Fiji is a large archipelago in the South Pacific near New Zealand and Australia consisting of more than 300 islands, with only a portion of which that is inhabited. Determining the best place to stay in Fiji can be quite challenging for a first-timer, myself included. The island I chose to spend most of my time on (Viti Levu) was largely determined by the resort I chose (and not the other way around); but it just so happened to also be one of the best islands to visit for your first time in Fiji. Keep reading for a complete guide on where to stay and what to do on your luxurious Fiji vacation.
Best Fiji island to visit & the best place to stay in Fiji
Viti Levu, which is the island home of the capital, Suva, and the island on which the international airport resides is often the first stop for many travelers on their Fiji itinerary, wherein island hopping is recommended for trips that are over a week. Viti Levu is the largest and most developed island in Fiji with many resorts especially in and around the area of Nadi, and the land-connected Denarau Island.
Within Fiji, there are only a handful of overwater bungalow (called bures in Fiji) resorts. When I was researching overwater resorts, among the top two properties competing for the top luxury spot were Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay. I decided to go with the Marriott and the following are the determining factors that brought me to my decision.
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Best Fiji overwater bungalow: Review of Marriott Momi Bay Resort
The Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay in Nadi, Viti Levu is the newest resort of its kind and opened its doors to travelers in April of 2017. As the newest property, it has the best and most amenities of the comparable overwater bungalow/bure resorts including four restaurants, a spa, gym, coffee shop, gift shop /mini market, two pools, and more.
A major determining factor that sold me was the resort’s location and ease of accessibility. Being located on the island of Viti Levu with so much to see and do, means we would not be confined to the resort itself and could easily venture off to explore.
Another selling point was that the resort has an infinity pool and swim-up bar, both of which I love and what the other resorts do not offer. If you’re familiar with my content, you know I kind of have a thing for infinity pools, and although I was as happy as a clam (pun intended) swimming in the lagoon among the sea life every day directly from my overwater bure, it was nice to swim in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean, or in the resort’s swim-up bar pool with a cocktail in hand.
As a beachfront property on Viti Levu, the island itself is not particularly known for their beaches compared to other Fiji islands, especially along the Coral Coast where there are many hotels but the beaches are not so swimmable. While many resort properties are set on the water without nice beaches to enjoy, this was not an issue at Fiji Marriott as the property is built on a bay that is perfect for swimming, lounging, snorkeling, and a range of other motorized and non-motorized water sports and activities.
The resort itself has several different accommodation types in addition to the overwater bures. There are ocean view and lagoon view bures, duplex/single bures around the swim-up pool, and apartment bures (which are like standard hotel rooms within a structure.) I was lucky enough to stay in the overwater royal lagoon bure/presidential suite which was the largest and most premium bure, but to be honest it did not seem so different from the standard overwater bures except for the size. The one thing I did wish the overwater bures offered were private plunge/infinity pools such as with the overwater villas in Maldives and Bora Bora, (none of the overwater villas in Fiji have them) but with a large porch leading straight into the ocean, there really wasn’t much to complain about on that end.
What makes Fiji Marriott Momi Bay the most remarkable, however, is not the jaw-dropping scenery, the indigenous architecture, or the bures themselves, but the warm and welcoming staff who treat you like royalty, make you feel like family, and never miss an opportunity to exclaim “bula!” which means hello (among other things) in Fijian. The team members on the resort really add to the environment and eagerly go above and beyond to ensure you have the perfect stay.
One negative I encountered (if you could even call it that) was the inconsistency in dining on the resort. The same dishes would vary in taste from restaurant to restaurant and even day by day, where sometimes they were outstanding and other times not so much. The menu items were also vastly different in terms of taste and quality, where the hits were definitely a hit, but the misses were huge misses.
It took some experimenting to learn what was worth having, but this may not have been any fault of the resort and more of a personal issue, as even off the property the restaurants that came highly recommended in my opinion did not deliver the same standard compared to other South Pacific islands we have visited. One dish I do recommend trying is the island delicacy, kokoda, which is similar to Latin America’s ceviche, or Polynesia’s poisson cru/’ota ‘ika (Tahitian salad), and consists of raw fish marinated in coconut cream and lime. Fish lovers such as myself will have no problem finding Fijian dishes they enjoy.
Still, the slight hiccups in food did not put a damper on our trip in the slightest, and I would without doubt, highly recommend staying at Fiji Marriott.
Things to do in Nadi and Viti Levu Island
Even if only staying on the island of Viti Levu you will want to take a day trip to explore nearby islands, go scuba diving/snorkeling/liveaboard diving, visit sandbars, and enjoy all else the South Pacific waters offer.
As with any tour anywhere in the world, try to book with a local tour operator instead of going through the hotel. Not only is it more affordable, but you will be supporting the local economy and being a responsible traveler. Finding a local company to book with is quite easy. Just ask your taxi driver, hotel staff (but maybe not the person selling tours), or any local you come in contact with. People in Fiji are all extremely pleasant, helpful, and well-connected within their communities and villages. Chances are, they can recommend someone or point you in the right direction.
The Top 10 things to do and see around Viti Levu for your Fiji Itinerary
- Ride the ferry or a speedboat out to the floating (cocktail) bar Cloud 9 in the middle of the ocean where you can enjoy drinks, music, woodfired pizza, and views for days.
- Take a day trip Mamanuca Islands, an idyllic island chain containing the island of Monuriki where the movie Castaway was filmed and located only about an hour boat ride away from Viti Levu, and can be combined with your trip to Cloud 9. Within the Mamanuca islands is also the world-famous surf spot, Cloud Break, and Beachcomber island, which is a small, party resort island located just a 30 to 45-minute boat ride away from Viti Levu.
- Spend some time at Natadola Beach, known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This is the best beach on Viti Levu, and if your hotel doesn’t have a swimmable beach, you’ll especially want to some time here.
Tip: If you’re staying on Viti Levu and not at the Fiji Marriott, the InterContinental Golf Resort & Spa located right on Natadola Beach is one of the best resorts in Viti Levu for both couples and families.
- Unwind at Malamala Beach Club, which is on its own private island and perfect for a day of relaxing, snorkeling, swimming in the beachfront pool, and eating and drinking. Again, if your resort doesn’t have a good beach, here and Natadola is where you’ll want to go.
- Relax at the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool, and pamper yourself with a massage while you’re there from one of the local Fijian ladies.
- Take a walk through the historical site of Tavuni Hill Fort, which offers sweeping views of the nearby local village as you learn the fascinating history of Fiji.
- Check out the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and shop the authentically Fijian Sigatoga local market for souvenirs, produce, textiles, and so much more.
- Wander through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, with its lush and beautiful jungle paths, views of the Yasawa islands from the peak, and over 2000 varieties of colorful orchids.
- Get in touch with Fiji’s natural surroundings at Colo-i Suva Forest Park where you can hike, swing into and swim in natural pools, and take in the tranquil sites and sounds of the rainforest and waterfalls.
- Take a village tour to learn about local life, and participate in a kava ceremony. Kava is a natural plant that is used for its medicinal properties of relaxation and restful sleep. The root is ground into a fine powder then mixed with spring water to drink both in spiritual and recreational capacities. At a kava ceremony, you will learn the ritual practices of drinking kava with a village chief, and end the night with some of the best sleep you’ll ever have.
Where to go in Fiji after Viti Levu – Best Islands in Fiji
After you spend some time unwinding on the island of Viti Levu, it’s time to island-hop. Depending on the length of your trip, you will want to visit one or more other islands. Getting to the other islands will require either a ferry, speedboat, plane or a combination of the three. If you are staying in Fiji for 2 weeks or longer and will be frequently island hopping (every few days), consider getting the Bula Pass.
The next island you visit will depend on your personal preferences. There are many remote islands within Fiji that are incredibly beautiful but best reserved for longer trips or possibly a second or third visit. On your first trip to Fiji, there are 4 islands I recommend choosing from.
1. Taveuni Island: The lushest island nicknamed the “Garden Isle” with dense rainforests and lots of waterfalls. Perfect for those in search of adventure and exploration. Bear in mind that this is one of the wetter islands so there’s a good chance you’ll experience some tropical rain showers during the wet season.
Recommended hotel on Taveuni Island: Taveuni Palms Resort: 5-star luxury beachfront villas each with their own private pool.
2. Yasawa Island: A beautifully picturesque and more isolated island part of the Yasawa archipelago with incredible white sandy beaches. This is also the island that gets the most sun and is perfect for honeymooners. (This is also the island where the movie Blue Lagoon was filmed.)
Recommended luxury hotel on Yasawa Island: Yasawa Island Resort & Spa: With only 18 luxury bungalows and 10 private beaches makes finding your own private paradise at this resort a breeze.
3. Vanua Levu: The second most developed island after Viti Levu. Vanua Levu is less developed and therefore has maintained much of its natural beauty, with several luxury resorts to choose from.
Recommended luxury hotel on Vanua Levu: Namale Resort: A luxury, adults-only, all-inclusive boutique hotel and of the most exclusive (and pricey) resorts on the island.
4. Mamanuca Islands: The Mamanucas as mentioned above can be visited as a day trip from Viti Levu, but the islands themselves are so stunning with so many beautiful resorts to choose from that it may be worthwhile to spend some extra time there. Aside from the island where Cast Away was filmed, Within Mamanucas are also the world-famous surf spot, Cloud Break, and the infamous Beachcomber island, which is a small, party resort island.
Recommended luxury hotels in Mamanuca Islands:
Tadrai Island Resort: a 5-star, all-inclusive, adults-only, over-the-top luxury resort designed specifically for couples.
Six Senses Fiji: offers ultimate luxury and romance with private pool villas on their own private island. Perfect for honeymooners or a romantic getaway.
The Sheraton Tokoriki: a perfect, affordable-luxury option with one of the best spas in the Mamanucas.
Best time to visit Fiji
Like most tropical destinations, Fiji has a wet (rainy) and dry season, and is typically warm or mild all year long. In Fiji, the summer season is from November to March and is considered the wet, or cyclone season. April to November is considered the dry season (and high season) with peak tourism during the months of July and August, and late December – early January around Christmas and New Year’s.
The most ideal time to visit Fiji is during shoulder season, in the months of October or late March for good weather, fewer crowds, and off-season prices. That said, I visited Fiji in February for my birthday during what is supposed to be peak cyclone/rainy season but did not see one grey cloud in the sky the whole time. The weather was perfectly warm and sunny, which has partly to do with the locations of the islands (but also probably global warming.)
Visiting Viti Levu, Mamanuca Islands, and Yasawa Islands during the rainy season should be mostly fine as they are the islands that get the most sunshine; whereas islands such as Taveuni experience more rain. When it does rain on one of the sunny islands, it usually pours for a short amount of time and then clears up quickly.
Tip: To check the weather in Fiji before your trip, make sure you look up the exact city/town of the island resort as the weather can differ from one side of the island to the other. If traveling to Viti Levu, do not make the mistake of typing in the island name (or simply Fiji) into your weather app or you might see thunderstorms all day every day. Type in “Nadi” specifically for a more accurate weather prediction.
Fiji vs. Bali
Travelers, specifically those in Australia and New Zealand, often question whether to visit Fiji or Bali, Indonesia on their holiday/vacation, especially since both are in somewhat close proximity (when compared to the Americas and Europe.) In my experience, Fiji and Bali could not be more different. Though Bali is also an island, it is located in Southeast Asia and the culture and lifestyle reflect this heavily. There is a vastly slower pace in Fiji with less to do and see but more preserved natural beauty. Fiji is great for a relaxing vacation whereas Bali is (still stunning in its own right, but,) more of an adventurous and culturally-rich experience.
Fiji vs. Bora Bora (or Tahiti)
Comparing Fiji to Bora Bora / Tahiti / French Polynesia is a slightly more similar comparison than that of Fiji and Bali. With both islands located in the South Pacific, they have similar landscapes, cultures, and offerings. I would consider Bora Bora in French Polynesia to be a more exclusive and luxurious destination, with many more overwater bungalow resorts to choose from. The island of Tahiti is a more similar to Fiji in that it is more affordable and accessible than Bora Bora. Bora Bora / French Polyneisa is best reserved for honeymooners with large budgets whereas Fiji is great for anyone whether it is solo travelers, families, couples, or friends.
After spending some time on the Fiji islands you’ll come to learn a few things: One, that “fiji time” is a real thing so ditch your watch and live in the moment; two, that the islands are some of the most beautiful in the world; and three, the island salutation “bula” means more than just hello or thank you. Bula is a way of life and a way to bring joy and gratitude into every moment. After visiting Fiji, the best gift of all is learning to take a little piece of the “bula” mentality home with you.
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