Why did we go to Fiji? Well, it was on the way. We got a much better airline fare traveling Fiji Airways between Los Angeles and New Zealand than using Air New Zealand or other carriers. We decided to do our layover on the way back to avoid the rainy season. Our carry-ons were overweight at check in. Both Fiiji and New Zealand Air only allow 15 pounds or 7 kilos. The clerk told us we had to be at 8. We switched our shoes for our boots and piled a few more things into our coat pockets. They weigh all the carry-ons again before security and at 8.1 and 8.25 we were allowed through. Of course, we also had a checked suitcase each at 50 lbs. We would have loved to have been traveling lighter but that is hard to do when you are bringing backpacking and car camping equipment.
We arrived in Nadi, Fiji from Auckland 3 hours late but the hotel shuttle met us right away and took us to the Mercure Hotel near the airport. We had no problem in Fiji customs even though we indicated on the form that we had food, rocks, and meat. They x-rayed the baggage and asked us no questions. However, the meat we had was beef jerky and other food and was all sealed in original packaging. We even took the sealed cookies from the plane though they announced not to dpo this. At the airport we got Fijian money at the ATM, for which there was a $4, charge unlike ATMs in New Zealand or Europe.
The Mercure Hotel was quite reasonable at $89 a night (the Fijian dollar was .54 to US) I will quote US dollars and you can check the current rate. The room was fine and clean with tea and coffee making stuff and a small fridge. In addition, they stored two large bags for us for 5 days at no charge. The convenience store at the hotel is open from 7am to 10pm and Mark grabbed a Fiji tshirt for $7 and some 1.5 liter Pepsi Max for $2. Cookies though were $5 a pack. The free bus to the port is at 7:45 am and is about a 30 minute trip. There is also a larger grocery at the port.
The Yasawa Flyer runs once a day through part of the Mamanua Islands and then up the Yasawas. We were going to the very end which takes 5 hrs and is $165 pp round trip. We opted not to spend the extra money for the Captain's Lounge. We sat inside in the air conditioned area which had little tables and were glad we hadn't paid any extra as it was perfectly fine.
Arriving at Nanuya Island Resort you make an easy transfer to the resort's small boat that takes you to shore. They pull it far enough on shore that you don't even need to get your feet wet. After welcome drinks and explanations of how the meals etc. work, they showed us to our beach front villa, number 3. Trip adviser had suggested 1 and 3 were the best. Very nice accommodations and frankly more than we have ever spent on a room at $285 per night. There are only 4 villas on the beach, the other eight are smaller and up the hill with lovely views of the ocean. I think they are a little more private and quieter as no one is walking in front moving back and forth to the worker's area and the activity hut. But there are quite a few steps to climb.
We spent 5 nights and had two cloudy days, 2 sunny days, and 1 tropical all day downpour. The sunny days were wonderful but hot as temps are always in the 80s daytime and the sun is fierce. We ended up snorkeling 3 days right in front of our villa and a few hundred yards down the beach. Equipment was only $5 per person for your whole stay--we never got around to kayaking which runs about the same. Lots of gorgeous coral and fish. We also took the trip across the channel to see the local village, meet the chief, etc. at $20 pp including donation to village and chief. Another day we took the half day boat trip to swim in the Sawaka Caves at $50 per person. A good chance to see more of the islands though neither of us was willing to swim through the underwater tunnel to see the second cave. Supposedly easier to get to at low tide then our high tide visit.
Unlike many of the Fijian resorts, at Nanuya you didn't have to pay for meals as part of the package. This turned out to be a very good choice for keeping costs at a reasonable level even for a resort. Continental breakfast of cereal, toast, fresh baked muffins, yogurt, 4 kinds of fruit, and juice was unlimited, included in room price and available from 8-10am. You could also order and pay for eggs, pancakes, etc. if you wanted. Filtered water, tea and coffee in your room were all free. Also the rooms have a small fridge, and many guests had brought crackers, cheese, drinks, alcohol, etc. of their own. Mark and I ended up splitting a lunch every day as portions were generous. A lunch entree, often with salad and chips ran about $9, coke $3, Fiji beer $4 or a glass of house wine $5. We thought the food overall very good. At dinner a large beef filet with lots of veggies and/or rice, potatoes was $24, most fish and chicken entrees $15, and local, caught-that-day lobster the most expensive at $26! Definitely large enough to split, appetizers were $8-9, and desserts $6-8. Specialty cocktails were also $8-9. Overall, we were very happy with the food, and it was much less expensive then in New Zealand or the US. However, don't look for an Italian or French dish. Fijian food is all about fish, seafood, local veggies, with a decidedly Asian influence in sauces. I don't eat fish or lamb but still had 1-2 choices every evening and there was also a vegetarian entree every night. Lunch and snacks were served from noon to 5 and dinner from 7-9 with the bar open later.
The resort had between 8 and 14 people staying while we were there with 24 its basic capacity. Children under 7 not allowed and since only the 4 beach villas could accommodate more than 2, rare. Most families head for one of the resorts with childcare and multiple activities. Tipping was highly discouraged though a donation to the all-staff fund was appreciated.
Overall we enjoyed our stay in Fiji. There are lots of other ways to enjoy the islands including buying Bula passes for the Flyer and staying at different resorts along the way. There is actually a tourist desk on board to arrange for accommodations at resorts along the way. Many places are relatively inexpensive with dorms, single and double rooms at what are termed backpackers (hostels). These, of course, tend to attract a younger, more party and water-sports-oriented crowd. But, hey, there is no age limit if you want to save money. We even needed earplugs where we were as the amazingly loud tropical birds were up at dawn every morning! If you are looking to kill some additional time in a warmer clime to or from New Zealand or Australia, Fiji is a great choice and absolutely everyone speaks English.