Bula! Hello — my first word in Fijian. You may have guessed that I just returned from my latest travel destination, a private luxury island in the northeastern portion of the Fijian archipelago, Laucala Island Resort.
My life was going along smoothly in cruise control, in a kind of “it’s all good” mode, when out of the blue I received an invitation to visit Laucala Island, Fiji, one of the top-rated private luxury islands in the world. After getting back up on my chair that had somehow tipped over, I did as much checking as possible to make sure this was not someone’s idea of a prank. After much research and reassurance, I found myself on my way to Fiji.
A pleasant flight (10.5 hours) on Air Pacific took us from LAX to Nadi Airport on Fiji’s big island. From there we were whisked away in Laucala’s own private seven-seater Beechcraft for the 50 minute flight to my fantasy island. Disembarking the plane, taking in the astonishing Technicolor vistas, absorbing the fragrances of this breathtaking tropical island brought a new meaning to the phrase “shock and awe.”
We were greeted by the friendly faces of the staff and a Fijian ensemble wearing traditional garb, known as sulus, sporting a flower behind either their left or right ear, (depending on marital status), playing guitars and ukuleles, and singing welcome songs in their beautiful native language. After introductions, we were escorted to our private villa, complete with our own infinity pool and private beach. We spent a long time getting acquainted with our villa, aptly named Vivilli, which is Fijian for shells. Walking along our private beach you quickly see why it is so named.
My own private paradise came with everything you can imagine and some things you cannot. After pinching ourselves to the point of bruising, we came to the conclusion that this is real; the bouquet of tropical flowers surrounding us, the lotus pond at the end of our drive, the shimmering cobalt waters of the South Pacific, the trilling of the exotic birds, the infinity pool and the artisan crafted stone soaking tubs. The palapas outside were really ours — at least for a few enchanted days.
This piece of paradise is the result of the dream of Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire co-founder of Red Bull. Mateschitz bought the island from Malcolm Forbes’ heirs in 2003, and after years of remodeling and reconstruction, turned this 12 mile (3,500-acre) island into his 25-villa isle of dreams. Laucala has been the destination of many celebrities and elites, but has also been the destination of many families (they have over a dozen trained nannies); honeymooners; bucket-listers; celebrants of anniversaries, birthdays, holidays; and pleasure seekers who, despite the expense (please be prepared!), want to experience heaven on earth at least once in their lives.
We toured the entire island and checked out many of their architecturally distinct villas, as well as their organic and hydroponic vegetable, flower, herb and fruit gardens. We were surrounded by coconut trees everywhere. They grow or raise over 80 percent of their food and supplies and are aiming to be 90 percent self-sustaining. We also got to meet their magnificent horses, often ridden for a sunrise or sunset beachside romp. Naturally, Laucala has their own horse whisperer! All these things alone would make this island a paradise, but it becomes more extraordinary when coupled with the fact that they have the highest staff to guest ratio in the world. This insures that your every need and desire is not only met, but is somehow anticipated.
Of course, even in paradise food is important. The island has four restaurants, along with the Rock Lounge, replete with panoramic ocean views that we absorbed while sipping tropical cocktails at sunset. The Plantation Restaurant was our choice for elegant casual dining. The Seagrass Restaurant and Lounge is the place to go for Asian-inspired cuisine. Both the Pool Bar and the Beach Bar are great choices for lunch. Our individualized choices went well beyond delicious and healthy meals.
Activities abounded with a menu of our creation that included golf, tennis, diving, snorkeling, kite surfing, jet-skiing, jet-boating, deep sea fishing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, private yoga instruction (to mention a few). No, we didn’t do it all; our plan was grandiose, but it was fun knowing it was all at our disposal.
One of the best evenings occurred at the Fijian Cultural Village, where we experienced true Fijian culture and hospitality with traditional celebrations such as the kava ceremony, followed by welcome songs and dances and a genuine Fijian feast. I especially enjoyed these festivities because the 40 participants were from a village of only 70 people from a nearby island. They boated across the ocean for an hour just to greet us and explain their culture. It was not a Hollywood spectacle as I have seen at some island resorts; it was the real deal.
We also experienced unique treatments at the Spa on Nawi Hill. They create their body oils, creams and shampoos from their own organic gardens with materials that are native to the island. We were fortunate enough to have a second distinctive spa experience in a truly idyllic setting, as we were whisked away by jet boat to a small cove for a massage on private Tadra Beach. The secluded location, with the gentle ocean breezes and the peaceful sounds of the rippling waves, really sent us into a Zen-like state. Later that day we enjoyed a romantic sunset cruise aboard the Laucala 1 with hors d’oeuvres and champagne flowing.
After a private lesson from Laucala’s resident golf pro, Tony Christie, we had the exciting experience of playing a round of golf on their award-winning David McLay-Kidd designed golf course. We learned that Adam Scott, recent winner of the Masters Golf Tournament, had recently enjoyed playing on the Laucala links.
Be assured that Laucala is far, costly and unique. It is obviously not for everyone. But I do believe that anyone who experiences Laucala will find that they have received the consummate private luxury and adventure experience that will last a lifetime.
The best way to get there
Air Pacific, rebranded as of June 1 as Fiji Airlines, is the national airline of Fiji with operations since 1951. It provides domestic and international services to 10 countries and 15 cities around the Pacific. New Airbus A330-200 non-stop service from and to Los Angeles begins July 1 (mixed with current Boeing 747s until November), providing wide-body comfort and non-stop service between LAX and Nadi. For more information, visit www.airpacific.com or call (800) 227-4446.
If you go
Laucala Island Resort
Fiji – South Pacific Ocean
CAROLE can be reached at Carolesorlin@yahoo.com.