On Fiji’s Sonaisali Island, it’s easy to put the busy working week behind you, writes Stephanie Holmes.

You know you've reached peak holiday relaxation when it's too much effort to leave your sunlounger to walk to the spa.

Such is life on Sonaisali Island.

After less than three days here, we're in proper holiday mode - our complete lassitude means applying sunblock feels like a chore, and even holding a magazine aloft is too taxing for our flaccid limbs.

It's the dream holiday - sun and swimming; palm trees and blue skies; warm breezes and warmer welcomes.


Sonaisali Island has a mixed history, with the resort under different management and guises over the years. Since May 2016, it has been the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji, and it seems the island's fortunes are changing for the better.

Just 25 minutes drive from Nadi airport, and a three-minute boat transfer from the jetty, we arrive at the DoubleTree to fresh drinking coconuts, cool towels, and a song from the resort staff, finishing with cries of Bula! all round.

Oceanview bure at DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Fiji - Sonaisali Island.
Oceanview bure at DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Fiji - Sonaisali Island.

Our bure is perfect - spacious and luxurious, with high, vaulted ceilings, and a large veranda for gazing at the South Pacific Ocean and the distant islands. One of things we've been most looking forward to is the Hilton's signature "Sweet Dreams by DoubleTree" beds. It's a "sleep experience" the resort website promises us, and as we enter our bure, the twin king-size beds certainly look inviting. Alice bounds on to hers immediately, and quickly declares her love for the firm-yet-feathery mattress and the pillows that, on investigation, are available to purchase from the Hilton's home furnishings website for about US$99 a pop. "I'm sleeping on $400 worth of pillows," she exclaims one evening, and I feel bad about the old, cheap versions I've been inflicting on myself back at home.

We sit on the veranda with a bowl of kokoda, the Fijian dish of raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk, and some cassava chips, entranced by the idyllic South Pacific view. Moving just a few metres along the seafront to the lagoon-style swimming pool, we stake our claim on our favourite spot for the rest of the trip - sunloungers facing out to sea.

It's hot - that delicious island heat that warms you from the inside and dries out the damp bones of the rainy Auckland we left behind.

Holiday mode comes easy here - with the sounds of ukuleles from the in-house musicians and the gentle roll of the ocean, I'm quickly napping, shaking off the stresses of a busy week.

You could easily come here for a long-weekend getaway - just hop on the plane on a Friday morning, arrive at the DoubleTree by lunchtime, leave late Sunday afternoon - and you'd be back at work on Monday morning refreshed, revived, and with a golden glow.

We're here for a longer stay, so there's plenty of time to unwind. In fact, we're finding it so easy to relax, we're disinclined to leave at all. But with the resort's cross-river boats running 24/7, you could head to the mainland any time you liked.

We reluctantly make the effort for a visit to Sigatoka Sand Dunes, established in 1989 as Fiji's first National Park.

Formed more than 2000 years ago, the dunes are also an important archaeological site, with the discovery of human bones and artefacts dating back almost 3500 years. It's thought this is where Fiji's first settlers, the Lapita, landed.

Open daily to visitors from 8am to 5pm, the park has two tracks available taking you deep into the dune system and its forests. The two-hour walk takes in the largest dune and archaeological sites ... it's also where Fiji's Rugby Sevens team train, running up and down the dunes carrying tyres and weights, building the strength and stamina that would last year see them claim the Rio gold medal.

We're not quite up to Olympian standard, so we take the easier one-hour route, with ranger Mali giving us a guided tour.

He spends the walk telling us about the history of the dunes, as well as outlandish stories of his local life to distract us from the more taxing parts of the tour; the steep uphill climbs and hot, exposed tracks.

Feeling as if we've really earned a lie down, it's not long before we're back at the DoubleTree, and back on our loungers. It's where we spend the majority of the rest of our stay; moving only to cool off in the pool, eat at one of the resort's two restaurants, visit the spa, or sit on our veranda with gin and tonics watching the sun set on another relaxing day.

There are plenty of things to do were we so inclined - games and cultural lessons provided by the resort staff; we could play tennis, horse ride, paintball; or join scuba dive, snorkel, sail or parasail excursions.

But we're happy to "fly and flop", the popular holiday choice of Kiwi travellers. And why not when you really feel like you deserve a rest?

Sonaisali won't provide you with the white sand/turquoise sea paradise of Fiji's outer islands. But you come here for the ease of being less than 30 minutes from the airport; the convenience of a resort and all it offers; and the guarantee that you'll find relaxation as soon as you step on to the jetty.

Our only complaint on leaving? That those beautiful beds won't fit into our suitcases.

Vulani restaurant at DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Fiji - Sonaisali Island.
Vulani restaurant at DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Fiji - Sonaisali Island.


Getting there

Fiji Airways

flies daily from Auckland to Nadi with return Economy Class tickets on sale from tomorrow until April 15 for $625. Valid for travel between April 5-December 14 and January 16-March 20.

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji, Sonaisali Island