If I told you to picture a vacation in Fiji, I’m quite sure I could draw the picture. I’d start with a high-end resort. Crystal blue water. A buffet breakfast. And in all its glory, the picture would be complete.
Don’t get me wrong: such minimalism is not a bad thing. It is, in fact, why we book ourselves a holiday. For once, nothingness (coated in luxurious tanning oil) is exactly what we desire. We return home relaxed and rejuvenated. There’s little more we could demand of a vacation, right?
Wrong. Well, not entirely. There is no doubt that this is satisfying in its own way. There comes a point, however, where one desires more. This point I met while I was updating my C.V. just a while ago. I had added Fiji to my long list of travels, and yet, I wondered how secure its place on that list remained. Had I really come to know Fiji at all?
A long three years ago, I boarded a plane to Fiji for an indulgent family stay at the Sheraton (you might remember these posts). Now, I have nothing against the Sheraton. In fact, if it were a God, I would probably bow down to it in hope for another outdoor massage, a king-size bed and a chocolate croissant in the morning. It is everything you could ask for a resort to be, and then some more.
My issue, then, is not with the Sheraton, but with the entire concept of resorts — more specifically, their aim to hold you in one place for your entire stay. The provision of every activity and time-filler under the sun (quite literally), exists to ensure one thing: that have you the desire to do more than lie on a beach chair, such that you’d want to do (get a massage or go snorkelling) would be available on-site anyway. It makes sense too. More time at the resort is more money spent at the resort. It doesn’t take a scientist to work out — just the continued efforts of Fijian tourism.
The experiencing of authentic Fijian life – other than that which is monitored (cultural shows and fine cuisine) – felt rather avoided in Denerau. Even our ride from the airports into the gates of Resort land (yes, gates) seemed to pass by Fijian villages at such a pace, it appeared hopeful we wouldn’t see it at all. Perhaps it is an assumption that vacationers are not interested; perhaps they are typically not.
On returning to Fiji, my intention (and importantly, my resources, being it was just I and my boyfriend, A.J.) were of a much different characterisation. I wanted both: the luxury and the reality. The experience and the culture. The relax and the adventure. I’d had a busy trimester and I was feeling greedy. I wanted it all.
With the help of Web Media Fiji, I set out to discover the myriad of ways one can ‘do’ Fiji. As it turns out, our association of Fiji with purely high-end holidays is incredibly limiting. After reading this post, I hope you’ll never have to cancel your trip by virtue of expense again. There’s something for everyone in Fiji; you merely have to look past the media’s top 10.
It makes sense to begin with the Warwick. Of all accommodation I’ll discuss, this one is most comparable to the Sheraton — and only for the best of reasons. If you do desire to reap the plentiful perks of a high-end resort (don’t worry, I did too), this is one you’ll want to look into.
I remember walking into my travel agent prior to this trip and sitting puzzled when she asked me about a budget. I was sure we had one; I simply didn’t know how much a holiday of the likes should or shouldn’t cost us. So she asked me where we’d previously stayed. I directed her to the Sheraton, and let’s just say this: that I’d one day understand the value of money once mine was on the table, Mum was right. For we were travelling on to Sydney and then, to the South Island, Fiji was only intended to be a stop-over (that it became so much more is another story I’ll tell later). We looked next at The Warwick Fiji (thank you, Tania O’Reilly at Flight Centre). It checked all boxes.
The Warwick Fiji is situated in Korolevu on the Coral Coast, a 90 minute drive from Nadi airport. Much as Denerau may offer convenience and lagoon-like pools, the Coral Coast is home to your dreamy, white-sand beaches — those of which you shan’t find, by virtue of location, at Port Denerau. Resorts along the Coral Coast, given their situation that bit further, are much more reasonably priced. If you wish to maintain luxury and pay a bit less, Korolevu is your destination. You needn’t fret about sourcing transport either. Dozens of transfers run from the airport directly to resorts in this area. If you desire, they’ll stop at supermarket en-route for supplies. They’re your first taste of friendly, Fijian hospitality.
The Warwick Fiji is your second. A step on their grounds is never met without a strong welcome (need I name the greeting?!). On site, you’ll find 5 restaurants, including the Wicked Walu situated on the water. It’s a must-do seafood joint, even for vegetarians like myself (impeccable service, wonderful food and bright cocktails). For the several pools, spa and swim-up bar, I wish we had more time to spend here. We did, however, indulge in morning swims, calm walks along the beach at dawn and at dusk.
Such walks were never not followed by a colossal feed at the buffet service. There’s nothing quite like the ease of waking up and walking to warm croissants, waffles and pancakes; hash browns and eggs; muesli and fresh fruit. A.J. and I set the standard at 3 rounds minimum. Ask me if I have regrets?
For the sunset view, the beachfront villas are a good idea. All rooms are air-conditioned, spacious and consistent of two inviting double beds. If you’re not having a vino on your balcony, grab the right gear and go snorkelling — it’s all complimentary! Enjoy a little tennis or beach volleyball. Do as we did and verse each other in foosball. Fill with unnecessary angst when your partner wins (sorry A.J.). Realise how good life is given that this is your greatest concern here at the Warwick.
A common misconception of Fiji is that its purely a resort destination. If a resort is out of your budget or simply not your thing, don’t skip over Fiji. Established in the 1990s, you’ll feel right at home at The Beach House, a tropical backpackers also situated in Korolevu (5 minutes drive from The Warwick Fiji). Walking the grounds here is like finding The Beach with Leo Dicaprio, only without the drugs, the illegalities, and the cruelty of human nature. Nothing intervenes with the simplicity and serenity at the Beach House. The murmur of folks chatting, drinking and laughing is the kind of calm music you should expect to hear on this sheltered lagoon.
The Beach House has been utilised as the film venue for 2 reality TV shows and a movie. It’s easy to tell. It wears gorgeous warm woods and coconut palms. With plenty of outdoor fires, the ability to bask in the beachfront view endures through the evening; so too does this friendly and relaxed social environment.
Located directly in amongst the locals, they’re genuine when they ensure a more “authentic Fijian experience”. Their relationship with neighbouring villages is a strong one, as their offering of many village trips does confirm.
The notion here is do all, or do nothing. Go on an island trip or a jungle trek. Paddle-board, kayak, or horse-ride. Enjoy cava, evening yoga and shopping in Sigatoka— or don’t. There’s no judgement either way. The culture here is yours to envelop, but only to the extent you so desire.
Despite their hosting of events which attract neighbouring resort-stayers — bonfire nights and live music — there is no endeavour to impress; no intention to be anything other than what it is, here at The Beach House. On arrival, owner Andrew serves up some coconut-based cocktails (“they’re pretty much healthy!”, he laughs) from the Coconut café. Often, in mid-conversation, we catch him watching his guests with a smile. He shrugs his shoulders: “We don’t aim to compete here, you know.” And he’s right. There’s no need. Everything is right here on the beach.
Nila Beach Resort is one I hold close to my heart. Located in Lautoka, Viti Levu, it’s about 11km from the airport. For they’ve only recently opened, there is little signage on the way. Locals are your best guides; fortunately, taxi drivers are never afraid to ask. Once located, its convenience is treasured, particularly right before departing from Fiji. Instead of timing transfers, we were timing our tans until the very last moment.
While any difficulty to locate the resort (including thoroughfare by dirt roads) may act to turn you off initially, on arrival, you quickly learn how advantageous this is. Even with several villas already filled, it is so beautifully quiet here. Much as I love little ones, without their screaming and shouting, resort mornings are filled instead by the sounds of birds and a warm breeze.
There’s a distinct difference between Nila and its competing resorts, that which lies in the accommodation provided. Here at Nila, you don’t simply pay for a room, but a villa. It’s a home away from home — except better, for its beachfront, and each room is paired with a private bathroom and luxurious spa tub. Owner Mohan has quite obviously put his life and soul into assuring his accommodation stands out. His efforts have certainly not gone to waste.
At Nila Beach Resort, life goes slowly. Or perhaps it goes fast. You don’t notice. You’re on a cloud of your own, accompanied only by blue sky and the beach below. If you’re searching for an ultimate getaway for you and your partner, you’ve found your place. Away from the rush and interruptions of home life, Nila Beach offers a place for just you and your partner — not you and your partner and this person and that task. As we ran for morning swims, and the sun shone on our backs, we heard our voices and little else. I breathed for the first time in a long time. We needed this, I thought.
The evening saw us indulge in exquisite Indian cuisine at Eshaa restaurant (located on-site). A rarity for me (unfortunately, I’m of the picky kind), I ordered some sort of spinach and cream-cheese curry. And low and behold, I loved it! The food was unbelievably flavoursome, the service and the atmosphere, without fault. What’s more, I probably downed about 5 cocktails — they were so explosively colourful and far too drinkable. Ah, holidays, right!?
There is an abundance of potential here at Nila Beach Resort. If you don’t book your next holiday here, do in a few years time. Mohan plans to expand his grounds across the fronting lagoon. He’s talking sea-top villas, that is, roll-out-of-bed-into-the-water-type accommodation. He pointed to one in the very centre of the lagoon: “One day, you’ll stay here.” I jumped, and told him I couldn’t wait. Mohan has idyllic dreams, I tell you, and I have no doubt he’s the man for making them a reality.
Enjoy your holidays, folks, no matter how they be characterised. With a stay at any of these three places, there’s no way you won’t leave satisfied.