From exclusive celebrity retreats to affordable family stays, a bounty of bures awaits, writes Caroline Gladstone.
IT BEGAN in 1979 when an American, Richard Evanson, built two bures on his private island to house actor Brooke Shields and the crew of the movie The Blue Lagoon. Nanuya Levu, later renamed Turtle Island (turtlefiji.com), was the idyllic setting for the controversial teen film. After the shoot, Evanson converted the bures to create Fiji's first exclusive island escape in 1980.
Fiji has a dozen exclusive retreats among its 333 islands, loved by celebrities and mere mortals alike. Among these pieces of paradise are entire islands that can be rented. Here's a tour of what's available.
Laucala Island Resort
About 45 minutes north-east of Nadi Airport, Laucala is where Oprah Winfrey chilled out last month after her whirlwind trip to Australia.
Laucala's accommodations include the remote Hilltop Residence, with its main pavilion, two guest residences, private cook and chauffeur and the spectacular Peninsula, nestled on a point with a swimming pool carved into the rock face. These are the most exclusive of 25 residences on the 12.2-square-kilometre island owned by Red Bull drink magnate and Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz.
Tariff From $US3800 ($3814) for a one-bedroom residence a night, all inclusive. Extras Specialty wines, spirits, scuba lessons and transfers. +679 888 0077, laucala.com.
Wadigi Island Resort
Guests have this one-villa island to themselves. In the Mamanuca group, a 10-minute flight from Nadi, the island has two chefs, a hostess, housekeeper and a crewed boat to take guests on diving trips, waterskiing or anywhere else they like. The villa has three suites and can accommodate six people, including kids. Pop star Pink spent part of her honeymoon at Wadigi, Paris Hilton popped in for a while and the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has signed the guest book.
Tariff $US2364 a night for the first couple; $US2340 a night for the second couple. For children aged 12 months to 16 years, the price depends on age. Extras Transfers from Nadi. +679 672 0901, wadigi.com.
Wakaya Club & Spa
Owned by Canadian entrepreneur David Gilmour, who later founded the Fiji Water label, Wakaya opened in 1990. Built east of the main island of Viti Levu, it has 10 bures, two villas (Governor's and Ambassador's) and a sprawling hilltop mansion, Vale O, which has a tennis court and gym.
There's a wedding chapel, a nine-hole golf course and the cuisine has been devised by celebrity chefs including Nobu Matsuhisa and Charlie Trotter, who trained the island's chefs. Ingredients are from the resort's gardens, while locally raised venison is also on the menu.
Tariff Garden bure $US1900 a night; ocean bure $US2400; Governor's suite $US3200, Ambassador's $US4900; Vale O $US7600. Extras Transfers, spa services and scuba-diving. wakaya.com. Children allowed in April and June.
Vatulele Island Resort
Set on a 31-square-kilometre island with four villages, Vatulele has embraced the Santa Fe design, with arabesque touches rather than the Fijian look. Vatulele's top residences, The Point and Vale Viqi, would not be out of place in New Mexico, given their whitewashed stone walls. It works beautifully against the brilliant turquoise of the sea.
The resort made a splash when Australian TV producer Henry Crawford (of A Town Like Alice fame) opened it with his business partner in 1990. It has a loyal following and is one of the few places to offer good discounts in summer. The island has 14 dive sites and you can go to the cute-sounding Nooki Nooki private island for a picnic.
Tariff Bures from $US1215 a night, Vale Viqi $US2040 a night; The Point, $US2900 a night. Summer deal, until March 31, beach bures from $US550 a night, three-night minimum stay. Extras Transfers and alcohol. Children from December 24 to January 10. vatulele.com.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort
Opened in 2007 on Manola Island in the Mamanuca group, it has Fiji's only overwater bungalows: 10 residences with huge terraces, spacious bedrooms and separate bathroom pavilions. There are also 18 beachfront villas with private courtyards and plunge pools, outdoor showers and huge decks.
Likuliku has earned accolades for its cuisine, created by chef Brett Kryskow, formerly of The Bathers' Pavilion in Sydney. Expect to tuck into crab omelet for breakfast and steamed coral trout for dinner. The Fijian-owned resort provides an authentic experience with weekly feasts and banquets, while the island has several restored sacred sites.
Tariff Garden bures $F1594 ($874); beachfront bure $F1913; deluxe beachfront $F2176 and overwater bungalows $F2676 a day. Deals from January to March 31. Extras Alcoholic drinks, motorised sports and transfers. No children. likulikulagoon.com.
This 19-villa resort, built on a volcanic promontory of Vanua Levu, is owned by celebrity life coach Anthony Robbins. Actors Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan and Anthony Hopkins have sought solace here. The top accommodation is the Dream House, with two main suites, a spacious deck and infinity pool. The 14 other bures and four villas are luxurious, too, while the spa is the largest in Fiji, complete with hot tubs, steam rooms and plunge and waterfall pools.
Tariff With rates from $1170 a bure a night, this is considered by some to be the "cheapie" of exclusive Fiji digs and includes alcoholic drinks and diving. Extras Spa treatments. No children under 12. +679 885 0435, namalefiji.com.
Dolphin Island Resort
Owned and operated by the folks who run Huka Lodge in New Zealand, Dolphin has one villa with four connecting suites. Guests book the entire island, which is due to reopen in April with a new look and infinity pool. Children are welcome.
Tariff From $NZ3500 ($2674) a couple a night, extra for more guests. dolphinislandfiji.com.
Elle Macpherson spent three weeks here recently, no doubt luxuriating on Vomo's adjacent and tiny private island, Vomo Lailai (it's 500 metres away), which can be booked for a day. Vomo welcomes kids year round and has good deals. vomofiji.com.
Qamea Resort & Spa
In the north of Fiji, just off the garden island of Taveuni, Qamea bills its style as "affordable luxury", with year-round deals and an amazing jungle spa that offers a long menu of treatments, including a Royal Fiji warm honey and milk ritual with hot stones. qamea.com.