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Published November 9th 2015
Eleven tips when staying at the Outrigger in Fiji
Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort has the friendliest staff who make you feel so welcome and treat you and your kids like royalty. There's excellent food and wine, beautifully landscaped grounds and amazing shows. If you've booked or are thinking of booking a trip to stay at the Outrigger Fiji, congratulations - you've made a great choice. We recently stayed here with our two children aged five and two, and when we left, the kids were in tears because they didn't want to leave.
Outrigger Fiji shots, pictures from Outrigger website, collage by Sydneyfunmum
While we loved every minute of our time at the Outrigger Fiji, we think there are some tips which guests and potential guests might benefit from knowing in advance of arrival. So here they are:
Work out what your ideal holiday consists of, then ask yourself if what the Outrigger Fiji offers is what you want.
This is one of the three 'before you book' tips - if you've already booked, skip this one and the next two as it's too late to do anything about this, so ignorance is bliss!
As much as I rave about this resort to everyone I know, I also am mindful that it isn't for everyone. We wanted a holiday where the kids would have lots of fun with plenty of organised activities, and facilities that allowed us some precious alone-time together, away from the family chores. And that's exactly what it gave us.
However, if you're not a pool or beach person, and aren't comfortable leaving your kids in kids club or with a mei mei, then maybe you need to rethink this resort as your first choice. For us, this resort's fantastic kids club and mei mei facilities gave us freedom to have worry-free dates every day, whilst knowing that the kids were still having an awesome time. But we also met one or two families who weren't so enthralled with their experience at the Outrigger, because they didn't believe in leaving kids in kids clubs or with mei meis. The Outrigger would still be a great holiday for those families happy to spend all day by the pool and the beach, but if you're of an active, exploratory persuasion like these guys were, it's a bit problematic.
Being located on the Coral Coast, the Outrigger Fiji is somewhat more isolated than the resorts situated close to eachother in Denarau. There are one or two other hotels within walking distance of the Outrigger, but they aren't that close, and there are no shared facilities between these hotels to broaden the range of places you have exposure to, unlike the arrangements available between a few hotels in Denerau.
The Outrigger Fiji has a great activities desk run by Rosie Tours, so you can absolutely book trips out to explore Fiji more widely from here, but if you're looking for a base to explore the islands, then you're probably better of booking one of the resorts in Denerau rather than staying here. You'll find that a lot (not all, but the vast majority) of tours and trips within Fiji will include transfers back to Nadi first, to join where the tours actually start from. As the Outrigger Fiji is an hour and a half away from Nadi, this is kind of a drag and basically adds three hours travel time each day just to get to the start of the tour and back again if you're doing a day trip.
It's also probably worth mentioning that this resort is windy. We loved it because it stopped the temperature from getting too hot, and I quite like the sensation of having the breeze blowing my hair away from my face while I stare out to sea. But some guests seemed to hate it, and the breeze is kind of a feature of this resort. So, if fresh sea-breezes bother you, then once again - maybe don't choose the Outrigger Fiji.
Get a room with Butler (Talai) service.
Your slightly more expensive rooms (i.e. Ocean Deluxe rooms and above) come with their own butler service. We loved it! I've read other reviews which said you could get your butler to unpack your suitcases for you, but all we used our butler for was the complimentary alcoholic beverage and canapes that came every late afternoon around 5pm. I think it's something about being a parent which changes your frame of reference, but having someone bring you (for a change) alcohol and a snack unbidden at 5pm, just capped off a perfect end to an afternoon, and when 5pm rocked around, we were bouncing around in eager anticipation.
Complimentary alcoholic beverage and canapes with the Ocean deluxe rooms at the Outrigger Fiji
I should note that a rookie mistake is to hang around your room at 5pm waiting for your butler to come with your tipple and snack. Fiji time means that you might be waiting around for a long while, and there's actually no need. If the butler comes when you're not there, they will leave a little hanger on the door. A simple call to the butler service when you are back in the room will have your butler arrive shortly thereafter with said drinkies and snacks. Sorted.
Don't skimp on your transfers.
I can thoroughly recommend Rosie Tours who delivered us from the airport to the resort. We were whisked from the airport to the Outrigger on a large, airconditioned bus - it was an hour and a half, but it passed in complete comfort. Other guests have suggested taxis are also a good option. We spoke to some other guests who had a much less comfortable journey, on a clapped out old bus with no airconditioning. They may have saved a few dollars on their transfers, but whereas we arrived at the resort smiling, happy and relaxed and already in holiday mode, they arrived tired, hot and grumpy - I suspect they lost a few hours recuperating from the transfer before they truly got into the holiday spirit.
View from an Ocean Deluxe room at the Outrigger Fiji
Consider bringing enough Fijian dollars to pay your final bill with.
The Outrigger Fiji is a cashless resort, which means you can't pay for anything with notes or coins while you are there - you just quote your room number whenever you want to pay for your food, drink, spa massage, etc, then at the very end of the holiday, you pay the total bill.
There were a few very limited exceptions - the café in reception and the souvenir stores onsite accept cash - but the restaurants, bars, spa, etc. do not. While charging things to your room account, you don't need to carry a wallet or worry about change can be a liberating experience. The kicker is that if you pay your final total bill by credit card, you get charged 3% on top of the total (it can be a little more or less than this depending on what type of credit card you have - American Express and Visa are the same, my Mastercard was a little more) - this is not including exchange rate charges, etc. While this might not sound like much, if you're staying for around a week with a family of four, meals and additional expenses add up very quickly, and you can easily be looking at $50 or more Australian dollars in credit card charges alone - which is pretty steep when you think this is just a convenience charge for paying by credit card. Now, my understanding from reading other reviews, was that unlike in Australia, you get hit with this fee whatever card you use - i.e. even if you use EFTPOS, it still attracts this charge.
To get around this, you can guesstimate how much your bill is likely to be for the trip, and bring that amount in Fijian dollars to settle your bill with, as you can pay your final bill in cash. To give you a rough idea, just work out how many meals you will be eating and assume you'll pay roughly what you'd pay at a mid-range Sydney restaurant for the equivalent meal.
I'll have to diverge here for a paragraph to address the issue of food prices at the Outrigger Fiji that comes up time and again on review websites all over the Internet. There are lots of reviews online complaining about how expensive the meals at the Outrigger are, because if you go to a local Fijian restaurant, the meals will cost a fraction of the price you pay at the Outrigger. While this is true, my take on it is that your local Fijian restaurant will not be in such beautiful, manicured surrounds, with so many staff anxious to wait on you hand and foot. Just take a look around at your surroundings. You're not just paying for the food at the Outrigger - you're paying for the whole pampered, perfect experience, with everything you could want, from massages, to luxurious pools, bars, and restaurants, all in the one spot. It's not really fair to compare the prices of the food at the Outrigger to the prices of the food at local restaurants.
Now, getting back to my original point - we knew that we could pay the final bill in cash before we came, but decided not to because we were a bit uncomfortable about carrying such a large quantity of cash around with us. Having stayed there once now, I wouldn't hesitate to bring cash next time with which to settle my final bill. While of course you still need to be careful, I think the in-room safe would be perfectly fine to store the money in until the end of the trip.
The beach may not be soft white sand, but you can build great sandcastles with it!
The beach at the Outrigger is not the soft, white sandy beaches that Australians love and take for granted - but it's not that bad either. We read a lot of reviews really hammering how ordinary the beach attached to the Outrigger is. Our kids loved it. While you have to tread a little more carefully because of the bits of broken coral in the sand, and the sand is slightly greyer in colour than the white beaches we're used to, the bits of broken coral make great embellishments for sandcastles! My kids entertained themselves for hours on the beach trying to outdo each other with the best castle, complete with princes and princesses which were larger bits of coral.
Look at the activities boards down near the beach to work out what activities you want to do every day.
There is a coloured flyer which has a weekly schedule and times on it of the activities. While this is good to get and you should definitely pick this up from the front desk if it's not already in your room when you arrive, we actually found the best way of working out what fun was around the resort was to look at the activities board down by the activities desk near the beach. These are written on two blackboards - one for today's activities, and one for tomorrow's activities. They seemed to be more up-to-date and contain more activities than the printed schedule.
Dinner buffet and a Meke show at the Outrigger Fiji
If you have kids, you should at least let the kids try Kids Club - and the Mei Meis are awesome!
For us, this was a massive selling point of the resort and one of the main reasons we chose to stay here. Fiji is famous for how friendly and great Fijians are with kids, and many of the resorts have free kids clubs. But few accept them from the age of three - and this is one of the few that does.
There are 3 kids clubs sessions a day - from 10am to 12pm, 2pm - 4pm, and 6pm - 9pm. You can sign your kids in for a maximum of 2 sessions a day, which you do on the morning of when they wish to go, registration starting from 9am. They provide you with a little kids passport, that lists all the activities planned for each day. This gets stamped each time your child attends kids club, which is supposed to motivate your kids to want to go so they can complete their passports (kids love to complete their collections).
Our kids were disinterested in the passports, but they genuinely just wanted to go to kids club, because they had so many fun activities happening - from crab racing, to painting competitions, to making shell picture frames - they kept our kids so busy and really very happy - it was not at all like trying to get them to go to day care at home! This left us with large chunks of time to spend alone as a couple - a luxury that usually would come at the cost of a babysitter - but kids club is all included in the price of the holiday, so yay!
An added bonus of kids club is that if your kids go to either the morning or the evening sessions, kids club are happy to take your kids and supervise them getting their lunch/ dinner from the kids buffet, taking the stress out of worrying about getting your kids fed properly while trying to eat your own meal at the same time.
The Meimeis (nannies) service here is also fantastic, and can be used in conjunction with Kids Club. For example, the one night we signed our kids up for a 6pm - 9pm session of Kids Club, the kids were a bit over Kids Club by the time we picked them up - 3 hours was too long. Combining the nanny service with Kids Club meant the kids could go to Kids Club, and when they got bored, they could leave with the nanny and go back to the room. They loved having this choice, and this made us feel better that we weren't abandoning them to Kids Club and spoiling their holiday just so we could get some time by ourselves.
Mei Meis wear pink at the Outrigger Fiji - they are excellent with children
You can book a meimei on a day to day basis, or get the package for 4 consecutive days of up to 8 hours a day for 350FJD (around 219 (AUD)). As the package works out to about $7 AUD an hour, it's really the best value childcare you'll ever get access to. We didn't actually use the full 8 hours most days, because that is really a vast amount of hours.
It seems to be their preference for guests to work out their nanny bookings in person after arrival, rather than doing it through the travel agent before coming. I was worried about them getting overbooked if I left it that late, but I'm actually not sure this is possible - it seemed to me like they were able to source as many nannies as demand dictated from the nearby villages.
Our girls loved our mei mei so much, they basically told us on the meimei's last day that their meimei was so much more fun than us and they wanted to have her look after them for the rest of the holiday. They were a little peeved when we told them that we were going to spend the last few days of the holiday enjoying quality family time together. They wanted to have their Mei Mei back instead! So drop the guilt - your kids will love a break from you just as much as you will from them!
Be aware that this resort is a premium choice for families - and for good reason. The facilities for families are first-class, which means that there are usually a lot of children running around the place. If you're a couple or young adults looking to kick back and relax, there are fantastic kid-free areas at they Outrigger Fiji, but they're quite limited. If you're only staying for a few days and are quite content to sit by the pool, this won't be a problem, but if you're staying for longer period, you might start to feel a bit closed in after a few days.
Traditional Fijian fashion show, organised by the Outrigger Kids Club
You can snorkel at other times outside of the time marked on the sheet.
I should be upfront that I am not an experienced snorkeller, but as a novice, I loved the snorkeling in the lagoon here. I am not a good swimmer so having such a large and shallow lagoon where I could easily stand up in most places was fabulous - and there were so many fish! Sure, the coral was not great, but the number and variety of fish were. If you go snorkeling, you'll be bound to see starfish, Angel fish and butterfly fish, to name just a few. The fish also come in crazily close to shore - I remember following a fish until the water got too shallow - when I stood up, I was about 2 meters from the water's edge! On my last day, I also saw a banded sea snake, which was definitely a highlight.
You can only snorkel at high tide because outside of these times, the water can be only a few inches deep. We read a lot of reviews that complained that high tide was often at stupid times so snorkeling was really limited. However, when they give you the times for high tide on the activities board, e.g. 9am, this actually means snorkeling is fine from around 8am - 10am - which I think is quite reasonable. You don't have to appear at the activities desk for your snorkel at 9am on the dot, or miss the opportunity. Anytime in the two hour window around high-tide is fine. Bear in mind that this window is not exact. You'll know when it's too low because the lagoon will look more like a swamp.
We found the masks and fins provided by the Outrigger to be well maintained and fine to use. Some people recommend bringing your own, but I don't think it's actually necessary.
The food at the Outrigger is lovely. There's plenty of variety, and it's mostly top-quality (we ate at the resort for most meals. In a week, I just had one bad experience where I ordered some kind of noodle dish from the Bavari which sounded delicious but pretty sure it was just maggi noodles). BUT it's kind of pricey, particularly if you don't organise yourself a food package before you come.
Fine food at the Outrigger Fiji, photo from their Facebook page
We had the breakfast package and the kids eat free deal (we were surprised at the number of people we met staying at the resort who didn't have one or both of these inclusions). The kids eat free deal is great, because it takes all the frustration out of paying for food which you child then decides they don't want to eat. Kids have their own special buffet area set up in Vale ni Kana - and you can take them there for their meals even if you don't feel like eating there yourself. It's actually pretty varied, and includes some kind of dessert option for the kids every day (usually icecream and a cake or jelly).
We didn't opt for the all meals included option for the adults, because we wanted the freedom to explore some of the local restaurants. If we had pre-paid for all meals, my scrooge-like self would have bound me to trying to get my moneys worth by eating absolutely every meal there.
If exploring restaurants outside the resort doesn't interest you, then the all-inclusive meal package is a great plan and will save you lots.
If you would like to explore food options outside the resort, there are a few restaurants within walking distance on the road that runs along the lagoon. Just head towards the beach, then bear right. The first restaurant right next to the resort is fantastic. Bedarra Beach Inn is a few blocks down, and is also very good. You'll find the prices better too than at the Outrigger.
Make the most of the activities offered.
There are a lot of activities that you can participate in, most for no extra charge at the resort, which are of varying standards, so here's my quick and dirty on some of the ones we tried.
Outrigger Fiji main pool, photo from their Facebook page
Power walk - at the unreasonably early time of 6.30am in the morning, a lot of people might not even consider this activity fun. If you're reasonably fit, this won't make you break a sweat. If you're unfit, don't be scared to try this - it's not a real power walk (although if you're injured or slightly frail, give this a miss as it is a good 20 minute walk at a reasonable pace). The real benefit of doing this walk however is that it comprises a circuit around the outside of the resort, then down the street by the water which contains all the non-Outrigger restaurants within walking distance. So it's a good way of seeing what's on offer if you want to eat out of the complex.
Snorkelling and canoes - Great. See above. At least one of the canoes has a glass bottom, which is a great option if you want to show the kids something in the water.
Meditation - I'd recommend this for complete beginners only. Anybody who is more experienced might find the extent of the guidance a bit annoying. However, it's also a good excuse to get up the hill to admire the view from the Bebe spa, which is where the sessions take place.
Yoga - again, more for beginners than seasoned yoga practitioners. The instructor doesn't wear appropriate gear for conducting a yoga class, but it doesn't really affect anything because she only does the most basic of stretches.
Introduction to scuba diving - done in the main pool, this is actually excellent - I learned a lot and felt way more confident after this class.
Golf Driving range and pitch and putt (small additional cost) - My husband said this was a pleasant range, although the clubs weren't very good.
Malevu Village Tour (small additional cost) - worthwhile doing to get a better understanding of local Fijian culture and the real Fiji, but note that it's two hours long and about an hour of this is standing out in the sun while the village elder takes you around the plants and explains how they are used. While this is fascinating, it's not so interesting for little kids - bring something for them to play with while you listen, otherwise they are likely to get bored and squirmy.
Reef walk - Wear shorts, swimmers or a really short skirt, otherwise you'll get wet! Other than that, the enjoyment factor really depends on who your guide is and what the particular day is like. All I saw when I went were sea cucumbers and starfish - our guide was a bit silent and didn't find us much at all. Other guests I spoke to had a completely different experience, seeing reef sharks, sea snakes, and a whole host of other creatures.
Try out the different restaurants onsite.
There are a number of different restaurants onsite, it's worth trying them all out. Quality is excellent. It's easy to get caught up with the whole buffet eat-as-much-as-you-can dinners at the Vale ni Kana restaurant every night, because of the nightly entertainment and the fact that it's probably the best value option in terms of price and range. But we only ended up dining there twice for dinner during our stay, and ate out at the other restaurants on the other nights. This saved our stomachs from becoming overextended, and actually ended up being less expensive because we often chose to eat only two courses rather than three, which we would never be restrained enough to do if a 3-course buffet was spread out before us.
Sundowner restaurant at the Outrigger Fiji, photo from their website
While the buffet was fantastic in terms of quality and variety, I think it's easier to savour and appreciate a smaller quantity on a plate than it is to value a massive number of servings of lots of different bits and pieces of food. So we thought we enjoyed the a la carte food at the Sundowner and Baravi more than Vale ni Kana for dinner. Also, it's worth knowing that staff seem quite used to guests eating at the different restaurants onsite then coming over to Vale ni Kana to watch the entertainment afterwards. So you don't need to miss out on the entertainment just because you ate somewhere else.
If you get the chance, definitely get a golf buggy up to Kalo Kalo bar. No kids are allowed - the cocktails, fruit juices and the tapas are amazing, just like the view.
Have a great trip! Don't sweat the small stuff, and relax. Fiji time means that the pace of life here is just generally slower, and sometimes things will be late or not quite work the way you want them to. Let it go, you're in Fiji now, so be a Fijian and just smile and say, Bula!
Sigatoka itself has some lovely attractions, although they are a bit hidden. There's the lovely sand dunes- can go during sunrise/ set and choose and short or long walk and there's a surfers beach (read waves) on the other side of the dunes. There's a place called Tuvalu hill fort- lots of interesting town historical facts, it was where the Chiefs cilage was and where rival villages and the Tongans etc invaded and tried to eat the Chiefs brain, it's worth a visit just for the views of the Sigatoka river and valley area and from memory on required a donation. There's also waterfalls u can walk to and there's a super quiet and calm beach called natandola beach (sounds like $19 beach) you can get a cab there and they'll bring u home too. There's a few big hotels there too if u forget lunch or want a drink, we took out 10month old there and the water was a great temp, clear with no corals and so very calm.
Also if ur in town try and buy a cream bun and/ or cheese bun- they are the best cream buns I have ever had! The outrigger is also a 5-10min from the Casablanca- which I dare say serves some of the best pizza I have ever tried and I've been to Italy!
Don't be afraid to befriend locals they are super friendly and love kids! There's also villages u can visit and waterfalls etc but fiji is so relaxed Taft unless u ask they often won't be forthcoming with info...
Great family break!