Tim Roxborogh stays at the Grand Pacific Hotel, in Suva, Fiji.Tim Roxborogh stays at a former haunt of Somerset Maugham and James Michener.
Between Fiji's parliamentary buildings and the sea. Suva may not leap out as a destination for most tourists, but the jungle-covered peaks across the harbour as seen from poolside make for a suitably steamy, exotic tropical scene.
Check-in experience: A scented cooling towel and a green tea made up for my room not being immediately ready (I was a little early). And from the concierge to the doorman, and even the Fijian girl forced to dress as a Swiss maid at the onsite Swiss bakery, the staff were as wide-smiling and friendly as you'd expect in this country.
History: Built in 1914 by the Union Steamship Company, the GPH is Fiji's oldest luxury hotel. With rooms designed to replicate early 20th century cruise-liners (saltwater bathrooms, etc), the hotel's glorious early decades saw it play host to the likes of the Queen as well as writers Somerset Maugham and James Michener. Michener went so far as to describe it as one of the most graceful hotels in the world.
Refurbishment: Those heady days of Michener, Maugham and Liz were little more than a mouldy tropical memory throughout the 90s and 00s as the hotel lay derelict. That was until new Italian management saw last year's centennial as an opportunity. The GPH was made over with a new wing (with the biggest ceiling fan I've ever seen hovering above a very cool indoor sand garden), a 25m pool, a first-class spa and a whiff of 21st century European chic.
Style: As much as "Suva" and "charming" may not tend to co-exist, the GPH succeeds in recreating the heat and humidity-battling charm of a bygone era of luxury colonial hotels. Think framed black-and-white photos, wicker chairs, roomy verandahs, white columns and strong echoes of Singapore's Raffles and Penang's Eastern & Oriental.
Room: Ironically, entirely modern in terms of design and feel, as I was in the new wing. The bed was king-size and the spacious bathroom had a vaguely erotic vibe with its not entirely frosted glass walls.
Recreation: Always appreciate a proper-length pool in a hotel and the GPH's is long enough to actually burn a few holiday calories. There's a good gym and the complimentary 10-minute massage treatment is a terrific idea.
Price: Outstanding value for a genuinely 5-star hotel with a great story to tell; rooms around $200.
Food and drink: Outdoor dining on Suva's most desirable patio is the place to have a splurge away from the normal Fijian resorts. I had a steak and it was excellent, as were the tropical fruits for dessert.
Perfect for: Business trips to Suva, historic hotel buffs or as a base to explore some of the nearby rivers, canyons and jungles of Viti Levu.
Would I Return? Absolutely.
Fiji's Grand Pacific Hotel is at 584-618 Victoria Parade in Suva. Phone: +679 3222000