How to Do Fiji Like an A-Lister
Follow in the footsteps of Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney for a guaranteed good time.
For Hollywood boldfacers seeking tropical heat, palm trees, the excitement that comes with world-class reefs — from scuba diving to surfing — and, best yet, anonymity, there’s no place like Fiji, whose over-the-top luxury options are increasing.
The idyllic island nation in the South Pacific is just an easy, direct, 11-hour flight from LAX — Fiji Airways’ super-comfy business class is the way to go on the overnight flight — and because of how remote and disconnected many of the islands in the archipelago are, a good amount of the population has no idea who’s a celebrity and who’s not. And they don’t care either way.
Of course, many in Tinseltown take advantage of the natural beauty in this distinctively wild paradise. But for the prominence of its name, the nation is still relatively under-the-radar in reality. That could change soon, though, now that a couple of high-profile resorts have bowed.
The No. 1 most celeb-frequented destination is Laucala, celebrating its 10th anniversary as one of the world’s very best, and most exclusive, properties. It’s the pinnacle of private island resorts owned by the co-founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz. Naturally, it doesn’t release the names of guests — who arrive by private plane or the island’s private carrier from the main island airport of Nadi and are met by a Land Rover — but some of them haven’t been able to resist sharing their location on Instagram (see Ludacris, Tony Hawk and Gayle King, who was there, of course, with bestie Oprah Winfrey).
George Clooney and Amal, with Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber, are rumored past visitors, though they kept their activities in the clear-sided mermaid pool, submarine, jet skis and collection of restaurants — which remain open as late as guests wish to dine — untagged.
With starting nightly rates — all-inclusive — just under $5,000, it’s no surprise the caliber of stars that go feel safe and protected at Laucala, the site of a former coconut plantation owned by Malcolm Forbes. Fully staffed by smiling, genuine Fijians, it’s a literal playground for those with money to burn, like Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, who honeymooned in the Peninsula villa with wife Miranda Kerr. The 25 villas are expansive and come with their own golf carts for easy mobility around the large island, which has its own extensive garden and farm, complete with imported Wagyu cattle, Austrian chickens and orchid nursery.
Private picnics are possible on one secluded beach, horseback rides can be taken whenever guests want and they can circumnavigate the island on their own jet ski, which can be parked in front of their residence for easy access. Villas are stocked with at least a dozen bottles in a wine fridge, along with half a dozen menus that cover virtually every type of food a person could desire at any moment. Of course, villas have their own free-form pools and large indoor plus outdoor bathtubs.
The newest all-inclusive stunner to the scene — where your wish is the friendly Fijian staff’s command — is Kokomo Private Island Fiji, a sure-to-be celeb haven now that it’s welcoming esteemed guests to its helipad and dock, by spectacularly scenic helicopter or seaplane. This one is owned by an Aussie billionaire developer who took a sustainable approach to his $100 million-plus build-out of an island in the Kadavu Archipelago, inside the world’s fourth largest reef, the Great Astrolabe, and blessed with four sandy beaches. (Developers had started building an Aman resort on the island years ago and abandoned it.)
While not quite as high-priced as Laucala, the island still commands a couple thousand per night (from $2,500) for spacious Fijian-styled beachfront villas equipped with private pools, vast family-friendly private residences on the hilltop and some of the best active programming available anywhere. Fishing enthusiasts can take private excursions with their illustrious expert, Jaga, and then have acclaimed chef Anthony Healy cook up their catch for dinner. Even without fishing, diners can find the freshest fish and seafood at Walker d’Plank restaurant each day, where in lieu of a menu the Fijian chef personally chats with each table about what she’s coming up with in the kitchen.
VIPs might be invited into Healy’s impressive private kitchen in his chef’s pad, under the helipad, for a special multi-course creation including dishes like his signature Dock to Dish — a program they started in Fiji to promote sustainable fishing of native species in great supply — featuring bussa, a delicate, sweet white fish not found on menus anywhere else in the world. Guests can also expect private yoga sessions, private surf sessions, private scuba excursions in the glass-bottom boat or coral garden planting experiences, private yachting, private waterfall hikes ... private everything, really.
Not all Hollywood insiders opt for private islands. Chris Hemsworth joined 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater on a surf-soaked holiday at the pristine Tavarua Island Resort, conveniently located by some of the planet’s very best waves. The likes of world-class Cloudbreak and Namotu Left are also within reach from the brand-new wellness-focused Six Senses Fiji, on Malolo Island, where sunset sailing, private pools, an outdoor cinema and Tropicsurf experiences are highlights. Expansive private residences with unbelievable views and pools are the choice for privacy-seeking A-listers. Six Senses' arrival signals a shift for Fiji when it comes to leading luxury hotel brands, which until now have not had a presence there.
For a truly off-the-radar experience, there's Jean Michel Cousteau Resort, where the manager knows many famous faces have stayed but doesn’t know their names — that’s how anonymous they get to be at the family-friendly Savusavu resort with a dive shop owned by the late Jacques Cousteau’s son. It’s eco-friendly all the way here, and is a place for those who prize immersion into nature and the sea — there are no phones or TVs in the rooms. There’s a marine biologist on staff for personal excursions that end up being highly educational while also being insanely beautiful. When they’re not under the sea, guests can also hike, swim in a volcanic rock waterfall, tour the rainforest, plant mangrove trees or visit a traditional village.
Hiking, zip lining and all the adrenaline-fueled pursuits were on Shay Mitchell’s itinerary when she visited Fiji and slept at Tadrai Island Resort, a gorgeous all-inclusive designed exclusively for couples. Another popular option for couples is the Tony Robbins–owned Namale Resort, a lush, off-the-grid Eden with an excess of private land and a beautiful reef and blowhole out front (soak up the vista from the heart-shape jacuzzi). The motivational speaker’s adults-only property has hosted Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Meg Ryan, Cameron Diaz, Taye Diggs, Melissa Etheridge and Mel Gibson.
The working coconut plantation and resort perhaps gained the most notoriety from its appearance on The Bachelorette in 2011 and, unsurprisingly, is still popular with honeymooners primarily. There’s just one two-bedroom bure (hut); the other 18 vary in configuration but involve private pools and some pool tables, too. Plenty of activities are on offer here: waterfall picnics, scuba diving, wakeboarding, horseback riding and a large, comprehensive spa that’s a must. But the real thrill comes from intimate time spent enjoying kava ceremonies — a traditional herbal drink Fijians share in a circle over music — with locals and nightly performances by Fijian dance and music groups that impart a strong sense of the culture on guests. Because ultimately any Fiji holiday is infused with the infectious spirit of its people and, as cheesy as it sounds, smiles are even more guaranteed here than suntans.