Local getaways, international escapes
Now’s the time to head back to paradise for top cuisine, snorkelling, adventures and friendly smiles.
In February, Fiji took a battering from Tropical Cyclone Winston, with the Category 5 storm damaging many parts of the nation’s north and leaving over 30,000 people homeless. Yet for a nation that’s regarded as the friendliest on the planet and where the signature ‘bula’ term – literally meaning ‘life’ – is at the forefront of everything Fijians do, tourism is the lifeblood.
There have been cancellations aplenty and forward bookings are down, primarily on the back of concerns the country is devastated. But it’s not: only a couple of properties are closed for repairs.
Around the nation, it’s back to business as usual. Here are Time Out’s picks for three top getaways across Fiji.
OUTRIGGER FIJI BEACH RESORT, CORAL COAST
Few places in the South Pacific can match Fiji’s Coral Coast, with quiet beaches, top local cuisine, friendly service and activities aplenty. Leading the way down here is the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort ( www.outrigger.com), a luxury property unrivalled in Fiji for food and drink, day-spa treatments and a butler service for a mid-range price tag.
Seven different room types are on offer and Time Out recommends booking a beachfront bure (hut), which is a spacious 50m2 and comes complete with a king bed and pull-out sofa, has a daily Talai butler service with complimentary Champagne and canapés, and is just a metre from the beach.
Nearby is the Sundowner Bar and Grill, which overlooks the beach and aims west, meaning sunsets here are spectacular, particularly with a Baravi Barrel (a rum and pineapple cocktail) in hand. The lunch and dinner menu features local seafood and Australian meats, including mahi mahi and Cape Grim sirloin. Fine dining is to be had at Ivi, where barbecue king prawns, rare roast venison fillet and a mangrove crab wonton bisque rule the menu alongside the best wine list on Fiji’s main island.
Across the expansive resort, there’s also a Vahavu adults-only swimming pool complete with a swim-up bar and bistro, the Bebe Spa on a hilltop overlooking the Coral Coast, and a late-night bar and disco, the Vakavanua Lounge.
Those with kids will love the meimei nanny service, which offers child minding and activities for kids aged six months to 12 years for up to eight hours per day, while kids and adults alike will enjoy a visit to the local Conua School, where guests can help rebuild the village hall or paint the classroom walls (a bit of ‘voluntourism’ can make your Fiji experience especially rewarding).
MUST DO: Book a journey with Sigatoka River Safaris ( www.sigatokariver.com), which offers jetboat rides along Fiji’s longest river and includes a visit to a Fijian village, where you can get a first-hand experience of life in this country (children three and under are free). Golfers should go a round at the Vijay Singh-designed Natadola Bay Golf Course, home of the Fiji Open, where several holes have a spectacular vista along the beach and lagoon.
LIKULIKU LAGOON RESORT, MAMANUCA ISLANDS
When you sail around the headland of Malolo Island in the Mamanucas and view Likuliku
Lagoon Resort ( likulikulagoon. com) for the first time, ten overwater bungalows set the scene for what you’re about to experience, which is unique for this part of the South Pacific.
If you don’t get an overwater bungalow, there’s another 35 located right on the beach. All feature traditional Fijian designs and natural materials, with luxurious furniture, double bathrooms, outdoor showers, lounges, daybeds and plunge pools. From the beach in front of your villa, the lagoon awaits, and it is loaded with tropical fish and coral in clear turquoise waters, while a ten-minute boat ride away you’ll find several uninhabited islands that are ideal for snorkelling.
Meals are included at this kid-free resort, with the kitchen helmed by Shane Watson, former executive chef at Perth’s highly acclaimed Print Hall. Watson’s signature dish? Local mud crabs: for breakfast in an omelette, and fried for lunch and dinner. Enjoy the claws over a glass of Akarua Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand. Watson also offers kitchen garden tours and cooking classes.
MUST DO: Those with the need for speed should take a jetski and snorkel tour out to Modriki Island (where the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away was filmed) and go windsurfing around the lagoon or diving nearby.
WYNDHAM, DENARAU ISLAND
A 15-minute drive from Nadi International Airport is Denarau Island, where you’ll find globally branded resorts including
Wyndham ( www.wyndhamap. com), where apartments come with fully equipped kitchen, living room, laundry and private balcony or courtyard, and are a few minutes’ walk from the beach. When the new wing was constructed, Wyndham also added the Maravu Pool and
Bar, an adults-only section of the resort that includes a swim-up pool bar. The main lagoon pool opposite the beach also had a makeover and this is the place to spend a few hours before sunset drinks at the beach club, which has beanbags on the sand, the ideal spot for a Martini, Mojito or the locals’ adapted Piña Colada. Then score a table at Mamacita, an eatery that serves classic Mexican dishes alongside Fijian-inspired takes on the cuisine. Daiquiris dominate the cocktail list.
MUST DO: Out at Ro Ro reef near the famed Cloud surf break is Cloud 9 ( www.cloud9.com.fj), a two-level floating bar that serves up local rum cocktails, ice-cold Fiji Bitter and wood-fired pizzas. Score a hanging chair or a day bed, and grab a snorkel and explore the lagoon.
Fiji Airways ( www.fijiairways. com) flies direct to Nadi. In Business Class on the wide-body Airbus A330s, expect a signature rum cocktail, top Australian wines, flatbed seats, entertainment on demand, pillows, blankets and local fare from chef Lance Seeto.
Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort Bebe Spa, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort
Likuliku Lagoon Resort