Laucala Island, Fiji

Laucala pool

It is difficult to put the experience of Laucala Island into words.  This private island is the passion project of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, his intention is not to make money, but rather to provide a place for people to relax with every luxury imaginable and more. The pricetag of a visit seems ridiculous, but when you consider what’s included it’s almost a bargain! Many guests relish the opportunity to enjoy 24 hour service in the privacy of their own villa, but if you choose to go horseback riding, diving, fishing, sunset cruising, or even for a trip in the highly exclusive submarine, they are all included. All food and beverages are part of the package with a fully stocked wine, champagne and spirits selection in the villa.

laucala booklaucala pool

Fiji is pretty much as far away as you can get from London, and Laucala feels completely remote and removed from the rest of the world. You can only reach the island by private jet, either flying your own plane or with the hotel’s chartered airline. We were flying over with another couple and as I sat at Nadi domestic terminal I hoped it might be one of the island’s famous guests joining us on our flight. Sadly John Travolta must have been busy elsewhere as instead just a very normal and nice couple from Kuwait stepped on board with us. Within moments we were floating over the exotic turquoise waters towards the most spectacular island.

laucala palm treeslaucala pool

We were greeted off the plane with a vibrant Fijian welcome song, a garland of frangipane flowers and a cold fresh coconut drink. To reach the 25 villas, guests are taken through the rainforest in a jeep until the dirt road clears and the neatly arranged coconut palms indicate the start of the exceptional resort. The villas are wonderfully spacious, each with its own private pool and some with a stretch of secluded beach too. The carefully designed buildings are inspired by traditional Fijian homes, using natural sustainable materials and construction techniques. The importance of nature and light is immediately apparent, with huge windows, colours and textiles that complement the tropical scenery and harmonious furniture throughout the rooms. My home for three days was Sekoula, found along the beachfront, nearby to all main hotel facilities.

Laucala villa

The villa was blissfully comfortable, with every luxury you could wish for, and more. The bed was dressed with the finest silky soft bedding, and the bathrooms were fully stocked with natural toiletries made at the hotel. During my three day stay I continued to discover thoughtful details in the villa, the simplest gestures made the biggest impressions. Every day my clothes were washed, pressed and hung in the wardrobe, my favourite coffee variety was always replenished, and homemade pastries were dropped by our villa every afternoon. The staff work meticulously to offer an ‘invisible service’. It was a magical experience unlike anything I have ever known before.

laucala food

When it comes to the food, anything is possible. Often guests will request particular specialist delicacies (like caviar) before they arrive, but most enjoy the culinary delights of the island. Laucala is 85% self-sustainable, thanks to the 3500 acres of verdant fertile land. With fish from the surrounding sea, meat and dairy from their farm (which includes Wagyu cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and quails) and fruit, vegetables and herbs from the extensive gardens; it truly is a farm to table experience. The chefs are lucky to have avocado orchards, vanilla pod plantations and micro herb greenhouses from which to pick their produce, and soon they hope to grow their own coffee beans. For halal guests, local Muslim men are hired to slaughter the animals appropriately.

cooking class laucalaAnthony Healy Laucala

Executive chef Anthony Healy is friendly and accommodating, he cooked an exemplary five course meal for us in the main Plantation restaurant, and we also spent a morning in the kitchen with him teaching us the basics of pasta making. His food is delicate and intricate but bold in flavour, utilising the exciting fresh ingredients from the island.

laucala thai food

Laucala is lucky to have a host of talented chefs at the hotel, and some of the best food we ate was from the authentic Thai restaurant, made by Chef Piak, who previously worked at the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. With an abundance of the best coconut palms, he can make the creamiest green curry and sweet coconut ice cream. For healthy Japanese-style cuisine, Teppanyaki is the perfect option. The food is cooked on a hot plate in front of the diners, with a panoramic view of the sea in the background.

wake boarding laucalawaterfall fijilaucala farm tour

When we stayed at Laucala, there were only four other guests, so often it felt like we had the whole island to ourselves. There are 350 members of staff at the resort, employed year round even if there are no guests staying. With so little competition, we had our pick of the activities, as and when we liked. A thirty minute wake-boarding experience in the crystal clear waters, a farm tour, or a whole morning travelling to nearby Taveuni Island for a waterfall hike.

laucala fiji

If you prefer to be less active on holiday, the heavenly spa retreat has lovely therapists who can suggest a relaxing or revitalising treatment. Each guest receives a complimentary 90 minute massage as part of their stay, and with specialised Vichy showers and rainforest water-features, there are plenty of other wonderful packages to treat yourself to. I enjoyed an energising coconut body polish which softened and exfoliated the skin, and left me feeling wonderfully refreshed.

laucala cocktail

The staff work hard to exceed your expectations, and on our final night they particularly thrilled and surprised us with a beautiful private barbeque on the beach by our villa. Three charming waiters attended to our every need, mixing up tropical cocktails, serving our preferred cuts of meat and picking the perfect wine to pair with the meal. After our delicious supper beneath the stars, we returned to the villa to find a hot bubble bath with a bottle of Bollinger Champagne chilling nearby.

Laucala Private Island

Saying goodbye to Laucala Island and the team was a tearful occasion. I feel enormously lucky to have visited this idyllic private island. On the short flight back to the mainland, dreaming of a return trip to this paradise, I worked out a few sums in my head… if I sold my flat in London I could enjoy a whole month at Laucala Island… that seems reasonable doesn’t it?

More information and book a stay at Laucala Private Island here: www.laucala.com 

Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort

Most think of Fiji as a tropical couples’ destination, but hotels like Jean-Michel Cousteau make it a very appealing holiday option for families. The journey to the hotel’s remote town, Savusavu, is a short flight from Nadi airport on a small plane that offers awe-inspiring aerial views of Fiji’s coral and clusters of tiny islands. Once you arrive at this luxurious eco-resort the staff are immediately on hand to take care of you to ensure your trip is memorable and restful.

The resort was opened in 1996 in collaboration with the influential ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. It was originally intended as a retreat for eco-friendly sea activities and diving; an educational haven for exploring this completely unspoilt area of the Pacific. In the last 20 years the resort has grown in ambition, with philanthropic and eco programmes that would impress any hotel reviewer. Jean-Michel Cousteau support local primary schools, encourage preservation and conservation of resources, and use only natural products and recyclable materials in the resort. When it comes to food, the kitchen concentrates its efforts on sustainable fish and produce from the onsite organic garden. The hotel also have their own marine biologist, Johnny, who as well as offering tours of the reef, is working to replant the precious local coral.

The nightly rates seem expensive, until you hear what is included. Guests can forget about carrying cash around knowing that all meals, non-alcoholic drinks, resort based activities, and four off-site excursions per week (rainforest and waterfall hike, village trip and farmers market) are part of the package. Daytime childcare is also provided free-of-charge for kids under 12 years old, and those under the age of five receive a one-on-one nanny! The thoughtful Bula kids club keeps little ones entertained throughout the day with educational and fun activities and games. Fijian people are renowned for their nurturing childcare abilities and I noticed this dedication and kindness first hand… one nanny even came to the airport on her day-off to wave the kids goodbye. The parents obviously appreciate the peaceful break and there are plenty of ways couples can utilise their time with boat trips, special private dinners and spa treatments.

I was allocated one of the more remote bures (cottages), a short walk from the main resort facilities. The village-style home was luxurious and spacious incorporating traditional Fijian features and furniture into the design. The dark, shiny wood was elegant and gave a welcoming warmth to the room. The split-level architecture made the bure feel like an apartment, with a very separate living room and bedroom. The bathroom was equipped with his-and-hers sinks and a big walk in shower. Maricold make organic seaweed products for the hotel and generous bottles were found in the shower. I quickly settled in to my new home with a glass of Australian fizz on the bure terrace.

On the first night at Jean-Michel Cousteau we were booked in for a private dinner on the pier, with enthusiastic waiter Cookie looking after us. Out here, removed from the light and buzz of the resort, we felt totally isolated with just the gentle sea and the tropical fish for company. For every meal there is a three-course menu with several choices, so there is something to suit every appetite.

The culinary highlights were mostly seafood dishes, unsurprisingly. The recipes were comforting and classic: fresh seafood paella, fine red snapper fillet, a platter of assorted exotic shellfish. Jean-Michel Cousteau also often offered delicious healthy options; flavoursome soups and tasty halloumi salad. My favourite dessert was the homemade caramelised pineapple upside down cake. In the mornings an extensive buffet presents fruit, cereal, yoghurts, amongst other cold options, but some may prefer to order something hot and more substantial from the a la carte, like vegetable omelette or pancakes.

There is an array of unique experiences to take part in within the resort and in the local area. A private yoga class on the beach with Ana will calm your mind and body, or for something more active head out to sea for a snorkel or dive trip with Johnny to see some of the colourful sealife. My favourite excursion was the visit to J. Hunter Pearl Farm just a short drive from the hotel. The company was started by Justin Hunter (a Fijian-American), and with the help of expert Japanese “seeders”, they now produce some of the most beautiful black pearls in the world. Pick up a souvenir – the pearls range in price from £35 for a single pearl to £35,000 for a necklace of the highest quality gems.

Jean-Michel Cousteau offer every guest a complimentary ten minute foot soak on arrival – a ritual which I believe every hotel should include. The lovely Taipa came to our room laden with coconut scented scrubs and lotions, and worked wonders on my feet. A few days later I was lucky to meet her again at the al fresco beach spa where couples can enjoy a relaxing massage while listening to the waves. 90 minutes in the care of one of these talented ladies is enough to send you into a deep sleep. If you are suffering from sunburn I highly recommend the cold vanilla soak and wrap from the spa, it will cool and sooth your inflamed skin.

Recently voted the number one hotel in the world for families by Mr & Mrs Smith, it is hardly surprising that they make up 85% of the visitors here. But even without kids I found the experience at Jean-Michel Cousteau blissfully relaxing, wonderfully secluded and refreshingly informative about this special part of the world.

More information and book a stay at Jean-Michel Cousteau here.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji

There is something special about Likuliku… the people, the calm exotic water, the remote luxury. I spent three days at this tropical paradise and felt truly at home thanks to the stunning but informal five star setting, and the genuine and friendly family of staff.

Your Likuliku experience will start at sea, as you transfer onto the hotel’s small boat and float towards the magical turquoise lagoon. The musicians greet guests on the jetty with a soulful welcome song before serving a cooling glass of chilled passionfruit iced tea. The check-in process is casual and quick so that your holiday can begin as soon as possible.

The resort opened in 2007 and is owned by a Fijian family. Most of the staff are from villages on the island which gives this hotel an authentic and happy Fijian feel. Likuliku is an adults only resort, and is particularly popular with honeymooners. Often couples who once holidayed at Likuliku start a family and then visit the sister property, Malolo Island Resort, on the same island.

There are 45 rooms, including Fiji’s picturesque, only overwater bures. The other rooms all open out onto the beach, and deluxe rooms include a private plunge pool. Carefully designed to replicate the look of a traditional Fijian village, the individual huts are made with natural materials and decorated with unique pieces of furniture and art from the South Pacific. The dark, warm, patterned wood in the bedrooms creates an inviting and cosy sanctuary to rest your head. The bathroom is indulgently large with a duo of sinks complete with personalised his-and-hers toiletries by Pure Fiji. There is a powerful rain shower inside and a second shower outdoors. In the living area an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne awaited our arrival and on the bed there were complimentary branded sarongs and a Likuliku survival kit of essentials (suncream, aftersun, natural insect repellant and lip balm).

The small Tatadra spa offers couples a chance for total relaxation with four treatment rooms looking out to the water. Choose a treatment to sooth sunburn, a brightening facial or a gentle aromatic massage using homemade oils. The softly spoken therapists will remedy any aches and pains, serve hot herbal tea, and encourage you to relax in the sea view lounge.

Fiji is not often praised for its culinary efforts, so I was extremely impressed to taste the superior food at Likuliku’s Fijiana restaurant. Australian Executive Chef, Shane Watson, was with the hotel when it opened and has recently returned to the kitchen. His food is creative and exciting, with a focus on flavour and he utilises any produce he can grow on the island.

As a guest on an isolated island, the options for mealtimes are limited, and so it makes sense that all food is inclusive in the room rate. I found myself looking forward to every meal, to taste Shane’s latest dishes. At breakfast I always indulged with light and fluffy, freshly made buttermilk pancakes with apple & vanilla compote, honeycomb and mascarpone, but the speciality mud crab omelette is also a must try. From the buffet there are numerous appetising treats to choose from including a make-your-own juice bar, assorted pastries and fresh young green coconut juice. Lunch plates were light and tasty, and the recipes often have an Asian twist. My favourite was the charcoal grilled chicken with green papaya, cherry tomatoes and toasted shallots.

There are two bars to choose from, but most guests choose to sit at the jetty to enjoy an evening cocktail, I recommend the refreshing coconut mojito. When the sun begins to set guests sit down for dinner under the stars. The mood is romantic and the staff ensure it always feels like an occasion. My most memorable dishes were: Chargrilled Beef Tenderloin with mushrooms and sauce bordelaise; rich and fragrant Pork Belly Red Curry; and Miso White Chocolate Panna cotta with poached rhubarb. All the ingredients are wonderfully fresh with premium meat, and fish straight out of the sea. Needless to say, it is impossible to eat badly at Likuliku. All meals are accompanied by talented live band playing affecting local tunes and lilting traditional songs.

The hotel is happy to organise activities and excursions within the resort or further afield. I had an unforgettable morning island hopping with Likuliku. The boat picked us up at 7am before zooming off into the sunrise. We visited nearby Modriki island, known best as the island where the Tom Hanks movie ‘Castaway’ was filmed. From 30 metres out we swam to the deserted beach and our dedicated guide Tasi climbed the coconut trees to gather our fresh breakfast. If you prefer to stay on site, take a medicine walk with Joe to learn about the natural remedies, or borrow a snorkeling kit and go out in the beautiful lagoon to see the colourful sealife, you may even spot a friendly reef shark.

Likuliku completely won over my heart. Unlike many Fiji island resorts, this hotel benefits from a quiet and calm lagoon, creating a tranquil and tidy beach. The luxurious offering is unpretentious and immersive, so guests will feel immediately distanced from all the constraints and stresses of normal life. In my opinion this is the perfect desert island to be stranded on.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Likuliku with South Sea Cruises ferry. Boats run three times a day to Malolo Island. (Between 55-120 minutes from Nadi, dependent on route).

More information and book a stay at Likuliku Lagoon here.