When one imagines Fiji, one thinks of dreamy South Pacific islands, white sandy beaches, abundant marine life, and perfectly swaying palms. This is all true of course, however Fiji has the wonderfully added advantage of having perhaps the friendliest, most hospitable people on the planet.
Fiji has 333 sun-kissed, dramatically beautiful islands. Only 111 of those are inhabited, with just over 900,000 people. In Fiji you will constantly hear “Bula,” the Fijian equivalent of aloha, delivered with a broad, grinning smile. When you return, you’ll hear the heartwarming, “Welcome home.”
Known as the world’s soft coral capital, Fiji has over 1,000 fish species. In fact, when Jean-Michael Cousteau first visited in 1989 he was, “blown away… by an amazing biodiversity of tropical coral reefs and abundant marine life.” The best part is that much can be seen with only a snorkel and mask. Indeed, few places in the world are as blessed by Mother Nature as Fiji.
Here are six reasons (though there are literally dozens more) to make your next island holiday at Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa:
1. Located on Picturesque Natadola Bay
The InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa is the perfect spot for an interlude to get acclimated to and acquainted with Fiji, or simply to enjoy the resort’s great location and many attributes. Known locally as the Intercon, this impressive 35-acre tropical resort on one of the main island’s best beaches is a property completely unlike its urban brethren across this brand in North America.
2. Rooms fit for a King and Queen (and their subjects)
Rooms are enormous and start at 630-square feet. If traveling with kids, they will have more fun than ought to be legal with Planet Trekkers Kids Club, a massive family pool, and a whole host of daily activities. If traveling sans junior, the beachfront adults-only pool is peacefully quiet and boasts forever views. The hilltop Club Level Villas – where I stayed – overlooks a stunning plateau and is more of a serene resort within a resort.
Villas boast more than 1,000 square feet with a separate bedroom, are furnished with local woods and art, have excellent bedding with high-count sheets, stocked minibar, French press, and large, dual-vanity granite bathrooms with Pure Fiji amenities. Most importantly, second floor Villas have huge balconies containing outdoor bathtubs and daybeds while first floor Villas have private plunge pools. The Club also has a beautiful pool with shade-providing conical daybeds and is situated for viewing some of the best sunsets Mother Nature provides.
3. Meals Designed to Make You Happy
Intercon guests staying in the Villas have access to The Club where lovely breakfasts, high teas, and happy hours are served, all of which made lunching superfluous. These were naturally served with a huge portion of non-caloric, intoxicating views.
At Toba Bar & Grill in the resort’s center, there is all manner of salads, poke bowls and several other healthy options. I enjoyed seared tuna and soba while admiring Natadola Bay. But caveat emptor sugar addicts, there is an ice cream stand nearby serving decadent New Zealand pure joy in a cone.
Sanasana has nightly themed buffet dinners, such as Italian, Indian, Asian, and Seafood. Happily, the night I dined there it was the ‘Fijian Flair,’ so ate my fill of Kokoda – local fish ceviche in coconut milk – taro, curry, and other local specialties. There was also live Fijian music adding to the festive atmosphere.
Designed in island chic, Intercon’s Navo is one of Fiji’s finest restaurants and overlooks the island of the same name once revered as a safe haven. Here guests can order either a four-course tasting menu, or à la carte. Fearful of my bikini, I opted for the tasty mud crab salad with green papaya and a mouthwatering Australian rib eye. The coconut rice’s was so delicious and had such a heavenly aroma it was nearly an out-of-body experience.
4. Do Nothing or Do Plenty
If you desire some serious rest and relaxation, you have picked the perfect spot. However, if you are looking for either cultural or sports activities, there is literally something for everyone at Intercon or nearby.
One of my favorite activities was a four-hour jet ski experience that leaves directly from the hotel. Stopping the Momi Sandbar for a snack, the backdrop is the deliriously gorgeous Monuriki, where Tom Hanks’ Castaway was filmed. Once the tides changed and the sandbar commenced receding, we hopped back on our jet skis, drove by Robinson Crusoe Island, then snorkeled in water as clear as vodka, warm as a bath, and several shades of turquoise blue while marine life flitted about.
Another great excursion is the Sigatoka River Safari that provides rare entrée into traditional Fijian life. Sigatoka River, Fiji’s longest at 75-miles, has along the banks’ interior over two dozen villages, each with a tribal chief, church, communal dining, small homes, and a village hall where kava ceremonies are held. Made from the kava root, this light brown mild alcohol involves a ceremonial preparation by village men followed by an offering to guests, then of course the all-important drinking.
On this trip I visited Tubairata village, meaning “run to higher ground” about 30 miles upriver. Its population of 238 includes several children and a number of dogs. Its chief, Timoci Nakaikoso, is 79, and is also chief of three neighboring villages. Tubairata has both electricity and 3G internet.
Villagers were genuinely hospitable, eager to show their homes, and prepared a traditional, delicious Fijian lunch spread following the kava ceremony. Upon the ceremony’s completion, serious singing and dancing ensued.
Returning to Sigatoka, the tide had dramatically changed. Every so often, people were fishing for tilapia and like a mirage, several horse heads were bobbing, their bodies fully submerged while handlers bathed them after their workday.
Guests can become citizen scientists for an afternoon working alongside a local marine biologist in tandem with Intercon’s successful coral restoration project that commenced last year. Following a brief lecture on coral life, we mixed Italian-sized ‘meatballs’ of cement, gypsum, and sand, then embarked on a two-hull motorboat. In the water, we attached the ‘meatballs’ to corals and replanted them on the reef’s outcrop. Within a few months, growth process will be visible.
5. Say Aaah to the Restorative Spa
The Intercon Spa is excellent. No small wonder it won the best resort spa in the South Pacific last year by Travel + Leisure. With a full menu of body and face treatments, one can easily spend an hour or three here. The Spa’s ‘Wai Zone’ circuit has a steam room, hot plunge, and ice shower with interval rain showers in between. While I would make a truly terrible Scandinavian, admittedly the ice shower felt refreshing after the fact. The traditional Fijian massage with coconut oil has strong cultural components and was a blissful and utterly restorative experience.
6. Nonstop Service from the West Coast
Award-wining Fiji Airways offers daily, nonstop service from LAX and thrice weekly nonstop service from SFO on modern A350-900s. Flights depart in the evenings, cross the international date line and arrive Nadi at dawn in time for a full day of Pacific pleasures.
When time to leave this Pacific paradise, you will be counting your blessings for locating paradise found. You will also without a doubt be plotting your return. Happy travels!
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” Her work has appeared in several major publications around the world, including The LA Times, The SF Examiner, The Asia Times, The Jerusalem Post, and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, among many others. She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com.
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Written by Julie L. Kessler
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