First of all, there are some great things about this place: it's small, secluded, and the SPA is fantastic! The massage was heavenly. The nearby shark diving is world class and an absolutely amazing experience. The Fijian staff is very friendly, the welcome is luxurious (free Coconut foot rub) and the bures are spacious and beautifully made.
Now, the other half of the mixed bag:
First, it takes 2.5 hours on a long and winding road (it is Fiji's only "highway"... different standards, I guess) to get there, and if you are seasick (not our case), this is not the right place for you. It is a good 30 minute boat ride to Beqa and the seas can be very rough. To Lalati's credit, they have a great, sturdy, custom -made boat for the trip.
Second, there is really no beach. The comment of the staff that it is a "tidal beach" should be clarified as follows: half the time it's not there, and half the time it's mud. Let me be clear: mud, not sand. You will actually sink in the stuff (we tried to take a walk on the beach and sunk past our ankles in the mud... needless to say, it was a short experiment). The pictures on the website are authentic, but also misleading. The mud of the beach makes the visibility in the water immediately in front of the resort poor at best. They tell you you can do a "muck dive" in front of the resort, which means snorkeling in the muddy water below the pier. You are infinitely better off if you pay the "small fee" Lalati charges to go out on a small boat with a staff member who will take you to better snorkeling destinations where you can see pretty fish and corals.
Third: the resort's management changed recently, and our opinion is that they have not quite worked out the kinks. There are frequent power outages and hot water magically disappearing (the third time that it happened, I had to walk out of the bure in a towel, covered in soap - and ONLY THEN did they finally decide the issue was "not fixable" and moved us into another bure). There were also roaches of gigantic proportions; it's the wilderness, yet a bit of bug spray could go a long way... and the problem is made worse by the fact that they leave a jar of cookies in the bathroom!
Fourth, Lalati resort is a very "American" experience, which might or might not be what you are looking for in a Fijian vacation... Barbecues, steaks, chicken cordon bleu and fries replace the meals of tropical fruits and freshly caught fish that you find at other Fijian resorts. The prices are in USD (including $20 for a glass - yes, a glass - of wine), and everything costs "extra". After shelling out $400 a night we were surprised to be charged "small fees" for almost every available activity - from snorkeling to kayaking. That's very bothersome! For example, after reading so much about the "firewalkers" on the resort's website, we asked the owner/general manager if he could arrange a performance during our stay. He responded by saying the "for that particular week" it would cost extra, and they would be able to do it only if a certain number of guests (virtually 100%) agreed to pony up the "small fee". So we asked all the other guests if they were interested. They were; we got to see the firewalkers and it was great, but again.. .it was an extra charge for something that the website seems to suggest is a typical resort/local experience. AND, in our case, it was only available when everyone agreed to pay, so if our fellow guests had felt differently, we would have been out of luck.
Fifth, the dive shop is billed to be no hassle, that everything is taken care of by the staff. It really isn't... Plus, when we went to collect our gear from the dive shop after our dives, we found it full of sand and salt (ever heard of rinsing?).
Sixth: As part of our "honeymoon package" we were supposed to have a private dinner one night. We were never offered it, so we did make one special request. My wife thought it would be wonderful to have a lobster dinner. I figured that being on our honeymoon in a luxury resort it might be possible. When I asked the owner he first said "that would be expensive, we would need to charge a fee", which of course was fine. It never happened. What was disappointing was that despite multiple reminders, we never got a heads up that this wouldn't be possible or an explanation of why.
Seventh: our first night at Lalati, we were seated at a four-top table with another couple for dinner. There were plenty of open tables, and no other couples were asked to sit together. The other couple - obviously put in the awkward position of being seated with two honeymooners - was just as surprised as we were at the arrangement. It was odd, and not exactly what I would expect for a place catering to honeymooners, but it turned out they were a fantastic couple and we enjoyed our dinner together. The awkward, forced socialization became a funny topic that kicked off the dinner conversation (and sort of set the standard for the Lalati brand of service).
The last thing (and I am done ranting), is that we headed to Beqa mostly to get to dive with the sharks. If you're lucky, you'll see some of the 15 ft + tiger sharks - not always, but frequently. Well, the resort screwed that up too. We were scheduled to dive on our first day at Lalati, but we could not go because there was a wedding at the resort and they needed the resort's boat (which doubles as the dive boat) to transport everyone to the small island where the wedding was supposed to be held. Unfortunately, the wedding suffered a last minute change of venue because Lalati had failed to secure permission to host the wedding on the island. We rescheduled our shark dives to next day; however there were three problems: (1) the diving company was not the one we preferred to dive with (the resort owner apparently had a altercation with the owner of the top diving operation - Beqa Adventure Divers/BAD), (2) the company we went with has fewer shark feedings per week than BAD, so the chances of seeing a tiger shark (the main attraction) are smaller. Naturally, we did not get to see a tiger (the boat the day before did - when we were supposed to be diving). And of course our preferred diving company, BAD, saw tigers both days; we still saw tons of beautiful - and large - sharks, but the WORST part was (3) we asked the resort, IN ADVANCE AND MULTIPLE TIMES, to confirm that the diving company they used would have an underwater videographer to film our shark feeding dives (the DVD is STANDARD with Beqa Adventure Divers). So guess who was not on the boat? Right, the videographer; we were left without a tiger shark sighting AND without video. Quite an annoyance considering we came from 11 time zones away to do this dive!!!
All in all, it's a beautiful part of the world with warm, smiling, beautiful people. The staff are great and we were able to take an amazing trip to a local village to attend a church service (naturally, Lalati failed to mention that it would be a 3 1/2 hour service - and to not wear sun visors as it offends the chief...the locals filled us in - but it was lovely). That being said, there are other great places to stay, particularly at this price point. Would love to chalk it up the owners being new, but this was a bit of a comedy of errors and not the quality of service one might expect for this price.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Award winning all inclusive resort. Lalati Resort & Spa sits on the edge of a protected bay in Beqa Lagoon, with world class snorkeling and diving just steps outside your door. Standard Cottages, Deluxe Villas, Premium Deluxe Honeymoon Villas and Superior Honeymoon Suites offer comfort in a Fijian-style elegance and full amenities. Kayak, trek, snorkel, scuba dive, surf, wakeboard, tube ride, SUPs, zipline, village safaris, and the famous firewalkers, all within easy reach. It's where you find the Soul of Fiji! ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Lalati Resort And Spa
- Lalati Hotel Beqa Island
- Lalati Resort All Inclusive