Wonderfully Fijian: A Review of Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay
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There is no shortage of resorts in Fiji, but we have barely scratched the surface of the South Pacific destination here at TPG. So when we booked a $395-per-person round-trip flight deal to Fiji, my wife, Katie, and I set out to review three Fijian resorts -- one Marriott, one IHG and one Hilton. First up was the Marriott.
Marriott Bonvoy point collectors -- and credit cardholders with anniversary free nights -- will appreciate that there are four Marriott Category 5 hotels on Fiji. Having just opened in April 2017, and as the only resort on Fiji's mainland with overwater bungalows, the stunning Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay got the nod.
Spoiler alert: It was our favorite resort of the three we tried in Fiji.
Unsure of our lodging plans, we originally booked a fifth-night-free award at this property. The five-night stay cost 140,000 Marriott points. TPG values those points at $1,120, meaning we'd be paying the equivalent of about $224 per night for the stay. If you're looking to do the same, availability isn't a problem.
Checking cash rates, you're going to usually get good value out of your points on most dates. However, some dates were less expensive than others. Using Marriott's flexible date calendar, I found one five-night stay that cost FJ$2,240 (about $1,050) with breakfast.
Although we originally booked five nights at this property as a placeholder, we decided to check out three resorts in Fiji during our stay instead of just one. I was unable to change the duration of the stay online, so I called Marriott reservations. The agent also was unable to change the length of the stay either, so she put me on hold to call the property.
She came back to tell me that the person at the property that deals with these issues wasn't available. Her suggestion: I should call Marriott reservations back during business hours in Fiji and ask another agent to call to make the change. Since that customer-unfriendly solution was my only option, that's what I did. Even after the change was made, the confirmation still showed 140,000 Marriott points for the reservation -- with the 70,000 difference not refunded.
It'd take yet another call to Marriott reservations to get the 70,000 Marriott points refunded. Turns out that's a pretty common problem.
For those with a Marriott cobranded credit card, the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay -- and the other three 35,000-point Marriott properties on Fiji -- are a great use of the free night certificate (up to 35,000 points) granted as a perk of four different cards, including the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card from American Express (closed to new applicants) and Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Visa Signature (closed to new applicants)
The country of Fiji consists of about 330 islands, of which 110 are inhabited. The largest of these is Viti Levu, which is almost the exact same size as Hawaii's Big Island. Viti Levu is the home to most Fijian residents, hosts many of Fiji's tourists and has the country's international airport.
Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay is near the westernmost point of this roughly circular island, about 45 minutes south from Nadi Airport (NAN) and three hours from Fiji's capital in Suva.
At the airport, a driver holding a Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay sign quoted us FJ$60 ($30) per person for a ride to the resort. A nearby shuttle driver quoted FJ$100 ($50), and a taxi driver stepped into the fray offering FJ$80 ($40). While we tried to pull up Marriott's website to check the estimated price, the taxi driver negotiated himself down to FJ$60 (US$30), so we accepted.
Even after a generous tip, we got a great deal on this 45-minute ride. The hotel indicates on its website that a taxi fare from Nadi Airport should be around FJ$100 (US$50).
If you decide to rent a car and make the drive yourself, there's clear signage to help you know when to turn off of the island's main road and navigate the necessary turns to get to the resort.
We arrived at the hotel at 7:30am after a red-eye flight to Nadi Airport and a 45-minute taxi ride. At both the gate to the property and lobby drop-off, we were greeted with a hearty and welcoming "Bula!" -- the common Fijian greeting.
A bellhop opened Katie's door, retrieved our bags from the trunk and started small talk with Katie while I paid the taxi driver. We were shown into the open lobby and asked to take a seat on one of the lobby couches to wait for a check-in desk to become available.
The check-in process was a bit disorganized, with a later-arriving group getting checked in before us and each check-in taking way too long.
Around 8am, a check-in agent retrieved us from the couches and began our check-in. We expected that we might be able to complete the check-in process but have to wait for our room, since it was a full seven hours before the resort's check-in time and the resort was fully booked that night. However, we were pleasantly surprised to be handed our keys and told our room was ready for us.
The property consists of just 250 rooms. Of those, 114 are free-standing bure villas and 22 of those are over-water bungalows -- which the property notes are the only over-water bungalows on the island.
With that ratio of bures to total rooms, I was hopeful that I'd get an upgrade to at least a bungalow thanks to my Marriott Platinum Elite status.
A couple of days before our arrival, the Bonvoy app showed that we had been upgraded to a waterfront room.
However, the morning we arrived at the resort, this had reverted to a lagoon view, and there were no upgrades, as the resort was fully booked.
As part of the check-in process, we were given a choice of one of three arrival gifts as a Marriott Platinum elite: daily buffet breakfast (for the member plus one), 1,000 bonus points or local cassava chips and cookies.
It's hard to imagine anyone choosing anything but the free breakfast, as the points are worth just $8 per TPG's valuations and the chips and cookies are likely worth even less. So of course we opted for the breakfast.
After a few steps back to the arrival area, an eager bellhop helped collect our bags from the rather casual baggage storage area. We loaded onto a cart for a ride to our room.
Along the way to our building, he pointed out the resort's buildings and amenities. He parked outside our building and took our bags up to our room and made sure that we didn't have any questions or concerns before excusing himself.
Around noon, a plate containing watermelon and macarons was delivered to our room. We were busily working out on the patio when it arrived, so the delivery man gently knocked on the inside of the glass to alert us of its arrival.
Although we were bummed to have missed out on an upgrade, we ended up being happy with our room. Located just above the main pool, it wasn't particularly quiet during the day, but our view seemed to be one of the best on the property.
Inside the rather standard-looking hotel room was a "king"-sized bed. We measured 70 inches wide and 78 inches long, which makes it a bit smaller than the 76-by-80 dimensions of a US king. We found the bed to be quite firm.
There were four pillows on the bed, but, frankly, they sucked. The feather pillows became far too thin under the pressure from our heads, but at least they could be folded over themselves to be thick enough.
There were two Australian-style power outlets, a USB outlet and a bedside light on each side of the bed. The righthand side table had clearly labeled room light controls, the phone and a card sharing the hotel's policy of changing the bed linens every third day but being willing to do it as many times as you wished.
On a shelf under this table was the room's Bible and the Book of Mormon.
The lefthand side table had the room's alarm clock, which offered another two USB ports.
Across from the bed was a large luggage shelf underneath the 49-inch flat-screen TV. We only turned on the TV once, but found that it had a decent selection of English-language options -- including Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.
We were originally bummed to see that the room had an adjoining door, as we've had many bad experiences with noise coming through these doors. However, noise wasn't an issue at all, despite us having neighbors both nights.
Under this shelf were two drawers that weren't obvious at first. In one of the drawers were mugs, glasses (two wine, two champagne, two water glasses), spoons, a bottle opener and a broad selection of coffees and teas.
The other drawer had four compartments but was empty. The hotel had a policy of not setting up the minibar unless requested.
Next to the luggage shelf was a large compartment that held a minifridge. It was empty when we arrived save for two small bottles of water and a small carton of fresh full-cream milk.
Above the fridge was a tray with an ice bucket, kettle, two small bottles of complimentary water and a box containing the TV remote. While some may appreciate the bottles of water, we didn't find them necessary, as the tap water was drinkable and delicious.
There was a modest table with two chairs near the balcony -- which we used to get some work done. There were four Australian-type power outlets next to the table. There was also an HDMI port, but we didn't have a cord to see if you could use it to display your laptop through the TV. There was a small wooden shelf above the outlets and a larger shelf below the outlets.
Across the room, there was a soft chair with a footstool. This is where we'd look out over the balcony while still comfortably in the air conditioning during the day and relaxed with a book at night.
The stylishly patterned curtains did a good job of blocking out light, thanks to individual tracks that let the two sides cross over.
Two sliding doors could be opened individually to grant access to the balcony. If you wanted to enjoy the fresh air without worrying about bugs -- which weren't an issue during our visit -- there was an accordion screen door that could be extended from either side.
Outside on the balcony were two wicker chairs and a large round chaise lounge. We noticed that other balconies also had a small table, but one was missing from our balcony. Perhaps our favorite part of the balcony -- besides the view -- was the thoughtfully placed wooden drying rack. We hadn't seen one of these at a resort before but now wish that every resort would include one.
The room's closet was the only clothing storage space in the room, with five usable shelves. The closet contained a safe, two robes, two pairs of slippers, a full-sized umbrella, a "shoe-polishing mitt," two laundry bags, an extra pillow, an iron and an ironing board.
Since this was at the beginning of our trip, we didn't need to do any laundry. But we were pleasantly surprised how affordable the rates were.
There was a large glass window between the bathroom and the bedroom, but a shade could be lowered to block the view. Just inside this window was a large bathtub.
The sink was next to the tub, so you could use the counter space behind the tub for your toiletries.
There was a tray of assorted provided toiletries in this space as well, including mouthwash, body lotion, hair band, shower cap, sanitary bag, shave kit, dental kit, "essential vanity kit" and a bar of soap. There were also two washcloths and two drinking glasses.
Under the counter were two hand towels, two bath towels and a hair dryer. The property's policy is to replace towels daily unless hung on the hooks, but we received a fresh set of towels in addition to the ones we hung up.
Next to the sink, there was one Australian outlet and two outlets (110V and 240V) suitable for either a US or European Union plug.
The toilet and shower were in two adjacent rooms across from the bathtub. These two rooms shared one sliding door, meaning that you couldn't close both at the same time. The shower contained both an overhead rainfall shower head and a handheld shower head, as well as a bench that was useful for storage and shaving.
There were small bottles of bath soap, shampoo and conditioner in the shower, as well as a bar of soap.
Despite looking like a rather standard hotel room, our room certainly exceeded expectations. We really appreciated little touches like the well-labeled light switches, the drying rack and numerous outlets throughout the room. Our only major complaints were the thin pillows and hard bed.
The Marriott Fiji has three pools and a bay for swimming. The property encircles a natural bay called Momi Bay. This bay is protected enough from waves that the property built the over-water villas over this bay. A beach surrounds this bay, with the beachside bungalows having claim to much of this beach.
However, other parts had chairs set up for any guests to enjoy.
The main pool was just outside our room. The modest pool was split into two sections by a pedestrian bridge.
At the intersection of the pool and the Lagoon House, there was a swim-up bar offering alcoholic drinks for those 18+ and over and nonalcoholic drinks for the kids.
The nearby children's pool was lightly used during our stay. Despite the light use, water fountains ran during the daytime each day -- providing a form of white noise or noise pollution, depending on your take.
Looking over the ocean was the property's adults-only infinity pool, which provided stunning views.
It was easy to understand why it was called the Sunset Pool when you visited in the evening.
An open-air sunset bar was next to the pool. And it was hopping with visitors enjoying the sunset and then enjoying a few more drinks. The bar had a chic lounge feel, complete with a mellow grooving soundtrack, but without the dress code. Some patrons were wearing flip-flops and sleeveless shirts, although most (drinkers) were dressed up a little more.
On the far side from the bar was the property's whirlpool, which was nicely shaded during the day, but it didn't have the best sunset views
You could also swim in parts of the ocean. We noticed one distinct swimming area outside some beachside bungalows near the Fish Bar and Sunset Pool.
There were a few games scattered through the resort, including a pool table and a foosball table between the Lagoon Lounge and the lobby.
Near the Goji restaurant, there was table tennis and a giant chess board.
The gym was nearby and contained three elliptical machines, five treadmills, two exercise bikes, one rowing machine, two benches for free weights (ranging from 2 kilograms to 24 kilograms), two leg machines and one upper body machine.
Outside the gym was a large field with small soccer nets.
On a far side of the property, there are three tennis courts. One of the three had a basketball net on one side and a handball court on the other side. Outside the courts, there's a volleyball net.
Next to the gym is the Turtles Kids' Club which offered "supervised indoor and outdoor activities" for parents craving alone time.
Across the lawn from the gym and kids club is the Quan Spa. A menu of services in the room shared the wide variety of services offered (prices here). An advertisement in a common area noted a 25% discount as an early-bird special for appointments before 10:30am. We didn't have time to partake during our short stay.
We especially enjoyed walking to the end of the peninsula to a dock at the end. This was the darkest place that we could find on the resort at night, giving us spectacular views of the night sky.
Near the Lagoon Lounge, the property has a small lending library.
If you needed to charge your phone while at the Lagoon Lounge, there was a six-locker charging station between the bar and the lobby. There was no fee for a two-hour charge.
The resort hosted between nine and 11 activities each day, with enough variety from day to day that there were few repeats for those staying longer. Almost all of these were included in the room rate, but a few had a very reasonable extra cost: henna tattoo (about $5), war club sculpting ($7), tie-dye painting ($12) and cocktail masterclass ($21).
Seemingly, not all of the activities happened during our stay. Working from our balcony, we didn't see activities that were supposed to be held on the beach in front of us like the treasure hunt and soccer, but these may not have been held due to no one showing up.
The one activity that we weren't going to miss was the kava ceremony. Kava is an especially important drink in Fijian culture. Many Fijians seem to drink the mildly narcotic drink daily to unwind, and it's traditionally used in important ceremonies such as wedding engagements.
The three Fijians who led the ceremony struck the right balance between entertaining and educating the 30 or so guests. Katie and I stuck around after most of the group left to learn more, and we ended up sharing the rest of the kava bowl as they shared more about Fijian culture.
Food and Beverage
Wrecked by the red-eye flight to Fiji, we hit a jet-lag wall midafternoon our first day. So we opted to test out room service for lunch. The guest-services agent we called efficiently took our order, confirmed the order and stated an estimated delivery time of 40 to 45 minutes. Our food arrived in under 25 minutes.
Though generous, the paneer tikka masala (about $20) and french fries ($7) didn't impress. After a FJ$10 ($5) delivery charge and gratuity, the modest shared meal ended up costing FJ$70 ($35).
We went to the more casual of the evening restaurants, Lagoon House, for dinner the first night. The open-air restaurant looked over the overwater bures, but views were limited after dark. The menu offered a selection of salads, burgers, wraps, pizzas and pasta.
We tried the Lagoon House Burger for FJ$38 (about $20) and the chicken carbonara with fusilli for FJ$36 (about $17). The server asked how Katie wanted the burger cooked and confirmed that medium might mean that it was a bit pink in the middle. Both dishes ended up tasting good and being filling, although the portions would be considered small by American standards.
We split a pitcher of sparkling sangria. The light and refreshing drink packed a punch.
The breakfast buffet was served in the Goji restaurant.
The breakfast spread was impressive in size and selection. There were easily over 100 options to choose from more than a dozen stations. Food options ranged from classic US breakfast hot and cold foods to Asian and even a selection of local Fijian foods.
As you might expect from a buffet that large, some of the foods weren't as fresh. But there were made-to-order omelet stations, a made-in-front-of-you French toast station and plenty of fresh fruit. However, there were a couple of service misses at breakfast. For example, the first day, we were halfway done with our meal before we were greeted or given a choice of drink.
Whenever you visit Goji, try to grab a table overlooking the bay.
We decided to check out happy hour at the pool bar. The happy hour ran from 4pm to 5pm and was cheerfully announced via a wooden drum. While beers were discounted to FJ$10 ($5), we decided to try two of the four cocktails discounted to FJ$25 ($12) each. Neither was light on alcohol, and both were delightfully presented.
For dinner on our second night, we tried the resort's fancy option, Fish Bar. The open-air restaurant had both outdoor and indoor seating.
The reservations-recommended restaurant was on an elevated point overlooking the ocean and was a pretty great spot for sunset.
Figuring we'd watch the sunset from the adjacent pool and then step over for dinner, we made reservations for 7pm. However, we ended up attending the kava ceremony instead and arrived for our reservation on "Fiji time" (i.e., late), which wasn't an issue. After confirming we wanted to sit outside despite the wind, we were seated at a two-top under the increasingly visible stars.
We started by sharing a plate of Fijian kokoda -- Fiji's version of ceviche -- which was just as fresh and delicious as we'd hoped (FJ$35, or about $17). For the mains, Katie ordered the mahi-mahi filet (FJ$58, or $30) and I tried the walu (F$58, or about $30). Both were delicious in their own right and were complemented well by their sides and sauces.
The service added little touches like a small plate of tender beef as an amuse-bouche and lemon sorbet as a palate cleanser before the main dishes were served. Adding in a couple of beers (Fj$30, or $15, for two) and the 20% discount for being a Marriott Platinum elite, the top-notch dining experience cost a very reasonable FJ$161 ($75).
We found Fijian culture to be extraordinarily welcoming, and we certainly felt this during our stay. Every member of the staff that we interacted with was friendly, welcoming and usually sporting a broad smile.
After being driven to our room, the bellhop directed us to dial 0 for any request at all. So we did. Our first request was made just a few minutes after arriving, when we realized that we needed another power adapter. It took more than an hour to arrive. Further requests didn't take as long. It only took a few minutes for more fresh milk to be delivered.
Between our two nights, the housekeeper arrived while we were working on the balcony. She confirmed that this was a good time, and then asked with genuine interest how our stay was going before she tidied our room. She returned a few minutes after leaving with even more coffee packets in addition to those she'd already replenished in the bar, as she'd noticed we'd already gone through a few of them.
We especially enjoyed our visit to the swim-up bar during happy hour. The two bartenders were especially friendly and were clearly having a wonderful time, from using drums and a loud shout to announce the start of happy hour to laughing and joking with us. And they served delicious drinks.
On Friday morning, we returned to our room to find an invitation from the general manager to a cocktail hour "to express my appreciation for being a loyal Marriott Bonvoy Member." (There was no indication how loyal you needed to be to get this invite, but I'm a Platinum elite.)
Though the invitation was from the GM, he was away visiting Germany at the time. Instead, the assistant general manager -- originally from Germany, but who lived in Australia for 25 years -- was there to make small talk with the guests. We got to talking with him and learned a lot about the property and more about Fiji.
It was open for just over two years, but he said that they were still trying to incrementally improve the property. For example, the drying racks that we appreciated were a recent addition after staff noticed how many guests hung their clothes over the railing and balcony chairs. We learned the train tracks running through the property were about to be busy with long trains carrying harvested sugarcane, the largest industry on Fiji. When we mentioning a fire we saw earlier, he noted that it was a bush fire that was now under control.
We absolutely fell in love with the friendly culture and fascinating traditions of Fiji. And those were both wonderfully on display at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay -- with incredible views and food to boot. Although we would have loved to get an upgrade to a villa, the base-category room that we got was excellent in both the design and the view. And it was incredibly generous of the hotel to let us check in at 8am, a whopping seven hours before our scheduled check-in.
At just 35,000 Marriott points per night -- especially with free breakfast as a Platinum elite -- I wouldn't hesitate to return to the property for another stay. The combination of the friendly service, reasonably priced food, seclusion and beauty makes this resort one I can highly recommend.
All photos by the author.