Even the name conjures up visions of luxury. Fiji, in the South Pacific, has always had that faraway allure. Well, it is far away, but you can get there, and the trip is worth it. Fiji is paradise, an outdoor nation of 333 volcanic islands where the air stays warm, the beaches are white and clean and the wildlife is abundant. Even the rains that quickly brush by are welcome as they renew this lush, tropical land. Fittingly, Fiji is home to some of the most beautiful resorts in the world.
The Outrigger on the Lagoon is Fiji's first five-star resort, according to its website. It's a large, luxurious, easy-to-get-to destination on the south side of Viti Levu, the largest island. This is the island where international flights arrive, so you won't need to make any short hop to another island by plane or boat. There is much to do at the Outrigger, including swimming in a tropical pool, diving, snorkeling and paddle boarding. Other offerings are a fitness center, a golf training facility, a spa, tennis courts, a hair salon and planned children's activities. And of course, there's the beach, a long stretch of perfect white sand. The resort offers traditional Fijian feasts and fire walking demonstrations. The Ivi restaurant, restricted to adults, serves contemporary international cuisine in an intimate plantation setting. A more casual restaurant, Vale Ni Kana, is another option. The Outrigger is for those who want to get away from it all without getting away from everything, and for those who need to keep busy while they relax.
A trip to the South Pacific usually means leaving the rat race behind. Fiji is happy to comply. Smaller resorts on Fijian islands are places where you can feel deliciously alone. Turtle Island, where the "Blue Lagoon'' films were made, is such a place. The 500-acre island can accommodate 14 couples at a time, or perhaps only one. It is one of the few islands you can rent in its entirety for a week at a time. Couples have their own luxury "bure,'' or cottage, near the water's edge. Group dinner parties are offered at various places on the island, or you and your partner can dine quietly by yourselves at the end of a pier over the water, surrounded by lanterns. Your chefs prepare yellow fin tuna, lobster, Australian beef and native fruits and vegetables. With so few guests, a great deal of pampering goes on here.
The Middle Ground
Castaway Island is more of a middle ground -- these 174 acres offer a great deal of privacy, but you won't feel as though you're on a desert isle. Fiji Holiday Resort on Castaway Island has 66 individual bures of varying sizes, perfect for couples, singles and families of up to 10 people. The resort's Water's Edge restaurant is truly at the water's edge and features island cuisine. The Sundowner Pizza Bar offers Italian-style wood-fired pizza, cooked outdoors. Castaway also offers PADI International Open Water Certification in a four-day course or temporary certification in one day. Castaway's boat The Sokia accommodates up to 16 fully equipped divers to any of the 20 dive sites within a 20-minute boat ride of the island.
Vanua Levu, Fiji's second-largest island, is the idyllic setting for the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort. This eco-friendly resort on 17 acres of a coconut plantation overlooks Savusavu Bay. Cousteau, the son of famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, has lent his imprimatur to this island paradise. It is the only luxury resort employing a full-time marine biologist to guide visitors as they explore the underwater world. Twenty-four bures and a 2,000-square-foot villa are available for rent. You won't have a chance to be bored. Aside from diving and snorkeling, there are daily yoga classes, and the resort offers day trips every day to explore natural wonders such as a coral reef or the rain forest, or a day to explore a Fijian village nearby and study the language. The owners want visitors to leave with an appreciation for Fijian culture and a desire to protect this real-life Shangri-La.
- Island Paradise image by Rick Chesler from Fotolia.com