Castaway Island, Fiji, review: The island resort Australians love returning to

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

THE LOCATION

Calm turquoise waters and coral reef surround Castaway Island, one of the Mamanuca Island group 30 kilometres off Fiji's main island, Vitu Levu. The resort sits on the tip of 70 hectares of tropical rainforest. Because of the name, many assume this is where the Tom Hanks/Wilson the volleyball movie Cast Away was filmed 15 years ago. Not true. It was made a couple of islands over at the uninhabited Monuriki, also known as Modriki.

THE SPACE

There's plenty of room for families and honeymooners at this 4-star resort. All bures, or bungalows are freestanding and the gardens and winding paths offer privacy. There are two pools, one for adults with a swim-up bar and jacuzzi and one for families with pool toys, a mocktail bar and shade cloth. There's an array of free water activities from snorkelling to windsurfing available on the resort's white-sanded beach. The resort also has a tennis court, a running track and beach volleyball.

THE KIT

The 66 thatched roof bures have a sitting room and bedroom separated by a sliding screen. High-vaulted ceilings with fans as well as air-conditioning ensure the temperature is pleasant. Best are the beach bures which feature a personal hammock affixed between palms and lounging chairs looking out to sea. The unique handpainted tapa cloth and bamboo furnishings add to the South Pacific feel. Also on offer are ocean-view bures as well as island bures set in lush surrounds. There is one family beach bure – basically two interconnecting bungalows, which can sleep up to 10.

COMFORT FACTOR

Return visitors will always mention that it is the staff that keep them coming back from the welcoming song sung with great gusto to free kids club where trained staff treat children like family and offer a range of adventures such as sandcastle-building competitions and coconut hunting.

The bures,   all with patios,  are big enough for a family, if they desire, to lounge about in all day (warning, there is no TV). If that doesn't get you in the zone, there are also spa treatments available using Fijian oils.

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FOOD

There are four restaurants on the resort. Best is the absolute beachside (dress code is barefoot) 1808 – named after the year the first Chinese arrived in Fiji. Executive chef, Lance Seeto is a local celebrity, he hosts a TV show called Taste of Paradise. His passion is bringing locally sourced fresh produce to his dishes offering a fusion of Fijian, Chinese and Indian influences. Try their local yagara beef and their lobster kokoda salad, served in half a coconut shell. 1808 was named Fijian restaurant of the year in 2014. There's also a buffet available and for a meal with the best view of sunset, head to the Sundowner bar where you can order any flavour you desire on a thin pizza base from bacon and egg breakfast pizza to a summer fruit dessert pizza.  They also do takeaways for sunset beach picnics.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

Anchored across the water near Ro Ro Reef, Cloud 9 is a two-level pontoon with a bar, wood-fired pizzeria, DJs and rattan sunlounges. Castaway will take you out there with flippers and snorkel, you can jump off to explore the reef or just sit back and enjoy the surrounds. It can get crowded with day-trippers from Port Denarau so arrive early or later in the afternoon when the troops head back to base.

THE VERDICT

There's a reason the return rate is so high at Castaway Island (44 per cent at last count) – there's ample space to make the stay private, there's enough activities to keep the kids entertained and the food could be the best on offer in Fiji. Tears, from children and adults, have been known to be shed upon boarding the boat to go back to Nadi Airport. The resort was acquired by Outrigger resorts in January 2014. It was always going to be a good fit, the family-owned Outrigger group share respect for culture, tradition, and environmental sustainability.

HOW TO GET THERE

Flights from Australia land at Nadi on the main island of Vitu Levu. Castaway is serviced by South Sea Cruises' catamarans from nearby Port Denarau. See ssc.com.fj.

Seaplanes and helicopters depart Nadi International Airport and from other locations by prior reservation arrangement. Flight time to Castaway is approximately 10 minutes. See pacificislandair.com; helicopters.com.fj.

ESSENTIALS

 A five-night stay in an island bure which sleeps up to four guests starts from $3300, including taxes. For $115 adults and $60 children,  plus the Fiji Government 20 per cent tax, all meals will be inclusive during the stay. Valid for stays to March 31, 2015. See castawayfiji.com 

The writer was a guest of Castaway Island