TOKORIKI ISLAND RESORT | 5 Truly Memorable Things That Make This a South Pacific Gem
THE UPSIDE: Heaven in the South Pacific. Stunning location, beautiful people and outstanding friendly service; a very special place. Perfect for a relaxing, quiet beach getaway. Peaceful and idyllic. Adults only. Great honeymoon destination.
THE DOWNSIDE: there was no breakfast inclusion in the room tariff and an unadvertised fixed-priced buffet night with no other dining options on Wednesdays.
Tokoriki Island Resort has lodged itself firmly in my heart as a special place. Even weeks after a relatively short stay of 8 nights, I still find myself missing it, and singing the favourite island tunes that were played by the local Band Boys. Instant classic would not be an exaggeration to The Papaya Song, which is somewhat of a theme around the resort.
Part of the charm of Tokiriki is that everything immediately feels familiar and comfortable. That is not often a feeling you get in places of such luxury. When you arrive, you are greeted with “welcome home” and very quickly, it does start to feel like it. Except time slows down, and stress seems to melt away quickly. Island-time is a thing, as is the heat. But that’s why you go to the South Pacific, right?
Having never been to Fiji, we wanted to ensure we were getting a taste of the real-Fiji along with the very best this part of the world has to offer. So we consulted TripAdvisor and some other sites and stumbled upon some outstanding reviews of Tokoriki – one of the exclusive, private island resorts that is part of the Mamanuca group. Other popular destinations are in the Yasawa Islands further north. I was a little worried that a small island resort in the middle of the South Pacific couldn’t live up to the expectations created by such outstanding reviews, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
Here are the 5 things that stand out at Tokoriki, and down below some other tips from our stay.
1. PERSONALISED AND UNIQUE SERVICE
This is the only place I have been where all the staff call you by your first name. A simple thing which makes all the difference, and when they strike up a conversation, you sense it’s genuine. There was more connection to the people and the place as a result and it made it feel more like a village rather than a resort. That says something about the Fijians and their way of life. Community plays a big part of it and work seems like an extension of that; for the short time that we were staying with them, we felt like part of their community, too. That was a really special thing. To say they were friendly, warm, life-loving and professional would be a great compliment but to say they welcomed us more like old relatives is something else, and the reason, I suspect, many people go back.
2. STUNNING VIEWS FROM PRIVATE, LUXURY BURES
The Fijian villa-bungalow is called a bure, and Tokoriki has a boutique number of them lining the side of the island it inhabits. They all have stunning uninterrupted water views looking back towards the island opposite where many of the local staff live and commute to and from each day. It’s an 8 minute trip on a small boat and if you’re up early enough, you can greet some of them arriving in the morning to start their day. And if island-hopping to work every day sounds idyllic, I can assure you it made we wonder about a career and sea-change!
The natural environment was truly outstanding and incorporated into the design of the bures and layout of the resort. Nature always felt close, and yet never at the expense of privacy or comfort. All the finishes and trimmings of the room were superb and they are generously sized. We opted for a bure with a pool and were glad we did. It meant we had that extra bit of exclusivity and didn’t have to stray too far from our own little slice of paradise. At least not for that week anyway.
3. THE SONG-FILLED DAYS
There is a vibrancy that comes with singing, and when a group of Fijians enthusiastically sing and clap and dance and play instruments as they greet you with your own, personalised welcome song on arrival, it’s also infectious. Our trip started and ended with music – and throughout our stay, the sounds of other welcome and farewell songs was sometimes the only interruption to the day; but it was always one that made me smile. Time and again, I enjoyed hearing new guests being serenaded. The ritual and the acknowledgement of people coming and going with these songs was a charming touch. Something you can only do when you slow down and have time to recognise these gentle comings and goings, and honour them in some way. I appreciated that and thoroughly enjoyed the soulfulness it added. Of course, there was also the daily dose of The Band Boys, headed up by maestro, Paulo, who had an incredible repertoire. I loved the daily mellow tunes around the main pool and sunset bar; perfectly pitched with acoustic guitars, no loud, obtrusive music or amplifiers, just beautiful soothing, laid-back harmonies.
4. THE PARADISICAL SURROUNDS RIGHT ON YOUR DOORSTEP
Imagine any postcard of the South Pacific and - snap - two things will come to mind: crystal clear, bright turquoise waters and palm trees. The good news is this is for a very good reason since there is an abundance of both! Lush greenery fills Tokoriki Island Resort’s exceptionally well-kept grounds; from pathways to pool areas, palm trees line every step of the way, and just beyond the deck of our bure they stretched out along the beach. The colour of the water and the reef’s translucency is somewhat of a marvel and, as you look at it, you step into the aforementioned postcard. It is that good.
Swimming and snorkelling in the invitingly tepid water is fantastic, even if, like me, you’re not the regular mermaid. It’s hard not to dive right in.
So, between the palm trees, verdant gardens, hibiscus flowers and the ocean, you pretty much feel like you’re in paradise. Nature surrounds you and it is relatively untouched here. Without too much tampering, she welcomes you at every turn and is allowed to shine.
5. EASY ACCESS TO ACTIVITIES AND MANY EXCELLENT INCLUDED FACILITIES
Tokoriki boasts a fully equipped PADI dive centre for the adventurous and complimentary daily snorkelling. There are some great reefs off the island and having trips so accessible makes it easy to fit them into your day. In fact, this highlights one of the other overall things which works really well, and that’s how everything is self-contained. You never have to stray too far or leave your hut for too long – meals, massages, table tennis, pools, chess, kayaking, fishing and walking tracks are all within easy reach. And the beach is on your doorstep. This means you spend less time fussing about finding things and more time doing the fun stuff and relaxing, which is what you’re there for.
Highlights for me were:
· Outdoor activities (mentioned above)
· Massages (available in packs, excellent value - traditional "bobo" is a must)
· Outdoor shower (in your bure)
I absolutely loved the outdoor shower; it was the only one I used! There is something very natural and liberating about showering outdoors. Privacy is of no concern as it’s all enclosed within gorgeous pebbled walls.
A FEW OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER…
I was there for Christmas, and at Tokoriki this is a unique experience. The staff and management go to a lot of effort during this period and with the Christmas Day Gala, embracing the best of the season. You pay a bit extra for Christmas, but like most resorts there is always a premium on such occasions. Local kids visit the island from the village and sing Christmas carols making the overall atmosphere lovely and heart-warming.
The food is very good overall, though I have to be honest and say I never had anything that was "wow" so far as meals go. I would have liked a greater variety of seafood options. Though fish was always available, it felt a touch repetitive. I thoroughly enjoyed the curries; there is usually one available each night. Breakfast was probably my favourite - amazing fresh fruits, as you'd expect, and a great continental selection with hot breakfast options that are all great. Don't get me wrong, the food is good and I enjoyed all my meals; Sydney (my hometown and benchmark) spoils me for choice and food standards are very high for the prices.
The Teppanyaki specialty restaurant is a fun night with a small group. Go with an appetite. To make the most of it, I suggest ordering protein only for the dishes you get to choose; the meat and seafood are much better value than the sushi rolls. It was nice to mix things up a bit and share a meal with other people for a night. Otherwise, it’s the one main restaurant where you will eat.
I thought it was unusual that there was no breakfast inclusion in the room tariff. For these prices, one would expect it. My other query was an unadvertised fixed-priced buffet night that simply appeared on the Wednesday. When there is only one main restaurant to eat at, I think choices are important and forcing me into an expensive buffet is something I would rather skip. To the credit of the staff, they accommodated us when we expressed our concerns and asked for a single meal. 4 stars for the food.
Truly one of the best places I have ever stayed. Much more than a resort; more like a luxe village with authentic, rustic edges. Overall, it was a wonderful, memorable stay. Romantic, rejuvenating, no distractions, lush grounds, spacious, very comfortable and private. Beautiful people. Beautiful place!