Things to do in Fiji: Why Malamala Beach Club is Fiji's newest tourist destination

At 11.30am on a sultry South Pacific morning, I'm pushing my complimentary kayak into warm waters to explore one of Fiji's newest tourist destinations.

Wish me luck. A fierce wind is brewing, the waves are getting larger, and I may have bragged about doing a complete circumnavigation of this paradise island before lunch at 1pm.

So I start paddling ferociously.

Fourteen minutes later I return the kayak to Malamala Beach Club's water sports desk (they also hand out "free" beach towels, snorkelling gear and stand-up paddle boards).

I am back on land not because the equipment is faulty, the seas are rough, or (for once) I've failed in my mission.

The truth is that Malamala – a 25-minute boat ride from Port Denarau – is tiny, just two hectares. So I've paddled around it in under a quarter of an hour. (You will see how "small but perfectly formed" it is from the aerial photographs.)

Malamala, our host Rob Maivusaroko explains, means "very itchy" in the local Fijian dialect, derived from the time when the island's traditional owners were revered natural healers. Patients with the worst skin complaints were sent to Malamala to be cured by seclusion, ocean breezes, and natural vegetation.

We're talking coconut palms, vaya vaya (the flame-coloured "Fijian Christmas tree" that flowers every December) and dilo ("the sacred tree of a thousand virtues", the seeds of which are now refined into an oil marketed as an anti-ageing and skin restoration treatment).

All those plants remain. However, Malamala has now been transformed into what is billed as the "world's first beach club taking up an entire island".


Sure, this isn't the first beach club in Fiji. Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island, for example, has an adults-only beach club – free to hotel guests and available to day guests for a fee. But Malamala involves a boat trip, and it is open to all (though each child is counted as an adult admission: $FJ169).

On the brief ferry ride from Port Denarau, Maivusaroko, the general manager, had explained that Malamala opened in August of 2017, five years after the parent company, South Sea Cruises, began negotiations with the traditional owners.

$FJ6 million ($4 million) later, Malamala has been transformed into a world-class day escape – a taste of Fiji's outlying islands, away from the resort-driven sameness of Denarau or the Coral Coast.

When our ferry arrives at Malamala's jetty, it is easy to spot those who have been to Malamala before. They rush down the gangplank to secure a day bed around the club's signature infinity pool – surely one of the most stunning in the South Pacific. Only then do they join the queue to give their credit card details in return for the beach-club day pass.

Larger groups head for the neighbouring "deck", which featured in the final episode of 2017's The Bachelorette, when Sophie Monk chose her beau.

But I have already been assigned one of the private beachside cabanas on the other side of the island (an additional $FJ75 for two), each with its own "butler", summoned by island phone. Though the cabanas are popular with couples, the main part of the beach club has more atmosphere and action.

Food and drinks are additional, but both are exceptional. The well equipped bar is reasonably priced by Fijian resort standards (wine  $FJ15 per glass, local beer $FJ10), and includes seven house cocktails concocted by a specialist Californian barman, featuring local flavours such as Fijian rum, red papaya or smoked pineapple spirit.

Yet if anything rivals Malamala's perfect setting it is Lance Setto's food. Melbourne-raised Setto is Fiji's celebrity chef.

The sharing plate menu Setto devised for Malamala will change your view of Fijian cuisine, from the kokoda koko bowl (Spanish mackerel, sea grapes, tomato salsa, ferns and smoked coconut milk) to blackened fish tacos, spiced goat curry pie or sea prawn Caesar salad with bacon belly. Believe me, I'm glad I did my epic paddling adventure before lunch.

It's time to return to my cabana with a good book. But now my butler is here, asking if I'd like one last Fijian cocktail … is there no escape?




Fiji Airways (code share with Qantas) flies twice daily from Sydney, daily from Brisbane, five times a week from Melbourne, and twice a week from Adelaide. See



Steve Meacham was a guest of Fiji Airways.