(Editor's Note: A French translation for this page can be found here).
Yasawa Island Resort is an understated luxury lodging with 18 bures nestled along a white sand beach. All bures have huge decks, king size beds and large bathroom. Small touches abound. Each bure is stocked with homemade cookies and pure Fijiamenities in the bathrooms. A number of treks that can be taken around the island and peaks of several hundred meters provide remarkable vistas. snorkeling gear and scuba diving is spectacular. Food is one of the best reasons to stay here. Seafood is caught locally and all meals offer fresh fruit and liberal amounts of fresh vegetables. Typical dishes were homemade ravioli, avocado & shrimp salad, homemade breads and fresh lobster. Unlike some of the other resorts where everyone dines together, here one can choose to dine with friends or at your own table. Great food, friendly management and staff and a gorgeous setting make YIR a winner. YIR is a 35 minute plane ride from Nadi Airport which costs US$260. Prices start at US$700 per couple, which includes all meals.
Nacula Island is located in central Yasawa, 85 miles north of Nadi International Airport. The northern most island where tourist properties have been established is Nacula which has three highly recommended high end backpacker retreats. All have excellent white sand beaches, good food, lots of water activities (such as kayaking and diving) and limited electricity provided by gas or diesel powered generators. Some (but not all) have local style thatched roof bures. They also offer proximity to Fijian Villages, which many resorts in Fiji do not offer. See Marilyn Marsh's blog on the latest property to be built on this island.
Oarsman's Bay Lodge Yasawa
Oarsman's Bay Lodge is on a 1200 meter long white sandy beach—the best beach in the area—and has six individual and two family bures. There is also a 13- bed dormitory with shared facilities built above a dining and bar area. Oarsman is preferable for couples—it’s not exclusively for backpackers. You’ll notice that the price is higher than its competition, but that’s because Oarman’s consistently lives up to its reputation. Located next door to:
Blue Lagoon Beach Resort
Blue Lagoon Beach Resort is located on Nacula they share the same lovely beach with Oarsmans Bay Lodge. Fijiguide member Marilyn Marsh had the opportunity to visit site of Blue Lagoon Resort and blogged about it in detail. (See http://fijiguide2.ning.com/profiles/blogs/new-resort-in-the-yasawas). According to Marilyn it will be a ‘sister’ resort to Octopus on Waya Island and is being developed by former Octopus managers. Said Marilyn, who had the opportunity to visit the site prior to its official opening, "We were impressed by the setting - the beach is wonderful, crescent shaped, white sand, all-tides swimming, and good snorkeling (great variety of fish & corals) straight off the beach. The resort is being built on a level strip on the beachfront, backed by some bush, and with a hill behind... I am confident that it will be well run by an experienced management team. As a long-time fan of Octopus Resort (15 years) I have had the opportunity to see them in action and I am sure that this new resort will be run to the same high standards. They will have to start from scratch training local staff who in many cases have not held a job before, but are very keen to learn. There will no doubt be some teething troubles which I am sure will be addressed promptly...They are building an informal beachfront dining room/bar - much like the temporary one that was used at Octopus in the past. Those who experienced that will almost certainly, like me, have fond memories of it. There will be a sand volleyball court next to it. We saw the resort as probably being like Octopus was 8 - 9 years ago - the sort of place where you will swim, snorkel, go for walks on the beach & read lots of books. Depends on how active you might want to be! If traveling by Yasawa Flyer you would leave Denarau at 8.30am, and be at the resort by around 1pm. There will be the possibility of taking a seaplane which will take around 30 minutes from Nadi." Prices range from F$40 for a dorm bed to F$349 for a family villa. The property has it's own dive operation. If it's up to the standard of Octopus, it should be a winner.
Another place to consider is Safe Landing, which is owned and operated by Tevita and Rocky Volavola, local Fijians who exude charm and graciousness. It’s a good place to meet local people, who hail from the nearby village of Naisisili, There are five traditional Fijian bures and 4, 6 bed dorms, all with shared facilities. Prices begin at $20.00 per person for campers up to $120.00 for the “grand” bure. Meal plans are F$40.50/person/day.
Tavewa is a small, high island approximately 12 km in circumference just west of Nacula.. It is entirely freehold or privately held land, owned by a number of local families. Getting from one side to the other is no more than a ten minute walk. There are no vehicles, roads or stores. It’s lush with vegetation and fruit trees include papaya and mango.
On the island are three family run resorts, two of which, David’s Place and Otto & Fanny Doughty’s are recommended. Both are located on flat grassy areas just a stone’s throw from the beach, shaded by coconut palms.
Both occupy white sand beaches that slope gently into the sea. Food at both David’s is filling but will not be confused with gourmet offerings. Food at Fanny’s is a cut or two above. Henry, Fanny & Otto Doughty’s son, is a trained chef and regularly bakes for guests. Afternoon tea is served by him and at the other properties as well.
Otto & Fanny’s is also a cut above in quality of accommodations. They have two excellent family bures which sleep four. (Theh can also provide cribs.) Private Bures cost $190.00 including 3 meals per day per couple. They are self contained and feature amenities like fridges and private bath. There is also a dormitory with 8 single beds and shared facilities of a toilet and bathroom. Dorm Room cost is $90 including 3 meals per day per person. (Photo of Otto and Fanny courtesy of Sarah Valentine)
David’s has eight basic bures and 6 newer beach bures. There is also a 20 bed dorm with shared facilities. Prices begin at F$45pp and top out at F$150(couple) for a private bure—meals included.
A major issue with some of Tavewa’s properties is water or lack of it. Water at David’s is not potable. Otto and Fanny have plenty of spring water, which is suitable for drinking.
Both resorts are served by a dive operation called Westside Watersports, run by the affable Lance Millar. His shop is on the beach, adjacent to Otto and Fanny’s property. He provides PADI certification courses as well as the usual guided dives. He also rents snorkeling gear at a nominal price. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nanuya Lailai the island where the Brook Shields movie - 'The Blue Lagoon' was filmed is the home of five (mostly backpacker) properties. On the northern end is Nanuya Island Resort, which has a wonderful white sand beach and all the amenities including diving, kayaking, fly fishing and village visits. (It’s not a backpacker facility.) The thatched bures (four deluxe and four traditional) are a cut or two above the rest. Amenities for villas include, fan, queen size bed and 2 single beds with private bathroom (hot and cold running water) and fridge. Each unit can accommodate a maximum of 4 guests. The smaller bures have a double/twin size bed with bath. Each bure can accommodate a maximum of 2 people. Prices start at around US$100 per night double occupancy not including food. No dorms here so it’s better for couples who want privacy.
The other properties on Nanuya Lailai are strictly backpacker/dorm oriented. The best of the bunch is probably Sunrise, which has room for about 40 and (unlike the others) has access to plenty of water. (Note that often the Yasawas face chronic water shortages.)
Matacawa Levu also located in the same general area as Nanuya and Tavewa is home to a new boutique property with nine bures, called Navutu Stars Resort. The Italian owners say it is an Asian-Mediterranean-Fijian fusion of aesthetics complete with Southeast Asian objects d’art, wet bar, cd players, and “outdoor day beds to indulge in lazy naps under the stars”. They proudly proclaim that there’s no television or phone in the sumptuous bungalows. The restaurant caters only a la carte dishes (mostly seafood) cooked expressly for guests according to their tastes and preferences. This is definitely for the well-heeled. Good snorkeling and swimming is available off their white sand beach. For more info, including new age music that appears when you long on to their website go to.
In addition to the upscale accommodation is Long Beach, a small family-run backpacker haunt on the southern end of the island. The good news is that it caters to a maximum of 20 guests. The management is Fijian and hence it’s a good place to learn about Fijian culture. Activities include fishing, a medicinal walk, and cooking lessons. The 8-bed dorm is a large traditional bure, located right on the white sand beach which is gorgeous. The lagoon is protected which offers good swimming.
Naviti, which is south of the Tavewa area, is home to four backpacker retreats, three of which come highly recommended: Mantaray (most expensive-better class of accommodamtion), Korovou Resort, and Barefoot Lodge.
Mantaray Island Resort
Mantaray Island Resort (with prices ranging from $25 to $150 per night) is the most upscale on Naviti and has four varieties of accommodation-tents, dorm, tree house bures and jungle bures. All have the usual ocean excursions and activities such as kayaking, snorkel, fishing diving, etc. There are plenty of social activities to while away the moonlit nights—The Sunset 'Happy Hour’, Full Moon Parties, kava drinking and theme nights among others.
I've also had good reports about Barefoot Island (which is where Captain Cook cruises drops its clients off). It has a great beach and excellent snorkeling with coral gardens right offshore. Accommodations consist of twenty twin share traditional bures. Each has two single beds. (Linen is supplied but BYO towel). The showers and toilets are communal.
Korovou Resort (the only one with a swimming pool) is also worth checking out. They offer 2 large beach side bures, 6 private beachfront cottages with fan, island dormitory of 24 beds, one family bure and a twin or double island lodge. A campsite is also available to those who bring their own tent. Rates start at $40 for campers up to $155 for the beachfront bures. Snorkeling is excellent—be sure and check out Manta Rays Passage' to see the rays close up and personal.
Octopus Resort on Waya Island is situated on gorgeous stretch of white sand beach on Waya Island, far off the beaten track. This property has been an icon over the years a model of good management and a consistently great service.
Though basic and minimalist, the environs are tastefully decorated and carefully thought out. The source of electricity is solar panels and there is plenty of good potable water available. Currently there is only cold water but this may change. There is one main structure, an open air bar/dining area shaded by a canopy. It has a sand floor and a small walkup bar that serves very cold beer. There are 17 large, simple bures designed for double occupancy but can house up to ten individuals if necessary. Bure’s can accommodate, singles, couples and families. Each bure has its own private bathroom featuring a commercial grade, environmentally friendly solar powered hot water system. There are also open roofed showers which are now ubiquitous throughout Fiji. The restaurant offerings include spaghetti, omlettes and very fresh seafood, chop suey, chicken dishes at reasonable prices. Though not a backpacker property, Octopus does provide a 13 person dormitory which they like to say is the best in Fiji. That may be true. It’s equipped with single beds (rather than bunks) a quality pillow, mosquito net, bedside table, reading lamp and fan. Dorm beds are supplied with fresh clean linen, towels and a beach towel daily. Prices range from F$30 with dorm beds to F$199 for the luxurious “lodge” rooms. Food is F$40 per day for three meals. For more details be sure and read our two part blog series on Waya. (Part 1 and Part II).
Octopus has its own transfer vessel, the Amberley, a 35 ft purpose built aluminum tri-hull water taxi. The Amberley departs daily from Lautoka at 10am and takes approximately 90 minutes to reach the resort. Price of a transfer is F$70 for adults and F$35 for children (3-10 yrs) which includes round trip.
Skipping to the southernmost island in the chain is another upmarket backpacker property called Kuata Island Resort, which is just south of Waya on the island of the same name. Kuata offers equally beautiful environs as the northern islands. Kuata Natural Resort is strategically located so that visitors can watch both the sun rise and set against the horizon from the edge of its beach. With nightly entertainment ranging from dancing competitions to open mic sessions, there is quite literally always something to do at Kuata. Possibly the most unique characteristic of Kuata Natural Resort is the open social atmosphere sparked by the congeniality of the entire staff. While staying with Kuata, the staff invited the entire hotel to cheer them on during a interregional rugby tournament. This was merely one example of the staff’s warmth. They offer bunked dorms with mosquito nets and washrooms as well as cozy bures tucked away from the rest of the guests. It has its own travel office where guests can arrange a wide range of activities from above and under water.
Most of the properties can be booked by contacting them individually. I would also consider book via Margaret Travel, a Nadi Airport-based agency that specializes in Yasawa Travel. She knows all the players and can provide very objective advice. Contact her at Margarettrvl@connect.com.fj.