Fiji

Bula from Fiji! Our Week at Matamanoa Island Resort

We returned this past Saturday from a 7 night stay in Fiji.  We spent all of our time on one island at the Matamanoa Island Resort but did some excursions to visit other islands in the area.  I’ll  focus on our stay at Matamanoa for this post and plan to highlight our snorkeling adventures and island side trips next.  Our trip began by flying from Dallas to San Francisco and catching a direct flight on Air Fiji from SFO to Nadi.  We splurged and bought business class tickets as it’s an 11 hour flight from SFO to Nadi and the flight both ways leaves late in the evening and arrives in the morning so sleep is a necessity.  I have to say that Air Fiji was quite nice, with great service and comfortable angle-flat seats in business class.  I actually slept quite a bit there and back and I am a light sleeper who wakes up at every little bump. I do prefer lie-flat seats but this was worth the upgrade.

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Air Fiji – Business class was worth it for the 11 hour flight!
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Port Denerau in the early morning before our ferry arrives

After we landed, we met our driver from Rosie Holidays who took us to Port Denerau to catch our ferry to Matamanoa Island.  The ferry to Matamanoa takes about 90 minutes as they stop at Tokoriki Island first to drop off at two other resorts.  Once you reach Matamanoa, the hotel sends out a small boat and you transfer from the ferry to that and then head into land on the beach (no dock) so you get your feet wet right away! They also send out several hotel staff members to sing a welcome song as you arrive.  Matamanoa is a small island and the only hotel on it is this one resort.  The color of the water and reef surrounding Matamanoa was incredible. I was already giddy with excitement when we pulled up.

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Pulling up to Matamanoa Island Resort – look at that water!
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Transferring from the ferry to Matamanoa’s smaller boat
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Welcome committee at Matamanoa

After a brief check-in, we were immediately led to our beachfront bure and I was smitten with the view and the set-up.  Each room is an individual stand-alone cottage with A/C room, living room and spacious bathroom with double sinks but the outdoor features were the best part.  We had a large covered patio, private plunge pool and day bed with two chaise lounges for sunning.  Of course, we also had direct access to the private beach and a full front ocean view.  It was heaven!  Oh, and none of the rooms have TVs or phones for complete peace and quiet.

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View of our private plunge pool and beachfront bure
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Beach in front of our room
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Steps to the beach
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Inside of our beachfront bure – very modern and clean with great A/C!
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Outdoor set-up of our bure – I loved the daybed – we also had an outdoor shower
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Looking back up to our bure from the beach

Matamanoa Island Resort only has one restaurant so my only quibble was that the food did get a little repetitive even though they tried to mix up the menu each day.  We also brought our own alcohol that we bought in the duty-free at SFO and made our own cocktails in the afternoons rather than walk to the main restaurant and bar every time we wanted one (no phone, remember?).  We were on their meal plan so everything was included except alcoholic beverages.  We ended up spending most of that on wine with dinner each evening rather than overpriced cocktails so it was a good balance cost-wise. I did try a few island drinks and they were pretty tasty.  I will also say that the cost of food and drinks in Fiji is waaaaaaay less than French Polynesia, where we typically paid resort prices of $30USD per drink and $40USD for basic food like a club sandwich.  Costs in Fiji for similar items was about 1/3 of that for about the same quality. I found the food to be good but not great and, as expected, they are pretty limited in terms of variety and options due to being a small island and having everything shipped over.  Matamanoa does accommodate special diets if you give them advance notice before arriving.

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Tropical cocktail at lunch
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Afternoons on our private patio

Fiji also had the most amazing sunrises and sunsets.  Our bure faced west so we had incredible sunset views every evening.  The first few days, my internal clock was off due to the time difference so I woke up around 5am and also saw a few sunrises (I’m normally a late riser).  The beach in front of hotel also overlooked the nearby island of Monuriki, which was the filming location for the movie “Castaway” starring Tom Hanks.  We did a day trip over there one day as well, which I’ll post about separately.

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Sunrise on Monuriki in the distance (where they filmed Castaway with Tom Hanks)
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Sunrise in Fiji

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So, how did we spend our time?  We spent a lot of it hanging out on our bure patio (I fell in love with the daybed), reading books, listening to music, talking, going for swims in the ocean and plunge pool, massages at the spa, snorkeling and then did two day trips to nearby islands.  It was pure relaxation and quality couple time.  I really disconnected from the office and that was something I needed badly. I also read three books in one week, which I haven’t done in years!

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Spa at Matamanoa
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Never tired of this view!

 

In the evenings, we sometimes stayed at our room to watch the complete sunset before dinner and sometimes we headed over to the main bar/restaurant for a pre-dinner drink and to watch the torch lighting ceremony.

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Torch Lighting Ceremony
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Steve in the evening before dinner
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The staff gives all female guests a flower every night for your hair
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Sunset from our bure

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Such beauty!

We also spent a lot of time walking, swimming and exploring our beach, which had hardly anyone on it ever.  It was so peaceful (I think “peaceful” is the one word I would use to describe this trip).  Also, the reef in front of our hotel was out of this world.  Hands down the best snorkeling I have ever done (separate post to follow with underwater pictures).  I ended up snorkeling at least 5 or 6 times here, which was great exercise.

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Beach – very few people on it

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Matamanoa is truly a place to get away from it all and to relax and decompress.  They have plenty of activities to keep you busy, including scuba diving (and lessons), snorkeling trips, other island visits, a village visit, water sports and daily on-island activities such as basket weaving, jewelry making, ping pong tournaments, etc…  It’s really up to you how much or how little you want to do.  They also had a lovely tree-house style spa that we enjoyed one afternoon. What about wifi?  Well, they have free wifi but it only works at the main restaurant/bar and not in the rooms so if you’re a wifi addict, that may bother you.  I found it refreshing to put the phone away for the most part and only check email and social media every few days.  You can pay for wifi in your room but I heard it was very slow and it was $40 a day!  We skipped it.

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Goodbye Matamanoa!
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Looking back towards our beach

I’ll post next about our island excursions, including our visit to Castaway, and our snorkeling adventures.  Overall, we loved Fiji, which has the sweetest and friendliest people.  It’s so much less crowded and less touristy than both French Polynesia and the Caribbean.  I have never seen more pristine beaches completely devoid of people or more colorful and vibrant reef life and bluer waters than I have in Fiji.  Yes, it’s a long flight but I would absolutely come back.  In fact, I would come back to Fiji rather than French Polynesia.  Fiji has better beaches and more variety, in my opinion, and was less touristy as well.  There is no denying the beauty of Bora Bora but Fiji trumped it in so many ways.  I was very sad to leave and the staff sang us a goodbye song as our boat pulled away and back to the ferry.  I may have shed a small tear but I will definitely plan on another visit to Fiji and would love to check out some of the other island resorts as well!

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