Two things I don’t want to deal with when I’m on a surf trip: crowded waves and wetsuits. Surfing in Santa Cruz, CA means that I get plenty of time competing for waves with hoards of surfers. The last thing I want when I’m on vacation is to be surrounded by people in the line-up. So when we set off on our Fiji surf trip I nixed infamous Cloudbreak and set my sights on some of the lesser known surf spots in Fiji.
Where to Stay on Your Fiji Surf Trip
Maqai Beach Eco-Resort: The remote breaks off Qamea Island.
It’s not easy to get to Maqai Eco-Resort but Qamea Island is stunning and with a little luck you’ll have your pick of several uncrowded breaks. Also, fun fact, celebrities such as George Clooney and Demi Lavato have been spotted surfing the break in front of Maqai Beach Eco-Resort so you might even get to party wave it with a celeb.
Accommodation: Small bures (little cottages) that are steps from the ocean. They are simple ( no AC), but the bed is comfy, there are hot showers, and you’ll never want to leave your bure’s dreamy porch. Plan on the power going out sometime during the night..
Food: Meals are included in your accommodation package, just head to the dining area when you hear the drum. The food wasn’t anything too fancy but it was good, and the portions are smaller than what we’re used to in the states. However, being pleasantly full rather than stuffed meant you didn’t have to spend the entire afternoon in a food coma. Guests are encouraged to eat together and it’s a great opportunity to connect with other travelers. Lively conversations at dinner with the other guests are some of my favorite memories from our time at Maqai.
Getting To Maqai: You’ll need to fly into Matei airport on Taveuni, about an hour flight from Nadi. The flight is short but surprisingly expensive (we paid around $250 per person round trip) and if you have a fear of flying you might want to reconsider your plans. Expect to be on a tiny plane that fits approximately twenty passengers and a few bumps along the way. Since the plane is cramped getting your surfboard on board can be an ordeal. Fiji Airways (the only airline that flies to Taveuni) has strict restrictions on luggage weight/size etc. We heard horror stories of people showing up for their flight to Taveuni and being told that their board couldn’t go on the plane with them. If you’re bringing boards do your homework first.
From the Matei airport on Taveuni a driver from the Maqai Eco -Resort will drive you thirty minutes down a dirt road to meet a boat that will take you on a thirty minute boat ride to the resort.
The Surf Set-Up: It’s a short boat ride to the breaks. Since the wave is fickle you may want to wait on booking the boat rides until you see what the surf is doing. If you arrange a boat ride once you’re there a boat trip to the break is $70 FJD per person. Board rentals are $50FJD per person. This means that for a couple to rent boards/surf will cost about $150 USD. Gulp.
Other Things to Do: Best case scenario on a surf trip is that the waves are perfect and you”ll be surfing and sunning all day. However, frequently that’s not the case. Especially at a place like Qamea that can be plagued with wave wrecking winds. At Maqai Eco-Resort they have several complimentary activities including: kayaking, SUP, snorkeling off the beach, Ping-Pong table, and a short little hike to a view point behind the resort. If you want to pay extra you can take an excursion to a local village, hike to waterfalls on Taveuni, or take a longer guided hike of the island.
Tips for Maqai:
- Don’t try to snorkel or kayak at low tide. At low tide it’s too shallow and a lot of the reef is exposed which means you’ll end up scraping your belly or your boat on the reef.
- Play volleyball with the staff. In the afternoon they frequently will organize a volleyball game and it’s a great way to laugh and connect with the Fijians.
- If you kayak to the right of the resort you can get to some beautiful deserted golden beaches.
- Qamea and Taveuni can be a little wetter than other parts of Fiji. Be prepared for rain. There’s a reason the jungle is so lush!
In a Coconut Shell: Maqai Beach Eco-Resort is a great place to enjoy Fiji’s natural beauty and if you’re lucky you might get some uncrowded waves. But if surfing is all you’re interested in you should probably stay someplace with more consistent swell.
Matanivusi Beach Eco Resort: Surf Decadence
If you were picturing alternating endless surf sessions with laying out by the pool, Matanivusi Beach Eco Resort is the place for you. One of the top rated eco-friendly surf resorts in the world this is vastly different from the grungy “surf camps” that you stayed at in your younger days.
Accommodation: The spacious bures are set on the edge of the jungle and the beach. Connected by raised boardwalks, the bures have an almost treehouse like feel to them. No air-conditioning but the high ceilings and plentiful windows allow the ocean breezes to keep the room a comfortable temp.
Food: The food at Matanivusi was by far the best we had in Fiji! Roasted veggie wraps, fish dinners, flavorful curries, and more. A simple breakfast bar is available at 6am for anyone wanting a pre-dawn patrol bite to eat. The made to order “hot breakfast” (omelettes, pancakes, etc) is from 7-10am. We would grab some fruit and toast around 6am, surf, then come back at 9:45 and enjoy a post-surf brunch.
Getting to Matanivusi: The easiest to get to remote place that you’ll ever visit. Included in your stay is transport to/from the airport. It’s about a two hour drive to the resort from the airport. Don’t want to make it easy? Another option is to rent a car and drive yourself to the resort. We had this idealistic vision of renting a car and exploring the island but we ended up lost on a dirt road in the outskirts of Nadi, driving through a pounding rainstorm (the three month drought decided to end on our drive to Matanivusi), and barely avoiding a few collisions. And did I mention that you’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the road? This is extra challenging after a red-eye flight…
The Surf Set-Up: There are lots of breaks to choose from, most are lefts but there’s a fun right also. Definitely more consistent and more options than the surf on Qamea. Boat rides are included in your package and the staff are proactive about making sure you get your fill of surf. If you’re renting boards it’s $60FJD a day and there’s a nice selection of Firewire boards to choose from. Pick your stick and the staff will load it onto the boat for you.
Other Things to Do: Complimentary kayaks, SUPS, yoga classes, a sustainability tour, and the beautiful pool area will keep you busy and fit during your stay. Or take a boat ride to a nearby snorkel spot and you’re likely to spot a sea turtle. If you feel like stretching your legs a little the walk from the surf resort to the village is surprisingly beautiful. The 3km walk along the dirt road offers ocean views and is a nice way to start or end the day. When you’re ready to leave the luxury of the resort behind the staff can arrange day trips to nearby villages, white-water rafting, and more.
Tips for Matanivusi:
- The “cocktail of the day” is a great deal
- The staff is extremely knowledgable about the different surf spots so ask them for recommendations
- If you go to Frigates bring some snorkeling equipment with you. There’s some colorful coral and white tipped reef sharks that frequent the area. BTW: white-tipped reef sharks are harmless to humans. We thoroughly tested this by having my husband snorkel with a bleeding arm. The sharks did get closer to us than what I was comfortable with but no-one lost a limb…
- Bring mosquito repellent. The resort also has some available for guests to use if you forget yours.
- Take advantage of the yoga classes. The studio is stunning and even if you’re not a yogi it’s a nice way to stretch out sore muscles.
In a Coconut Shell: Matanivusi Beach Eco-Resort offers up a lot of surf options with non- pretentious luxury.
The Bottom Line: Uncrowded waves still exist in Fiji. If you’re embarking on a Fiji surf trip be prepared to spend some $, take a few boat rides, and be welcomed by smiling locals. Looking for other off the beaten path surf destinations? Check out my article on surfing in Sri Lanka