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Fiji Stands for Fiji is Just Fabulous

Fiji Stands for Fiji is Just Fabulous

Deplaning in Fiji’s third largest town of Nadi (pronounced Nandee), where long haul transpacific flights and most flights from other international locales arrive, is an unusually wonderful experience. Never mind that the flight from west coast takes about 11 hours. Forget that you may be a tad fatigued. Pack away whatever troubles you may have. You’re in for a real treat.

Fiji has 333 sun-kissed, dramatically beautiful islands, of which just 111 are inhabited. The first time I came to Fiji several years ago I remember constantly looking over my shoulder on the airplane’s gangway, in baggage claim, customs, and immigration. Everyone was exuberantly calling out “Bula, bula” while broadly smiling. I had correctly assumed then it was the Fijian equivalent of the Hawaiian aloha, but what celebrity, diplomat, or political bigwig was right behind me in lockstep warranting such an overtly enthusiastic welcome?

I came to quickly realize then and every time thereafter I’ve returned to this Pacific paradise that there was never anyone of international fame or import directly behind me. The Fijians were simply welcoming me. Truth be told, anyone who has been to Fiji, for even a nanosecond, will tell you that Fijians are some of the loveliest people on the planet and take great pride in their generosity of spirit and warm hospitality.

For this reason and many more, spending a week or two (or more) exploring Fiji will happily result in the following: wrinkled fingers from so many hours enjoying the clean, balmy, South Pacific waters, additional smile lines from gleefully admiring Fiji’s physical beauty, and a general feeling of well-being resulting from recognizing the good fortune of being in a place where your presence is not only appreciated, but also celebrated.

The Bed

If you are stopping in Nadi for a few days en route to elsewhere in Fiji or internationally, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa is the perfect spot for an interlude to get acclimated to and acquainted with Fiji, or simply to enjoy the resort’s great location and many attributes. Known locally as the Intercon, this impressive 35-acre tropical resort on one of the island’s best beaches is a property completely unlike its urban brethren across this brand in North America.

Rooms are enormous and start at 630-square feet. If traveling with kids, they will have more fun than ought to be legal with Planet Trekkers Kids Club, a massive family pool, and a whole host of daily activities. If traveling sans junior, the beachfront adults-only pool is peacefully quiet and boasts forever views. The hilltop Club Level Villas – where I stayed – overlooks a stunning plateau and is more of a serene resort within a resort.

Villas boast more than 1,000 square feet with a separate bedroom, are furnished with local woods and art, have excellent bedding with high-count sheets, stocked minibar, French press, and large, dual-vanity granite bathrooms with Pure Fiji amenities. Most importantly, second floor Villas have huge balconies containing outdoor bathtubs and daybeds, while first floor Villas have private plunge pools. The Club also has a beautiful pool with shade-providing conical daybeds and is situated for viewing some of the best sunsets Mother Nature delivers.

The Meals

If you arrive to Fiji hungry or want to roam around Nadi town before the 45-minute drive to the Intercon, pop into The Coffee Hub en route for a stellar avocado toast coupled with a perfectly brewed cup of Java.

Intercon guests staying in the Villas have access to The Club which serves a lovely breakfast, high tea, and happy hour, all of which means which means you will probably skip lunch. The Club has the added benefit of also serving some of the very best calorie-free and breath-taking views.

At Toba Bar & Grill in the resort’s center, there is all manner of healthy choice options such as poke bowls, salads as well as burgers and pizzas. I enjoyed seared tuna and soba while admiring Natadola Bay. When time to indulge, there’s a kiosk with New Zealand ice cream a few steps away.

Sanasana has nightly themed buffet dinners, such as Italian, Indian, Asian, and Seafood. Happily, the night I dined there it was the ‘Fijian Flair,’ so ate my fill of Kokoda – fish ceviche in coconut milk – taro, curry and other local specialties. Live Fijian music and dance added to the delightful atmosphere.

Designed in island chic, Intercon’s Navo is one of Fiji’s finest restaurants and overlooks the island of the same name once revered as a safe haven. Here guests can order either a four-course tasting menu or à la carte. I made the perfect choice opting for the tasty mud crab salad with green papaya and a mouthwatering Australian rib eye. The aromatic, creamy coconut rice was both a side dish and an unforgettable dessert. 

The Finds

While many come to the Intercon to zealously do nothing, there is plenty to do at the hotel and nearby. If your visit includes a Sunday, attending a local church service is an unforgettable cultural and musical experience.

One of my favorite activities was a four-hour jet ski experience that leaves directly from Intercon. Stopping the Momi Sandbar for a snack, the backdrop is the deliriously gorgeous Monuriki, part of the Mamanuca islands. It’s here where Tom Hanks’ Castaway was filmed. Once the tides changed and the sandbar commenced receding, we hopped back on our jet skis, drove by Robinson Crusoe Island, then snorkeled in water so clear, warm and blue, it was brain-bending.

Another great excursion is the Sigatoka River Safari that provides a rare entrée into traditional Fijian life. Sigatoka River, Fiji’s longest at 75-miles, has along the banks’ interior over two dozen villages, each with a tribal chief, church, communal dining, small homes, and a village hall where kava ceremonies are held. Made from the kava root, this light brown mild alcohol involves a ceremonial preparation by village men followed by offering to guests, then of course drinking.

On this trip we visited Tubairata village, meaning “run to higher ground,” about 30 miles upriver. Its population of 238 includes several children and a number of dogs. Its chief, Timoci Nakaikoso, is 79, and is also chief of three neighboring villages. Tubairata has both electricity and 3G internet.

Villagers were genuinely hospitable, eager to show their homes, and prepared a traditional, delicious Fijian lunch spread following the kava ceremony. Upon the ceremony’s completion, serious singing and dancing ensued.

While we enjoyed Tubairata, the river’s tide had changed. Nearby villagers were fishing for tilapia and then every so often like a mirage, we’d see several horse heads bobbing while they relaxed after their workday.

Guests can become a citizen scientist for an afternoon working alongside a local marine biologist in tandem with Intercon’s successful coral restoration project that commenced last year. Following a brief lecture on coral life, we mixed Italian-sized ‘meatballs’ of cement, gypsum, and sand, then embarked on a two-hull motorboat. In the water, we attached the ‘meatballs’ to corals and replanted them on the reef’s outcrop. Within a few months, growth process will be visible.

After all that activity, the Intercon Spa experience was utterly restorative. The Wai Zone circuit has a steam room, hot plunge, and ice shower with rain showers in between. While I would make a truly terrible Scandinavian, admittedly the ice shower felt refreshing. The traditional Fijian massage has strong cultural components and was blissful.

The Lessons Learned

Fijians may have been born into happiness by virtue of their strong cultural ties and the incredible natural beauty in which they live. However, as they believe and make clear, there’s is plenty of happiness to share with those who take the trip across the Pacific to one of the world’s most lovely locales.

If You Go

Award-wining Fiji Airways offers daily, nonstop service from LAX and thrice weekly nonstop service from SFO on modern A350-900s. Flights depart in the evenings, cross the international date line and arrive at dawn in time for a full day of Pacific pleasure.


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About The Author

Julie L. Kessler

Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com. This hotel hosted the writer, however content was not reviewed by it prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.

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