Like the first reviewer of Koromakawa, we are afraid to post a glowing review simply because we never want to find this place booked should we return (they only host one party at a time). We stayed with Karin and Spencer in their beautiful resort for a week, and it flew by. We found ourselves at our next resort wishing we were back with them. The second resort was a very lovely place, but we agreed that no resort could match Koromakawa's accommodations, food, company, location and staff.
I will say that we had our reservations. We booked Koromakawa for our honeymoon, and the lack of reviews on TripAdvisor gave us pause, especially since you pay in advance via wire transfer. Our fears were as follows:
1) It was a scam, and we'd never see our money again.
2) No one would pick us up at the airport and we'd be stranded on some remote island.
3) The accommodations would be too rustic, or dirty, and we'd have no other resort on the island to switch to.
4) The food would be bad or mediocre (we are big foodies).
In the end, we needn't have worried about any of the above, and in fact Koromakawa exceeded our best expectations in terms of the rooms, food and service.
We arrived via the Twin Otter at Kandavu, an airport in the narrowest sense of the word, as it is just a landing strip and small building. Spencer was there with a staff member to pick up our bags and immediately take us to their waiting boat, where we were offered fresh delicious fruit, beer, water, and our beloved Diet Coke, which they had specially ordered for us. I should note that in advance of coming out, Spencer and Karin sent us a questionnaire asking us to be as specific as possible about the food, drink and activities we'd enjoy, so even though Diet Coke (or Coke Light, as they have there), is difficult to come by in that neck of the woods, they were more than prepared. (Karin even packed us a picnic lunch one day and specifically marked my fiance's salad as the one without onions, since I like them and he doesn't -- they really do tailor your meals to suit your preferences).
The boat ride from the airport to the resort is a bit over an hour through beautiful blue waters with an amazing view of the islands along the way. Spencer has lived an amazing life, and he is a friendly and engaging conversationalist, so we could just relax back, look at the scenery, be jet-lagged and have him entertain us. When we pulled up to Ono Island, we were absolutely overwhelmed ... an amazing private beach, the most beautifully laid out resort, and a row of staff in Fijian garb stood in a row on the beach, singing a Fijian welcome song. We hopped off the boat, our luggage was taken to our bure (house), and we were seated at a lovely table on the beach and given tasty appetizers and coconut juice straight from the coconut. After a brief chat with Karin, we headed to our bure. The entire resort is so beautifully situated that we stared for a bit ... very Swiss Family Robinson, with wooden pathways built into the sloping landscape, connecting their bure on one end, to the beach, and to our bure on the other end. Upon entering, we found that they had crafted a sign with our names on it attached to the front door, so we felt immediately as if it was truly our home.
Inside the bure, it was beautifully decorated, very Fijian, but still with all the modern comforts, and immaculately clean. There is a front sitting room (you can take your meals here, or on the deck), a small fridge with all our favorite drinks, and even a cookie jar that they stored fresh-baked cookies in throughout our stay. The bedroom we used (there are two) was likewise completely lovely, with a view out to our patio and small pool, as well as to the gorgeous beach below. The bathroom was large with two sinks, and all the modern conveniences. We were very thankful for the American outlets as well.
After settling in, we were brought over to Karin and Spencer's bure, which is gorgeous (Karin has quite an eye for decorating, and used to be a professional florist, so she uses the local flowers to great effect in presentation and decoration), for a traditional kava (traditional drink) ceremony presented by some staff and local villagers. Everyone was friendly and engaging. We had an amazing dinner (Ita and Karo cook, and everything is meticulously overseen by Karin) with Karin and Spencer, with lots of wine and great conversation. We went to bed completely blissful.
We are late sleepers, which means we usually miss breakfast time at whatever hotel we stay at, but that's not an issue at Koromakawa. They simply ask you when you'd like to eat, and there it is. Quite a luxury. We had breakfast on our patio overlooking the beach (and the presentation is always perfect), after sipping champagne poolside all morning and glorying in the fantastic surroundings. The same goes for the activities ... rather than have to fit your schedule around assigned times for an activity like at other resorts, you simply discuss what you'd like to do that day with Karin and Spencer, and when, and they and their staff make it happen.
My fiance had never been snorkeling before, and is not a strong swimmer. This might have been a problem at another resort, where they can dump you in the water with 20 other people without real chaperoning. Not the case here. They took us to several wonderful snorkeling sites where we never saw another tourist, and we were constantly guided and supported by the staff there, who were with us every step of the way, and very patient. The fish and coral are amazing, and Johnny, one of the Fijian staff, was terrific at finding beautiful shells for us, diving down to bring them up to us at the surface. Johnny also has a great eye and pointed out fish and other oceanlife that we never would have spotted on our own. If you have an underwater camera, it's a great idea to bring one (we were, unfortunately, not so forward-thinking).
Speaking of shells, we walked up the beach one day and found so many amazing, and huge shells, we couldn't believe it. When we went to our second resort, we were reminded of what a rarity this is, because many other resorts are picked over. We saw shells similar to the ones we found on Koromakawa being sold for $20-$30 elsewhere!
We also did a kayak ride (also with a staff member to guide us) to a village on the other side of the island, where Spencer knows the residents. It was great to see a Fijian village, to visit the school, and to see a traditional Fijian bure. We walked through the mangroves back to Koromakawa and our guide showed us the different vegetation, and told us how it is used by Fijians to this day to treat a variety of maladies. We never lacked activities, but always knew that if we simply wanted to laze around by our pool, or in the soft comfy hammocks on the beach, we could do that as well all day long, with people checking in on us in case we were hungry or needed a drink.
Back to Karin and Spencer: we thought that perhaps we'd just have the first day's dinner with them, because we're somewhat on-our-own kind of people. At the end of the visit, we realized we had eaten dinner with them 5 times by our own request! This is a tribute to what welcoming hosts they were ... they are incredibly interesting people, and so warm and welcoming that we found ourselves wanting to share our meal and conversation. Spencer in particular was great in indulging my fiance by answering all of his questions about building the resort, the wind farm they installed, the solar energy they employ, and their burgeoning garden. They are can-do people, and are always thinking of ways to improve the grounds and the facilities (which, to our eyes, are not in need of a single improvement!). Ask to see the pictures of the tent they stayed in for four months while they were working with local Fijians in building the resort ... talk about an active retirement! They use a great deal of local produce and fish, and the result is interesting and delicious food you'd pay an arm and a leg for State-side, but they can also provide just about any kind of cuisine you've requested.
I should also mention that, unbeknownst to us at the time we were making our plans (we'd never been to Fiji before), the Kandavu strip of islands (of which Ono Island is a part) is apparently not the big tourist area that the Yasawas or Taveuni apparently are. More than one Fijian we met while on other islands expressed surprise and delight that we had been to Kandavu, because it is so untouched and more of the "real Fiji" in their eyes. Seeing the wild and unspoiled area around Koromakawa, it is clear that the Kandavu province is a special place, not only for the availability of shells and lack of other tourists, but also for the great fishing (I "caught" a big grouper while we were on the boat, with no effort at all). I have already told my parents that when they travel to that part of the world, there is no reason to stay anywhere else.
In the end, we dream about coming back, maybe with our future children. It would be a wonderful place to bring a family. Karin and Spencer: if you are reading this, we say "Bula!" and thanks so much for giving us the ideal start to our honeymoon!
TRAVEL TIPS: 1) They will do your laundry, which was a terrific plus; 2) Bring bug repellent, because mosquitoes can get a little active a certain times of the day; 3) We wished we had brought an extra carryon bag to pack all the shells we found, so you might want to do so ... we had to leave so many behind that we wanted to take with us!; 4) There is a Catholic and Methodist church on the island, in the villages, so if you get along with the locals you might get invited to attend; 5) If you are coming from the States and take the LA to Nadi fight, it arrives at 5:20am, and the only flight from Nadi to Kandavu doesn't depart til 7 hours later, so if you have the wherewithal, charter a private flight (we just drank beer and watched the sun come up and read until the Pacific Sun flight left, and it was a long time to sit around in an airport).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Koromakawa Resort offers first class service and all the amenities of a tropical environment plus ultimate in privacy. We cater to one family or one couple at a time. Imagine being the only guest, with no schedules, everything you do is decided by you. Our resort is designed for pure relaxation. International menus are specific to each customer. Our goal is to satisfy each customer, one customer at a time with the best possible service. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Koromakawa Hotel Ono Island
- Koromakawa Resort Fiji/Ono Island