Shangri-La Fijian Resort and Spa
Fiji's Coral Coast is home to the iconic Shangri-La Fijian Resort, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. The 30-hectare resort is located off the main thoroughfare, Queens Road, on the main island of Viti Levu. Guests travel over a causeway onto Yanuca Island, which offers a languid lagoon fringed by sandy beaches, lush gardens and mangroves.
Since opening in 1967, the sprawling resort (managed by Shangri-La for 43 years) has grown from 108 rooms to 442. There are five restaurants, a Chi spa, three pools and its most recent addition – Fiji's largest inflatable water park. Combined, this makes it the largest single hotel in Fiji. But don't let that put you off. With a whole island at your disposal, there's always a secluded patch of sand on a palm-fringed beach to escape to (or have a dip in the channel between the island and Cuvu Beach). A $US70 million makeover of all the resort's accommodation, spa and food and beverage outlets, will be finished by mid-December.
We're staying in a newly refurbished Yanuka Lagoon grand deluxe room (all 180 lagoon view rooms have been upgraded), which looks across lush lawn to the resort's fish-filled lagoon. The 36 square metres feels spacious with a separate, curtained-off area with sofa bed where Ella sleeps. A Fijian choir performs in front of our room at sunset one night and we enjoy the heavenly singing from the terrace. There are 15 room categories including the enormous two-bedroom lagoon villas (106 sq m) and six secluded adults-only reef bures within the Chi, Spa Village, which come with their own golf buggy. All rooms have either views of the Pacific Ocean or lagoon.
The finishing touches to the Golden Cowrie Coastal Italian and Golden Cowrie lounge were being made during our stay and while we didn't get to try it, it looked like the pick of the eateries. The Beach Bar and Grill has recently had a swish makeover and offers a terrific spot overlooking the lagoon, adjacent to the family pool. The pork ribs, skewers and burgers are tasty, servings are generous and the staff friendly. There's also a cute sand in the toes Bilo Bar, which is a good spot for sundowners. At the time of our stay, breakfast was served in the Takali Terrace and Bar which was looking tired, however a full spruce up is imminent.
There's so much to do within the resort's confines that you may not venture out. There's a terrific Little Chief's Club (complimentary for children aged four and over) plus the new water park. Our favourite activity is building a fish house with instructor Moseses Navaci from the marine centre. Guests have built almost 400 fish houses that, when dry, are placed in the lagoon and became home to fish, clams and baby cowrie shells. You can even get the GPS co-ordinates for your fish house and track its progress. A snorkelling excursion with Moseses, where we spot sea snakes and tropical fish, is also a lot of fun.
The Shangri-La is a vast, sprawling resort but the wonderful staff make it an authentic and personal Fijian experience. Yes, some parts of the resort look tired but once the exhaustive refurbishment is complete, it will shine as the tourism icon it truly is.
HIGHLIGHTS A traditional Fijian bobo massage in the Chi spa for me; the new water park for Ella.
LOWLIGHTS Our room is right next to a pedestrian ramp, which meant a lack of privacy if the blinds were open.
Yanuca Island, Coral Coast, Fiji. Phone +679 652 0155. Rooms from $FJ420 a night. See shangri-la.com/yanucaisland/fijianresort. MyFiji offer packages to the Shangri-La Fijian Resort and Spa, including flights, transfers, room upgrades and more. See MyFiji.com
Sheriden Rhodes travelled as a guest of Shangri-La Fijian Resort and Spa.