With a set of overwhelming choice (333 islands at high tide and approx 500 at low tide with 100 inhabited) we spent countless hours reviewing each hotel on tripadvisor… And after a while, they all sounded the same! Which island could we pick? Was their food plan worth it? Why stay on an island as opposed to mainland? Well now that we’re back from Fiji, we know where we will head when we return!!
Small islands versus Big resorts: The weather issue
We tried both. Navini Island is part of the Mamanuca islands (4 nights spent on Navini) and Hilton Denarau (4 nights spent on Denarau). The Mamanuca islands have a very different climate from that of Viti Levu (Main bigger island). When we were there (Mid October) we could see rain pouring down on Denarau when all we had was a picture perfect blue sky, sun and sun burns. So If weather’s a priority, you might want to choose the smaller islands.
Small islands versus Big resorts: The kids club and the Adult only resort, the beach versus the swimming pool
We found that resorts labelled as “Adult only” were way over our budget (1200 AUD per night) and chose Navini based on Tripadvisor reviews (all of them were excellent). Henry picked us up at the airport and there was a 1-hour transfer to get to our Island. Navini has day-trips each day and this is excellent to keep the kids busy. On the island, there was a family of 4 (2 kids of 10yr and 7yr, both adorable and well behaved) and smaller kids (2.5 year old and 8 months also very nice) so we were extremely lucky, considering dinner and lunch are on communal tables (that said you have a candlenight dinner option).
Bigger resorts like the Hilton have a kids club (did not get to try it, no kids and both of us were way to old) and if you have overactive kids who could feel trapped in an island or who do not swim well enough to enjoy the beaches this might be a solution.
There however is a real trade-off. The Denarau beach is grey and very very few dare to swim there (we didn’t) especially when you’ve seen how crystal clear the water on small island is. So it’s a matter of whether you prefer beaches and sea or the swimming pools.
Small islands versus Big resorts: Set time to dine and communal tables.
We were lucky meeting only nice couples and families and communal tables were never an issue for us. The setup works quite well with most patrons being Australians (who are definitely friendly, nice and easy going) but this might not be something that would work with French patrons. First night seemed awkward but it’s all we needed to adjust afterwards and 4 couples came to waive us goodbye when we left on our last day.
Being a 10 bure resort, it makes sense to have set dinner time for them to be organised and to avoid wasting food as most food supplies (aside from coconut) come from the main island. If you haven’t had lunch and are already thinking about dinner like I do, then this shouldn’t be an issue! I think it was actually quite nice to have my stomach set on Fijian dining times. The meal plans were FJD 108 for 2 meals (Dinner and Brekkie) or FJD 120 for 3 meals (add light lunch). We had dinner on first day and brekkie+lunch on last day and these added up to FJD120 so it was quite nice! I had too much food on the Island so 4 days were actually enough for us. Had we stayed longer, we would have paid a weight surcharge to fly back to Sydney!
When we were in Denarau, we could choose to dine whenever we felt hungry (that wasn’t very often for Monsieur) so having that freedom back was nice for our bellies. We definitely had lighter breakfasts and lighter dinners on most days (no lunch).
Small islands versus Big resorts: Our Conclusion
There was a personal feel, that you belonged to a larger community (dare I say family?) on Navini Island and it was very nice being able to share experience and meals with friendly patrons. The staff was also very friendly and went out of their way to please us. We had the right to stay until 5pm on our last day (talk about late check out!!) so we were extremely happy! Meals were excellent, beach was pristine with blue starfish and little black tip sharks (arm length) and we left truly relaxed. We could have spent 2 more nights on Navini Island though we would have missed being just the two of us for meals (and speaking French I guess!). We preferred by very very far, our stay on Navini versus Hilton, but the cost of staying on a private island (they bring frozen food and have to be very organised with generators and fuel so everything comes at a cost) is two times higher than a stay on a big resort. Navini (4nights) accounted for about 2/3rd of our expenses and 1/3rd was spent on Denarau (4nights).