It’s understandable that those unfamiliar with Fiji’s Denarau Island may think it’s a remote Fijian isle. In actuality, Denarau Island is a gated tourism development, a scant 20-minute drive from Nadi International Airport. Denarau Island is approached over a 100-yard bridge from the mainland. The former mangrove island has been under development since 1969 and today it has private homes, a championship golf course, a port and a number of five-star hotels, including such familiar brands as Hilton, Radisson, Sheraton, Sofitel and Westin. Many visitors use Denarau Island as a stopping-off point for a night or two to catch their breath after a long flight before continuing on to explore some of Fiji’s more remote destinations.
A free shuttle bus called the Bula Bus makes it easy to travel from one resort to another, or to the shops and restaurants at Port Denarau Retail Center. Here you’ll find a selection of shops and restaurants surrounding a marina offering cruises and sailings to Fiji’s outlying islands. Waterfront restaurants include a Hard Rock Café, as well as venues serving everything from Thai to Indian fare. The last Bula Bus back to the resorts leaves at 10:30 p.m., which is plenty late for quiet Fiji.
During my visit to Denarau Island, one topic came up again and again with the hoteliers I visited: Why should vacationers from the U.S. travel all the way to Fiji, when they have first-rate beach destinations so close to home? The answer was almost always Fiji’s people and culture. Fijians are as friendly as they’re reputed to be and the culture is unlike anything travelers will find in the Caribbean or Mexico. But Fiji needs to do a better job marketing itself. Too few Americans know enough about Fiji to commit to the long-haul trip. On average, the resorts that I visited reported between 5 and 7 percent of their business coming from the U.S.
See more about the Fijian people and their culture in the video below:
The busiest time to book is during Fiji’s school holidays, which affect the months of March and June. Book at least three months ahead for these times, longer if possible.
The Fiji Beach Resort & Spa is managed by Hilton and has completed the first phase of a three-phase development plan. When the development is complete, it will be officially flagged as a Hilton, instead of just being managed by the company. A date for completion hasn’t been set.
The resort’s 225 rooms run the gamut of categories, from Studio Beachfront to Five-Bedroom Deluxe Beachfront. A hefty 95 percent of the rooms have ocean views, providing a Technicolor show put on by Fiji’s gorgeous sunsets. For the very best views, book villas number 26 to 35 and numbers 10, 11 and 12. These room numbers are for a variety of room and villa types.
All rooms above Studio level come equipped with a barbecue grill on the lanai. Prepackaged, ready-to-grill meals can be ordered from room service for $47 per person. The villas have a washing machine, dishwasher, electric range and a full-size refrigerator, making them a good choice for families. Couples and honeymooners will like the oversized tub that sits in the middle of the bathroom area. The shower and toilet are in two separate rooms. The entertainment features in the rooms are also top-notch, including a Bose sound system and DVD player.
The spa has seven treatment rooms— two for couples— as well as a massage bure on the beach. For reservations, contact Spa Director Lauren Hudson ([email protected], 679-675-6800). Look for the spa to triple in size when Phase Two of the development is completed.
The property has two restaurants. Nuku serves a buffet breakfast and à la carte lunch and dinner, and offers a combination of alfresco seating and enclosed tables. Tables numbered 101-105 and 201-205 look out over the ocean and can be reserved in advance of arrival. You’ll definitely earn points from your clients if they have one of these tables for their first meal at the resort. The second restaurant, a Thai noodle bar called Maravu, is smaller and opened this summer.
Agents can speak to Adrienne Sword, the property’s sales executive ([email protected]hilton.com, 679-675-6903).
The five-star Radisson Resort Fiji Denarau Island has only been open about a year. The bi-level open-air lobby looks out over the Orchid Lounge to a man-made waterfall cascading over boulders. The Radisson Resort Fiji Denarau Island has 135 rooms and 135 suites. These are arranged with a room next to a suite so they can easily be combined for guests in search of additional space. Rooms in the three-story resort are evenly grouped into Garden, Lagoon and Ocean View, with the front three blocks being in the latter category. Since all rooms face west, they all have excellent views of the sunset. A nice touch in the suites is the extra-large mahogany tables. The Radisson is also the only property on Denarau Island offering free Internet, which can run more than $20 a day at other resorts.
The resort’s spa makes all of its products onsite utilizing Fijian materials. The open bures exude an authentic Zen tranquility.
The Radisson is easily the most family-friendly of the Denarau resorts that I visited. Kids will love some of the features in the pools, such as the water slide and lazy river. The pools also utilize white sand to create a beach effect.
Matthew Hill ([email protected], 679-675-6691), the resort’s director sales and marketing/executive assistant manager, is also the travel agent liaison.
The Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa has 296 rooms grouped into three categories: Resort View Rooms, Ocean View Rooms and Suites. All suites are located at each end of the resort’s three room blocks, giving them the best ocean views. Since the resort is three stories high, superior views can be found on the highest floor. While the resort targets all markets, it is especially well equipped to handle groups and conferences.
The resort’s Mandara Spa is set up like a little village, giving it a real day-spa atmosphere. The signature treatment is the Mandara Four-Hand Massage, which utilizes a combination of massage techniques, including lomi lomi. Another popular treatment is the Fijian Bobo Massage. Agents can contact Spa Director Anne Hazelman about advance reservations ([email protected], 679-675-7877, ext. 2877).
The resort has three restaurants. V is the signature fine dining restaurant; Lagoon Restaurant has theme nights featuring various cuisines; and Salt is a casual, award-winning restaurant placed between the resort’s lagoon-style pool and the beach.
Agents with questions can reach out to Jocelyn Foon, business development manager ([email protected], 679-675-7718).
Guests staying at the Sheraton Denarau Villas have access to all the facilities at the adjacent Sheraton Fiji Resort and the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Fiji. The 82 Villa Suites come complete with a lounge, dining area, fully equipped kitchen and laundry. The resort has an innovative twin key design that allows one-bedroom Villa Suites and guest rooms to be booked individually or combined as a Villa Suite with either two or three bedrooms. Villa suites have a fully equipped kitchen, lounge and dining area, LCD TV/DVD home theater system and a balcony with a sea view. Suite numbers 801, 816, 874 and 824 are considered the best rooms to book. Rooms in Block 800 and 900 have sea views. The most requested premium accommodations are two- and three-bedroom villas.
The Sheraton Denarau Villas doesn’t have a spa of its own, but spa treatments are available at the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa. Agents can book spa treatments for clients ahead of time by contacting the spa director, Amanda Burleigh ([email protected], 679-7650-000, ext. 7940).
The travel agent contact is Max Stock, general manager, Allied Travel Service Pacific ([email protected], 679-6750-000, ext. 8906).
Read more about Mark Rogers' travels in Fiji in his multiple blogs about Fiji travel.