In this nation of 333 islands — where Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky recently spent the holidays — one can’t go anywhere without hearing “Bula!” which means life and is a heartfelt, enthusiastic greeting that makes “hi” seem almost rude.
In May, Jaclyn Sienna India, CEO of ultra-luxury travel concierge Sienna Charles, scouted Fiji for a major actor client and found Navotua, a village where she (and later the actor and her family) stayed and experienced kava ceremonies, traditional welcoming rituals that show respect and reverence for guests. The client “wanted to really understand the culture,” says Sienna India. “They lived with these local tribes for four days in huts on the beach, wearing grass skirts and walking around barefoot.”
The warm hospitality, Sienna India says, was “unreal.” They’d take boats to islands where hardly a soul has stepped and staff caught fish and cooked it for them on the beach. Of the $75 a night home-stay, she adds, “It wasn’t luxury, but you couldn’t have paid more for a more remote, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was exactly what they were looking for in terms of immersion.”
Wakaya Club & Spa
Afterward, her client flew via helicopter to the private island Wakaya Club & Spa, where they rented the whole island ($2,500 to $11,000 a night and $330,750 for a week buyout).
At storied Wakaya — where Keith Richards famously fell from a coconut tree in 2006 and Celine Dion, Jim Carrey, Michelle Pfeiffer and Bill Gates are rumored past guests — there are two organic farms and a team comprising 95 percent native Fijians cooking island-to-table fare, plus a guest experience of foraging or spearfishing and cooking in a traditional lovo volcanic stone fire.
Additionally, the resort of 10 waterfront cottages and an immense private residence features a nine-hole golf course, Hobie Cat sailing, marine reserve snorkeling excursions and a tennis pro.
The intimate Al Gore–frequented eco resort Turtle Island (from $2,800 a night with a five-night minimum) — where Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson each spent their first honeymoons — took the pandemic as an opportunity to further regenerate the 500-acre private island into a self-sustaining ecosystem that raises and grows its own food, all in an effort to benefit the local people, environment and Fijian heritage. Dinners are communal and hosted by a different team member each night, and there’s also a nightly kava ceremony for further bonding with the longtime staff. They quickly learn (or remember, since there’s a 55 percent guest return rate) every guest’s name, treat them like family and even invite them home to see local village life.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort
“When I’m in Fiji I’m diving every day with my team in the most beautiful, immense ocean with healthy, abundant coral reefs with diversity of species, which is synonymous with stability,” says film producer and ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who has been visiting Fiji for 32-plus years. “Fijians are happy and healthy, and when I’m in Fiji I am also,” he tells THR. “Fiji is where I recharge my batteries … taking the time to slow down and enjoy the simplicity of being in nature.”
The environmentally responsible all-inclusive Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort (from $925 a night), which he opened in 1995 on Vanua Levu, is now owned by Canyon Equity. “Fijians are great protectors of their land and embrace their cultural heritage,” Cousteau says of what, “for me is a country of great hope.” Joss Stone held a concert there for the Fijian community during her world tour in 2019.
Vomo Island Fiji
In late 2021, Rebel Wilson spent time on the islands filming Fiji’s tourism campaign, “Open for Happiness,” for a week at Vomo Island Fiji (from $1,048 a night). “Even more than the landscape I love Fiji the most for its people. Everyone greets you with a smile and a ‘bula,’ the warmth and hospitality of everyone I met is something I will always remember,” said Wilson in a press release for the campaign.
Vomo, a 225-acre all-inclusive island, just debuted the Architecture Building Culture–designed beachfront residence, Reef House, sleeping 10. For ultimate privacy guests can reserve their sister island, Vomo Lailai, for a gourmet desert island picnic beneath a lava wave formation, sunbathing and swimming, with a two-way radio to call for the boat. Beginning in November 2023, four-night-minimum private island buyouts of its 55 bedrooms plus the second island are bookable for $95,000 per night.
Como Laucala Fiji
In fall 2022, Como Laucala Fiji (from $5,600 a night) — where Miranda Kerr and Evan Spiegel spent their honeymoon and Ludacris celebrated a birthday by swimming in the transparent pool after being welcomed by singing staff — reopened under the Como flag, which means a signature Como Shambhala Retreat wellness center. Treatments incorporate the island’s river stones, mineral crystals and even volcanic soil, plus herbs, flowers, and fruits from the island’s comprehensive 240-acre farm, which raises Wagyu cattle, too.
At the resort where past patrons reportedly include Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, every unique accommodation — designed around its particular beach, jungle, hilltop or lagoon environs with free-form pools and gargantuan bathtubs — comes with a private tau, Fijian for friend, as butler.
Nanuku Resort Fiji
Nanuku Resort Fiji is another five-star haven favored by super-private producers and high-profile actors, who are greeted with a traditional “warrior welcome” complete with lali drumming after landing at the private airstrip or helipad. Though it’s on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, Nanuku claims nearly two miles of beach, a private six-bedroom, six-pool home where most VIPs stay ($13,260 a night inclusive), and a private island off the coast for special overnights or day trips. In addition to a truly adventurous kids’ Lailai Adventure Club, where outings include swimming in waterfalls, there are new astro-tourism offerings that include learning about Fijian navigation by the stars, and full-moon massages.
Kokomo Private Island
All-inclusive Kokomo Private Island, on the Great Astrolabe Reef, which is epic for scuba diving, has the largest private residences in Fiji and come with a butler and nanny (from $6,900 a night). The resort has new chef classes in its organic farm and sommelier-led tastings of its prolific wine collection.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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