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With our amazing couple of days in Sydney complete, it was time to warm up in the South Pacific. We had originally considered spending more time in Australia but ultimately decided to trade winter in Australia for a more tropical locale…like the sandy shores of Fiji.
And honestly, when you’re this close to Fiji, how can you not stop by?
In my previous visits to the islands I’d stayed on the main island of Nadi, either at the Sheraton Fiji or the lovely Westin Denarau Villas. From the resort area of Denarau it was easy to make day trips out to the Yasawa or Mamanuca Islands (the real draw in Fiji), but I’d always wanted to try actually staying on one of those gorgeously remote outer islands.
Sheraton Hotels to the rescue…
Last year, Sheraton opened a new resort on the island of Tokoriki Fiji in the Mamanuca Islands so it seemed like the perfect place to sample the deserted island life while making great use of our remaining Marriott points!
Arriving in Style in Tokoriki
We arrived from Sydney early Friday afternoon and hopped in a taxi to the Sheraton Fiji where the check-in process for the Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island takes place. One of the most exciting things about Tokoriki island is the process of getting there.
Basically, you have three options: a South Seas Cruises ferry, a jet ski or…(wait for it)…a helicopter!
Each option came with a different price tag and its own set of pros and cons. The ferry only operated twice daily and our flight didn’t arrive in time to catch the latest one, so that was out. And with the jet ski option, your luggage arrives on the next ferry, so we would have had to wait until the following morning for our bags. While the jet ski sounded like fun, also out.
That left the helicopter. Now, while the helicopter option initially sounded pretty extravagant, it turned out to be only about $70 more per person than taking the ferry. And you depart on your own schedule and arrive at the resort in less than 15 minutes. SOLD.
After checking in at the Sheraton Fiji, we waited just a few minutes before being escorted to the nearby golf course to await our helicopter.
Minutes later we were escorted into the helicopter and began lifting into the air while the island of Nadi quickly faded behind us. As we flew over the open ocean I was immediately glad we hadn’t chosen the jet ski option, it was a lot further than I thought!
Just as we were starting to enjoy the view of the Mamanuca Islands dotting the bright blue sea, our pilot motioned to Tokoriki island dead ahead.
And just like that our luxurious helicopter ride over the Fijian islands came to an end. But we didn’t mind once we got a look at the bungalows dotting the beach on Tokoriki island. A golf cart awaited us on the heli pad and we were swept off to the lobby for an enthusiastic musical welcome from the staff (they do love to sing here in Fiji).
A Beautiful Beachfront Bure
The Front Office Manager, Fiona, greeted us with a big smile and keys to our upgraded beachfront villa (called “bures” in Fiji). She explained the resort’s facilities and layout, which included a wing reserved for adults only, where we would be staying. Then we again climbed aboard the golf cart for the quick ride to our villa.
And, WOW, what a villa it was! The room itself was spacious and plush but the beachfront deck was its most amazing feature – a perfect ocean view complete with lounge chairs and a private plunge pool. Spectacular.
We settled in for a bit before changing and heading to the bar just in time for happy hour.
I assumed that resort prices for food and drink would be high and I was definitely right. On the way to the bar we stopped by the resort’s restaurant to check out the menu. Though there were a few reasonable options on the a la carte menu, the nightly buffets averaged about $80 per person and a single beer was as much as $12.
Luckily, the happy hour prices were a good value so we knew that would be a nightly stop for us. And we’d been smart enough to plan ahead and bring a few bottles of wine with us from Sydney.
After enjoying an afternoon on the quiet and peaceful adults-only side of the resort, we were slightly alarmed to find the bar lousy with children. Bellying up the bar ordering Shirley Temples, running in concentric circles, lounging in a corner with their iPads, you name it.
For a moment I wasn’t sure whether we had walked into the bar or the Kids Club. (As it turns out, Fiji is a big family travel destination for Australians.)
A quick check of the sign at the door confirmed that it was indeed the bar so we pulled up a couple of bar stools next to the nearest pre-schooler and ordered a round of drinks and a light dinner. The live music in the bar was great and the food was decent so despite the children we managed to have a lovely, if not wildly romantic, evening.
Eventually, we gave up on the bar (we were tired, the kids were apparently not) and headed back to the villa to enjoy the ocean breeze from our deck. As we sat down with our wine glasses on the lounge chair, we looked up and were completely awestruck by the blanket of stars above us. More stars than I’ve ever seen in my life.
It was so mesmerizing we just sat there staring up at the sky for a while listening to the waves crash against the reef just offshore, the children all but forgotten. Talk about romance!
That night, and every other thereafter, the temperatures were so mild we were able to sleep with our sliding glass door cracked open and enjoy the sounds of the surf as we drifted off to sleep. Absolute South Pacific bliss.
Lazy days in Fiji
For the next few days we pretty much repeated our routine from day one – lots of time on the deck during the day, romper room in the bar in the evenings – and threw in a little snorkeling and an island hike just for good measure.
Though the sun shone during our entire stay, the winds were relentless at times which made the water too rough for most water sports like kayaking or jet skis. Even snorkeling was a tiring workout against the surf.
I was a little surprised that there weren’t more excursion options offered from the hotel, especially with so many of the Mamanuca’s best islands just a short boat ride away.
In fact, Modriki Island (of Cast Away fame) was easily visible from our villa but there was no way to visit it – an easily bookable day trip from Nadi.
But I guess the purpose of staying at the outer island resorts is to get off the grid and relax, not to spend every day doing day trips. Fine by me!
For our final day in paradise we decided it was time to check out the spa. We made an afternoon appointment for a couples massage and spent the morning relaxing on our deck.
Our afternoon at the spa was fantastic and we emerged relaxed and refreshed just in time to pour a glass of wine and walk up the hill to the heli pad for a perfect sunset.
I couldn’t have written a better ending to our time in Fiji.
The next morning it was time to head back to the main island of Nadi, this time by ferry. The ferry ride was pleasant enough but made more stops than we anticipated and took nearly 2 hours to make it back to the port in Denarau.
As we drove to the airport I pondered whether it was a better Fiji experience this time staying on one of the outer islands. There’s no doubt the beaches and water are a vast improvement over Nadi and there’s definitely something to be said for the “deserted island” feeling, especially when you’re on your honeymoon.
But you do give up some excursion options and a wider selection of restaurants and shops. However, overall I’d say it was nice to experience a different, more remote side of Fiji.
Alas, it’s now time to leave the sandy beaches and sunshine of Fiji behind and head back to winter…next stop, New Zealand!