Fiji’s resorts, as reputed, are bottled paradise. Its villas extend over shimmering lagoons or perch in the jungle canopy.
by Donna Peck
Waking up beside a blue lagoon in Fiji is transformative. For the full experience, choose an over-water bure or a tree house. The luxurious villas disguised as huts at Likuliku Lagoon, Laucala Island and Matangi Island are by far the best resorts in Fiji’s famed archipelago for celebration travelers.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Malolo Island
Of the 20 islands that make up the Mamanuca Islands, only 13 remain uncovered at high tide. It’s a place of unimaginable beauty. Malolo Island is the largest and only a quick speed-boat ride from Viti Levu. Crystal clear water lapped the boat as it glided toward a palm-tree fringed beach and an ancient Fijian settlement unless my eyes deceived me. Some of the men on the arrival dock wore grass skirts. Their choir-trained voices rang out in warmth and welcome. The design and architecture of Likuliku Lagoon Resort on Malolo Island is such that it looks like an ancient village. Reception is in a reconstructed canoe house.
The resort’s bures are the traditional wood-and-straw huts that epitomize paradise for most of humankind. Ten of the 45 bures are over-water huts that have spacious decks and bathroom pavilions with indoor and outdoor showers, a two-person bathtub and glass-panel windows overlooking the lagoon.
The open-air bures welcome in the scented breeze and filtered sunlight through the palm-thatched ceiling. Rich fabrics, detailed woodwork, and accents of woven designs in magi magi, (the Fijian term for coconut fiber) impart luxury as does the twice daily cleaning. The resort is kept spotless.
Laucala Island Resort
A private island resort in the South Pacific gives you an unparalleled sense of seclusion and freedom. Resorts that span an entire island feel boundless. Imagine roaming the three-mile length of Laucala Island from its emerald-green lagoons to its forested peaks. Spanning 7.5 square miles, Laucala is one of three small islands off the northeast coast of Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island. In 1972, publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes bought the island. In 2003 Dietrich Mateschitz, head of the Red Bull energy drink company, purchased the island from Forbes heirs and constructed a resort.
Each of the island’s 25 villas is a glamorous version of the traditional Fijian dwelling. Thatch roofs were constructed from sago palm leaves and local doga timber, joined together with a traditional coconut husk magi magi weaving. Lava rock and coral plaster cover the villas’ exteriors. Interior walls were hand-finished with shells and bits of coral, artfully placed into textured plaster. The bedroom and living areas open to private gardens, each with an infinity-edge pool whose surface shimmers at dusk from the tiki torches.
The villas’ locations are just as remarkable. Eleven villas are set amid a coconut grove beside a private beach; another seven villas line a powder-white beach on Sea Grass Bay; four perch atop Nawi Mountain ringed by rainforest; one hugs a cliff, one is set over an emerald-green lagoon, the last and largest one commands views of the Fijian archipelago.
The over-water villa was masterfully designed. The two-bedroom residence ranges across several levels. The large private pool was partially carved from the shore rocks. The iridescent coral reef is just off the private jetty.
To view the expanse of rainforest and white sand, sail around the island. Among the marina’s fleet are Dragon-class keelboats, a double-masted sailboats, Fijian outriggers, kayaks and jet-skis. To explore the beaches and jungle, ride a Fijian horse: a crossbreed of the Australian Thoroughbred and the British Clydesdale. Not the only resort in Fiji to have them, but Laucala’s are undeniably the most immaculately groomed.
Matangi Private Island Resort Fiji
Located 6 miles east of Taveuni Island, Matangi Island is owned by Noel Douglas, a fifth-generation Fijian of Scottish descent. He and his family operate Matangi Private Island Resort. After landing at Taveuni Island’s Matei Airport, you take a mini-bus to the boat landing, then zip in a speedboat to the horseshoe-shaped islet. It’s a wet landing but as you wade to the beach, a dozen voices sing the traditional Fijian welcome.
The split-level tree houses—with large sun decks, king-size daybeds and outdoor lava rock showers—are unique to the resort. You wake up in a lush rainforest ringing with native bird song perhaps from the orange dove and Fiji parrot finch. As superlative as the tree houses and rainforest hikes are, they not the real draw.
Matangi offers unparalleled diving. Off-shore reefs with spectacular formations of hard and soft coral teem with marine life. Diving is diverse, exciting and close at hand. Fiji’s legendary dive sites are within a 20-mile radius of the island. Divers say it snows underwater at the Great White Wall—a plummeting vertical wall covered in soft white coral, and home to schools of technicolor lionfish, angelfish and squirrelfish.
Tie these resorts with a blue bow and you have a one heavenly celebration trip to the South Pacific.
—Photography courtesy of Likuliku Lagoon Resort and Laucala Island Resort.