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Smugglers Cove Beach Resort & Hotel 2.5

Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Budget-minded hotel with lively atmosphere
  • Decent beach and small outdoor pool
  • Private rooms are equipped with mini-fridges and coffee/tea 
  • Free continental breakfast
  • A popular indoor/outdoor restaurant, bar, and cafe area
  • Small spa for massages, facials, and hair braiding
  • Polynesian-themed entertainment
  • Free Wi-Fi in the lobby and main restaurant
  • PADI dive center and stand-up paddleboards
  • Convenience store, laundry facilities, and clothing shop

Cons

  • Guests have to put forth a hefty key deposit during check-in
  • Friendliness at the front desk can vary drastically
  • A party hostel vibe -- not for those seeking romance
  • Food is overpriced for quality
  • Not always enough sun loungers 

Bottom Line

This Australian-owned hotel is more like a hostel and the undisputed hub of activity along Fiji's Wailoaloa Beach. Opened in 2006, it offers multiple dorms and simple yet pleasant rooms that have Fijian decor, private bathrooms, and in some, balconies. But the rooms are not the draw here -- backpackers, usually in transit, tend to head straight for the beach and its water sports, or the spacious deck with a small pool and sun loungers. Nightly entertainment like DJ music or Polynesian fire shows, along with laundry facilities and a free breakfast, add to its appeal, though food and cocktails at the restaurant Ghost Ship can be hit or miss. There are also free airport pickups and Wi-Fi in common areas. If you're looking to avoid a party scene, the Tropic of Capricorn Resort next door has a more relaxed vibe and similar rooms, but it lacks a restaurant.

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Scene

A fun and convenient budget hotel, popular for meeting fellow travelers

When arriving to the modest Smugglers Cove Beach Resort & Hotel along Wailoaloa Beach, look for the nautical blue signage above a three-story building. The reception area has a lone leather sofa and TV screen showing Nadi's flight arrivals and departures. Staff are not always friendly, and check-in requires paying an annoying key deposit that makes this budget hotel feel not so budget-friendly. If the room is not quite ready -- early check-ins are not common, either -- staff members will point to an area for storing luggage. Just off the lobby is a hallway lined with tables and chairs, where young backpacker types are using Wi-Fi (this is the strongest connection location). 

Despite its bland interior, Smugglers is usually lively and fun, with people talking at the bar or pool and music playing in the background. The hotel sees many round-the-world trippers and backpackers, as well as guests from nearby hotels lured by the all-day restaurant and bar. The party scene usually wraps up around midnight. At sunrise, staff cleans up for breakfast, which starts early for those with morning flights. As this is a transit hotel, not everyone is looking to party, and guests simply seeking an overnight stay might be content here.

Location

Along the beach within a stretch of budget hotels, near Fji's biggest airport with free airport pickup

Nadi (pronounced Nandi) is on the western side of the island of Viti Levu, the largest of 330 islands in Fiji and considered the country's "mainland." Since the biggest international airport is based here, Nadi is the transit point for nearly all destinations in Fiji. Wailoaloa Beach is a good spot for budget types looking for easy access to the airport and a backpacker vibe, as there are many hotels here with private rooms and dorms. 

Those with a vehicle will have free street parking. The front desk at Smugglers will arrange airport pickups (not drop-offs) but this can be hard to time due to long waits at customs and baggage claim; a taxi ride to the hotel will take about 15 minutes. In addition to a small store for sundries in the lobby, there are a convenience store just a five-minute walk away and plenty of restaurants in the area. 

Rooms

Private rooms with Fijian decor, flat-screen TVs, and mini-fridges; dormitories with personal lockers and air-conditioning

Smugglers is one of the bigger hotels along this beach strip in Nadi, composed of 40 private rooms and dormitories between two buildings. All rooms have simple decor scheme with tile floors, wood furnishings, flat-screen TVs, hot water pots for instant coffee/tea, and mini-fridges. Fijian bed runners and colorful flower artwork add some personality to the spaces. Bathrooms show more age than the rooms due to dated fixtures and old tile floors, but they feature walk-in shower stalls, conditioning shampoo, and hairdryers. Oceanfront Balcony Rooms face the beach, and Family Suites have one king-size bed, two twin beds, and a pullout sofa.

For those on a tight budget, dorms with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, personal lockers, and shared bathrooms are available. Options include four-bed bunks, eight-bed bunks, and 34-bed bunks with separate gender bathrooms on either end. 

Features

A lengthy beach for swimming, small pool, spa, and all-day dining including a free continental breakfast

The best and most popular aspect of Smugglers is the restaurant, cafe, and bar for all-day eating and drinking -- especially considering neighboring hotels like Tropic of Capricorn do not offer food and beverage. Cove Cafe serves a light continental breakfast that typically includes toast, porridge, corn flakes, fruit, juice, and instant coffee. Guests can also purchase espresso, pastries, and egg dishes. The Ghost Ship Bar & Grill serves lunch and dinner, with dishes like sandwiches, pastas, seafood, salads, pizzas, and even lobster. But the higher-priced items like lobster receive mixed reviews. Nightly entertainment occurs on the deck, and includes weekly dances and fire shows, live musicians, DJs, movies, karaoke, or traditional kava ceremonies.

The hotel's direct beach access is also a big draw. Despite the beach having darker sand than other beaches in Fiji, it's perfectly pleasant and has calm water. There's a spacious deck with picnic tables, a volleyball net on the beach, free kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards available for rent. Note that the sun loungers tend to get snagged early. Occasionally, beach vendors selling horseback riding or excursions are walking around. Guests can also cool off with a dip in the small outdoor pool, though due to its central location in the middle of the restaurant, it tends to stay unused. One of the best dive centers in Nadi is based here, offering scuba gear and lessons for all levels.

There's a self-serve laundry area; tokens and detergent can be purchase at the front desk. The small spa is available for massages, facials, and hair braiding. Guests can access free Wi-Fi in the lobby and main restaurant, but will have to pay for in-room Wi-Fi.

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Address

13 Wasawasa Road, Wailoaloa Beach, Nadi Bay, Nadi, Fiji

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