Born in the Southwest, raised in the Northwest, I have called the South Pacific home for nearly 25 years. I founded J2 Travels in the late 1990s to share our knowledge with other like minded travelers – remembering always, that the joy is in the journey. I currently live on Maui, I'm endorsed by IATA, and am a member of the Fiji, Tahiti and New Zealand Tourism Boards.
Testimonials from Joni's clients:
"I want to say a big THANK YOU!! We had the most amazing time on our trip. Everything was wonderful. We absolutely loved Queenstown. We took the bus out to Milford Sound and then took a helicopter back as you suggested. It was raining the whole way out there but then the rain disappeared so we saw so many waterfalls it was breathtaking! We also went horseback riding in Glenorchy (well, I did – Pete got sick!) and that was amazing. The drive out there was beautiful and the ride itself was really fun. We tried to go skydiving but unfortunately it cancelled twice because of the winds. We also went jetboating,and spent a lot of time in the restaurants and bars in town. We then spent a few hours in Nelson and went out to Bleinhem for a day and did some wine-tasting, which was a lot of fun. When we were in Motueka we spent sometime relaxing and then did an 8 hour kayak/hike through Abel Tasman, which was truly amazing…and tiring! We spent a lot of our time in Rotorua just hanging out at the hotel and relaxing because it was just so beautiful, but we did go to hell’s gate which was really neat. In Auckland we spent a day walking around and then played golf one day. We also went to dinner at the Mudbrick restaurant in Waiheke which was great.
And on to Fiji...it was amazing! We loved Tokoriki. It was a beautiful spot and the Fijian people that worked there were so warm and friendly. The honeymoon bure that we stayed in was absolutely amazing, and we spent a lot of time just hanging out in our plunge pool. We also went snorkeling a few times, which was great. The food was also really good. As for the seaweed, there was definitely a fair bit of seaweed around and a slight smell of it, but it really wasn’t a big problem. After the first day we didn’t even think about it. I would definitely recommend Tokoriki to others, and would love to go back someday.
Thank you again for all of your help. We will definitely let our friends and family know how great you were when they head off to NZ / Fiji!
- Megan & Pete
"We had a fantastic time in Fiji. Qamea was particularly wonderful-rustic, authentic, beautiful, and communal. Staff members were incredibly friendly and always very accommodating. Namale was spectacular and definitely more upscale. Our bure was so elegant and we had a private deck overlooking the ocean that was phenomenal. We appreciated the remoteness and feel of Qamea over Namale, however, so we were delighted to have been there longer. I would certainly recommend Qamea to anyone traveling to that area of the world.
Thanks again for arranging this remarkable trip. It was incredibly unique and one we will remember always. We're both grateful to you.
- Naomi & Matt
"The Four Seasons Maui and your recommendations for the other island resorts we visited were wonderful. The Four Seasons Maui is impeccable, as we also enjoyed the Halekulani on Oahu and the Hyatt at Poipu on Kauai.
Thank you so much for your attention to detail, your availability every step of the way planning our honeymoon and assisting our guests. Your surprise gifts to us and our guests were extra special touches, and I can't rave enough about you. Even through the most stressful times I endured, you always kept your calm and made sure we were taken care of. You went above and beyond for us, going to the Four Seasons to take pictures of the construction before we got there for the wedding so we would be prepared, calling around to local stores to help me find items for gift baskets, giving us the scoop on where to shop, eat, etc.-all in such great detail as well!
You really are a true, experienced travel agent that doesn't just book trips, but travels to and knows the areas and resorts in which you book your clients and you become a trusted friend. It is with the utmost gratitude we write this in appreciation for everything you did to help make our honeymoon dreams come true for us and our guests.
- Michelle & Scott
"We are now home and slowly acclimating to reality. We had the most fabulous time on our holiday and want to thank you for seeing to it that every little detail was well planned, organized, and executed. We feel you really listened to our desires and planned "THE PERFECT" holiday...thank you so very much. We will definitely call you again and have recommended you to several of our friends. It is obvious that you really know both New Zealand and Fiji as I'm sure you know the other locations you book for your clients, I especially liked how you found locations that were less "touristy" and more reflective of the countries we were visiting...just as I requested. Thank you!"
- Randy and Teresa
"Kurstan and I had the most amazing time on our trip to Maui. The wedding went off without a hitch, even though when we arrived at the house that we rented for the occasion there were hurricane strength winds. They died down in just enough time to get the flower circle in a perfect place overlooking the ocean and everything went according to plan. The ceremony was thoughtful and such a happy time for us as well as Kurstan's mom and Jack who seemed pleased with the arrangements as well.
As for the honeymoon, that was a vacation of a lifetime. I have never been as happy as I was on this trip. The hotel was lovely and the service was fantastic. Our room was more spacious than I imagined and the view was breathtaking. The hotel itself was beautiful from the lounges to the restaurants to the pool area to the beach. The beach was the best that we saw on the island.
Also, Joni, you were so helpful in getting everything arranged with us and Kurstan's mom. It was difficult for us not having ever been to Maui figuring out where to stay and what to do, but you were more than helpful in making this a trip that will be remembered throughout our lives. What a way to start a marriage!
And, thank you for the champagne you sent to our room upon our arrival. It was such a great way to start our trip.
Thank you so much for everything, and we'll definitely contact you for any help we need with travel in the future.
- Heather & Kurstan
"Lisa and I had a magical experience at Qamea and everything was wonderful! You prepared us perfectly and all the details were worry free. We had a beautiful sunny day outdoor wedding in Michigan and then whisked away to paradise.
Thank you does not fully communicate our appreciation and we will be sending you referrals at every opportunity. We will be in touch soon and again, sincere thanks and warm regards!
Overwater bungalows are, as the name implies, standalone bungalows positioned over the water.
Usually, over-water bungalows are located close to shore, allowing for easy access to the main resort building,
its beaches and amenities. The bungalows are linked to the mainland via long plank walkways.
The bungalows themselves are hoisted above the water on sturdy pillars and sit on large platforms.
Often times, they contain a glass coffee table or floor so you can look at the water and its sea life below.
At right is a the bathroom in an overwater bungalow at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui--note the glass floor and the view to
the water below. As you can see, while the bungalows might look primitive from the outside, they're usually
quite luxurious inside.
In many resorts, the overwater bungalows are clustered pretty closely together, partly because real estate isn't cheap
in these places, and partly because if you separate the bungalows by too much, the walk back to shore from the outer bungalows becomes
a bit much--remember that the restaurants, spa, pool, etc. will generally be on shore, and also for most excursions you'll be picked up
at a common, central dock--not at your particular bungalow.
And before you roll your eyes, thinking "REALLY...how far could that be?"...at one of the resorts in Bora Bora,
for instance, the walk from the main resort atoll to the outermost bungalow is 900 yards!
What are Over Water Villas?
In the Maldives and occasionally elsewhere, overwater bungalows are referred to as "water villas" or "over water villas".
They're really the same thing as overwater bungalows--it's just that the "villas" term is more commonly used in the Maldives.
In some luxury resorts in French Polynesia, the resorts have started calling their larger, more luxurious overwater bungalows
"overwater villas"--really this is just a branding or product differentiation move.
Where can we find Overwater Bungalows and Over Water Villas?
They're not just in French Polynesia anymore--although they're certainly quite prevalent there, and most resorts there have them.
They've become quite popular in the Maldives as well (again, most resorts there have over water villas), and there are a handful
of them in places like Likuliku in Fiji, the Caribbean, Vanuatu, and southeast Asia. For a full list of overwater bungalows around the
world--complete with photo galleries, virtual tours, and maps--scroll to the bottom of this page.
Although the overwater bungalows may look rustic from the outside, their comforts are anything but!
Luxury offerings in over water bungalows can include satellite and plasma screen TV, a CD/DVD player,
air-conditioning, security safe, private balcony, minibar, and, of course, the million-dollar view!
In French Polynesia (the proper name for Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc.), many resorts invite their overwater bungalow guests to experience canoe breakfasts - a full selection of morning
delights delivered via canoe by native Polynesians in traditional dress.
Some resorts have mostly just white sand under the bungalows, which means about all you'll
find are sting rays and perhaps spotted eagle rays. Looks beautiful from the photos, but if you have visions of snorkeling with the fish
right from your bungalow, look for resorts like the Hilton Moorea (pictured at left),
which have many coral heads right there to attract the fish.
And Hotel Bora Bora is known for the manta rays that swim right up to their dock!
History of Overwater Bungalows
Over water bungalows first appeared in French Polynesia, on the island of Moorea, during the 1960s.
Three Californian men known as the Bali Hai Boys
extended their resort, Club Bali Hai Moorea,
into the reef-protected lagoon and created the first over water bungalows, called Bali Hai.
The idea soon spread to elsewhere in Tahiti and the South Pacific, eventually expanding to Maldives and later, the Caribbean, during the 1980s.
How safe are Overwater Bungalows?
Over water bungalows are very safe. Because they are anchored deep into the sand by sturdy pillars, they cannot float away.
As with any water sport, snorkeling from your bungalow is not without its risks. However, overwater bungalows are typically located in shallow lagoons.
Shark spottings are common in Tahiti and her islands, however, they are usually found in deeper water.
Around over water bungalows, you are much more likely to see small, colorful reef fish.
Small sting rays and spotted eagle rays (2 to 3 feet across) are also common in the flat sandy shallow areas.