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When we arrived on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, it began to rain.
But that didn’t stop our group from embarking on a road trip tour of the island. From Nadi International Airport, we began our approximately three-hour coastal drive to Rakiraki, which had been recently rebranded as “Fiji’s Suncoast.”
Our destination was Volivoli Beach Resort Fiji, a property that manages to be 100 percent casual despite its regal perch on Viti Levu’s northernmost tip. The drive was simple enough; we followed coastal highway Kings Road, all the while waving back to the passing cars with riders who beamed smiles in our direction.
After I got to check off a longtime itch to see the mountainous, lush landscape where Fiji Water is created — at nearby Fiji Water headquarters — we pulled into the resort’s driveway. Staffers were ready to welcome us, apologizing profusely for the rain and explaining that they would closely monitor the weather before announcing our afternoon plans.
This in itself was proof that 33-room Volivoli is up to the task to accommodate all kinds of visitors — including the luxury travelers it hopes to lure with its four newly complete, two-bedroom oceanfront villas. The property has a reputation as a diver’s hotel, and although it still attracts the scuba set — many of whom are Americans on extended visits — Volivoli has recently recast itself as a place with something for everyone.
My visit was not long enough for a PADI Open Water Diver course, but I quickly got over my regret once I arrived at my Premium Ocean View Studio Bure (a bure is a traditional Fijian hut). The room was huge — big enough for about four people, if necessary — and included a bed, a wraparound couch that faced the water, a small kitchen, a shower and his-and-hers sinks. Except for a few Fijian patterns on the furniture, the room was sparsely decorated. I didn’t mind, though. I was more focused on the view — which I could see from the chaise lounge on my front patio all the way to the bed in the back of my suite.
Directly in front of the property’s bures are tropical flowers and greenery; they help the eye travel downward, from the green slope that the villas are perched on, past the property’s curving walkway to the ocean, which stretches out as far and as wide as the eye can see.
What finally snapped me out of the spell cast by this personal vista was the promise of food at Nuku Bar and Restaurant, the property’s singular on-site eatery.
As a vegetarian staying at a small, family-run hotel in Fiji, I braced myself for the worst. However, I was amazed to find (and inhale) a homemade veggie burger made with quinoa, cassava and lentils served with root-vegetable fries. Other vegetarian items, as well as gluten-free options such as the lemon-marinated Kokoda fish, were clearly marked.
After lunch, we pounced on a window of sunny weather and followed our boat captain and Geraldine Vakaloloma, the resort’s manager, onto one of the property’s dive boats, which we sailed to some nearby islets. With the boat anchored in the water, we cycled through the top things to do when chartering a personal boat: sipping beer at the bow, suntanning on the roof and jumping from the deck into the ocean. Vakaloloma shared a beer and many laughs with us — a happy departure from the buttoned-up hospitality typically found at big-brand resorts.
Upon our return, and after a mandatory relaxation session on a beach hammock, I headed over to a picnic table in the sand, where I’d have a front-row seat to the night’s dinner theater. Luckily, my visit coincided with the property’s weekly cultural night, which includes a lovo feast that features food cooked in an underground oven, as well as the meke ceremony, where a troupe of male and female locals dance, sing and perform ancient sagas and love stories. (We might have been intimidated by the warriors — clad in straw skirts and carrying long spears — if it wasn’t for their cheek-to-cheek smiles and occasional giggles.)
The night ended over a ceremony of kava, a beverage made from the root of a local plant. It’s known for its sedative effects, but — after a packed day in and around the water with new friends — I had no problem falling asleep.
The next day, I could have fished, kite-surfed or tried out a selection of other activities. But instead, I headed to a small bure — positioned practically right above the ocean — for a Fijian massage. I wasn’t sure what makes a massage “Fijian.” As far as I can tell, it has to do with the masseuse’s ability to work in rhythm with the sounds of crashing waves and wind-tousled trees.
At Volivoli, everyone’s tuned into the ocean — and all the better for it.
The DetailsVolivoli Beach Resort Fijiwww.volivoli.com