. There are 26 rooms - 21 Deluxe Rooms, each with a King size bed, en-suite bathroom and air conditioning. Deluxe rooms have balconies with a logoon/garden view. The 5 Standard rooms each have a King or Queen size bed, air conditioning and en-suite bathroom. The have courtyard or garden views only. All the rooms are large but cozy, very comfortable and well appointed with clean bright bathrooms. You’d be hard pressed to find a better maintained and cleaner property in Fiji.The owners refurbished all hotel rooms last year and they look bright and fresh. From 7am to 5 pm the outside patio is the Ebb Tide Café serving breakfast and lunch. In the evening it becomes the Ocean Terrace Restaurant boasts a 5 star Chef and serves a varied menu of local and international dishes. The food is very good and reasonably priced. Prices for dinner entrees are in the F$25-30 range. There’s a happy hour every night and 6 nights a week the Great Hall is filled with the sound of Fijian serenadars singing local songs and mixing a bowl or two of Kava (grog). Happy hour is a great time to meet the locals who dribble in from the surrounding area. The owners do their best to make you feel at home and given the minuscule size, it’s more like staying in someone’s home than at a hotel. The hotel boasts it own coral beach right out front and provide snorkels and kayaks free of charge to enjoy the lagoon at high tide. Other nearby attractions include the award winning Kula Eco Park; Fiji’s only wild life park, the Tavuni Hill Fort, the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and Sigatoka town nearby. Deluxe Rooms are FJ$180 and Standard Rooms $167.
Mango Bay, opened in late 2005 at Namatakula, is located between Korolevu and Pacific Harbour. Although they cater to upmarket backpackers in large bures that sleep up to seven, there are also Beach Front Bures that sleep two (F$176 per bure per night—valid until the 31st March 06 ) and Safari Tents that sleep 3 (F$120 per safari tent per night—valid until the 31st March 06 ). Breakfast is included in prices. This resort is aimed and the young and unattached who demand a plethora of outdoor and evening activities. Amenities include lagoon pool with swim up bar, “Moody Marlin” Restaurant, Nightclub, lounge bar, outdoor cinema and Internet facilities. Actitivies include day trips to outer islands; gamefishing; snorkelling; kayaking; mountain biking; Fijian village and school tours; trekking and diving. The dive operation is run by Diveaway Fiji which runs the nearby concession at Hideaway. To date, reports on Mango Bay have been positive. I think it’s worth considering if the youthful scene is what you’re interested in.
A good budget refuge along the Coral Coast is the Beachouse. Located about 35 km east of Sigatoka and and 43 km west of Pacific Harbour, the resort is nestled in to 4 hectares of manicured gardens and lawns with a good beach. The Beachouse is the creation of Andrew Brown, a “local European” as Fijians refer to locally born Causcasians and his wife Jessica, who took his family’s old vacation home in the mid 90’s a created a Fiji budget institution. In 2006, the Beachouse was leased for 5 months by the UK production company Granada for the filming of a reality show called Love Island. The Beachouse now has a pool and a pleasant bar atmosphere; the Coconut Cafe is the onsite eatery and serves an array of reasonable meals to guests and travellers. The resort now has 12 Garden rooms with garden shower/bathroom (private of course) and a selection of 6 bed dorms. Campers can pitch their own tents on a spacious lawn (price on request). Activities include jungle trekking, snorkelling, fishing trips, beach horse rides, surf school, stand up paddle board tuition & more leisurely pursuits such as coconut weaving and coconut jewellery making lessons. Prices begin at F$38 for dorms and range to Fiji$149.00 per couple for Garden Rooms (double). The prices include light breakfast and afternoon tea daily.
I’m generally not crazy about large, sprawling hotels. There’s generally little intimacy and they are usually owned by corporate entities, hence you don’t get the service you might at a smaller property. Hideaway Resort located on the beach 20 km east of Sigatoka (about an hour drive from Nadi) is an exception. That’s in large part because it’s owned and operated by the Wade family, an entrepreneurial bunch that pays close attention to detail. It started out originally as a family vacation property and even had a dorm unit catering to backpackers. The dorm is gone and Hideaway has since morphed into a more upscale resort. Situated on a strip of land between the main road and the beach, it is definitely one of the better mid-range hotels on the Coral Coast. With 100 units it’s big but the Wades are constantly upgrading things. In the last few years its 16 original, A-frame type units have been refurbished. The newest additions are the deluxe Villas which are spacious and well appointed with tile floors, pastel stucco walls, trim of local timber. They resemble as, Frommer’s said “smaller and much less expensive versions of the bungalows at Vatulele Island Resort” and I agree. Hideaway’s beach (like most Coral Coast resorts) is nothing special. However snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing and other water sports are available. There’s also a 25 meter multi purpose swimming pool, gymnasium and a 5 Palm Padi Dive School. Surfing, is decent, and the break a right hander called “Hideaways” which is located in front of the resort is easily accessible and can really pump if the wind is right. Prices start at F$320 for the Frangipani bure, $F350 for the Ocean View units, $430 for the Beachfront Villas and F$510.00 for the two-bedroom units.
Although wave riders are their main constituency, calling Matanivusi a “surf resort” doesn’t quite do justice to the place. “Surf camp” or “surf resort” conjures up an overabundance of testosterone. Matanivusi is anything but that. A better way to think of it is “family surf resort”.
Unlike a pure surf destination, spouses, teenagers, grade school kids and even children as young as two, are welcomed here. In addition to surfing, there are a variety of activities and excursions such as hikes to a nearby waterfall or even visits to the nearby capital of Suva. At the nearby village you can visit a kindergarten or do a “plantation walk” where locals will explain the use of medicinal plants and show how local crops are grown.
Of course surfing is the main attraction. Breaks, which are pretty much right offshore are accessible year round and include Shifties (right hander), J’s (right hander); and Pipe (left hander).
Dining is family style and food was healthy and tasty. Whenever possible locally grown produce such as avocados, breadfruit, taro, bananas and papaya are served. Locally caught fresh fish is also on the menu.
Breakfast fare includes locally grown fruit with eggs cooked any way you want it.
Accommodations are cool, breezy and can handle up to three people in a bungalow if you bring in an extra bed for children.
Price is F$500 which includes meals, and surfing. For more info on this terrific property check out my blog Matanivusi--the low testosterone surf resort for a more detailed description.
Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji, once the site of the rundown Reef Resort, has been reincarnated by the Outrigger folks from Honolulu into one of the largest (254 units), more attractive resorts in Fiji. There are two basic varieties of rooms here. There’s a conventional, five-story structure with 207 air-conditioned rooms and 47 bures closer to the seaside dispersed in a 40 acres of lush gardens. Everything is brand new (the hotel opened up in 2005) and spotless. I’d opt for the bungalows which have nice touches such as tapa cloth lining on the ceilings. The bures also offer both aircon and conventional fans for those (like me) who prefer the latter. All of the conventional rooms are well appointed with nice touches such as Internet access and balconies—some of which offer terrific seascapes. Unlike many of the more exclusive properties this is a child friendly place with child-care available 24 hours. There’s a large complement of the usual water sports and largest pool in the South Pacific. The main downside with the Outrigger is that the beach (like most of those on the Coral Coast) is strewn with coral and hence not terribly well suited for swimming. If that’s not a huge issue there’s little to quibble about this property. Rates start at around F$500 for the least expensive room up to F$1000 for a beach front bungalow. Read more on our blog: First Time to Fiji - Day 1 and Day 2
Coral CoastVatulele is a resort on a jewel-like island of the same name. Located 32 km off of Viti Levu’s Coral Coast (see above map courtesy of Fiji Gov’t), it has 19 luxury bures fronting 700 meters of white sand beach. Access to the island is via plane. The US$6 million property is on 60 acres and was developed by Henry Crawford, an Australian film maker whose projects have included the TV miniseries `A Town Like Alice’. The architecture has been described as a blend of Santa Fe and traditional Fijian styles – thick, whitewashed masonry walls and wooden shutters topped by a high Fijian thatched roof. The result is an airy, sun-washed effect. Food is reportedly terrific and one friend described Vatulele as an “epicurean summer camp for adults.” A typical lunch might be scallops with curry lentils and fetuccini with Parmesan.
It’s gotten kudos from the travel press and in past years was voted one of the ‘Top 25 Small Hotels in the World’ by readers of Travel & Leisure. It has, among other amenities, a five star PADI diving facility which is unusual for such a small property. Dining is communal dining so you’ll definitely have a chance to meet fellow travelers. For those who want privacy anyone can have private dining options for all meals. One thing that really appeals to me about Vatulele (in addition to the fact that guests can drink unlimited Veuve Clicquot champagne) is that the resort is located on an island where there’s the possibility of real interaction with Fijians. Other very posh resorts, often located on private islands, tend to be rather sterile. However, with Vatulele you’re on an island that still is a living, breathing Fijian community. Prices start at US$1521 per couple per night, which includes private villa, meals, alcohol and all activities other than scuba diving.
Diving Attractions and Facilities: The diving around Vatulele Island is pristine, and their reefs are not visited by any other dive operators. The diving is primo! Currents are generally mild, but due to the island remote location and being surrounded by deep water there is a plethora of nutrients to support a fantastic underwater environment. The local visibility is generally a bit better than in other areas of Fiji, and pelagics from mantas to hammerhead sharks are often sighted. There is no shortage of hard or soft coral, either. There are over 20 dive sites (more than you could visit over a week long stay) within a 15 minute boat ride from the resort! Shore diving from the resort is only marginal, due to the shallow protected area out in front of the beach, but the snorkeling is excellent. Water temperatures range from a winter low of around 77F (25C) to 82F (28C) in the Fijian summer.
Dive operator: Vatulele is the only five star island resort in Fiji with a PADI “Golden Palm” status dive facility and resident instructors. Courses are offered up through a variety specialty courses and Divemaster (all open water referrals are accepted), and daily 1 or 2-tank dives, plus afternoon or night dives can accommodate even the most serious divers. There is no retail dive shop at the resort, but they can accommodate their guest’s minor repair needs. Tanks (K-valve aluminum 80’s and 63’s), weights and belts are provided to all divers, and BCDs, regulators wetsuits and underwater scooters are also available. Vatulele operates 2 dive boats, an 8.5m catamaran and a 5.3m mono hull. The cat is a purpose built dive boat that can handle 10 divers, and the mono can accommodate 4 divers. Both have covered areas. The minimum certification qualification of their dive guides is Divemaster, and they maintain a 4-1 ratio of divers to guides.
Distance: The closest sites are a mere 5 minutes away, and the farthest about 30 minutes. The average is 15 minutes.
Beqa, located offshore from the Coral Coast, is only fifteen square kilometers, and has no roads, no towns and only a few isolated villages scattered around the perimeter. Beqa (pronounced Benga) is surrounded by one of the largest barrier reefs in the world and lies 8 km South off Viti Levu about 130 km from Nadi. Although isolated, the advantage of staying here (say vs. the Mamanuca Group) is that you’ll experience a much greater sense of Fijian hospitality. The locals that live here are true villagers and because of the rural nature of the island they are naturally friendlier. They simply see fewer visitors that locals who live in Nadi or the Coral Coast.
Beqa Lagoon Resort (formally Marlin Bay Resort) is located on a gorgeous spot on on Beqa Lagoon and has recieved excellent reviews from readers (particularly surfers and divers). The island is only fifteen square kilometers, and has no roads, no towns and only a few isolated villages scattered around the perimeter. Beqa (pronounced Benga) is surrounded by one of the largest barrier reefs in the world and lies 8 km South off Viti Levu (see above map) about 130 km from Nadi.
The grounds are beautifully landscaped and just behind the resort the land slopes into a tropical forest where you can visit a waterfall. Their 12 nicely appointed beach front Bures are scattered among coconut and papaya trees, and all have private verandas with plunge pools. In addition, there are four 2-bedroom units, and several garden bures situated around a koi pond. The Bure Koloa is the centre of resort life with its soaring thatched roof reaching more than 80 feet above an expansive verandah. It is here that guests gather for gourmet dining, liquid refreshment, fun, conversation and planning the next day’s adventure. The water from the tap is drinkable and comes from a nearby spring.
Daily fare consists of an appetizer and two main course choices for dinner. The menu changes daily with fish every dinner and chicken and other 'turf' options rotating. All are prepared with flair from fresh ingredients. Desserts were wonderful and varied. The workers, mostly people from the neighboring villages of Ravi Ravi and Rakua, are friendly and accommodating. The beach at Beqa was small and mostly strewn with coral rubble but there were a few areas of nice sand. There are a couple of other nearby beaches accessible by walking or kayaking, but aren’t much better. There s great live local music at dinner every night and there are occasional “meke” (traditional dance) as well as firewalking. (In case you didn’t know Beqa is the home of Fijian fire walking).
No TV at the resort, which I didn't miss. Phone and Internet connection are available at the office—not at the rooms. Internet access was slow. Included in the rates are the full use of kayaks, windsurfers, picnic/ boat trips to a secluded island, and unlimited use of snorkeling equipment. In fact, all activities are included (except game fishing). A beautiful new swimming pool with waterfall has just been completed.
Activities include excellent surfing, diving and fishing. (At various times of the year you can bag big pelagics such as yellow fin tuna, Black Marlin, Barracuda,Blue Marlin, Wahoo and Spanish Mackerel). The resort has been renovating and expanding, and is trying very hard to please all guests. There are several dive boats now in service. Prices begin at around US$300.00 per night for Garden View or Koi Pond Villa and go up to US$400 Honeymoon Villa. Gourmet Meal Plan (Adult; 3 meals daily) is $60.00.
Diving: Beqa Lagoon is the submerged crater of an extinct volcano, and Beqa Island is where the lip of the crater breaks the surface. The diving within the lagoon is relatively shallow (less than 100') with walls and deep water on the outside. The lagoon is nutrient-rich so hard and soft coral and small reef life proliferate. In addition, there are a fair amount of larger pelagic fish, turtles, etc. There is a great shark dive that is very popular, and out toward Frigate Pass you can see mantas, eagle rays and passing humpback whales in season. The water temperatures range from an average of 78o F in the winter (Jul-Aug) to 82 oF in the summer (Feb-Mar). A 3-5mm wetsuit is recommended in the winter and a skin-3mm suit for the summer.
Beqa Lagoon Resort's in-house dive operation is a PADI facility that offers classes up through Divemaster. Open water referrals are accepted from any agency if you want to finish off your certification while at the resort. They can provide rental equipment (mask, fins, snorkel, BCD, regulator and wetsuits), but it is suggested that you bring your own equipment. If you do want to rent your gear, it is a good idea to let them know at the time of your booking. They have three 50' mono-hull dive boats with covered areas that carry up to 20 divers each, which come in very handy to accommodate groups and divers who want to go to different sites. All 3 are covered and have heads on board, and they all feature water level entries and exits. The guides (who must be rated at least as Rescue Divers) have an in-water maximum of 6 divers each. Weights, belts and aluminum 80 tanks are provided. The dive shop can do minor adjustments or repairs, but is not set up for any serious repairs and they don't have a retail shop.
Distance from most dive sites: While there are over 30 dive sites inside and outside the lagoon, the majority are within 30 minutes of the resort. There are many within 5-10 minutes, and the most distant are about a 45 minute boat ride. There is reasonable shore diving and snorkeling right off the resort. Snorkelers can join the dive boat on a space available basis. Snorkeling is decent from the beach, with a long reef about 50 meters out over the flats with the bottom at around 10 meters and the top at 0-1 meter depending on the tide. You can see longnose filefish, clownfish, lots of small tropicals, some small tridacnas, lots of Christmas tree worms. Other activities include excellent surfing and fishing.
Owned and operated by Brad and Sue de Geus since 2008, Lalati Resort is a boutique, ocean side property. Lalati attracts divers but it’s by no means a pure dive resort. Non-divers will be comfortable and will have plenty to do. Management likes to think of Lalati as an adventure/honeymoon type destination--a luxury property for active people.
It has five ocean front villas, two honeymoon suites (with private courtyard and Jacuzzi) and three sea view cottages. Each ocean front villa has 2 large bedrooms (that can accommodate up to four persons) with a king size bed in the main bedroom a second bedroom with a queen. There is a comfortable sitting area, with tiled bath and shower, and a large, covered veranda (with hammock) on the veranda. (Sea view cottages sleep two).
The villa is just a few feet meters way from the water's edge. The three sea view cottages units are set back from the beach among a well tended garden. They have one very comfortable bedroom as well as a cozy sitting area and veranda. The grounds are immaculately maintained and designed so that water drains back into the ocean during the many periods of rain. (There’s a reason why everything is so green around here.)
Breakfast options are plentiful. You can choose from omelets, pancakes, French toast and homemade meusli. There are daily breakfast specials such as steak hash or heuvos rancheros.
Lunch and dinner have two choices. Lunch is either a salad or a meat/fish/vegetarian entrée. (Individuals with special dietary requests are accommodated). Since they purchased the property Brad and Sue have slowly made improvements and will be renovating the ocean front villas.
One guest reported to Undercurrent that he was thoroughly impressed with the service. Rates begin (for a seven night stay) US$164 per person (double), which entails transfers, accommodation, 3 meals, kayaking and other non-motorized resort activities, including snorkeling, hot tub, pool, and yoga facilities. (They even have yoga mats).
The Loloma Spa, a separate building on the property is staffed by native Fijians who have extensive experience in the healing arts. Holistic treatments are derived from indigenous plants, locally gathered products such as papaya, pineapple, mango and guava, pure virgin coconut oil, sea salt, raw cane sugar, seaweed, local nuts, star fruit, leaves from the banana and ti plants. These are used in body wraps, scrubs, facials and signature massages.
Activities revolve, as one would expect, around the ocean. Diving the Beqa lagoon is superb. Soft coral are both numerous and come in a variety of colors. The biodiversity is huge and if you’re observant you’ll see just about every species in the fish book. The dive operation here differentiates itself from the other Beqa property by sheer numbers. Lalati is a small resort and by definition their dive boat is not going to take large parties.
In addition to the diving there’s a variety of activities. The guided kayak trip to Bat Island, an islet surrounded by thick ring of mangroves, several kilometers from the resort, was my favorite. Thousands of huge fruit bats inhabit this tiny piece of real estate and with a little bit of audio prodding they alight from the trees and take flight. There are also waterfall treks, mountain treks, village visits, herbal medicine walks (where the use of local plants are demonstrated), snorkel safaris and private island picnics on Storm Island aka Nanuku. You can also do Mainland sightseeing excursions to Suva and adventure tours that include boat trips up the Navua River, Jet skis, zip lining or even white water rafting.