Romantic, adults-only Likuliku Lagoon Resort boutique hotel in Fiji seduces with the country's only overwater bungalows, spacious beachfront bures and sea views. Smart dining, stylish design and a serene spa up the luxe factor, or let loose with snorkelling sessions, jungle walks or a spot of island-hopping.
11am, but flexible subject to availability. Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £905.90 (FJD2,535), including tax at 41 per cent.
Rates include all meals (excluding alcohol and soft drinks), welcome drink and floral lei, Likuliku sulu (sarong), Friday cocktail party and non-motorised watersports. Credit card payments incur a 2.5 per cent fee.
Meaning 'house of dreams', Tatadra Spa lives up to its moniker, with sea-view treatment rooms, a serene chill-out area, rainforest-facing shower and Pure Fiji products. Therapies combine indigenous and global rituals, with options for solo and couple pampering – how can you resist the Hydrating Milk Bath?
At the hotel
Spa, activities bure including dive centre, gym, restaurant, bars, library with books, DVDs and CDs, free WiFi in all rooms, gardens. In rooms: CD/DVD system, iPod dock, minibar on request, free fresh-baked cookies, bottled water and ice delivered daily, Pure Fiji toiletries. Guests in Over-water Bures also receive a daily chef's canapé platter.
Our favourite rooms
Fiji's only Over-water Bures are a big draw for honeymooners, with a glass floor-panel for subaqua gazing, direct ladder access to the lagoon, and oh-my ocean views from bed, freestanding bath and lounger-strewn decks. We also love the more spacious, secluded Deluxe Beachfront Bures, elegant affairs with vast bedrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, and private plunge pools right on the sand.
Holding court beside the restaurant at the heart of the resort, the foliage-fringed outdoor pool is spacious and sexy, with infinity-edge ocean views and lots of loungers for lazing.
Trainers for island hikes; your own mask and snorkel for reef ogling (or just hire kit at the hotel's activities bure). There's also great diving, surfing and watersports, so bring kit to look stylish while showing off your skills. Mosquito repellant goes without saying.
Spa services, motorised watersports and tours are not included in rates. Smoking is allowed in the Masima Island Bar, on Dua Tale Bar veranda, and on room decks. A minimum three-night stay applies from 15 December to 6 January.
Likuliku is an adults' resort, and only welcomes children age 17 or over.
A veritable eco warrior, Likuliku is an active member of the Mamanuca Environment Society, committed to turtle and coral conservation, green education and water-quality monitoring. Its lagoon and reef has been declared 'Na Tabu' by the late island chief, which outlaws fishing, shell and coral collecting to ensure regeneration. Forest replanting is also afoot, as is a scheme to protect the rare Fijian crested iguana. Oh, and the hotel recycles and uses local produce and building materials, naturally.
For private dining, bag one of Fijiana's two romantic waterfront tables set under the trees, both touting seductive sea views. Otherwise, snaffle any of the upper terrace tables facing the ocean, or the secluded table on the right of the lower terrace.
Casual resort wear by day; informal chic by night. Think understated luxury.
Food enjoys a star turn at Likuliku, with gorgeous gourmet treats care of accolade-garnering, Australian executive chef Shane Watson. Served in airy, beachside restaurant Fijiana, dishes run the gamut from local to global via creative fusion feasts, with fresh-caught seafood and tropical fruits the standouts. Breakfast is one of the best in Fiji, including DIY-juices, house-blend muesli, fresh coconuts, gourmet breads and pastries, and hot dishes such as mud-crab omelette with chilli and papaya relish or twice-cooked Gruyère cheese souffle. Loosen that belt...
It's hard to miss open-air Masima Island Bar, a laidback affair at the end of the jetty. It's where you'll be met with a welcome drink (and ukulele tunes) on arrival, and shed a tear over a moreish mocktail before you depart. The go-to spot for sunset sipping, it also plays host to Friday night cocktail parties. There's a second sleek indoor bar upstairs in the main lobby bure, oppposite the restaurant.
Dinner is served from 7pm to 9pm, with reservations required; the bar keeps pouring until late.
There's no room service, and minibar drinks are on request. Rooms do come stocked with delicious cookies and two free bottles of water a day.
Set on Malolo Island in the Mamanuca archipelago, Likuliku is super-handy for capital Nadi, just a boat hop away.
Fly into Fiji's Nadi International Airport (www.airportsfiji.com), on the west coast of main island Viti Levu. Fijian national carrier Fiji Airways (www.fijiairways.com), which code shares with Qantas (www.qantas.com), offers direct flights to Nadi from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland, Christchurch, Hong Kong, Honolulu and Los Angeles, as well as connections via LA from major US cities and Vancouver. Other international carriers flying into Nadi include Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Pacific Blue, Korean Air, US Airways, United Airlines, Air Vanuatu and Air Caledonia. Rosie Holidays (www.rosiefiji.com), which has an office at Nadi Airport, is a reliable ground operator if you need help booking flights or domestic transfers.
The easiest way to reach Likuliku from Port Denerau marina on the main island is by boat. South Sea Cruises (www.ssc.com.fj) offers thrice-daily catamaran trips, which take 55 minutes direct to Malolo Island, or two hours if swinging by other islands. Transfers start at FJ$110 a person each way. For more speed and flexibility, commandeer a water-taxi or private boat charter care of 24-hour operator Mamanuca Express (www.mamanucaexpress.com), which can carry one to eight people (prices from around FJ$729 for two one-way). For helicopter transfers, we suggest Island Hoppers (www.helicopters.com.fj) – one way helicopter transfers start at FJ$580 a person – or Pacific Island Air (www.pacificislandair.com), which can have you at Likuliku in 10 minutes at a cost of around FJ$399 a person each way for seaplane transfers and FJ$511 a person each way for helicopter transfers. Please note: weight restrictions apply for both helicopter and seaplane transfers, and the resort doesn't allow seaplane arrivals or departures before 8am.
Worth getting out of bed for
Bag time in Likuliku's impressive Tatadra Spa, set in a serene spot on the east side of the grounds where the forest meets the ocean. Treatments draw on local Fijian produce, such as the Dilo Foot Rescue for soothing tired paws. Both solo and couples pampering is up for grabs, with a chill-out room with outdoor terrace for recovering afterwards. You can also request treatments in your room.
Naturally, there's aquatic action aplenty at Likuliku, starting with the inviting main pool as well as gentle swimming and free snorkelling in the pretty lagoon surrounding the resort (Likuliku means 'calm waters' and the lagoon was once a safe harbour for tribal war canoes). Time your forays for when the tide is high, as water levels can vary dramatically during the day, with the seabed sometimes exposed. There's easy snorkelling off the beach or main jetty thanks to Malolo Island's fringing reef, or check out the tropical fish right below the Over-water Bures (guests in these rooms can just descend a ladder to plumb the depths, but be careful at low tide). The immediate area is a protected marine reserve, declared a sacred no-fishing zone by the local chief, so you should see lots of rainbow-bright fish as well as cobalt starfish. You can also pay for snorkelling sessions at sites further afield; just consult the guys at the activities bure, who can also give you a basic snorkelling lesson.
Scuba diving is handled by an outside operator, PADI-certified Subsurface Fiji, so visit the activities bure and they'll hook you up, with dive trips departing twice daily. With over 44 dive sites in the area, you'll find adventures to suit all levels, from calm inner reef dives to deeper, oceanside explorations beyond Malolo's barrier reef. Popular dives include buzzy shark sightings at the world-famous Supermarket, wreck-scoping at B26 Bomber and Salamanda Shipwreck, swimming through submerged pinnacles at Gotham City, cavern hopping at Vomo Caves, the sheer wall at Bird Rock, and drift dives at Wilkes Passage. As well as jaw-dropping hard and soft coral, you may see barracuda, turtles, reef sharks, manta rays and moray eels. Beginners can take a half-day introductory course, kicking off in the resort's pool, before progresssing to the ocean. Longer Open Water and Advanced Dive courses can also be yours. Serious surfers are in luck, too, with iconic breaks just a short boat ride away, including Cloudbreak, Restaurants, Namotu Left and Wilkes Passage.
Action fiends can try their luck at waterskiing, wakeboarding or the bizarre-sounding kneeboarding, at extra cost; non-motorised watersports are free, including kayaks and windsurfing boards. Jetskiing is available at a nearby sister hotel on the island a short boat trip away. Handline fishing or trolling on the inner or outer reef for giant tuna or trevally will appeal to budding Hemingways. Island-hopping trips, sandbar picnics, dolphin safari/surf sightseeing tours to Cloud Break and sunset cruises (with a tasty antipasto platter) may also float your boat – literally – or you can choose to circumnavigate Malolo Levu and Malolo Lailai islands. The lagoon is a turtle-breeding area and Fijian waters attract migrating humpback whales in season.
Back on dry land, check out the island's nature trails and guided bush walks, including Jonas's Look-out and the ridge track to Naroba Point, or enjoy a shoreside stroll along Naivaka Beach. Likuluku offers walks with a local medicine man who can explain the beneficial properties of plants and flowers. Culture vultures can visit Malolo's two villages, including Yaro – home to the island's paramount chief – where you can attend Sunday church services, and Solevu, where you can drop in at a school. You can also discover ancient archeological sites dotted across the island, with strong religious significance to the indigenous population, including Yadra, a magic wishing cave occupied by a spirit god.
Although you can pay to tour a few neighbouring islands for a spot of cocktail sipping, we reckon you'll want to stay put given Likuliku's seductive charms. Masima Island Bar, at the end of Likuliku's main jetty, makes a hard-to-beat perch come sunset, and hosts Friday night cocktail parties.
Fiji seemed to be a mythical place, seen only on posters in travel agents’ windows, when I was growing up in the grey drizzle of England’s Manchester. So, as Mrs Smith and I swoop around the headland in our seaplane and drop down to Likuliku Lagoon Resort, I feel like one of those children from the Narnia stories who steps through the wardrobe and into fantasyland.
We’re on Malolo Island, a little tropical dot of land just west of Fiji’s main airport in Nadi. As soon as we step off the plane and into the small boat that zips across the shallow lagoon to the resort jetty, I feel my internal body clock slow down. Only the day before, I’d been frantically in and out of meetings and firing off emails before our long weekend in Fiji. All that seems a world away now as the welcome band serenades our arrival and calls of ‘Bula! Bula!’ carry across the lagoon.
Manu, a giant of a man somehow made less intimidating by his pastel-blue flower-print shirt and softly spoken voice, greets us: ‘Bula Mr Smith, Bula Mrs Smith.’ We haven’t even hopped off the boat and he knows our names. It’s a sign of things to come. After showing us around the reception, restaurant and games room – ah hello, who plays board games in paradise? – Manu shuttles us by golf buggy to our Over-water Bure. The buggy is pretty much the only thing that moves at any pace at Likuliku and within minutes we’ve reached what is to be our home for the next three days. Likuliku has 10 Over-water Bures; the first and only ones in Fiji, a fact of which the staff is very proud.
We luck out and are escorted to bure number one – it’s definitely the pick of the litter and the only one facing away from the resort and out to sea. It’s spacious and well laid out, but the real highlights are the way it embraces the outdoors: the bed faces a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean and glass floor panels allow you to gaze down onto the coral below. Doors open to the deck and a ladder descending into the warm lagoon waters, hinting at spontaneous plunges to come.
The sun is already dipping after our day’s travel so we wander back to the main communal area for a sunset cocktail and dinner. ‘Bula Mr Smith!’ bellows the barman. I feel as though I’ve walked on to the set of Cheers where everyone does indeed know my name. Likuliku's only restaurant has tables inside and out. We bag an alfresco spot, illuminated by fire sticks and overlooking the beach. The menu is small and simple, but what it lacks in choice the staff makes up for with an infectious desire to make everything perfect. If you asked, I’m sure they’d whip up any dish you fancied and serve it up with a smile and a chorus of ‘Bula!
Pulling open the blinds the next morning reveals a scuba-diver’s dream come true: a massive coral reef right outside our bure. Five steps down the ladder and I am snorkelling coral gardens as reef fish dart around searching for breakfast. Not a bad alternative to a morning shower!
Likuliku means ‘calm waters’ and the crystal-clear lagoon at the core of the resort magically alters our habits. During the next 48 hours, Mrs Smith and I surrender to the pace of the lagoon and begin to operate on island time. Never before have I been able to measure my movements by the tide’s ebb and flow. But here high tide means lunchtime, low tide cocktail-o-clock. In between we manage to fit in a massage at the spa and a game of table tennis with the activities bure manager (he tells me he hasn’t played for a while and then proceeds to paddle like an Olympic gold medalist). I also spend a cheeky half-hour tearing around on a jet ski. Of course, something as crude and loud as a jet ski would spoil the serenity, so you’re boated around the headland to Likuliku’s family-friendly sister resort far from your chilled-out fellow guests. In the choppy waters outside the lagoon, you can whoop it up to your heart’s content without annoying the neighbours.
Just like in Narnia, time has markedly blurred but all fantasy trips come to an end. Three days later, at a reality-checking 5.30am, we depart on a speedboat under the glow of a full moon. Usually when you leave a holiday destination you realise you’ll probably never return – the world is way too big and there are too many exciting new places to experience. But when Mrs Smith asks if I think we’ll ever come back, I tell her we should leave this particular wardrobe door open and be sure to step through it again soon.