Bask in barefoot luxury, picnic on deserted islands, dive shipwrecks and tuck into farm to table cuisine: a new kind of luxury is being served up across the South Pacific.
While luxury travel was once defined as opulence – endless marble, gold taps, linen tablecloths and silver service – today’s luxury traveller is looking to be immersed in local culture, seeks life-changing moments and yearns for an experience that is both authentic and uncontrived.
Fiji has long been a place for reconnection and respite, and the Fijians’ outlook on life instantly puts travellers in a state of calm and happiness says Rob Thompson, Tourism Fiji Australia’s regional director.
Following border closures, travellers are seeking an easy holiday to recharge and reconnect with family and friends and Fiji is the perfect place for luxury travellers given its proximity to Australia, safety and suitability for multi-generational groups, Thompson says.
“Resorts such as Six Senses, Vomo and Kokomo have had a massive uptake in their villas and residences over the past nine months, and experiences like farm-to-table dining, for example, are now becoming integral in resort offerings.”
Arguably there’s nowhere in the world better placed to cater to the evolved luxury traveller than the sun-drenched islands of the South Pacific. Here are six of the best resorts redefining the luxury experience.
Six Senses Fiji
This game-changing resort on Malolo Island in the Mamanuca Group packs serious eco credentials, being Fiji’s first 100 per cent solar-powered resort, but one of its impressive sustainable initiatives. House-made tonic water, probiotics, an organic farm, treetop yoga and a layered approach to wellness are on the menu at an uber-luxe resort framed by gigantic Baka trees and fronting an expansive bay flanked by rocky headlands.
There are 24 spacious and sumptuous pool villas and 60 residential villas designed by award-winning New Zealand architect Richard Priest, while the cuisine is locally inspired and sustainably sourced (resident chickens and bees provide free range eggs and honey), and the wine is both sulphite-free and organic.
The Six Senses Spa offers full-body assessment programs, tailored treatments, a state-of-the-art gym, extensive wet area, an alchemy bar and elevated treetop yoga pavilion. Resort general manager Mark Kitchen said you can’t beat Six Senses Fiji for a true island retreat experience that is genuinely so accessible.
“Less time to commute means more time to focus on memories and wellbeing,” he said. “The most magical thing about our resort – besides the amazing location – is, of course, our people and holistic lifestyle philosophy. Our team is endlessly happy, authentic and positive with smiles and a genuinely caring approach that ensures every guest feels like family.” sixsenses.com
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji
You won’t find air-conditioning (aside from the swish presidential pool villa), thousand-thread sheet count nor a lavish spa at this all-inclusive eco stay at Savusavu, Fiji’s hidden paradise. Instead think barefoot luxury at its best, underpinned by an ethos that aims to connect guests with Fiji’s rich culture and its biodiverse marine surrounds, which have been called the “soft coral capital of the world” by none other than Jean-Michel Cousteau himself.
“One of our main priorities is to find new and exciting ways to engage and educate our guests in the local culture and environment,” said Bart Simpson, general manager of Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort.
And there are endless ways for guests young and old to do this. Join resident biologist Johnny Singh on a night snorkelling safari off the pier; dive Namena Marine Reserve, considered one of the word’s top 10 dive sites; or visit Nukubalavu Village to see how the locals (many of whom work at the resort) live and play.
A changing daily menu includes fresh fish plucked from the local waters outside the barrier reef and produce from the resort’s “edible landscape”. The tropical spa delivers South Pacific massage treatments from the healing hands of caring Fijian therapists to the sound of the ocean. For families, the award-winning Bula Club is arguably the best in the South Pacific, with nannies and buddies on hand from breakfast to bedtime for babies to teens.
Now that’s luxury.
Nautilus Resort, Cook Islands
Steps from the dreamy Muri Lagoon, this boutique eco resort is your pick in the Cook Islands for a luxurious family escape.
There are 17 spacious Polynesian-inspired villas (pool villas offer absolute beach frontage), kids’ concierge, Thalgo spa and excellent onsite restaurant.
There’s also a tiered infinity pool fronting the beach, however, the inviting lagoon beckons at every turn, meaning you may never use it. Nautilus sits opposite the picturesque Ta’akoka Motu, which you can swim, kayak or wade to (at low tide) for terrific snorkelling or take a dive to Edna’s Anchor.
Here, if you’re lucky, whales can be seen or heard calling to each other in the deep. Also on offer is swimming with turtles, hiking in the mountains, market tours and dinner nearby at the divine Tamarind House.
Sinalei Reef Resort, Samoa
The unsung Pacific paradise of Samoa – think Fiji decades ago – offers remote, pristine beaches peppered with coconut palms, welcoming locals and warm languid waters. For the ultimate in amorous stays, check into the adults-only Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, where 29 breezy fales sit garden, ocean or beachside, and an open-air spa delivers relaxing treatments to the soundtrack of lapping waves.
Tucked away in a pocket of Samoa virtually untouched by commercial tourism, this magical resort is steeped in tradition, immersed in local culture and underpinned by sustainable practices.
Join a Cooking with Culture experience, learn the ukulele with local schoolchildren, experience island artistry or visit a local village where the Samoan people, perhaps more than any other Polynesian culture, still observe traditional ways.
Aore Island Resort, Vanuatu
Yes, more luxurious resorts call Vanuatu’s palm-fringed shores home. In fact, it’s a stretch to call this rustic luxe resort just off Vanuatu’s second-most popular island, Espiritu Santo, five-star. There’s no air conditioning, no room service, patchy WiFi and its tiny spa is but a room.
Yet staying in one of the simple beachfront fares unplugged from the world feels luxurious in a way many more lavish resorts can’t emulate. The charming 18-bungalow resort provides easy access to the best of the northern Vanuatu province of Sanma, while still maintaining the feel of a far-flung island paradise.
ake a swim in the amazing Blue Holes, with its staggeringly beautiful fresh water the colour of sapphires, and have a picnic at the postcard-perfect Champagne Beach. Guests can partake of kava while watching the sun slip into the channel from the large open-air Nakamal.
Nearby divers can explore what is considered the premier wreck of the Pacific, the SS President Coolidge, as well as Millionaire’s Point and the USS Tucker. A highlight is a traditional water dancing show, where local women use the water and their natural rhythm to create an enchanting musical experience.
Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Golf and Spa Resort, New Caledonia
The 180-room Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort and Spa faces a UNESCO World Heritage-listed lagoon and reef. Located in the little known and undeveloped Deva region, it features Melanesian architecture, terrific food, a kids’ club and championship golf course.
The 60 striking bungalows are the pick of the accommodation. Each sports a hand-carved tribal motif, none of which are the same. The thatched bungalows are circular and reflect Kanak culture, with grass cloth wall coverings and ceiling friezes based on Kanak figure drawings. Designed by Sydney-based Rick Whalley of CHADA, responsible for the interior design of Saffire Resort in Tasmania and Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains, the bungalows feature king-size canopy beds and luminous flat-pebble-tiled bathroom with walk-in showers and freestanding bathtubs. Through double doors, a decked terrace with oversized lounge and lantern overlooks the lagoon.
Diving, snorkelling, sailing, windsurfing, jet skiing, water-skiing, wakeboarding and kite surfing are all on offer above and below the water. Behind the resort, the rolling hills and valleys of Deva Domain offer picturesque trails for hiking, biking and horse riding with far-reaching vistas of the translucent blue reef.