Laid-Back Island Vibes: A Review of the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji
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To The Point
The DoubleTree Resort Fiji is the perfect place for a relaxed island vacation. Pros: all rooms have an ocean view, low cash prices are often available and the vibe is low-key and relaxed. Cons: it’s an older resort and the beach is on the small side.
“Welcome home” are two words that I’m used to hearing in only two situations: when passing through customs in the US and when visiting my parents’ house.
I’m not, however, accustomed to hearing these words from multiple resort staff within 20 minutes of arriving — which is exactly what happened at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji. At some resorts, this would sound cheesy or forced, but at this resort it felt sincere.
The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji opened in May 2016, but it’s not a new resort. Instead, the resort previously operated as the Sonaisali Island Resort for more than 20 years before closing in 2014 for renovations. You probably have preconceived notions of the DoubleTree by Hilton brand. But don’t judge this DoubleTree Resort by its name.
When my husband, JT, and I booked round-trip flights to Fiji this spring, I started looking into where to spend our six-night stay. We decided to review three different hotels for two nights each: the Marriott Resort Momi Bay for 35,000 Marriott points per night, the InterContinental Fiji using JT’s Ambassador free-night certificate, and the DoubleTree Fiji to finish off the annual resort credit on JT’s Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.
The DoubleTree was available for a budget-friendly cost of FJ$668.60 (about $300), including taxes and fees for our two-night stay.
We booked the base-level room type: a double-queen beachfront guest room with balcony.
But we noticed before arrival that we’d been upgraded to a premium ocean-view bure, the best room type the property offers.
We put the stay on JT’s Hilton Aspire Card to earn 14x points through the credit card spend on top of 20x points through Hilton Honors with Diamond elite status, a 20.4% total return, based on TPG’s valuations.
The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji is a 25-minute drive from Nadi International Airport (NAN), which costs from FJ$35 to 55 ($15 to 25) by taxi. The resort is on a peninsula that’s not connected to Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, by road. So you need to take a boat shuttle from the main island to the resort.
The boat shuttle is on-demand and free-of-charge for resort guests and takes less than three minutes. But this short boat ride adds to the secluded and private feel of the resort.
We arrived at the DoubleTree Fiji after a 40-minute taxi (FJ$80, or about $35) from the InterContinental. After going through a manned entrance gate, we pulled up to a covered driveway next to a dock.
A DoubleTree employee welcomed us home, put our baggage on a cart and guided us to the dock as the boat shuttle was arriving. The boat carried a few employees, who helped with loading and unloading guests and their luggage.
Once on the peninsula, we were greeted by another employee, who walked with us to reception while pushing a small cart with our luggage. Once at reception, an agent behind the counter greeted us and explained all of JT’s benefits as a Diamond elite.
These elite benefits included daily breakfast for two, an upgrade to a premium, ocean-view bure, two drink vouchers for the pool bar, and late checkout based on availability. He asked what time our flight was scheduled to depart and noted we’d likely be able to get 6pm or 7pm late checkout — but that we’d need to check back on the day of departure to confirm.
Of course, we were also provided with DoubleTree’s signature warm cookies at check-in.
The employee who’d walked us from the dock was waiting with our luggage when we left reception. He moved our luggage to a golf cart and then drove us along a sand pathway by the water to our bure.
When we checked back on the morning of departure about late checkout, the front-desk agent said we could only get until noon — just one extra hour after the normal check-out time — and that we’d need to pay a half-day rate for any later departure. When we noted what the check-in agent originally said, another agent stepped in. She saw JT’s Diamond elite status and immediately offered a 4pm checkout (which we happily accepted).
This property has 32 hotel-style rooms with two queen beds; 42 ocean-view bures set back from the beach with partial ocean views with one or two king beds; and 46 premium, ocean-view bures that look directly out toward the ocean with one or two king beds.
Though a bure usually means a traditional Fijian hutlike structure, the bures at the DoubleTree are better described as duplex villas. All of the bure rooms are in buildings that contain two units each, with individual entrances up a few stairs.
When we opened the door, we saw the entire room ahead of us. To one side of the room was a king bed that was firm but comfortable. Four pillows were provided, as well as a comforter and a flat sheet.
On each side of the bed was a nightstand, which had two drawers and an open shelf. There were also reading lights on both sides of the bed.
Across from the bed by the entrance door was a luggage shelf with two open compartments underneath.
Next to the luggage shelf was a long desk with a relatively comfortable desk chair.
Above the desk was a 47-inch flat-screen television. We couldn’t find the remote, so we simply unplugged it when we wanted to go to sleep, since we rarely use hotel TVs.
In a recessed area on the desk, there were two power outlets, two Ethernet outlets, an HDMI port, a USB charging port, a USB entertainment port and an audio port. I didn’t have the correct plugs to test all of these outlets, but the ones I tried were functional.
Next to the desk was a cabinet with a minifridge. The minifridge was cold and contained fresh milk (which was offered free of charge) when we arrived.
On top of the cabinet was a kettle, two coffee cups, two wineglasses and two drinking glasses, as well as a selection of teas and coffee.
Next to the cabinet was a chaise lounge with a side table.
Strangely, on the other side of the room was an identical chaise lounge with another table. Seemingly, based on the placement of headboard lights and outlets, this room was designed to hold two king beds, but the second king bed was replaced by a second chaise lounge.
Next to the second chaise lounge was a door that connected to Bure 32. We initially thought this door might be problematic due to noise. But, although we saw guests on the patio for Bure 32, we barely heard anything from the adjoining room during our stay.
Next to the chaise lounge were large floor-to-ceiling windows. A sliding door that was also equipped with a screen door opened onto a private patio.
The patio was spacious and included two wicker chairs with seat cushions and a tall table. It was a very pleasant place to kick back and relax.
Near the entrance door was a closet with two doors. One side of the closet contained two robes, two sets of slippers and ample hangers.
The other side of the closet had two drawers, a shelf, an iron, an ironing board and a safe.
Across from the closet were two sinks with a shared vanity. There was lots of space on the vanity and towel racks on the front of the counter.
A room next to the sinks and closet housed the toilet and a shower cabin.
The window in this room could be opened for ventilation, and there was a large towel rack on the wall.
The shower had a handheld wand as well as a tall — but not ceiling-mounted — rainfall shower.
Crabtree & Evelyn soaps and toiletries were provided in the shower and on the vanity. These products were practical and, thankfully, mildly scented.
The bures were spacious and in the quieter parts of the property away from the main buildings. We enjoyed our bure but found two design aspects frustrating. First, the light switches were unlabeled and unintuitive. Second, the window in the bathroom and the panels by the entrance door were constructed from frosted glass. Although this provided natural lighting during the day, these panels also let in light each morning, and there was no curtain to block the light if you wanted to sleep past sunrise.
Food and Beverage
There are two restaurants, a poolside bar and a grab-and-go cafe on site. The main restaurant, Vulani, served breakfast from 6:30am to 10am, lunch from noon to 2pm and dinner from 6pm to 10pm.
We ate dinner at Vulani our first night. JT ordered a beef wrap with coleslaw and fries (one of the daily specials) for FJ$26 ($12), I ordered kokoda (Fijian ceviche) for FJ$20 ($10), and we split a side of garlic bread for FJ$12 ($6). The kokoda didn’t contain the cleanest cuts of fish, but overall was well-presented and tasty. Service was friendly and relatively efficient.
We ate the breakfast buffet both mornings at Vulani as well. The breakfast buffet included a wide selection of breakfast options that ranged from American favorites like bacon, made-to-order omelets and hash browns to Asian options like congee to European options like sliced meats and cheeses.
About half of the hot buffet was dedicated to a themed selection. Our first morning featured Mexican options, and our second morning featured Fijian options. Restaurant workers were happy to explain the different items on the Fijian buffet.
Although our breakfast was included as a benefit of JT’s Hilton Diamond status, normally it would cost FJ$45 ($20) per person, including all children over 12 (children 12 and under ate free).
The restaurant by the pool and ocean, Tavu, served lunch from noon to 3pm and dinner from 6pm to 10pm.
Although the restaurant was well-situated for sunset, it doesn’t open for dinner until after sunset.
We ate dinner at Tavu our second night. I ordered the market fish of the day, mahi-mahi, with fries, and JT ordered the yellowfin tuna with chips, which cost FJ$40 and FJ$42 respectively (about $20 each). We found the dishes to be well-presented, properly cooked and filling. The service started out well but slowly declined throughout the meal and concluded with us struggling for 15 minutes to flag down our server to obtain the check.
Next to Tavu was the poolside bar, which also had a swim-up option. Drink menus were standardized across the two restaurants and the pool bar, with all the same prices regardless of where you ordered your drink. We found that the frozen drinks (mostly $15 FJD, about $7) provided good value for the cost, while the beers were served in 8-ounce glasses and hence weren’t a good value.
There was also the grab-and-go Village Deli, which had reasonably priced coffee (FJ$6.50 or $3, for a large), ice cream (FJ$3, or $1.50, for one scoop) and other quick snacks from 6:30am to 9pm.
Twenty-four-hour room service was also available, but we didn’t try it during our stay.
A large, lagoon-style pool is in the middle of the property near the lobby and restaurants. There’s a rocky islet in the middle that guests enjoyed jumping from, as well as a shallow area that’s more suitable for children.
There is a whirlpool by the pool bar, but it wasn’t warm when we tried it, and it’s unclear whether it was supposed to be warm or whether it was designed to be a cold whirlpool.
There were lounge chairs surrounding the pool. Servers were readily available if you wanted to order food or drinks poolside.
In addition to the chairs around the pool, there were well-spaced lounge chairs facing the ocean throughout the property, perfect for relaxing.
At the far end of the property past Bure 58 lies Sunset Point, which was — not surprisingly — a good place to watch the sunset, which was absolutely stunning our first night.
There you’ll also find platforms for watching the sunset or looking out over the water.
A natural beach with darker sand runs from Bure 35 to Bure 58.
On the end of the beach near Bure 35 were a few stand-up paddleboards and a kayak that you could sign out free of charge. But this area was only manned on sunny days, and the paddles for these watercraft weren’t available when the attendant wasn’t present.
The large swings hanging throughout the property were some of the best places to relax while gazing at the ocean.
In the main building near reception, there’s a game room with two pool tables and a table tennis table.
Various activities for adults and children were held daily. A schedule wasn’t printed but instead written on a chalkboard each morning near the pool.
On Tuesday, we watched a wood-carving demonstration. Although there were items for sale, there was no pressure at all to buy.
On Wednesday evenings, there was a Polynesian dance and fire dance at 6:30pm near Tavu. We were playing table tennis in the game room nearby before the show began and were urged by multiple dancers to come watch the show.
Unlike many resorts where you need to pay a large sum of money to eat buffet food and watch the show, the DoubleTree instead offered the show as a free activity. The dancers were talented and genuinely seemed to have fun putting on the show.
A children’s activity on some days was mangrove planting.
There was a band that played at the pool most evenings before sunset. After sunset, this band usually moved to play at Tavu for the remainder of the evening. The band played Fijian songs, which were pleasant to listen to and created an authentic vibe.
Most nights, there was also a simple torch-lighting and drum ceremony around sunset at the pool — and the workers that put on this ceremony seemed to enjoy doing so.
Near the main restaurant of Vulani is a basic gym with two treadmills, two exercise bikes, one elliptical, free weights with two weight benches and a pulley-based weight machine.
Also near Vulani was a self-serve, honor-based library.
Near the dock is a grass tennis court and a large children’s play area.
And there’s a sand volleyball court on the beach near Tavu. We saw groups playing on this court a few times during our stay.
In the main building, there are a few sundry and souvenir shops, a tour agency and a spa. The spa looked small and simple, but offered haircuts, massages and facials throughout the day.
Just after sunset, frogs gathered on the sidewalks. So be on the lookout for frogs when walking around after dark — some of them were surprisingly large.
The Wi-Fi at this property covered rooms, bures and most areas in the main building near the pool but did not cover some areas like the children’s play area. Wi-Fi quality varied throughout out stay, and the entire property lost connectivity (including the on-site ATM and front-desk computers) around 5pm our second night. Connectivity wasn’t restored until the middle of the night, but we still had H+ to LTE coverage through Google Fi.
Here’s a speed test, taken from inside Bure 31, while the Wi-Fi was functional.
The DoubleTree Resort Fiji Sonaisali Island is perfect for a low-key vacation in Fiji, thanks to a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that felt truly Fijian. The property is beautiful in a natural way, and we were sincerely sad to leave. The DoubleTree also happens to be the most reasonably priced of the properties we reviewed — especially if you’re able to snag a low rate like we did and use the Hilton Aspire card’s annual $250 resort credit.
The resort treated us well as Diamond elite members — obtained through simply having the Hilton Aspire card — with liberally applied benefits including a multicategory room upgrade, full breakfast buffet for two daily and 4pm late checkout. But even the base level rooms with two queen beds looked comfortable and had ocean views.
The relatively small DoubleTree Resort serves mostly Australian and New Zealand guests, from what we gathered. There was a comfortable mix of couples and families at this resort, as well as a good mix of active guests playing in the pool and more relaxed guests chilling on their balconies or on the lounge chairs scattered throughout the property.
Despite the older age of the property, we’d happily return to the DoubleTree Resort Fiji and highly recommend it to travelers looking for a relaxed stay in Fiji.
All photos by the author.
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