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Hotel Highlights

  • Expert dive shop, directed by the son of scuba-pioneer Jacques Cousteau
  • Free Bula Club for kids, with a complimentary dawn-to-dusk nanny service
  • Laid-back shoreside location with eco-aware design and back-to-nature activities

Overview

With diving run by the son of legendary scuba-pioneer Jacques Cousteau, shoreside eco-retreat Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is all about underwater exploration, and even boasts a marine biologist. The free Bula Club for kids and dawn-to-dusk nanny service means families flock to this coastal sanctuary on tropical Vanua Levu Island, too, while adults-only dining and the seductive spa will please romantics.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort with us:

A private island picnic for two, and free breakfast and lunch prior to 2pm check-in if arriving earlier

Facilities

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Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Hotel — Fiji Islands — Fiji

Need To Know

Rooms

25, including three suites.

Check–out

11am; check-in, 2pm, both flexible subject to availability. Free breakfast and lunch for early arrivals, and lunch for late departures.

Rates

Double rooms from $869.81 (AU$930), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

All-inclusive rates cover à la carte meals, non-alcoholic drinks, kids' club, nanny service (8am–9pm) and Fijian buddies for older children, most resort activities, meet and greet at Nadi and Savusavu domestic airports, and return Savusavu transfers.

Also

Tap into Fiji's healing heritage at the two beachfront, open-air Ocean Spa Bures, where the signature Bobo Massage harnesses generations-old combinations of sweeping hand strokes and tropical nut oils. Daily yoga, and rainforest and waterfall hikes, are also wellbeing boosters.

Please note

The hotel will be closed for renovations 1–22 February 2015.

 

At the hotel

Bula Club for kids, nannies and buddies, private beach and mini island, four swimming pools, spa, dive shop, marine biologist, watersports, fishing, mountain bikes, tennis and volleyball court, table tennis, trampoline, restaurant, bar, library, TV and video room, board games, boutique, playground, gardens, concierge, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: minibar with free soft drinks and bottled water, fridge, black-out curtain, pillow menu, own-label toiletries, beach bags, umbrella, flowers.

Our favourite rooms

For soothing views of Savusavu Bay, we like the Oceanfront Bures and Suites, which are closer to the beach than the Garden View Bures (pick one of the more private rooms, furthest from reception). For extra seclusion and space, treat yourself to a stay at one of the three split-level Point Reef Bures, or the luxe Villa, which boasts its own walled garden with spa tub and waterfall. Styling is traditional Fijian, with thatched roofs, plantation shutters and bright bedding.

Poolside

The adults-only oceanfront Serenity Pool by the bar is a sleek, infinity-edge number flanked by orange day-beds and a shady pergola for a sociable scene. It only welcomes teens age 13 or over, but younger kids can choose between three dedicated pools, including the Family Pool with a 20-foot waterslide alongside the Bula Club, the Junior Pool or the cascading Water Mushroom Pool for toddlers.

Packing tips

Mossie repellent is always handy in the tropics. Bring your dive certificate if you're a scuba devotee, and your mask set if you prefer to use your own gear. An underwater camera is a must for persuading fish to say 'cheese'.

Also

Three-night minimum stay; five nights from 22 December–5 January inclusive. Smoking is allowed outdoors only, not in rooms or dining areas.

Children

Welcome: babysitting is free from 8am–9pm (then FJ$3 an hour, 9pm–11pm), and the free Bula Club offers endless kids' activities. Baby cots and extra beds for two kids under 13 are provided gratis (for a third child, a bed costs AU$170 a night).

Read more

Eco‐friendly

Marine conservation is key here: the resort has an in-house marine biologist, a reef protection programme and a giant clam-breeding project. As in traditional Fijian villages, buildings are tailored to their tropical environment, with natural, flow-through ventilation, sustainable timber construction and roofs thatched from local reeds. Produce from the organic garden is served in the restaurant, eco-friendly Pure Fiji toiletries are used in the spa, and water is recycled through lotus-dotted lagoons.

Food & Drink

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Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Hotel — Fiji Islands — Fiji

Hotel Restaurant

Chef Raymond Lee keeps the pans flipping at the open-air restaurant, which stars international and Fijian cuisine that's strong on locally caught fish and seafood, and organic produce from the hotel's garden. Typical dishes on the daily changing menu include New Zealand lamb or chargrilled wahoo with sweet corn and prawn salad. Set under a soaring temple roof, the dining area serves up appetising sea views, too, or you can dine out poolside or in a separate adults-only sanctuary. Musicians may serenade you come evening, and there’s a weekly Lovo Feast, where traditional Fijian food is cooked in an earth oven. Don’t miss the tasty afternoon tea. You can also request a beach or island picnic, or a private barbecue by the pool.

Hotel Bar

Mojitos and margaritas are the order of the day in the poolside bar, which overlooks the ocean and blue-tinged hills beyond. During cocktail hour, expect to be serenaded with tunes from the local 'Beach Boys' band.

Last orders

Breakfast is served at the resort restaurant from 7am–10am, lunch from 11am–2pm and dinner from 6pm–8pm. The bar keeps the cocktails coming from 8am until 11pm, but is at its busiest from 5.30pm–7.30pm.

Room service

Available from 8am–8pm, with dishes from the restaurant menu during meal times, and light snacks at other hours. Free drinks include speciality loose-leaf tea, ice tea, all types of coffee, soft drinks and bottled water.

Smith Insider

Dress code

We feel a kaftan coming on. Bright and breezy should suit this laid-back South Pacific scene.

Top table

Poolside at the restaurant, or opt for romance-revving private dining by lantern light at the pier's end, on seductive ocean decks, or in one of the thatched beachfront bures (all at extra cost).

Local Guide

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Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Hotel – Fiji Islands – Fiji
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

With a striking shoreside setting on Savusavu Bay watersports are a big attraction here. Enjoy sea kayaking, paddle boats, glass-bottom boat rides, or sailing on the resort's impressive catamaran.

Underwater action is also spectacular, given the pristine waters, colourful fringing coral reef and clutch of 13 local dive sites, as well as protected marine areas further afield. The hotel's dive operator L'Aventure Jean-Michel Cousteau offers PADI-certified diving courses and packages, a full-service dive shop with gear to rent or buy, and trips accompanied by a resident marine biologist. Cruise the walls and canyons of Shark Alley, gasp at the coral heads of Namena or join the team to explore new, as yet unnamed, sites. Popular spots include Nsonisoni Pass, a drift dive where experienced divers go with the current flow along a wall alive with purple soft coral, large barracuda and small sharks. Snorkellers can get their kicks on guided boat trips or night safaris.

Eco fun continues on land, care of nature hikes, mangrove tours, reef-flat walks, and rainforest and waterfall hikes. Cultural immersion includes the weekly lovo dinner (with dishes cooked in an earth oven), Fijian story-telling, trad medicine walks, and palm-leaf basket-making sessions. Beyond the resort, you can head out on visits to nearby Nukubulavu village, local church services, clam farms or Savusavu farmers' market, especially lively on Saturday mornings.

Don't miss a trip to Savusavu's acclaimed black pearl farm for gifts for friends (or your good self). Start your tour at J. Hunter Pearl Farm’s (www.fijipearls.com) showroom on Naverea Road in Savusavu, which kicks off with a presentation on how to culture pearls. Afterwards take a 40-minute glass-bottom boat cruise out to their marine farm to see the oyster production process, which includes implanting, cleaning and harvesting at different times of the year. Bring your own gear to snorkel over the farm, where you can see oysters suspended on lines below the water. Wrap up back at the showroom for a spot of shopping. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort offers pearl-farm excursions.

Savusavu boasts the only natural geothermal hot springs in Fiji, reputed to offer healing properties for your skin and bones. Locals also use the warm, volcanic springs for slow cooking, and a concrete pot has been built to form a stove. Find it by the beach at the west end of town where steam rises from underground, with more springs between the school and sports field

Tennis, volleyball, rugby and beach larks round out your day. Then again you could just recline in a hammock, or hit the beachfront spa, which will pamper you with Fijian-inspired treatments and serene sea views. Free daily yoga at dawn ticks our start-the-day box, with stargazing or a chance to join a kava ceremony (Fiji's shared, slightly narcotic ritual drink) the perfect way to wrap up the night.

You'll need to pay for scuba diving, and other activities not covered by rates such as deep-sea fishing, a private island picnic, trips to the pearl farm, mountain-bike hire, use of Savusavu Gym and guided kayak trips to rivers in Vanua Levu's interior.

Local restaurants

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort offers all-inclusive meals, so you'll probably want to eat in, but pretty nearby town Savusavu is just an hour's walk away (or a 15-minute drive) if you fancy checking out some local restaurants and watering-holes.

Dating back to the 1800s, Copra Shed Marina (+679 885 0457; www.coprashed.com) was once a loading bay for the local copra industry (coconut meal used to extract coconut oil), which dominated these parts. It now serves as a hub for tourists and expats, offering flight and ferry bookings, postcards, email, currency exchange, a well-stocked bottle shop (Savusavu Wines & Spirits), and laundry services, hot showers and toilets for yachties. Swing by for the restaurant, the Captain’s Café, which does a good line in pizza and beer. There’s a small historical display and if you’ve arrived by boat you can arrange marina moorings here.

Ideal for a cocktail with a waterside view – we suggest a margarita – or tasty lobster and fillet mignon, Surf ‘n Turf (+679 885 3033) is a respected spot in the Waterfront Building on Savusavu’s main street. It’s owned by Fijian chef Vijendra Kumar who was trained at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, and is open for lunch, dinner, coffee and drinks. Tasty Fijian meals draw on local vegetables, spices and herbs, with curries and seafood a speciality. The house-made ice-cream comes highly recommended, including delicious coconut and coffee flavours. Service can be erratic, but hey, you’re on Fiji time.

A humble, local Fijian-Indian restaurant with just a scattering of tables, cosy eatery Country Kitchen (+679 927 1372) cooks up a storm. Chicken or fish curry with roti, dahl, rice and split-pea soup is popular with the locals, or opt for a veggie curry if you can’t handle the bones. It’s very affordable, and right across the street from the bus station.

Local bars

The first social club in the South Pacific for European settlers, Planters’ Club (+679 885 0233) is a colonial-era affair at the western end of Savusavu where planters came to drink after bringing in the copra. Once strictly open to members’ only, and their bona fide visitors, you can now ask bar staff to sign you into the register as a guest. You can sense the history in this tropical clapboard space, with vintage photographs on walls of past club presidents and members. Play a spot of pool, order a cold, young coconut at the bar (or throw in some rum) or chow down on curried goat or lamb and puri. Happy hour is 5.30pm–6.30pm, and opening hours are usually 10am–10pm on weekdays, and until 11am and 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Yachtie types and expats throng the wharfside bars at the Savusavu Yacht Club (+679 885 0685), at the Copra Shed (open Monday–Saturday, 10am–10pm; Sunday, noon to 10pm), and the nearby Waitui Club (+679 885 0536), upstairs at Waitui Marina, which sports nautical decor and tropical views from its deck (tourists can be temporary members).

Local cafés

With an expansive, open deck on Savusavu’s main street, Decked Out Café (+679 885 2929) is the go-to spot for people-watching over breakfasts, burgers and sandwiches. There are daily specials, and you can wash the whole lot down with fruit smoothies. Sunset views are no slouch either.

+ Enlarge
Seaside coconut plantation

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu

Near the bayside town of Savusavu on the south coast, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is strung along the shore of north-easterly Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island.

Planes

Fly into Nadi International Airport (www.airportsfiji.com) on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. From there, it's just under an hour’s shared charter flight north-east to Savusavu Airport on Vanua Levu island with Island Hoppers (www.helicopters.com.fj) – which also offers helicopter rides (75 minutes). Cheaper, but less reliable, domestic airline Pacific Sun (www.fijiairways.com) flights take 70 minutes. Alternatively, Pacific Island Air (www.pacificislandair.com) provides seaplane charters from Nadi Airport to Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort’s jetty. If you’re flying from Fiji’s capital Suva, you’ll usually make a 30-minute pitstop at Nadi before the flight on to Savusavu.

Automobiles

The resort is a 20-minute drive from Savusavu Airport. Free return transfers for the 9km drive are included in rates, and the hotel team meets Pacific Sun flights at Savusavu Airport. There's free parking at Jean-Michel Cousteau, but it's not worth hiring a car unless you plan on exploring the island. Savusavu town is 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel.

Other

Savusavu marina is just 15 minutes away, so private yacht charters are another way to reach Jean-Michel Cousteau. There are also ferry and car-ferry connections to Savusavu from other islands, but Smith recommends flying to save time. Helicopter transfers (www.helicopters.com.fj) and seaplane flights (www.pacificislandair.com) to the resort's dock from Nadi or elsewhere can also be arranged. For help with transfer connections, contact Rosie Holidays (www.rosiefiji.com).

Reviews

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Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Hotel — Fiji Islands — Fiji

Anonymous review

by Danielle Oppermann , Tastemaker

On paper, I’ve never been the ideal candidate for a Fiji holiday. Firstly, although we love the ocean, our pale Eastern European complexions mean we’re not designed to lie on a beach for days at a stretch, so we’re after family time together, a bit of underwater adventure and a lot of shade. Second, we’ve always been independent travellers and resisted the lure of the all-i…
Read more

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Anonymous review by Danielle Oppermann, Tastemaker

On paper, I’ve never been the ideal candidate for a Fiji holiday. Firstly, although we love the ocean, our pale Eastern European complexions mean we’re not designed to lie on a beach for days at a stretch, so we’re after family time together, a bit of underwater adventure and a lot of shade. Second, we’ve always been independent travellers and resisted the lure of the all-inclusive package or tour – so we need at least enough atmosphere to know that we’ve left Sydney far behind. And finally, there’s the food. Usually, seeking out the best local hangouts and authentic dishes is the purpose of my whole travel itinerary, so resigning myself to eating at the same resort restaurant every day is a scary thought. What’s more, for me, Fiji was always in the box marked ‘save for an easy family holiday one day’. But after a hectic year at work, and now with a two-year-old in tow, Mr Smith and I decide the time is right.

It turns out that a stay at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is the ideal introduction to Fiji for seasoned travellers with a mortal fear of surrendering their indie/luxe pretentions. Leaving the sprawling resorts of capital Nadi behind, our trip begins with a stress-free 16-seater plane ride (the scariest part was the pre-flight weigh in – must’ve been the hefty hand luggage…). Ultramarine waters, threaded with reef and small islands, flash past the windows before we land at Savusavu, located on Fiji’s second largest island Vanua Levu.

A guitar serenade and fresh papaya juice greets us on arrival. We’re welcomed by an array of smiling staff, including Mita, Miss Smith’s nanny for the duration, clad in the blue and orange polo shirt of the Bula Club, JMC’s legendary kids’ programme. We’re soon on our way to our spacious Oceanfront Bure, with its burnished wood surfaces and soaring thatched roof. I love the fact that the resort, built on a former coconut plantation, takes its eco credentials seriously, using screened wooden shutters and ceiling fans to keep the heat at bay, so we don’t feel like we’ve landed in an air-conditioned capsule of Western comfort. A small veranda with a hammock looks out over lush lawns dotted with hermit crabs to the bay and the green hills of its far shore where clouds gather in the afternoons.

The serene resort hub soon beckons, with its breezy bar and dining area (one side for families) and adults-only infinity pool. A stroll along the jetty reveals parrot fish feeding in the shallows and cobalt starfish. Cages protect the giant clam and coral nurseries tended by resident marine biologist Johnny, who also joins snorkel trips and gives animated pre-dinner talks. Marine life is a big focus here, unsurprisingly given the resort was founded by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of scuba pioneer Jacques and an environmentalist and ocean adventurer in his own right. A dive expedition taking in a reef wall and two stunning coral pinnacles are highlights of the trip, as are Mr Smith’s game fishing expedition with its haul of Spanish mackerel, and the daily relaxed snorkel forays. Mita accompanies us on the family snorkels, as Miss Smith prefers to wave to Nemo through the glass-bottomed boat than venture into the warm, clear waters.

Our mission this holiday was always to spend plenty of time as a family, but having a dedicated nanny for our toddler makes everything easy. (Older kids are just as well catered for, grouped with a buddy for island adventures including snorkelling, crab races, river kayaking and hanging out in a palatial new treehouse.) It takes a day or two, but we find our ideal balance of family and couple time. After spending the morning all together, we hang out by the pool with a book or enjoy a massage* while our daughter naps, then join her for a swim in the family pool (with waterslide) and Bula Club dinner before heading off for our own uninterrupted meal while Mita handles the bedtime routine.

* So about that massage: best ever. Before JMC, I spent my last spa experience contemplating the horrors of disposable underwear and New-Age soundtracks. Here, I lie in the intimate waterside spa bure, feeling the warm breeze of the bay and listening to its gentle waves lap against the shore less than a metre away (wearing my own bikini bottoms). Bliss.

Never before in my adult life have I handed over all my dining decisions for a five-day stretch, but Jean-Michel Cousteau includes all meals so I submit. As we watch the staff pull carefully wrapped parcels out of the smoking cooking pit for our first dinner (lovo night), I’m both keen to sample traditional Fijian fare and anxious to confirm all the rave food reviews that JMC receives. As we feast on the smoky chicken, pork, whole fish and local vegetable dishes such as taro leaves with coconut and nama (intriguing, salty, caviar-like sea grapes), we know we’re in good hands. During the rest of our stay we enjoy Asian, Indian and Mediterranean-inspired menus that make the most of tropical produce, much of it from the vegetable gardens behind the kids’ club and the local Savusavu markets (which we visit as one of the daily activities). Also homegrown are the fresh coconuts from the resort’s own palms. Bigger than my head, each one would keep a city-dwelling health fanatic in ice-cold coconut water for days – the perfect hydrating balance to our other favourite refreshment, the mojito.

We book private island Naviavia, about 20 minutes offshore, for breakfast on our last morning (sunset drinks, unsurprisingly, is the most popular time for couples). Sea birds and the ever-present hermit crabs keep the three of us company as we sit on the beach eating tropical fruit, drinking hot coffee and admiring the palm-fringed resort from afar. Totally relaxed, in a pristine environment with just the right amount of home comforts, our Fiji conversion is complete.
 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort's Guestbook below.

 

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