Many of you will know I just spent a week in Fiji; my home away from home. I continue to love the place more and more each time I visit.
As soon as I step off the plane (Air New Zealand, my preferred airline), the instant heat and the familiar sound of the Fijian voices singing to welcome tourists, melts my heart and I feel at peace and at home. You can fly with Fiji Airways or via Australia, Virgin, Qantas or Jetstar. The airport hasn’t changed much at all over the years but still functions well. Transport in shoddy taxis is all part of the fun taking us to one of the lovely 4-5 star resorts in Denarau; either the Wyndam, Radisson, Sheraton, Sheraton Villas, Sofitel and Hilton. Make sure you ask about room configuration at the Villas, as these are very popular and they have 2 story or 1 story villas which are great for families.
Denarau is about 30 minutes drive from the Nadi airport and has everything you need. I have been fortunate to stay at them all, and you have a vast array of restaurants, pools and beautiful beaches at your doorstep. Not only is there the stunning Denarau Golf Course, but there is a rum tasting cellar at the golf course!. I’m not a rum drinker yet the rum is to die for, and you savour it as is without any mixer. We bought the white chocolate and I’ve just ordered the coffee rum. There are also tennis courts, water slides for the kids, a miniputt, outdoor ten pin bowling, trampolines, suspension rides let alone other water sports you can do and mini island excursions.
Most of the resorts have a gym and lovely spa facilities. If you book in at the Sheraton you can have breakfast there or the Westin and it pays to get the breakfast included in your room rate. My preference is the Westin as they have an amazing vege juicer with a vast array of veges prepared to be pulped by you. My favourite spot out of all the resorts is the Sofitel and that’s just a personal preference. I like the rooms, the pool and the beach.
Places to eat: The Hilton Deli is my ultimate favourite place for lunch as you design your own salad, or choose from French quiches, filled baguettes and they have the best pastries in Denarau. Salt restaurant at the Sofitel is fabulous and I recommend the fresh tuna nicoise salad. Try The Noodle Bar by the Hilton. I tried Mamasita Mexican restaurant at the Wyndam which was good and it offers a live cultural show as part of the entertainment. Ports of Call restaurant at the Sheraton is fine dining and an absolutely amazing experience if you truly want to splash out. You can eat affordably down at the Port. The Fijians know how to do curry really well so try the Indian/Asian restaurant or Cardos, as they do a good steak and stirfrys. Try Lulus, a seafood restaurant, or the Italian restaurant, Chefs or even the Hard Rock Cafe. Obviously eating in the 5 star restaurants is expensive. However to save money, take snacks over with you for your children, and just declare these at Customs. Mahi Mahi is one of the local fish to eat in Fiji and is delicious. Salads and veges seem to be scarce at dinner unless you do a buffet, so get a good intake of these at breakfast and lunch. Most of the restaurants have live music and the bands are really really good. There is a lot of talent over there. Checkout the happy hours. The Radisson has a good one from 5pm to 6pm every night. Cocktails in Fiji are good too.
Get your kids enrolled at the kids club and/or enquire about babysitters. The Fijians adore children and are amazing with them. Be very trusting as you have nothing to worry about. Treat yourselves to some date nights and time to yourselves away from the kids at night and/or during the day and then have some fabulous family days together- then that’s a true holiday. Many a time I have witnessed children crying, only to be picked up by a Fijian and they are instantly soothed.
You can walk in and out of all the resorts; they distinguish themselves with different pool towels however they don’t seem too perturbed by anyone checking out their places if you’re not staying there as long as you’re well behaved! You can go for really nice walks/runs around the resorts and it’s very safe. It gets light about 615am in the morning and dark about 530pm each night. You can walk, take a taxi or the Bula Bus to the Port which also has a supermarket, DFS store, shops and good affordable restaurants. It’s about 10-15 minutes walk, and 5 minutes in a taxi or 10-15 minutes in the bus.
At the Port is where the Captain Cook cruises depart from as well as many boat cruises and day tours to various islands. You can also helicopter to various islands. Given there are so many islands to choose from (333 in fact), you could spend your life returning to Fiji every year and still not visit them all. I’ve stayed at Treasure Island which was true bliss and did a day trip to Beachcomber from there which was fun but more for backpackers. They have a sand bar on the beach and bunk beds etc. I had a fab lunch at Castaway, and sailed past Plantation and Musket Cove Islands. There is also a new Sheraton just opened on Tokoriki Island which looks lovely.
Nadi town is ok, a little dirty and noisy but all part of the experience. You can get there by local bus or taxi rides which costs about 15 FJD each way from Denarau, and they have a great DFS store and a few good stores if you want to spend more time with your purchases and buy in advance. You can then claim your VAT tax back at the airport. Make sure you keep all receipts and show them first to Customs before checking in. Make sure you also check into your luggage any liquids over the 100ml restriction (unlike me forgetting to do this and one skincare item got confiscated as it was 200ml, and I had it in my hand luggage in the duty free bag). Doh- lesson learned. Duty free shopping is great at the airport as they have lots of specials.
I love the mainland and highly recommend staying on the Nadi side of the island as the weather is guaranteed to be better, according to my husband who travels to both Nadi and Suva every year for work, and has done over the last 25 years. I would always recommend to try both the mainland and an island so you can compare and for first timers finish on the island and then go home.
The Shangri-La resort which is about an hour’s drive from Nadi airport is a really nice property also and great for families with all amenties and golf course etc. The chapel there is to die for and is the best chapel setting I’ve seen in my life. I would so love someone to get married there- any takers?
I visited Natandola Champion Golf Course for the first time and the setting is stunning however it was extremely windy and was raining and was so different from the stunning day we left in Denarau; apparently it is like this quite often. If you’re a golf nut, you have to play there! I checked out the InterContinental which was stunning (about 10 minutes by car from the golf course) however it is very quiet and isolated. If you’re on honeymoon you may love it but if you like variety and lots of things to do, like me, it isn’t for you.
You need to be patient in Fiji as you are on island time so just go with the flow. Be adventurous and relax. Respect the people and be kind always. You contribute to their economy by travelling there and they do value tourism and do it very well.