In certain locations in Fiji, clients can feel like they’re on their very own island. // © 2014 Tourism Fiji
If Joelle Arriola, the South Pacific product director for Classic Vacations, could leave for Fiji tomorrow, she’d head straight to one hotel property.
“I’d end up at Likuliku Lagoon Resort to relax and just be away from everything,” Arriola said. “I like to do the overwater bungalow for a couple of days, then stay in the beach villas for a change, so I can have my cup of tea in the mornings and walk in the sand while watching the sun rise.”
Located in the Mamanuca Islands, a volcanic archipelago approximately 15 miles east of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, the Likuliku Lagoon Resort is the only property in the country offering overwater bungalows, or bure. But according to Arriola, it’s one of many in Fiji supplying two attributes currently in high demand among U.S. travelers: privacy and seclusion.
“Right now, people are looking for a private-island experience with a more intimate feel,” Arriola said of Classic’s luxury Fiji clientele.
“People want an off-the-wall experience,” she added. “They want to feel like it’s their entire island, like they own it and are the only ones there. We’re seeing that so much now that in our brochure for next season we’re specifically tagging areas that are private-island experiences.”
Booking a stay at the Likuliku Lagoon Resort doesn’t mean that travelers have reserved an entire island for themselves. The property is home to 10 overwater bungalows, 18 deluxe beachfront villas and a collection of standard beachfront bungalow accommodations.
Arriola said Likuliku and a number of other Fiji resorts, such as Namale Resort & Spa and Davui Island Resort on the island of Vanua Levu, really do cater to travelers hoping find their own intimate island sanctuary.
Meet the People
Barbara Davis, the South Pacific destination marketing manager for Pleasant Holidays and Journese, said both companies are booking more of their U.S. customers at resorts featuring private-island experiences as well. But she said travelers should be sure to get outside of their hotel grounds to spend time with the Fijian people.
“You can go lay on a beach anywhere,” she said. “But what really stands out about Fiji is the cultural aspect. There’s just nothing like it anyplace else in the world.”
Visits to Fijian villages are included in most Pleasant Holidays and Journese packages. Davis said one of her most memorable experiences at the destination involved a trip to a small school where she and her husband handed out school supplies they’d brought along with them from the US.
“The kids seemed amazed,” Davis said. “And the fact that we were there to visit them gave them such a rush that they were singing traditional songs almost immediately and dancing for us. The whole room was singing and chanting. It was just awesome.”
Jeff Adam, the director of sales for Seattle wholesaler Down Under Answers, didn’t mince words when describing the Fijian people.
“They truly are the friendliest people in the world,” Adam said. “Fijians are just kind of wound up to laugh. They’ve got this laughing gene. As soon as you start talking to them or ask a question, they’ll often burst out laughing. They’re just lovely people.”
Adam is an avid scuba diver who said his next trip to Fiji will absolutely include some time exploring the renowned soft corals of the destination’s Northern Islands reefs. He also suggests that travelers try to spend time at the locals’ market in Nadi, home to the only international airport in the country, before heading out to the more remote islands.
“To spend time in a local setting at a locals’ market, where there’s really no expectation of tourism, is really a true indication of what the Fijian people are like,” Adam said.
He advises that travelers to Fiji greet everybody with the traditional welcoming term, “bula,” and a friendly smile.
“I think people will find Fijians are a very warm, wonderful and welcoming folk,” he said.