The best backpacker haunt is Bibi's Hideaway which has been a Taveuni institution for years. It's gone upmarket a bit with new bures that are several cuts above the funky. Located on expansive grounds (near a beach) it is loaded with fruit trees of every description that are offered to guests free of charge. The owner, James (aka Jim) has been running the operation for years and is a kind and thoughtful man. Daily rates begin at F$25 for dorm facilities to F$110 for a bare bones family home with two bedrooms and kitchen. The newest bure at F$70 is clean and modern (see above photo) abut has no electricity. For upmarket backpackers it's a great bargain. It’s located a ten minute walk from the airstrip in Matei. His phone is 888 0443.
Another highly recommended upmarket backpacker haven is Tovutovu, located near Naselesele Village, a few hundred meters past BhulabhaiStore. The owner, Alan Patterson, has five bures (two which are self-contained) ranging in price from $75 – $125 and boasts 24 hour power-which is almost underhead of in Taveuni airport area. On the premises is a dive shop run by Tyron Valentine, a local dive master with an excellent pedigree.
Far away, on the remote side of the island is Taveuni Guesthouse near Vuna. The house overlooks the ocean on a cliff of lava rocks with access to snorkeling and a black sandy beach. It’s a good place to explore the southern side of the island which most visitors never get to see. Price for shared room is $25 or $35 for private room. The same people (Viola and Roland ) who own the guest house also run Dolphin Bay Retreat (see photo to the right of beach at Viani Bay) a backpacker scuba diving operation located on Viani Bay, a remote 30 minute boatride from Taveuni. They have four private bures and three safari tents. All accommodation is ocean front, only a few meters from the beach. Snorkeling and diving is great—you’re only a few minutes from the Rainbow Reef, one of the premier dive sites in Fiji. Tents start at $25 per person per night up to $55 per person per night for bures. Meal plans ($55 per night) are separate. (www.dolphinbaydivers.com) For more background info see this story from the Sailwhisper.
Going up to midrange, for a couple wanting some privacy with a terrific seascape, check out Todranisiga a mere 5 minute walk from the airport. Operated by the winsome May Golding, born and raised in Fiji, she offers three great bures with bedroom, a spacious bathroom, kitchenette, outdoor shower and spectacular views. May (see photo below) also provides lots of goodies such as seasonal fruit from her garden (bananas, passion fruit, green drinking coconuts, papaya, etc) which is available daily. She may also surprise you with baked goods such as muffins, banana bread, scones and the like free of charge. Price is $US155 and she'll discount you 10% for a stay of over 7 days. May's place is a great option for divers-you're only a five minute walk from two dive operators. This is a winner. (www.todranisiga.com)
Karin's Garden which is comfortable, modern and Teutonically clean. It has a wonderful observation deck perched on a cliff with that affords a fantastic view a 100 meters or so down from the bungalow. (Great place for a sunset glass of wine.) The accommodation is essentially a self-contained duplex with which at $US120, has the best bang for the buck of any midrange accommodation on the island. Karin will also cook meals for you and, she's a good in the kitchen. She is open for dinner, an excellent option for an intimate meal. It’s approximately a 10 minute walk from the air strip at Matei. (www.karinsgardenfiji.com)
In the same price range consider, Makaira, perched on a cliff overlooking the Somosomo Straights is located a 15-minute walk from the airport just opposite the Tramonto Restaurant on heading towards Waiyevo. Run by Roberta Davis and John Llanes, both Hawaii natives. It's situated on four acres of former coconut plantation with a white sand beach a two minute walk down the hill with miles of incredible snorkeling within a 3 minute swim. There are three well appointed bures including, phone, spacious bathroom, single bedroom, kitchenette and an indoor (as well as) outdoor shower. The 180 degree ocean view is spectacular. The Grander Suite is US$165 and will accommodate up to three comfortably. The smaller Marlin Cottage goes for $US135.
Their newest addition is the Ocean View Villa, a split level design that can accommodate 4 singles or a couple and two singles. (Prices reflect seven day discounted stay). The units are fully self contained with outdoor kitchenettes. John and Roberta will serve meals upon request at their new Galley Cafe (which has a wonderful seacape.) and supplement meals from their own organic garden. They have their own boat and offer fishing, snorkeling and kayak charters. Roberta's partner is John Llanes, an expert sports fisherman also from Hawaii. Complementary amenities include snorkel gear and tours with guide for the reefs in front,, kayak, free local calls and free Wi-Fi, the only property on Taveuni to offer this service free of charge other than the very high end resorts. (www.fijibeachfrontatmakaira.
Taveuni Palms represents yet another leap up the socio-economic ladder.. is an immaculately maintained 5-star property with great ocean views and only two bures that are something out of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. To call it super-exclusive is almost an understatement. It's something for honeymooners of a certain demographic and you have room to bring your best friends! Both units have two bed rooms/two baths and a splendid outdoor shower. However, unless you bring your own company Taveuni Palms is not set up for mingling-everything is focused on the guest's privacy and desires. Amenities include personal chef (who will gladly give you complimentary cooking lessons), personal boat, personal captain and dive master that all you to dive on your own timetable. Other amenities entail personal double kayak, complimentary scuba lessons and a private beach where you can swim with your personal dolphins, spotted rays, turtles etc). When possible all food is derived from resort's own garden, all organically grown. They send out a questionnaire ahead of time to guests to get their food preferences and design a menu around that. Typical menu items would be lobster or coconut crab, blackened yellow fin tuna, taro chips, sashimi, create a five course meal. If you've got the means and really, really want to be left alone, I would consider this property. Price is $825.00 per house per night for 2 persons.
Taveuni Island Resort & Spa
Taveuni Island Resort & Spa, near Matei Airport, is a family run operation and remains one of the better boutique resorts in Fiji. The resort is situated on a bluff (see photo) overlooking the sea and the vista is spectacular—one of the best on the island. It has 11 well appointed ocean view bungalows all of which have been expanded and undergone upgrading recently with extras such as new tile floors, king-sized beds, air conditioning/fans, private outdoor rock showers, and festive floral arrangements.
Several million dollars have been spent on the property and it shows. The food and presentation are excellent. Every meal I had ranged from damn good to superb. All the chefs (some whom are Fijian) and have been very well trained. Same goes for the staff, which is very attentive. The vast majority come from the local village.
The dinner I had there recently was poached fish with curry lolo (coconut) sauce with locally grown vegetables such as pumpkin, mashed kumala (local sweet potato) and Fijian spinach (tubua). Very simple but everything cooked to perfection and everything killer-fresh. That’s because they have their own 50 acre organic farm and grow all their herbs and vegetables right there. That includes dill, basil, eggs, papaya, avocado, salad greens, lettuce, hot chile, bok choy, tomato, beans, pumpkin, tomato, cilantro, basil, bell pepper, mint, spring onions, banana, lime, lemon mandarin and probably much more.
Believe me, it makes a difference. Kudos to owners Ric and Do Cammick for offering such great organically grown food. (I’m sure necessity was the mother of invention in this regard. It’s hard to get a regular supply of fresh produce on the island and very difficult to bring in on a sustained basis from Nadi or Suva).
The cliff side horizon pool is one of the outstanding features at the resort. The small powder white beach is a short one-minute walk away from the steps of your bungalow. Activities include hiking, kayaking and diving. Prices begin at US $500.00 per bure per night for Grand Matalau Villa (with its own staff and chef) is US $ 1,495.00 per night (per couple). Each category of villa has a separate package with different inclusions for each. Rates are inclusive of all meals, accommodation, transfers to and from Matei airport and 20% hotel tax.
Other stuff: Theprivate white sand beach on the property is rare for a Taveuni resort. Snorkeling offshore is excellent and they have the requisite kayaks that you can take out. Diving of course is world class in the Somosomo Straights and the Cammicks pioneered this on Taveuni. (The original name of the property was Dive Taveuni). They don’t handle the diving anymore. This is now farmed out to Taveuni Ocean Sports which has a good reputation. Can’t imagine the management using an outfit that doesn’t do a good job. There is wi-fi available. When I was there my companion tried it. It wasn’t working all that well (not a rarity in Fiji to be fair) and it wasn’t not cheap ($10/per hour--not a rarity either). That would be my only complaint. Read more in our blog: First Time in Fiji, Day 5
Paradise Taveuni (ParadiseInFiji.Com) is one of the newer resorts on the island and it really impressed me. It's on the far (southern) end of Taveuni--about an hour and a half from the airstrip near the village of Vuna.
Formerly a tumbled-down backpacker hangout called Susie’s, it’s been completely transformed into an unpretentious, near luxury resort with every amenity you could ask for and, some of the best diving on an island known world wide for great dive sites. I say "near luxury" because it's not in the same category as Taveuni Island Resort but not every needs to be in the lap of luxury. Being close to it is fine with me. Ostensibly it's a dive resort but I think it's a great place if you just want to read a good novel and eat very good food. It’s run and operated by an Australian couple, Allan and Terri Gortan. The couple has managed resorts in Fiji for over a decade and it shows. What’s more, Allan is a trained chef and that clearly manifests itself. They have incorporated everything they’ve learned and created, I think one of the best little properties in Fiji. I say "little" because there are only ten bures. At this unique Taveuni Resort, you will find only 10 elegantly appointed Bures. Each accommodates 2 to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. They are luxurious without being over the top--each has indoor and outdoor showers, a king size bed in the private bedroom, and lounge room. The resort has recently unveiled their newest accommodation, known as the "Reef Room" with a pool and ocean views, king-sized bed, lounge area and modern bathroom.
The cuisine I sampled was very good. There’s an organic farm literally next door to the property where they get vegetables, fruit and grass fed cattle. Allan likes to use local ingredients and feature Indian, Fijian and even Italian cuisine.There are various meal plans to fit a guest’s appetite. The resort is all-inclusive.
The reef just off-shore from Paradise Taveuni is great. Unlike other resorts in Fiji, the reef is immediately below the resort and it is at sufficient depth to allow snorkeling and diving at both low and high tide. Access is easy: just step down from a cement dock into 3 meter deep crystal-clear water. The highlights of the reef are clownfish in anemones, blue ribbon eels, lionfish, montipora bommies, and a very friendly lunar wrasse. (Check out Scott's House Reef Video).
Taveuni Dive (TaveuniDive.Com), also known as Pro Dive Taveuni, is the dive operator at Paradise Taveuni. They are a safe, American-run company that offers trips to Vuna Reef (exclusive to Taveuni Dive), Somosomo Strait, the reefs between Taveuni and Qamea, as well as the fantastic (but rarely dived) reefs north of Qamea, Matangi, and Laucala. Diving courses at the resort are offered for the beginner diver to the advanced.
The rates are as follows (which are subject to change):
Dive In Paradise with your own Equipment:
Single Boat Dive: FJ$125
Double Boat Dive: FJ$250
Shore Dive: FJ$60 or free with a Pro Dive Package
Double Shore Dive: FJ$120
Night Dive: FJ$140
Rainbow Reef Double Dive: FJ$290 (minimum 2 divers)
Pro Dive Mini Dive package: FJ$560 – 5 boat dives + FREE shore dives
Pro Dive Package: FJ$1250 10 boat dives + 1 night dive + FREE unlimited shore dives
Dive in Paradise using our equipment:
Single Boat Dive: FJ$140
Double Boat Dive: FJ$280
Shore Dive: FJ$70 or free with a Pro Dive Package
Double Shore Dive: FJ$140
Night Dive: FJ$170
Rainbow Reef Double Dive: FJ$320 (minimum 2 divers)
Pro Dive Mini Dive package: FJ$670 – 5 dives+ FREE shore dives.
Pro Dive Package: FJ$1400 – 10 boat dives + 1 night dive + FREE unlimited shore dives
For video reviews of two Vuna Reef dive sites, see The Stairs and Vuna Chutes.
For video reviews of a few Somosomo Strait dive sites, see The Zoo, Nuku Reef, Cabbage Patch, Korolevu Island.
Garden of Eden
If you prefer the solace of your own tropical villa rather than staying at a
resort, consider the Garden of Eden in Taveuni. Perched on a small bluff
overlooking the sea, the secluded one acre property is surrounded by manicured tropical gardens, mango trees, coconut palms, and a swimming pool. The villa, which was once a favorite hideaway for the first President of Fiji, Ratu Mara, has two large bedrooms, that can sleep a total of four adults, two bathrooms and a loft that can sleep several children. Amenities include cook, maid service, fresh fruit and
laundry service. Price is US$1500.00 per day for up to four adults or two adults and two children including three meals and soft drinks. Minimum stay is five days with payment in advance. You may book the Garden of Eden by contacting Toni Hauswirth at email@example.com. You may also leave a message with the estate manager in Fiji, Peter Madden, at telephone 679-880-252 or fax 679 880-050.
Matangi Private Island Resort
Matangi Private Island Resort situated on a horseshoe-shaped, 240 acre private island of the same name located 10 km off the north-east coast of Taveuni. It’s owned and operated by Noel Douglas whose family has been in Fiji for 5 generations. The property ranks as one of the finest midrange accommodations in Fiji. It's essentially a honeymooner's diving resort. It's probably more expensive than the average diver would want to pay but in this case, you get what you pay for.. Matangi has a total of eleven Beachfront Bures three Tree House Bures, all with splendid views across the Tasman Strait and facing the neighboring islands of Qamea and Taveuni. Most are constructed in a round Polynesian style. All are built from local materials such as hardwood, bamboo and coconut thatching and can withstand 160 km/h winds. The main building has an over-the-water deck which provides great vistas that are best appreciated at sunset with a cold Fiji Bitter in hand. They have constructed a large beautiful dining hall, in the Tongan "round lodge" style. Adjacent to this new edifice was built an infinity pool. The view from the pool's edge looks out over the strait between Matangi and Qamea. A truly beautiful sight. Matangi's meals are reportedly excellent and Taveuniregularly feature fresh fish and other seafood, locally grown fresh vegetables, tropical fruit and freshly baked bread. A large selection of Australian and New Zealand wines and champagnes are available. Diving in the area is superb, as is light-tackle sport fishing. There is also deep-sea fishing from September to December, and saltwater fly fishing. Other activities include windsurfing, sailing, water-skiing and snorkelling. The island has nature trails, bush walks, caves, inlets and great bird-watching. This is a wonderful place to stay, especially for honeymooners who really want isolation.
The only caveat is that if you want to spend some time sightseeing on Taveuni (the nearest large island) you’ll have to take a 30 minute boat ride to get there. In other words, you’re really isolated on Matangi but perhaps with the right company, that’s not a bad thing. Prices start at $610 US a night plus 17.5% tax double occupancy and tops out at $1,050 US a night double occupancy (depending upon the bure chosen). Depending upon the season and the duration of one's stay, one can lower the price somewhat: Matangi does run specials such as stay 5 days, pay for 4 days. Matangi charges for round trip transportation between Taveuni and Matangi. Prices for day trip excursionsare $107 for Waitabu Marine Park, $107 for Tavoro Falls, $165 to see the Peckham Pearl Farm, $169 for the Lavena Coastal Trail, $175 to visit the 180 Meridian & Waterslide, $30 for snorkeling (at other sites other than Matangi) and to $48 Waterski for ten minutes.
One reader, Scott Putnam of Redding, California writes: "For those seeking an active diving vacation, Matangi is the perfect destination. Even with a full house (which is rare these days), there are usually only 4 people scuba diving at any one time. The service is par none. Unlike many of the other dive operators in Fiji, the Matangi boat follows the divers' bubbles. Upon surfacing, a hand is immediately extended to assist you out of the water. There is no waiting for the boat and no effort is expended swimming against a current to reach the boat. In addition, the dive masters are keenly observant and very protective of their wards. Of course, this extra attention may just be a by-product of the drift diving environment, but I've seen other non-Matangi divers surface n Somosomo Straits with no boat (other than ours) in sight. One thing that no one ever writes about, but which is a unique experience for those of us from the Northern Hemisphere, is the night sky. As you know, Fiji is very dark on a moonless night. Matangi is pitch black. There are few lights here and guests navigate by torch/flashlight. While one must be careful to not step on a toad, a chance look upwards stops visitors in their tracks. There are millions of sparkling lights visible, the Milky Way is in full majesty,and you can see the Southern Cross, Alpha Centauri, and the Magelleanic Clouds. It's unbelievable, spellbinding. .."
Qamea Beach Club
Qamea Beach Club is not actually on Taveuni—it’s on Qamea, a 15-minute boat ride from the Taveuni’s airstrip. It’s situated on a small cove fringed by a white sand beach (see below) a kilometer in length. The hotel is nestled at the jagged volcanic cliff which rises steeply behind the property. Qamea can accommodate only a maximum of 28 guests (16 years of age and older) at one time so you’re not going to be overcrowded nor overrun with young children (as often occurs at other resorts.) The entire property was renovated in February 2004 and later that year they constructed o two new Premium Villas, each with over 1,600 square feet, including private swimming pools overlooking the beach. The attention to detail is very impressive.Bathrooms have imported European fittings, heated towel rack, hair dryer, outdoor river stone courtyard showers, and complimentary Pure Fiji (brand) amenities.
The seventeen (650 sq ft) Beachfront Bures have thatched roofs and with 20 foot ceilings and hand polished local mahogany hardwood floors.There’s also a 1,200 square foot honeymoon Villa. All structures are situated just a few steps from the water and all have verandahs and face the beach. Among the more interesting amenities is a spring-fed swimming pool. There is also a large restaurant/ lounge bure with a verandah overlooking the which makes for very pleasant dining. The food I had was very, very good. Diving is perhaps the biggest attraction and the resort has its own dive operation. Qamea is a comparatively large island and has plenty of room for nature walks. There are also organized visits to the local Fijian village of Vatusogosogo. Prices start at around US$650.00 double occupancy including meals.
Recommended Eateries on Taveuni
Tovutovu's Resort's Vunibokoi restaurant, located on the edge Naselesele Village (near the airstrip in Matei) is operated by local entrepreneur, Alan Patterson. He specializes in seafood. It’s clearly the only restaurant packed on weekends. Prices are in the $15-20 range.
If you get into the bustling port of Waiyevo, a twenty minute drive from the airport, be sure and check out Waci Poki (formerly the Cannibal Cafe-yes Fijians do have a sense of humor) which has curries and other very tasty basic local fare in the $5-7 range.
For desserts don't miss Audrey Brown's baked goods (open 10 am to 6 pm) which she dispenses in front of her home, a 5 minute walk from the airport (towards) the Bulabhai store.
Small parcels of roti (a kind of crepes) can be purchased at most shops along the road. These might include chicken, beef, lamb, goat or vegetable curry. The best can be purchased from a stall at the airport from Brenda, like her mother, a large woman with a great smile and a great attitude. Price is anywhere from $1-2 per packet. They are usually tasty but keep in mind that the vegetable variety tends to be mostly potato with some canned peas (or if you're luck fresh vegetables such as beans) thrown in for good measure.