International jet-setting explorer and, in another life, Condé Nast Traveller writer, Nicky Adams has a whole new perspective on travel, given her permanent luggage of three small children.

WORDS NICKY ADAMS

MY HEART LIES IN FIJI — always has, always will. While there are many beau­ti­ful island des­ti­na­tions in this world, they don’t all come com­plete with a wel­come that feels absolute­ly gen­uine, a nation­al pride that shi­nes out, and the locals’ desire to share their bless­ings with you, a pass­ing trav­eller. And this doesn’t just apply to the resorts; ven­ture out to cen­tral Fiji and there is not only mag­nif­i­cent coun­tryside, but also new depths of hos­pi­tal­i­ty. As for the out­er islands, the beau­ty of the­se is noth­ing short of jaw drop­ping. How­ev­er, while there was once a time I loved to explore, I now have three young chil­dren, and I can’t think of any­thing more hor­ri­fic than dis­cov­er­ing new hori­zons with them in tow. Oh no! I want stream­lined trav­el, I want ease, and I want cock­tails — and lots of them.

WHICH LEADS ME STRAIGHT TO DENARAU, a pock­et of joy along Fiji’s west coast. Grant­ed, the beach does not have the wow fac­tor or the snor­kel­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties found at the out­er islands, but a day trip to the­se is a breeze to arrange. And what Dena­rau offers in abun­dance is con­ve­nience and vari­ety, with resorts, restau­rants and activ­i­ties. So whether you are zip­ping over for a short stay, or com­bin­ing a stopover with an island retreat, ease is the name of the game. Whip through the air­port (cur­rent­ly being upgrad­ed) and after a 20-min­ute cab ride, voila! Check in, throw down your bags, strip off your win­ter warm­ers and melt into a ringside seat at the ocean­front bar. Per­fect.

Here are some of the resorts that get the job done…

RADISSON BLU RESORT FIJI DENARAU ISLAND

Rat­ed the Num­ber One Fam­i­ly Resort in Fiji in the 2016 and 2017 Tri­pAd­vi­sor Trav­ellers’ Choice Awards, this is a spec­tac­u­lar loca­tion. Fam­i­lies flock here, lov­ing the exten­sive grounds, selec­tion of three kids’ pools, and, of course, the par­tic­u­lar­ly cool (usu­al­ly super­vised) water­slide. The lush trop­i­cal land­scap­ing makes you feel as if you real­ly are in Fiji, as opposed to just a five-star-resort any­where in the world. This trop­i­cana also helps dull down the noise of all the lit­tle ones, so those doz­ing by the adults-only pool remain undis­turbed. The Radis­son, in my opin­ion, has a num­ber of big draw cards. First­ly it’s the only resort to boast cli­mate-con­trolled pools. There is also good shade sail cov­er­age over the pools, which is unique to this resort. Final­ly there is the offer of some com­pli­men­ta­ry water sport activ­i­ties. The Blu Banana Kids Club is com­pre­hen­sive, but I was more impressed by the dai­ly activ­i­ties, so that if you don’t want to use the club, there is still plen­ty to do. The rooms are spa­cious and well appoint­ed. How­ev­er, next Octo­ber, a big over­haul will start its first phase, which will take the rooms to a whole new lev­el. Inci­den­tal­ly, despite offer­ing six fab­u­lous restau­rant choic­es (check out Sig­na­ture Blu for fine din­ing), the one-bed­room suite comes with full kitchen facil­i­ties and (gasps from those who enjoy home com­forts), a wash­ing machine and dry­er. For a fam­i­ly of five, if the youngest is an infant, you can fit into the suite, but you’ll need to con­tact the resort direct­ly.

radissonblu.com/resort-fiji

SHERATON FIJI RESORT

This resort is an inte­grat­ed com­plex, which allows you access to both the facil­i­ties of the Sher­a­ton and the Sher­a­ton Vil­las, and the shared foy­er will frankly knock your socks off. As you walk through the open entrance and look across an infin­i­ty pool to the ocean beyond, it’s hard to hold back tears of joy! Aimed at fam­i­lies, the vil­las com­fort­ably house larg­er groups. While the exte­ri­or of the com­plex feels a lit­tle dat­ed, there were details that make all the dif­fer­ence to a stay. The suites are spa­cious, tow­els were found to be soft and fluffy, the plunger cof­fee plen­ti­ful, and the kids’ pool ide­al for young ones, and cru­cial­ly, nice and close to the accom­mo­da­tion. Unlike the Radis­son, where get­ting a hot spot around the pool can be cut­throat at times, here it’s a less aggres­sive activ­i­ty. Anoth­er bonus is that guests are able to use the facil­i­ties at sis­ter resort The West­in, which has, amongst oth­er things, a bril­liant out­side play area for young kids. It’s a sad day when you admit to get­ting excit­ed about a play­ground, but when the kids have had too much sun, this shad­ed area is enough to make me want to whoop with joy. Nev­er mind the excep­tion­al spa facil­i­ties and the access to the Dena­rau Golf and Rac­quet Club, just give me a decent swing and my heart sings.

sheratondenarauvillas.com

SOFITEL FIJI RESORT & SPA

The Sof­itel has an easy-breezy feel about it and the vibe is super fam­i­ly friend­ly, with lit­tle touch­es like an out­door movie area close enough to the rooms for old­er kids to hang out unsu­per­vised. It offers some real­ly entic­ing deals for Accor mem­bers; amongst them, dis­counts of up to 50 per­cent on meals from the restau­rant, and the day I vis­it­ed, FJ$45 for unlim­it­ed soft drinks all day (plus alco­holic cock­tails at cer­tain times – yum). I do feel that this resort is a lit­tle more tired than oth­ers, how­ev­er, to com­pen­sate for that, the Sof­itel has pulled some­thing quite spec­tac­u­lar out of the bag in the form of The Wai­t­ui Beach Club. This is tak­ing the idea of ‘adults only’ very seri­ous­ly, even boast­ing its own check-in area. To ensure tran­quil­i­ty both the ‘club’ and the rooms includ­ed in the Wai­t­ui Club, are locat­ed away from the fam­i­ly rooms. Ooz­ing lux­u­ry, a peace­ful vibe per­vades. All the trim­mings can be found: white daybeds, a glass-walled gym over­look­ing the ocean that offers, amongst oth­er things, yoga class­es to help unwind fur­ther. If that’s not enough, beau­ti­ful peo­ple with sil­ver trays of canapés waft around peri­od­i­cal­ly through­out the day. To top it off, there’s an hour of com­pli­men­ta­ry evening cock­tails. And not a child in sight.

sofitel.com/Fiji_Denarau

 

NICKY’S Fiji tips

ICE-CREAM

Check out Tuck­ers Ice-Cream Cor­ner just out­side the front of the Sher­a­ton, deli­cious, and a third of the price of the New Zealand Nat­u­ral cones in the resorts.

MEDICAL CENTRE

There is a med­ical cen­tre on Dena­rau, and I can vouch for the fact that the ser­vice is quick and effi­cient.

À LA CARTE

For à la carte I would rec­om­mend Sig­na­ture Blu at the Radis­son. Watch out for exclu­sive restau­rants that are ‘cash­less’ and menus that don’t include tax (on the list price) or veg­eta­bles, or you could, like us, find your­self pay­ing over FJ$100 for a slab of steak alone.

You can take some food items into Fiji, so if you like fresh milk, freeze it, and take it as the resorts seem to only sell UHT. Oth­er items to take are gourmet crack­ers, cheese and choco­late, all of which tend to be high­ly priced.

Take a taxi to the port ear­ly in your trip and stock up on beer and sup­plies from the super­mar­ket.

Flex­i­bil­i­ty with trav­el dates can result in com­pet­i­tive room rates. Also bear in mind that by using an agent you may be able to work out a room con­fig­u­ra­tion that you can­not do online.