What a treat it is to visit the South Pacific. People always ask what Fiji is like and I always say the same thing. Fiji is simply breathtaking. The beauty is unmatched and the locals are extremely friendly.

Matamanoa Island, Fiji Fiji

We spent our days basking in the vibrant sun–fanned by the relentless ocean breeze. At night, we were lulled by a moonlight that seemed much closer to the earth than normal. If that wasn’t enough, we sang soft rock from the early 90s while trying feverishly to follow the words attached to a television monitor…Karaoke anyone? We laughed and drank Kava- Fiji’s traditional drink of choice, comprised of a ground root soaked in water. Always open to new experiences, I took the cup offered to me by a charming man with grey hair and leathery brown skin.  I held the cup, which was more like a small bowl between my hands, and I drank. Kava is beloved by native Fijians. The drink had an earthy flavor. Once down, my tongue went numb in some places. On the bright side, I felt more relaxed–one of the benefits of drinking Kava.

Matamanoa Island, Fiji Fiji

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort run by native Fijians on the private Matamoanoa Island. The island is located about 2 hours from the airport by ferry. The ferry ride over was an amazing journey. The views were astounding and the weather was perfect. We zipped along dropping off passengers at islands scattered in the sea.  As we approached Matamoanoa, we were greeted by nearly a dozen people standing on the beach singing a lovely welcome serenade. “Bula” the Fijian word for welcome was stated then and we felt that way during our entire stay.

After we were shown to our private quarters, a 580 square foot bure with all of the amenities one would need, we settled in for seven days of bliss. The island caters to couples and is comprised of 24 private bures.  Our door opened onto the beach and was just steps away from the water.  On the first day, we were pampered with an hour long massage on the beach at sunrise. We kayaked, made baskets, played volleyball, hiked, scuba dived and snorkeled until we were faced with the reality that our trip was coming to an end.

Matamanoa is for the traveler who seeks seclusion.  Many guests that we met traveled to other islands before ending in Matamaona.  If you want a bustling city with nightlife and a variety of restaurants, consider accommodations on one of the larger islands.  But if you want to relax, be pampered, and enjoy nature, you can’t go wrong with Matamanoa.

Fijian communities consist of close-knit villages governed through a tribal hierarchy. On the neighboring island sat a modest Methodist church–a testament to the island’s many cultural and religious influences. There are people from all over the world living in Fiji’s major cities.  However, on the smaller islands you will find people who have hair and features similar to other groups closely linked to the African Diaspora.

Matamanoa Island, Fiji Matamanoa Island, Fiji

While tourism is the country’s leading source of revenue, Matamanoa is owned and operated by native Fijians.  The profits from the property remain in the local community.

From the crystal clear waters to the unforgettable sunsets, Fiji is a destination that should not be missed.

This story was curated by Jennifer Suggs.