I spent my spring break in Fiji this year with my uncle and stayed four nights at the Westin on Denarau Island, near Nadi. For a review of my flights to Fiji (and back) on Continental click here.
Compared to prices in Tahiti, Fiji is dirt cheap. I booked a standard, garden-view room at the Westin for ~$105/night including taxes. As a Starwood Gold member, I hoped for an upgrade upon check-in.
Our flight from Honolulu arrived just before midnight and the taxi ride to the hotel, located in the “Australian” area of Fiji according to our taxi driver, took 25 minutes. Though it was dark as we rattled down the road in the driver’s sullied jalopy, it was clear that Denarau Island was quite different than the fusty city center of Nadi. Large homes on expansive grounds with high hedges and gates, as well as guard stations and a vehicle security checkpoint reminded me of the wealthier suburbs of Islamabad.
As we pulled up to the resort, no one was in sight. Two men with floor mops walked by and warmly greeted us (the Fijian natives are exceedingly friendly) and pointed us to the right side of the large, open-air lobby for check-in. A very nice woman checked us in and upgraded us to an ocean-view room.
A bellman offered to carry our bags, but we politely declined because we had only hand baggage. The Westin Denarau is split into a number of buildings and our room was on the top floor of a two-story, ~20 room complex with outdoor corridors. The room was relatively large and had a balcony overlooking the ocean. The bathroom and washroom were separated and featured two sinks and plenty of counter space. Overall, the room looked great as did the beds, featuring standard Westin Heavenly™ bedding. It was late so we turned in for the night.
After a great night’s sleep, we awoke just in time to have breakfast at the Ocean Terrace. The cost was about $18 for a full “American” breakfast buffet and featured a wide selection of hot and cold American, European, and Pacific Rim breakfast items.
After breakfast, my uncle and I explored the resort complex. Denarau Island features five resorts: two Sheratons, Westin, Sofitel, and Hilton. The Starwood resorts allow you to eat or shop at various properties and add the bill to your room tab. Our goal was to get a feel for the property and scope out a restaurant for dinner. The Westin features a Japanese restaurant (Hamacho) and American-style steakhouse (Steakhouse Bar & Grill), both of which looked good. We ultimately ended up eating at the Sheraton each night–more on that later.
view from our balcony
Ports O Call at the Sheraton–best restaurant in the resort
We chose to eat at Ports O Call the first night, located in the adjacent Sheraton property, because of the rack of lamb on the menu. It did not disappoint. Service was impeccable and the food was exceptional. The restaurant is themed like a 1920’s ocean liner and featured a dark wood interior with portholes, nautical lighting, and live piano music playing softly by the well-stocked bar. Although the menu was not expansive, a wide variety of meat and seafood was available as well as a selection of six different appetizers.
We started the meal with a ceasar salad that was elaborately assembled on a rolling cart in front of us. Next came a single mussel, a complimentary second course. This was followed by an citrus-flavored sorbet, also on the house. The rack of lamb was cooked perfectly and served with delicious julienne vegetables and cheesy au gratin potatoes. Although the dessert choices were tempting, there was no room left. The food and service was so good we decided to return again our final night on the island. If you go, be sure to ask the staff to do the Fijian farewell song before you go.
The following night we ate at the buffet next door, called Feast Restaurant, which turned out to be a huge disappointment. Stay away from this restaurant: the food was not good. Their buffet looked tasty enough (featuring a soups, salads, breads, various local dishes, salmon, pizza, chicken, and a large section of dessert) but the quality was subpar and there were far too many flies around the food for comfort.
It was back to Ports O Call the final night.
Boat to Akuilau Island.
Although we spent most of the trip relaxing, we did venture over to Akuilau Island one afternoon to check it out. The Westin offers free boat service over to the island from the beach. Like many islands in Fiji, this one was privately owned, but the Fijian owner was happy to show us around his island. We spent about 45 minutes walking around, chatting, and enjoying fresh coconut milk.
It wasn’t a wise idea to leave food unattended at the Ocean Terrace. The birds quickly moved in.
The Westin has a large pool near the ocean, but we discovered a quiet pool by the fitness room that we enjoyed each afternoon with Kim and Gary, a couple from Melbourne. The Westin Workout™ was not as comprehensive as I would have liked, but it featured an adequate array of machines that allowed me to maintain my workout regimen.
The days flew by and we really enjoyed our stay at the Westin. The staff was kind, the room was comfortable, and we achieved our mission objective: three days of true relaxation.
A couple more notes: First, if you want the beautiful white sand and clear water you see in many tourist brochures, Denarau Island is not the place for you. The water was not clear and the beaches were a disappointment. You’ll have to travel to Natadola Beach (and pay a bit more for accommodations) to find pristine waters. Second, internet is expensive in your room or even in the Westin’s business center, but the Sheraton has an unattended computer room near Port O Call that has four computers with free internet access. Although I tried to stay off the computer during the trip, I just couldn’t resist checking my e-mail each evening.
Although Denarau island shelters you from the “real” Fiji, it is a great place to stay. If you’re curious about understanding the culture of Fiji a little better, you can sign up for island excursions or hire a guide for the day (that’s what we did). That was an eye-opening experience, but will have to be the subject of another thread.
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