Bula and Vinaka for joining me while I fondly reminisce about my recent Epic Journey to and through the delightful Fiji Islands. 35 nights in Paradise.
Day 1 -
I was late leaving my house to get to the airport. A 1 hour drive "if" there are no traffic issues, just happens to be one of my favorite drives on Maui. I try not to be late when driving from/to my home/home office, so I can relax and enjoy the panoramic vista of Maui's valley. Rolling hills, dotted with horses, grazing cattle and sheep, Norfolk pines and the stately West Maui Mountains surrounded by the sparkling crystal blue ocean on 3 sides and now, this time of year, much of the upper Haleakala Hwy is lined with the breathtaking purple blossoms of the Jacaranda trees. Leaving home to travel to far off destinations can be bittersweet. I have to pinch myself at the beauty before me. However, once I am on the big plane that will transport me to the Happy Smiley Fiji Isles, the subtle shift in gears begins. My breathing slows and I can feel my insides start to glow with soft remembering, anticipation, and I say my Fiji prayer, "Thank you for bringing me home, to Fiji, where my spirit and Fiji's are kindred in so many ways. Vinaka, Amene"
When I first step foot off the plane, and the fresh air caresses my face, I smell the softness and the exotic fragrance in the air, I know I am home. Those smells swiftly waft to my brain, where all of the wonders of my 50++ past trips to Fiji have been catalogued. YES! I love this first breath of fresh Fiji air. Moving right along, I stop to purchase 2 bottles of Fiji Rum from Duty Free. One bottle is for Panto, who use to be my driver, with Rosie's Tours, while I was "in town" in Nadi. Although Panto has moved on to be the main driver for the Intercontinental Natadola, we are still in contact and I bring him Rum, which he and his wife enjoy sipping together and "relaxing" :) The second bottle is for me to take with me while I travel in Fiji. I have been doing this for nearly 20 years. The older I get the worse the Rum tastes. This may have been the last year for me to hang on to this tradition. Once out of Immigration/Customs, Rosie's Tours is waiting to greet me with a flower garland (Salu Salu), big smiles and to whoosh me off the my first hotel, The Westin Fiji at Denarau Island .
The Westin use to be the Regent Fiji, back in the beginning of time (well, my time traveling to Fiji). The Westin has maintained it's understated elegance (Regent Fiji years) with the use of Fiji dark woods and many artifacts strewn throughout the lobby. The Regent was the first resort I stayed at my first time in Fiji in 1986. The swim up pool bar looks as inviting as ever and the general feel of the resort is lovely. And I do LOVE those Heavenly Beds! Although I did not go to the Spa this time, they have done a super job in creating a unique Spa environment with some excellent treatments. This was a quick stay for me as I was off early in the AM to Castaway Island Resort.
In 1986, I journeyed from the Regent Fiji to Castaway, just like I was planning on this trip. However, today we were driving to Denarau Marina to catch the ferry, Tiger cat 4. In 1986 the boat came right up to beach in front the Regent and picked us up to take us to Castaway. I enjoyed the 1.5 hour ferry ride in the Captains Lounge with A/C. I do enjoy my air conditioning mixed with fresh air :)
I've been to Castaway a few times over the last 20 years. I really like their current upgrades and colors in the Bures, etc. Castaway is small enough to give it the charm that is expected with small boutique resorts in Fiji, and big enough to have plenty to do to keep everyone happy. My Bure was extremely comfortable with great breezes (and Air conditioning as needed), comfy beds, nice views of the gorgeous ocean and beach (I was in an oceanview bure). I was especially impressed with the evening Dining experience and think that Castaway has really upgraded to new levels in the F&B department. I did not have time to indulge in the Spa, but I have heard good things about it and think the garden location offers serenity and privacy.
Overall, in my quick one night "site inspection", Castaway is a fantastic small resort, lovely views of the outer islands (One of them is where Tom Hanks filmed in "Castaway"), great ocean for playing and ocean recreation (including hobie cats), super friendly staff and management (that are a reflection of the owner of the resort), excels at balancing the great family vacation experience and those on a romantic holiday. The only problem is that I was not there long enough to really dig in and truly get to know the resort. I'm sure we will make my next visit to Castaway, a longer stay. On this trip, I was able to enjoy 3 resorts for extended stays. Keep your eyes peeled for JM Cousteau Resort (5 nights) , Taveuni Island Resort (9 nights) and Matagi Island Resort (4 nights).
Next: Mana Island Resort and Spa.
The short boat ride from Castaway to Mana gave me a chance to enjoy the ocean and views of the outer islands in the Mamanuca Island Group. There are lots of stunning reefs in this area and many shades of blues and greens. I love my Maui Jim Polarized sunglasses as it makes this fabulous scenery completely awe inspiring with my sunglasses on. Oh, what would life be without polarized sunglasses? Upon arrival at Mana, I was swooped away to be massaged at their new Spa. I was Wow'd as I entered the Spa area with 4 Spa Thatched Bures (bungalow treatment rooms) in a lily pond setting with gigantic towering trees providing shade. It was a gorgeous setting. My massage was quite good and all of the facilities were new and modern.
Mana's beaches and snorkeling were the best kept secret but the word is getting out. South Beach is on the windward side, so it tends to be a little cooler (because of the wind). The Honeymoon Bures are on this beach. I LOVE the Honeymoon Bures. The evening dining experience at South Beach Restaurant is my favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed the outside deck for the breakfast buffet on North Beach. For walking and snorkeling at high tide, Sunset Beach is incredible. My stay at Mana was only one night so I was not able to relax into the resort and get to know it better. However, I can say that Mana has some excellent values and nicely upgraded rooms, Bures and dining.
NOTE: We have some wonderful exclusive vacation offers to all of these resorts and most resorts/villas in Fiji. IF we can find space! It seems that Fiji is selling out all the way through September, October! Call us, yesterday, 1-800-588-3454 (in Hawaii), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, so you don't miss the boat for your Fiji Vacation. If you are looking at 2010 or early 2011, for Fiji or Tahiti (even Hawaii), don't wait. We have a couple resorts/villas in Fiji that are sold out through March 2011! VISIT US AT http://www.Fiji-Islands.com or McCoyTravel.com