Barefoot Kuata should be on every Fiji vacation bucket list. It’s a place that works hard to support the local communities that have welcomed it into their land and shows visitors just how beautiful this part of the world really is.
Located in the beautiful Yasawa Island group, Barefoot Kuata is one of the closest islands to the city of Nadi. It takes only 3 hours to get to Kuata via the high-speed Yasawa Flyer ferry, operated by South Sea Cruises. There is only one departure each day at 8:30am – I recommend arriving at Denarau Marina an hour early and having breakfast at Lulu’s Cafe, which is right next to the boat terminal. The ferry ride is comfortable with both indoor and outdoor seating, and there is a licenced snack bar and washrooms onboard. The boat stops briefly at a few different islands before arriving at Kuata. Passengers and luggage are then transferred to the beach by smaller motorboats.
The alternative to taking the ferry is a 25-minute seaplane ride from Nadi Airport via Turtle Airways or Pacific Island Air. Unfortunately, seaplane operations have been paused due to the Covid pandemic and as of March 2023 there are still no flights to Kuata. Hopefully these will resume in the future because it’s a beautiful trip.
Once on the island, visitors are directed to an open-air hut and offered a non-alcoholic welcome drink, a short orientation and a bit of paperwork to fill out. No cash is accepted on the island, so all charges are billed together and settled at checkout. Nightly room rates range from $60 FJD (about $28 USD) for a bed in a dorm tent to $525 FJD (around $240 USD) for a luxurious beachfront bure. Meals are purchased at a daily rate of $119 FJD and they’re honestly worth every penny. Breakfast, lunch,and dinner are served at specified times as either a self-serve buffet or a 3-course meal served by the staff. We found both the service and food to be excellent during our stay.
During our first visit in 2019, we stayed in two different room types: the Beachfront Safari tent and the Seaview Queen bure (I think the latter has now been slightly renovated and renamed the Garden Bure). On our most recent visit, we splurged on the new Beachfront Bungalows. The resort also offers dorm-style accommodation in a tent, which is a great option for those with smaller budgets or anyone who wants a more social experience. All private rooms are equipped with shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and soap, and though rooms have power outlets, they don’t have wifi.
The Beachfront Safari Tent was our favourite during our first visit. Inspired by classic African safari camps, it had a writing desk, table and couch. It also featured a fully private, open-air bathroom. It was lovely to listen to the waves on the beach and the tropical rain hitting the roof of the tent. The only thing we would have liked was the addition of a lock on the door, or even a safe inside the room – though you can leave valuables in lockers at reception (BYO padlock), it can be a bit of a pain to have to keep doing this.
The new Beachfront Bures were added while the resort was closed during Covid. These units are fantastic. While the rooms themselves aren’t the most luxurious we’ve ever stayed in, they’re super comfortable and the location is unbeatable. Our unit was just steps away from the beach and featured a round daybed on the front patio, where we could relax to the sound of the ocean waves. Besides the beachfront location, my favourite part of this unit was the private open-air bathroom (there really is nothing like a midnight pee under the light of the Milky Way). The wood slat windows of the unit can be opened for fresh air or closed for privacy, and they all have mosquito screens. These rooms also have power outlets and shelves beside each bed (again, there’s no wifi access in the rooms) and a table with two chairs.
Activities at Barefoot Kuata
Even if you’re only on Kuata for the day, there’s tons to do in the water. The resort’s dive shop offers snorkeling gear and paddleboard rentals. There are also daily guided trips to the protected Moyia Reef, a 20-minute boat ride from the island, where you can snorkel or dive with reef sharks. Shark dives are offered for both certified and non-certified divers. Even if you’re not into diving, the shark snorkel is well worth the extra cost. It’s totally safe and even a great option for families and those who aren’t confident swimmers – you can grab a lifejacket before heading out or one of the pool noodles they bring along. (If you’re keen to learn more about shark diving in Fiji, I’ve written a whole post about it)
The main part of the beach in front of the units has beautifully warm and crystal-clear water which is great for both swimming and snorkeling — the reef is super close to the beach so you don’t have to go far to see cool little fishes and beautiful coral. Just remember to respect the sea life by admiring it without touching it. There are also 3 separate pools at the resort. Though none of them are very big, they’re perfect for families with young kids. There were several lounge chairs beside each pool to relax with a drink from the nearby bar, and a couple of hammocks along the edge of the property with stunning views of the turquoise water and nearby islands.
Though the highlights of Barefoot Kuata are the amazing water activities that it offers, it’s also possible to immerse yourself in the tropical beauty of the island by enjoying one of several walking trails, which the staff are happy to direct you to. The walk up to the peak is a moderately tiring trek uphill through the lush Fijian forest, and there’s a shorter walk to a beach and a cave around the backside of the island. There’s also a viewing deck just up the stairs behind the restaurant, which is a great spot to watch the sunset. Daily activities, such as basket weaving and village visits, are listed on a board in front of the dining area.
Dining at the resort
There’s only one restaurant at Barefoot Kuata, and meals are served at scheduled times throughout the day. The covered restaurant has a floor of soft white sand, conveying the perfect tropical vibe.
Meals are served either buffet-style, or a la carte – I think this might be decided by how many people are staying at the resort on that particular day. The food is made with mostly locally-sourced ingredients and the background music is the resort’s own talented staff playing guitar and ukulele. There is extra seating on the lawn in front of the restaurant and a separate covered bar is located just beside it. Since meals are served at scheduled times throughout the day, I recommend packing a few snacks in case you get hungry.
Barefoot Kuata is a member of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and does what it can to help the local communities and the environment around it. The Barefoot Collection, which also owns Barefoot Manta Resort, employs a team of marine biologists who help educate people about marine conservation and take on conservation projects that anyone can get involved with. An informative shark talk is offered nightly in front of the dining area at Kuata by one of the resident biologists.
The resort recruits most of its staff from villages around the neighbouring islands. Barefoot Kuata is also partnered with the fantastic organization Pack For A Purpose, which is an easy way for anyone to make a small difference. Just pack a few extra items like school or medical supplies, children’s clothing, or kitchenware, and you’ll be helping provide the local villages with things they need. Read more about how to make a difference on your trip to Fiji.
Barefoot Kuata markets itself not as a 5-star resort but rather a “5-star Robinson Crusoe experience,” which I think is a fantastic description of what it offers to its guests. It isn’t a resort that promises the highest degree of luxury, but it does exceed expectations by delivering a uniquely Fijian experience that does not compromise on quality or comfort. I absolutely recommend Barefoot Kuata Resort to those who want to get away from the mainland and experience an authentically Fijian experience. The staff at Kuata are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and the resort offers so much to do, whether you’re looking for a fun family adventure or a relaxing getaway. I personally can’t wait to return.
Are you planning a trip to Fiji?
Make sure to check out my guide on what to pack for Fiji, which details what you will want to have in your luggage for the climate and activities like village visits. I also give tips on the things you don’t need to bring with you and suggestions about the unique souvenirs you might want to bring back home with you.
You can also check out my Fiji language guide, which will give you a background on the three main languages in Fiji and help you learn some native Fijian words so you can connect with the friendly locals.
I’ve also created a printable travel planner that will help make trip planning a breeze. This 7-page PDF has spots to fill in hotel and flight details, emergency info, must-do activities and more. It is available as an instant digital download in the Onwards + Upwards shop.