FIJI. Just say it. Already the visions of teal blue ocean waves, swaying palm trees, bare feet in white sand, neon-orange sunsets and frosty umbrella drinks are filling your head. The Fijian islands are chock full of excellent accommodation choices, whether you are looking for a honeymoon getaway, a backpacker layover, a family vacation, or a cultural adventure. I visited over twenty resorts on nine islands and saw many others and these are my picks for travelers of every persuasion.
Pack lightly! All you need is sunblock, sandals, a sarong, and reservations at one of these amazing resorts.
Namale Resort on Vanua Levu Island: There are other resorts as insanely romantic and extremely isolated as Namale, but it is the small touches which raise it above the rest. You arrive at your room to find your name carved out of wood on the door and Bula Bula spelled out in frangipani leaves on your mosquito-net covered bed. Grab a Fiji Bitter (included, of course) from your fully stocked fridge and have a wander around the immense grounds; chances are you won’t run into anyone other than the golf-cart driver who asks if you would like a ride. Before going for a delicious, candlelit dinner in the immense but somehow cozy main bure, hang out in one of the many private pools and hot tubs overlooking the ocean, have a champagne picnic brought to you in the spa, or maybe go horseback riding on the beach at sunset. And when you leave Namale, you will create a garden stone, pushing seashells, pink rocks, and your initials into a wet concrete block that will become part of the resort’s immense garden grounds, for travelers to admire and for you to find when you undoubtedly return to Namale.
Vomo Island Resort on Vomo Island: The white sand of Vomo Island sinks like cheese as you walk and is the definition of a perfect beach, whether you are on the calmer, swimming side of the island or on the wilder, rougher, water sports side. Just offshore Vomo is some of the most brightly colored coral in the world; snorkel or SCUBA to your heart’s desire and recuperate in a hammock overlooking the South Pacific. Cocktail hour is at “The Rocks”, an ocean side bar with front-row seats for the sunset flight of hundreds of fruit bats home from the neighboring island. After your spa or gourmet breakfast, hike up to the island’s highest point for a god’s-eye view, visit the baby sea turtles and learn about the resort’s breeding program, or return to your room decorated in Fijian minimalist style, and share with your sweetie the bottle of wine that is chilled and waiting for you.
Malolo Island Resort on Malolo Island: This resort caters to lucky, lucky, children and the adults who are paying their way. While the ‘rents enjoy fizzy blue drinks that match the bright water of the beachside bar, the kids can play in the giant playhouse and treehouse, throwing around car-sized bouncy balls and stuffed animals, all under the watchful guise of the hotel’s nannies. The spa here is a jungle spa, meaning that while you lay facedown getting your flesh massaged, half of the room you are in is actually the dark green Fijian jungle- those tropical bird calls are no recording. Rooms have recently been renovated in a perky blue and white theme, and your most pressing decision will be from which hammock to watch the seaplanes splash down.
Musket Cove Resort on Malolo Lailai Island: This giant resort is not as luxurious as many, but it is a center for world cruisers, and people sailing around the world tend to add spice to the nightlife in a country where most travelers are coupled off. The beach is fantastic, the stock store is fun for browsing, and the sailboats tied up are great for dreaming. Even the pool boasts a real sailboat (it was explained to me in one word: “Canadians”). Musket Cove has several bars, one right over the water offering $2 beer that must be the world’s most perfect setting to watch the sun sink into the salty South Pacific. Though the grounds of Musket Cove are large and spread out, there is not a big-resort feel and you are not sharing your beach chair and mai tai with the screams of children and stomps of their older brothers.
FOR THOSE WHO JUST ARRIVED IN NADI
First Landing Resort on Viti Levu: Sure, Denarau might be a few minutes closer to Fiji’s international airport, but do you really want to spend your first or last night in paradise in the “Waikiki” of Fiji? If you need a place to crash when you first arrive or the night before you depart, stay at the place where legend has it the ancestral Fijians first landed. The beautiful private villas have private pools with private waterfalls, and you can take dinner with the resort’s hosts overlooking the yet another picture-perfect beach. As you watch your first (or last) Fijian sunset out on the foot-shaped peninsula before returning to your villa, you will understand why those first Fijians never left, and you might just decide to join them!
FOR CULTURE VULTURES:
Maravu Plantation Resort on Taveuni Island: This family-friendly hotel might be across the road from the beach, but what it lacks in instant ocean access it makes up for with a genuine Fijian experience. Taveuni is the garden island of Fiji and the jungle greets you warmly; here you can hike past palm trees and streams dotted with purple spotted crabs to multiple hidden waterfalls. Return to the resort and relax in your traditional bure nestled in the thick green lawn, or come up to the main lodge and check out all of the Fijian artifacts. The bartender mixes special cocktails each night to go with a buffet dinner with piles of lobster meat a foot high and a ridiculous amount of desserts. Whatever you do, don’t miss the evening show, the best in Fiji, starring the resort workers’ children. The very young ones sit in the laps of their parents and sing their hearts out, the young ladies tell an ancient story with their graceful dance, and the boys perform a warrior chant with such passion you cannot fail to be moved, and just maybe get a glimpse of the true Fiji as well.