Tim Roxborogh checks into Shangri-la's Fijian Resort & Spa on Fiji's Coral Coast
On the Coral Coast on its own private, causeway-linked, 44-hectare island, Yanuca Island (about an hour's drive from Nadi International Airport).
History: Built in 1967 and for many years known simply as "The Fijian", Shangri-La's Fijian Resort And Spa is one of the oldest and largest luxury resorts in the South Pacific.
A family resort where you can avoid families: A stunning US$50 million refurbishment in the past couple of years included converting an entire wing into an adults-only retreat, complete with its own private restaurant, bar, beach and infinity pool.
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Oh the facilities!
443 guest rooms, suites and bures, three swimming pools, three bars, six restaurants, the South Pacific's biggest inflatable water-park (so much fun, even if the Wipeout-style challenges made me realise I'd overestimated my abilities), a world-class spa complex, nine-hole golf course, full gymnasium, mini-golf, basketball, tennis, a huge kids' club, water sports like kayaking, jet-boating and snorkelling, a marine education centre (where children get to plant their own GPS-documented coral) and a gorgeous little chapel with the most perfect acoustics for a spontaneous acapella session. Oh, and a postcard-worthy white-sand beach on one side with a secluded lagoon on the other.
Dining: A huge focus in recent years has been to make the resort as highly regarded as anywhere in Fiji for cuisine. Rave reviews suggest this lofty goal has been achieved (major kudos to head chef Rudolf Kunkel) with the Lagoon Terrace luxury hotel buffet, Takali Asian Kitchen high-end Asian fusion, and the outstanding Golden Cowrie Coastal Italian (those hand-made cheeses and pastas are almost worth your airfare alone) - fine dining while never leaving you hungry.
Drink: From complimentary happy hour cocktails of the day by the infinity pool at the adults-only wing, to sunset mojitos at the Bilo Bar, to sampling one of the more than 100 rums on offer at the Black Marlin Tropical Bar — not to mention the more than 40 international gins at Takali Asian Kitchen — it's fair to say you won't go thirsty.
Check-in and check-out:
Staff greeted me like a long lost family member and there awaiting me in my room (spacious, with a sizeable living area as well as patio with sun-lounger) was a platter of tropical fruit, not to mention a bottle of bubbly on ice. But it was the goodbye that will linger in my mind the most vividly as half a dozen hotel workers gathered to sing the traditional Pacific Island farewell hymn Isa Lei. As the staff sang the words, "must you leave me," I thought, "I must, but I wish I didn't!" It was humbling and very sweet and a wonderful way to cap off a terrific stay.