Being located in an offshore island, guests staying here could board the ferry from Denarau and they will then be transferred to a smaller boat near the island as there are no port to disembark in these small island resorts. Guests would get their feet wet since they arrive on the beach so bring flip flops for the ferry trip. If you do not want to get your feet wet, choose instead to arrive via helicopter though this has to be arranged before hand and can only be done before sunset and under good weather conditions.
The Sheraton is one of the 2 resorts occupying this elliptical island with the other being an adults-only Tokoriki Island Resort. It is possible to walk to the other resort since they are side by side though very few visitors do that. On arrival at the beach, there is a welcoming ceremony of sorts by the staff at the hotel with some music and guests could then proceed to the main reception area to do their check-in.
Inside, the reception hostess would prepare cold towels and fruit punch while conducting check-in. Guests are also presented with a necklace made of sea shells. The luggage are offloaded by the staff on the beach and they will be ready for pick up on the terrace outside if guests would like it fast. Otherwise do expect to wait if you ask them to deliver it to the room.
The main lobby has several seating space and 2 check-in desks that could seat 8 people, thus essentially being able to serve 4 check-ins at the same time. Since most guests arrive here in groups, the staff was pro-active in assigning us rooms beforehand. As it happens, there was another family of 4 checking in with me and who is also a Platinum member. Both of us were upgraded to the Beachfront Retreat rooms which is the highest tier in the resort so it was a very nice upgrade. In addition breakfast was included but there was no substitute for a club lounge here.
During our check-in I was able to charge the ferry tickets to the room and specifically mentioned I would like to charge the return ferry tickets as well. We also asked for information of the watersports activity during our stay here.
The resort layout can be described with the main lodge being in the centre. On the east of the main lodge lies the majority of the rooms with the Beachfront Rooms facing the ocean; with the Ocean Breeze Rooms housed under the same lodge but facing the gardens with the Beachfront Rooms. Ocean View Rooms which is the 4th highest category of rooms have partial views of the ocean and located in the second row. At the back on the east side of the resort are the Island Family Suites and Island Breeze Rooms, with the latter being the lowest category of rooms. There are also a limited number of Island Family Suites with Plunge Pools on the extreme eastern end of the resort. This makes everything on the east side to be more dense and chances of having more noise with families around.
On the western side of the resort lies the Beachfront and Ocean View Retreats, both of which are the highest category of rooms. Beachfront Retreats have great direct ocean views while the Ocean View Retreats have a partial view of the ocean as they are staggered behind the Beachfront Retreats. Recommended for couples are the Retreat rooms as they would provide much more privacy and a quieter ambience for relaxation.
Room No: 106 Category: Beachfront Retreat
After check-in we proceed to our room which is located on the second building beside the main lodge. As we had little luggage to carry along, we just walked. Those guests located slightly further away could avail themselves to the use of a buggy to ferry them around.
Each beachfront lodge actually houses 2 rooms though some of the lodges will house 4 rooms as some does not face the ocean. The lodges are decorated plainly and I believe that was due to the devastating effects of a cyclone that destroyed the old resort before it was taken over by Sheraton. Thus I believe they had not yet have the time to give it a village feel.
Inside, the room actually feels a lot like a junior studio suite with an open plan. On the left by the door was a large wooden closet. On the right was the door leading to the bathroom. Like the Sheraton Fiji in Denarau, this bathroom features a double sink.
In addition, there is a window by the large shower area that allows natural light in. The window was further enclosed by a wooden wall around it. However there was no bathtub here.
Behind the door on the corner lies the toilet and the towel racks.
The shower itself is very spacious and the area could certainly fit a bathtub but perhaps guests could contend with soaking in the plunge pool outside the room. There was a rain-shower head on top of the handheld shower which I believe is standard on all Sheraton and Westin properties
Standardized bath amenities were also provided with nicer towels than those in the Sheraton Fiji in Denarau.
Moving to the bedroom, while it feels standard it was comfortable and spacious. There is a King bed in all the Retreat rooms that faces out towards the balcony. On both sides there is a nightstand but there was a lack of power outlets in the bedside.
In front of the bed there is a 2-seater couch facing the TV and the wall cabinet with a coffee table and an armchair across the sofa. A fruit platter was provided on the coffee table as a welcome amenity.
By the wall, there is a desk and another chair and a large cabinet where the flatscreen TV was placed upon. As the cinema on the main lodge is not yet ready for guests, there was free in-room movies during our stay. This was helpful in providing nightly entertainment since there is really not much else to do after dinner time.
Another thing to note is that the bottled water that the resort provides is not the usual Fiji-brand but rather by another local company under Aqua-Pacific. The bottle is somewhat small and yet not automatically replenished every day. On some days I had to request for them and it took a while to ask for additional bottles of water.
What made the room perfect though was the really nice deck outside accessed by a sliding glass door. The deck is furnished with a resort lounger that is nice for lazing in privacy with a couple of chairs and a small plunge pool that would fit at most 2 persons. Perhaps due to the plunge pool, they did not consider fitting a bathtub in the bathroom. Since it is directly by the ocean, the views of the sunset from the deck is amazing and in the afternoon, it was my favourite place to unwind after a day of watersports.
The resort’s main facilities and dining are located mostly in the main lodge. There are several boardrooms and even an event ballroom in the main lodge as well as a games room. Guests woud also find a theatrette which was still being renovated and a couple of gift shops, with one selling beach wear and some snacks. At the far end by the poolside is the Sala Bar which serves burgers, fries, tacos and light snacks in addition to a variety of alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately there was no complimentary drinks for SPG Platinum members.
Besides the bar stools around the bar, there are sofa seating around the bar area as well as a large outdoor deck with plenty of chairs under the shade. The whole setup in the bar is meant to provide a space for guests to dine and lounge while enjoying the sea breeze.
From the Sala bar, guests can overlook the main pool which has several deck chairs around it. For a resort, the swimming pool is a bit small and plain. Most of the resort’s activities are held around the poolside and the bar/lounge.
As the deck chairs around the swimming pool are limited, guests should arrive early if they want to laze by the pool, preferably by around 8am. After the conclusion of breakfast, the swimming pool area does get crowded.
Aside from the swimming pool and terrace, the hotel’s other restaurant – an open-air Reef Bistro is located just beside the swimming pool.
Other facilities found in the resort includes a fitness centre in a small lodge of its own near the spa. There is also a Kid’s Club for families with small kids staying in the resort with its own playground and an indoor play and childcare area. Beside the playground is a mini golf area which seems like an activity families should enjoy. At the back of the main lodge, there is an outdoor tennis court.
Naturally the other major facility in the resort is the spa, which is located towards the back of the island near the hillside. There is a reception lodge and several treatment rooms in individual lodges. At the back of the spa, there is a path leading up to the chapel on the hill for guests who might want to get married in the resort. The spa area and the fitness centre is probably the quietest part of the resort since it is located at the back and far from the main lodge. We had a massage treatment here one of the afternoon since the price was somewhat reasonable but it was honestly one of the worst massage so I do not recommend it at all.
In addition the variety of watersports that guests could pay extra, there are free activities arranged on the different days of the week from the morning until the evening. Some of these includes fish feeding on the beach, aqua aerobics, nature walks around the island, basket weaving, making coconut ice cream (basically shredding coconut as toppings for vanilla ice cream as opposed to real coconut flavoured ice cream), tasting a local kava brew (akin to Indonesian jamu), and a charity crab race. Most of these activities are complimentary to join and I would still recommend some to guests to get a feel of the village life in a Fijian island.
Some activities are very interactive like the pool volleyball and many of the staff here are friendly. My interactions with the watersports staff was always great and they generally are happy to give you a lift to the nicer reef further out from the island when the conditions are calm. They will even pick you up or wait for you in the reef area while you are snorkelling.
Guests staying in the resort could sign up for a non-motorised package for FJ$165 (~$82) per room giving access to the kayak, stand-up paddle board and snorkelling equipment for 3 days for 2 persons. There is also one hobbiecat in the resort that they could use under the right weather conditions. As the marine life around the reefs are pretty good especially along the reefs further out, I do recommend this package if guests are strong swimmers or when the weather is calm for the duration of their stay. During my stay, my friend went for a 2 tank dive package for FJ$460, with a special 5 tank boat dive where they are brought out to other islands for FJ$920 (meaning one tank dive is free with 4 dives). From the 6th tank onwards, it is FJ$140 per dive. We also went for a jet ski safari for FJ$595 for 2 persons on one jet ski to the islands around Tokoriki. This is a 2.5 hour activity and with a limited number of jet skis, guests should book early especially if they want to ride solo at the cost of FJ$565. There are other activities like parasailing, village tours, fishing charters and sunset cruises though I would advise guests to email the resort if they are interested to find out on the current prices.
The watersports desk have a selection of board games and a TV screen indicating the activities of the day and this is where guests would want to be after breakfast to check out the range of activities available for the day. As the board games are on a first come, first served basis, they should come and check out the ones they want to play as early as possible.
My favourite activity in the resort though has got to be watching the sunset from the helipad which is a nice vantage point and a short hike from our room. As expected of an island resort, the sunsets are stunning and while it was cloudy, we had different sunset scenes every day of our stay due to the varying degrees of clouds in the afternoon. It was also nice to experience a clear sunny afternoon to cloudy days during my stay. There was even a drizzle in one of the evenings, so you could say we had a stay with varying weather conditions. I will leave the photos of the sunset to provide the best illustration of what you can expect in terms of views from the resort.
On check out, we were advised of the ferry times for pick up which is around 3pm, and we were able to get a late check out with ease as we would have to be ready at the lobby by around 2:30pm. Upon settling our bill, the staff went out with another musical performance to bid us farewell before sending us on the small boat to be transferred to the ferry. However on reaching the boat, we realized the staff had not purchased the ferry tickets for us as we had instructed. It was not that big of a deal but just gave us some inconvenience during the arrival at Denarau Terminal as we had to settle the fares then. For this stay, the cost out of pocket was FJ$395 (~$197) inclusive of taxes, though an administrative charge of 3% is levied for credit card payments so that certainly adds to the cost a bit. Do note this 3% charge is common in New Zealand as well.
Wrapping up this review, I would consider this to be a moderately priced resort especially for one on an offshore island in a somewhat exotic tropical destination. The upgrades I received as a Platinum member with free breakfast was great and even the fresh clean rooms with the ocean view decks made for a comfortable stay. I even enjoyed the free in-room movies and the snorkelling in the resort. However I found there was some service lapses in the resort. Service in the main restaurant (Flying Fish) was very slow, as the waitresses there seems to be uninterested in serving guests at all. Requesting for water took a long time and on a couple of occassions, I had to call up to 3 times for bottled water such that I gave up. It seems like guests are at the mercy of the staff’s mood here as some days they can be alright, and some days they are just terrible. Put it this way, Fiji might want to promote the concept of ‘Fiji time’ but sometimes it seems to be like an excuse for slow and inattentive service. Finally, the food served in breakfast was not very good, though I would provide a more comprehensive review of the food and beverage in a separate post. As far as I am concerned, this would not be on a list of resorts I would like to re-visit at all since there are many other exciting beach resorts which would be a better choice for a holiday where you can have it all.