Fiji's Coral Coast

You don't need a millionaire's budget to enjoy this slice of paradise.

By: Michele Kayal

VITI LEVU, Fiji After 10 days of lounging at private island resorts meant for movie stars and millionaires, there was something refreshing about Fiji’s Coral Coast, the country’s most popular destination and one designed to let travelers without a mogul’s budget sample the great beaches, unrivaled hospitality and easy living that make Fiji so inviting.

The Coral Coast is a 30-mile stretch of gleaming beaches, crystal-clear waters and comfortable, well-spaced hotels on the southwestern shore of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. Most hotels offer commissions.

While the private islands are accessible almost exclusively by plane, getting to the Coral Coast requires a pass through the real Fiji: on the 45-minute drive from the main airport in Nadi, we saw bright-green fields of sugar cane, the rugged coastline where women wash clothes in the surf and a man shouldering a large sack of cassavas.

Pulling into the Outrigger Reef Fiji is like walking into a traditional village only with room service and perfect landscaping. The newest, and very possibly the nicest, resort on the coast, the Outrigger combines the clean, neat rooms that the Hawaii-based hotel chain is known for, with rainforest-like grounds, a great swimming beach and impeccable Fijian touches.

Among the hotel’s 254 units are 47 bures, or cottages, each with tapa cloth ceilings, woven pandanus furniture and a hammock on the front porch that seemed very popular on this hot, breezy afternoon.

If Outrigger is one of the area’s poshest resorts, Hideaway Resort is certainly one of its cutest. Playful and comfy with bures in pink, green and blue, Hideaway recreates the traditional village with a Bermuda-meets-Nadi feel.

Bright colors, fish themes and sea creatures depicted in tile in the outdoor bathtubs make Hideaway thoroughly welcoming and down-to-earth.

The duplex bures are a bit close, however, which can give them a row-house feel, and the oceanfront units are somewhat exposed to the strong breezes that seem to blow continually on this coast.

Throughout Hideaway’s lush, intimate 15-acre grounds, Fijian touches abound. Woodcarvings and Gaugin-inspired paintings by a local Australian artist decorate the reception area, and a beachside cabana is available for massages or romantic dinners.