GoVisitFIJI Review: Matangi Private Island Resort

Today (October 13th) is our 8th wedding anniversary. Like many couples, the destination we choose for our honeymoon has held a special place in our hearts. Our experience in going to Fiji for the first time was so incredible it prompted us to buy this domain with the of building out this little site with the idea to help others discover the unspoiled beauty of Fiji.

Of course, over the last 8 years, life got in the way of getting started on this little pet project, and while we’ve had the good fortune to travel many other places since our first trip to Fiji, it’s nearly impossible not to compare all other travel experiences we’ve had since our honeymoon in Fiji.

We’ve been to the Caribbean several times as the travel time is significantly quicker and can often be done at much lower cost, with numerous deals on all-inclusive vacations to be had. We’ve also traveled to Hawaii for a few dive vacations – visiting the Big Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu – all of which are fairly commercialized at this point. Hawaii’s ingrained Polynesian culture does feel reminiscent of Fiji, and there’s much we love about visiting and diving in Hawaii, but they really are worlds apart.

With that in mind, here’s our long-overdue ‘review’ of Matangi Island Resort, with as many details as we can recall. Of course, you might want to refer to more current reviews on TripAdvisor, but the resort’s promotional video we’ve included below is also a fair assessment of what to expect when honeymooning or visiting Matangi, as it seems most recent guests are raving about the same experiences we enjoyed while there.

Traveling to Fiji

For most Australians and Kiwis, visiting Fiji is a quick jaunt – often only a 3 to 4 hour flight – not so different for those on the East Coast of the U.S. heading to most spots in the Caribbean. Traveling to Fiji from the U.S. is a bit of an undertaking – about a 12 to 13 hour flight from the major west coast cities of LAX or SFO. Our home airport (SLC) adds another 2 hours to that travel time.

Of course, with so many major airlines flying over the Pacific from those two hubs, plus Fiji Airways, there are often decent deals to be had on airfare. All-inclusive package deals are often available from discount sites such as Groupon Getaways, Costco Travel, SkyAuction or OTA’s like Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak and others.

For our honeymoon, because of the nature of life’s craziness and all that comes with wedding planning too, we opted to use (GASP!) a traditional travel agency to book our itinerary, mostly to help manage the more complicated transfers.

At the time, Air Tahiti Nui (an airline which primarily serves the French Polynesia islands of Bora Bora, Moorea & Tahiti now)  was operating flights to NADI (NAN) as a codeshare with Quantas. While we didn’t spring for the added cost of Business Class seats initially, when we got into LAX, we were able to upgrade our fares to First/Business at the Quantas counter in LAX for $650 USD per person. That also of course, got us access to the Quantas lounge, which was a fantastic way to pass the long wait until our flight left LAX around 11pm.

Totally worth it, but we got lucky in terms of availability and upgrade-able fares. If you’re booking far enough ahead or planning a last minute trip to Fiji, you may have the luxury of stalking airfare deal sites and tracking fare sales to score a deal on First/Business class across the Pacific.

Since our wedding was itself a long weekend in a mountain destination about 4 hours from our home, we did not plan to leave the US until the Tuesday following our wedding; so we planned our Fiji honeymoon for 10 nights, plus 2 days total travel time. Again, long-haul flights are great reasons to splurge on premium seating, and using FF miles for upgrades are a great option as well.

To be totally honest, remembering why we selected Fiji over French Polynesia for our honeymoon is harder than we’d like to admit now. But since the islands of Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti are still very much on our exotic travel and scuba diving bucket list, we’re still planning to visit F.P. as soon as possible. You know what they say about visualization, right? We can picture ourselves starting travel guides for those South Pacific islands as well!

Why We Choose Matangi Island Resort for our Honeymoon

From the start, we knew we wanted to splurge on the “private island” experience. We had a smaller wedding (~70 guests) by design, and this allowed us to actually budget more for the honeymoon in Fiji than we spent on the entire wedding weekend. However, that doesn’t mean we had an unlimited budget. Ultimately, Matangi best suited our budget, plus met (and exceeded) all of our expectations for our honeymoon in Fiji.

Probably like many other first time travelers to Fiji – being inspired by all of those gorgeous pictures of overwater bungalows seen in travel mags, we assumed these accommodations were everywhere, as plentiful as they were in French Polynesia, it turns out, not so much in Fiji.

In fact, the first true overwater bungalow resort in Fiji, LikuLiku Lagoon Resort, was under construction at the time of our planned honeymoon, and would open to guests not long after. (We’ll have to make it a point to visit LikuLiku for an anniversary trip, won’t we?)

Undeterred from our Fiji fantasy, we narrowed it down to three top contenders:

  • Vatuele – (which closed for extensive renovations in 2012, and updates on current status are spotty at best)
  • Royal Davui – A Virtuoso luxury resort with 16 bures, featuring private plunge pools, another anniversary trip contender!
  • Matangi Private Island Resort – A privately owned and operated, traditional Fijian resort with only 12 bures

Here are a few snapshots from our honeymoon at Matangi Island Resort:

Horseshoe Bay, Matangi Island from the air          first view of Matangi resort as you arrive          Matangi Resort main beach     Matangi infinity pool          Matangi Island Main dining bure at dusk          main dining bure          beachfront bure          beachfront bure interior     Treehouse bure view from beach Treehouse Bure front deck    Treehouse Bure Master Bed     Treehouse Bure private deck & outdoor shower    Treehouse Bure private day bed    Treehouse bure private hot tub
Horseshoe Bay, Matangi Island from the air

Private Beachfront & Treehouse Bures

While the Treehouse bures are considered a ‘must do’ upgrade, rest assured the ‘standard’ beachfront bures are by no means inferior. Ours was the furthest down the beach, so it offered even more privacy and solitude than some of the others on the island.

The traditional Polynesian structures were expansive, with tall, open ceilings highlighting natural hardwood beams and center poles hoisting the thatched roof. The open layout meant the living area, the bed, the wet bar and wardrobe were all within the main room, with the bathroom facilities given a private space.

The beachfront bures also have their own outdoor showers, though ours was built into the hillside so the top had natural foliage was overgrowing into the shower… which would have been lovely, until we realized a few days in, there were enormous banana spider (harmless but EEK!) webs strewn across the shower so we couldn’t use it. We informed the staff, and asked if they might clear some of vines and webs out for us, and said it wouldn’t be a problem to do while we were out scuba diving the next day. Also at some point, we’d had a small leak in the roof, nothing major, but enough we did need to put a trash canister underneath, though again, nothing that we were remotely bothered by.

Upon our return to the resort after a great day of diving, we were pleasantly informed by the staff that we’d been moved to one of the Treehouse bures. It was such a fantastic surprise, and we did enjoy the second half of our trip in the larger space, and tried to take advantage of the outdoor relaxation spaces, including the banana spider-free outdoor shower as much as possible.

Towards the end of the week, we’d also invited a few of the other couples over for a little ‘happy hour’ to check the space out and enjoy some pre-dinner cocktails on the treehouse patios.

Dining & Drink

Our trip was pre-instagram, so while we have some pictures of the gourmet food served to us at dinner, they certainly will need to be run through a few filters. Every meal at Matangi, however, was pretty Instagram worthy, and every dish they crafted was excellent, often using fresh fish and tropical fruits as well as fresh vegetables.

Fine dining at Matangi Island Resort Fiji

The main dining bure was the spot for all meals for us, though room service was always an option. We did take advantage of having our private romantic dinner for two out on the pier over the water, something we’d highly recommend for anyone visiting the resort. As the social hub of the resort, the main dining bure also offered a great place to relax and play games, read or chat with other guests throughout the day. You’d also always be able to get cocktails or Fiji Bitter while lounging poolside.

The bures always had a mix of soft drinks, juices and Fiji Bitter beer stocked in them. When we landed in Nadi, we’d also taken advantage of our layover time and purchased a bottle of rum and vodka at the duty free shop to have on hand in our bure to make mixed cocktails whenever we were spending time relaxing there or in our personal hammock at the beach.

Activities & Excursions

Like many tropical resorts, Matangi has complimentary activities available to guests to use at a whim, including paddleboarding, sea kayaking, hand-line fishing, sailing, nature hikes around the island, a tour of a local Fijian village on nearby Qamea Island and a kava ceremony – all of which we took advantage of, and we’ll post about in the future. The two of us also took the catamaran out one perfectly windy day.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

As you’ve gathered by now (if you’ve read this far!) we did a fair amount of scuba diving and snorkeling at Matangi, as we’d both gotten SSI certified prior to the trip. The diving of course, was absolutely incredible, and while we were newbies to the sport, many of the dive spots we’ve been to since just can’t compare. Scuba diving at Matangi probably deserves its own post, though our underwater photography skills at the time were pretty lacking.

Having a private or small group dive experience is one of the best things you can experience as a diver, particularly an inexperienced diver. Our very first open water dive ever was a shore dive right off the resort, where we spotted a few small black tip reef sharks. We’d also been able to head out on the boat, with just a few of us at any given time along with the divemaster Bale, to do Noel’s Wall and other dive sites not too far from the resort.

Among the marine life sightings, we saw several barracuda, a turtle, reef sharks and a slightly larger species which we didn’t get a close enough look to identify. One of the most memorable elements were the giant  purple clamshells (about 1-2 FEET wide) in size growing along the reefs. Bale would put his hands near them to ‘open & close’ them.

Snorkeling can also be done right off the main beach of the resort, or the staff will take you just a bit off shore to a large reef in the skiff. The skiff was also used to shuttle us to the other side of the island to the infamous Horseshoe Bay for our private picnic, where we also snorkeled quite a bit.

Off-Island Tours

In addition to the quick tour over to the Qamea village, some of the excursion tours Matangi offers for additional fee are trips to visit Taveuni Island and some of the natural park areas there including:

  • Tavoro Waterfall Tour & Pearl Farm Visit
  • Lavena Coastal Walk
  • Waitabu Marine Park
  • 180 degree Meridian & Waitavala Waterslide Tour 

On our trip, we did the Tavoro Waterfall Tour with the other couples, and had a fabulous time visiting the national park and waterfall sites – again, worthy of its own post in the future.

Waterfall in Tavoro National Park, Taveuni Island in Fiji
Waterfall in Tavoro National Park, Taveuni Island in Fiji – copyright @GoVisitFIJI

Because of the proximity, Matangi offers the Pearl Farm visit in conjunction with the waterfall tour, which we did, though it was a bit of a disappointment – less of a tour, it really consisted of browsing pearls for sale on the front porch of a small building. That said, we ended up purchasing two lovely deep-green to black colored pearls which will eventually find their way into a custom piece of jewelry.

The Spa

The only regrets we might have about our honeymoon at Matangi is not taking greater advantage of the spa services. We each only had one massage over the course of our stay, and should have done more as divine as they were, in an open air bure with soothing ocean sounds. Now that the spa has been completely upgraded, it’s likely worth planning extra downtime there.

What To Expect When You Visit Matangi Island Resort

Matangi Island Private Resort - Fiji - Infinity Pool
view from the infinity pool @MatangiIsland – copyright, @GoVisitFIJI

 

Stacking Matangi up against the alternative options for higher-end, well appointed five-star luxury resorts such as Royal Davui, Jean-Michael Costeau and Turtle Island, or the newer resorts of LikuLiku and Laucala, the amenities may seem more simplistic in nature, but it doesn’t mean Matangi isn’t a hidden gem, one that’s providing a fairly ‘exclusive’ experience in its own right.

Matangi falls into the category of an authentic, but not completely rustic, Fijian resort that has a  understated elegance about it while providing all the luxury you should expect for the price. It’s also clear from recent pictures that some upgrades have happened along the way since our visit, including the new spa area, which looks absolutely divine.

While not exactly inexpensive, the all-inclusive package rates, particularly including scuba diving, are a tremendous value at Matangi, when comparing to some of the resorts above.

You may not have a dedicated butler service, but you’ll absolutely be indulged with personalized, attentive service with such a small staff to guest ratio.

Undoubtedly, one of the best reasons to visit somewhere so remote as a private island in Fiji is getting away from all the distractions of modern life; Matangi is one of those resorts where you can do just that. Though now, WiFi service is available by the pool and main lounge areas – for a daily or weekly fee; truthfully, that’s sort of a shame, even though admittedly, we’d probably use it ourselves now. At least for Instagramming pics from the resort throughout our trip, of course!

Fijian Hospitality & New Friends

From the ownership on site to the exceptional and friendly staff, you feel immediately at home and well attended to.

During our 10-night honeymoon stay at Matangi, at its peak, we only shared the resort with 4 other couples, with varying nights of overlap.

Of these couples, two were on anniversary getaways, one other pair were also on their extended honeymoon holiday; and a third, J & E, were a fairly newly dating couple at the time, visiting from the San Francisco Bay area. Even while on ‘romantic’ vacations, the common dining area and drinks at the bar before dinner allowed ample social time to get to chat with other guests, before leaving each other to enjoy private moments over dinner.

Over the course of our stay, we got to know J&E the best, with much in common given our careers in digital tech, and M was thrilled to have found an experienced dive buddy in J, and they headed out on the dive boat one day while E & I stayed behind and did some sea kayaking close to the resort. The four of us actually visited Horseshoe Bay together one day as well.

Years later, J & E married, we’re all still Facebook friends, have met up in S.F. on occasion and we’re still planning that ‘someday we’ll all return to Matangi together’ trip!

VIDEO: Matangi Private Island Resort in Fiji

As mentioned, the resort created a number of promotional videos, which fairly represent the experience of visiting Matagani. This one highlights traditional Fijian song while you get a glimpse into life on the island:

goVisitFIJI FAQS: Matangi Island Resort

  • GETTING THERE: Fly into Nadi (NAN), Take Transfer Flight to Taveuni Island, Resort drivers meet you with van transport to boat, boat ride ~20 mins, passing Qamea Resort on your way.
  • ADULTS-ONLY: Be aware that while Matangi is best for couples and romantic vacations, there is one two-bedroom bure available for sharing, and the resort’s official age minimum is 16 years of age.

 

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