Dean Buchanan checks in to Matamanoa Island Resort, Fiji.
Getting there: We flew up on Fiji Airways in a well appointed A330-200 with a good selection of "in-seat movies". We came back in a not so well appointed old 737-800 with no in seat entertainment and crappy ceiling TV units with poor sound quality. We took an Island Hoppers Helicopter Chopper out to the island (very nice and only 15 minutes) and came back on the Catamaran (just as nice on a perfect day and a 90-minute cruise).
Check In Experience: Typically Fijian, warm and friendly with the traditional "Bula Meleya" welcome song and cold refreshing towels.
Room: Very good - a well appointed bure with its own private plunge pool and daybed, only metres from the sand and beach. No TV and a small bluetooth-enabled Tivoli Audio system. Small bar with complimentary coffee and tea making facilities.
Price: Not cheap; it's an adults-only island. It is however private with minimal people and no day trippers.
What's in the neighbourhood? The Mamanuca Islands including Monuriki Island (of Tom Hanks Castaway fame). Excellent snorkelling and dive sites and close to the outer reefs for sports fishing.
Toiletries: The basics, nothing special.
Food and drink: Complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea. The menu changed daily and meals were all good, without being outstanding. As seems to be the way on the Fijian islands, drinks were over priced, especially wine. Take duty free for your room.
The bed: Excellent - super-king inside and daybed outside.
A room with a view: Picture postcard perfect.
Bathroom: Good . . . modern.
Free Wi-fi? Only around the restaurant and pool area and patchy and slow at best.
Available in the your room for $36 FJD day ... I felt the same way about that as the price of the drinks, so stayed off the email and social media largely - perhaps that's the plan all along?
Noise: Air conditioning units from neighbouring bure, birds and the lapping of the waves.
Room service: Mini Bar on request.
Value for Money: 6.5/10
Perfect for: A long weekend getaway. Less than three hours from Auckland, just enough time to watch a movie and in the same time zone as New Zealand.
The bottomline: It's not cheap and it is a little rustic, but this is a beautiful part of the world made better by the genuinely friendly local staff who, aside from the location and weather, were the highlight.