Pullman Nadi Bay Resort & Spa review: Fiji's tourist town first five-star resort

Our rating

3.5 out of 5

THE PLACE

Opened in April 2019, the Pullman Nadi Bay Resort and Spa is the first five-star hotel in the Fijian tourism town of Nadi. It's also the first branded hotel on Wailoaloa Beach, where Nadi's backpacker hostels have long congregated.

THE LOCATION

Wailoaloa Beach is the longest strand in the Nadi area, stretching for three kilometres beside the airport, and while it doesn't have the white sands of Fiji's outer islands, it's a beautifully inviting beach, especially for a walk. It's a favourite with locals, and on the evening I'm here, a sunset volleyball game among Fijians morphs into a rugby game. The date-palm-lined beach faces directly west, so the sunsets are exceptional, and the resort comes with two prime sunset perches: the half-dozen sun loungers in the water of the adults-only pool, and the beach deck at Kah restaurant. The Pullman Nadi is also the closest hotel to Nadi airport – one runway is just 400 metres away (relax, noise isn't an issue), and it's a 15-minute drive from the terminal.

THE SPACE

Entering the lobby at the Pullman Nadi is like stepping into a grand and contemporary bure, with the design replicating a village chief's home. Among the eye-catching features are seats shaped as upturned canoes, and reef-inspired artwork by Fijian artist Maria Rova. Though the hotel has 236 rooms and suites, it's a compact property, with rooms arrayed along two wings that enclose the central plaza and four swimming pools (two for families, one adults-only, one for young children) ringed with day beds and sun loungers. The design seems to naturally funnel everything, including guests, towards the beach – there are no degrees of separation between the hotel and the sand here. The on-site Veikau spa has six bungalows for treatments.

THE ROOM

My deluxe ocean-front suite all but overhangs the beach, with Fiji's outer islands sprawled across the horizon, and Nadi's Sleeping Giant mountain rising to the north. The bedroom and living room are open-plan, with sliding doors to separate the two if desired. The bathroom, with Pure Fiji toiletries, peers through a glass wall (with a pull-down blind) to the bedroom and, if you choose, out further over the balcony to the ocean. Subtle localised touches include tapa (bark cloth) inserts in the floor-to-ceiling bed headboard, and coconut fibre trim entwined in the lightshades. A small kitchenette has a microwave and Nespresso machine.

THE FOOD

There are four dining spaces sprinkled through the Pullman Nadi. Inside the lobby building are Magiti, offering all-day dining, and the Dan Dan noodle bar, while Barefoot is a poolside bar, dishing up snack items such as chips and burgers. Pride of place and top billing goes to Kah, a high-quality but informal Thai restaurant directly on the beach with the finest of the hotel's views. The chef is from Thailand, and while it's a standard menu – green curry, stir fries, larb gai – the food is excellent, especially if garnished with a sunset view. If you want to explore the dining options beyond the hotel, Nadi's Martintar restaurant strip is a five-minute taxi ride away.

STEPPING OUT

You can insulate yourself in the hotel, but this place invites you to go beyond. Stroll Wailoaloa Beach at dawn or dusk to feel a slice of local life. A two-minute walk up the beach brings you to the Turtle Airways seaplane, which runs day trips and scenic flights to the outer islands. The resort operates shuttles to nearby Port Denarau for boat trips to the Mamanuca Islands. Easy Nadi outings include the popular Garden of the Sleeping Giant and a soak in the Sabeto mud pool.

THE VERDICT

Finally, a reason to hang around in often-derided Nadi. Standing alone, and far from the gated mentality of so many high-end island hotels, the Pullman Nadi is an ideal combination of luxury and local life.

HIGHLIGHT

Sundowners on the beachside deck at Kah, watching the sun fall into the sea behind a spontaneous game of beach volleyball.

LOWLIGHT

After four days in the remote Fijian highlands, the thing I'm most looking forward to is a warm shower, but the water in my room is tepid.

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ESSENTIALS

Room rates start at $F360, including breakfast for two adults and up to two kids, with deluxe ocean-front suites priced from F$1155. See accorhotels.com

Andrew Bain was a guest of Pullman Nadi Bay Resort and Spa and Tourism Fiji.