Walking down the steep stairs from Deck 3, we boarded the orange life boat and were on our way. This was our first tender on the cruise and an awesome experience for the kids. As the boat drew nearer to Port I reminisced back to 10 years ago, when we first arrived at Denarau Island. I was pregnant with my son and mum to our then nearly two-year-old daughter, we had booked a last-minute trip to Fiji from Australia. It was a brilliant holiday and one we still talk about today. It’s hard to believe a decade has passed and I found myself asking, what happened to the time? Our daughter is now, almost a teenager.
Denarau Island is man-made and built on reclaimed swampland. Doesn’t sound too inviting does it? But with it’s palm-lined beaches and out of this world swimming pools, they’ve done an amazing job turning it into a popular family holiday destination. Here you’ll find some of the best five-star hotels in the Pacific, all lined up next to each other facing out towards the ocean. The marina has some lovely boutique shops and fantastic restaurants, including the famous Hard Rock Café. From here you can take a charter boat to any of the spectacular outer islands. Denarau is linked to the mainland by causeway and is about a 15 minute drive from Nadi, on the western side of the main island of Vitii Levu. Nadi is home to the unique Sri Siva Subramaniya temple, the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere. Nadi is also the best place to do your souvenir shopping compared to the inflated prices found near the resorts.
Denarau Island is well-known in the Pacific region for its golf course, situated directly opposite the resorts. You can walk the Island relatively easily or you can catch the famous Bula Bus which will cost you $8 per day for unlimited travel (kids under 12 travel free). The windowless bus has a delightful thatched roof and is a great experience for the whole family
There are no white sand beaches so if you’re after these you’ll need to visit one of the outer islands. If you’re very adventurous then Denarau will probably struggle to excite you but if you’re looking to relax and connect with your family then you’ve found the right place. Our days here comprised of swimming, reading, kayaking, playing games with the kids and taking many siestas! By far, for us, the best time of the day was sunset, the beating of the Lali (a Fijian wooden drum), the lighting of the tiki torches around the pool and having a relaxing sunset drink whilst listening to the sweet tunes from the Fijian locals.
Our day this time was no different. We spent it wandering from one resort to the next, a stop at the Radisson, a drink at the Westin and lunch at the Sofitel (which was a lot more affordable than the Sheraton, who wanted to charge us $33 for a burger, taxes not included). The Sofitel had a real Fijian authenticity to it, my feelings motivated by the welcoming hospitality of all the staff.
Our day trip ended with an afternoon swim at the Sofitel resort which boasts a great waterslide for the kids and a hammock lined beach. If you want to make use of all the resort’s facilities you will need to book a ‘day-room’ by contacting the hotel directly. This is expensive and not far off the nightly rate. As we were only here for 6 hours and August is peak season we opted not to do this.
We always manage to find ourselves on the last tender to the boat, soaking up as much of the time there as we can. We watched the magnificent sunset over the ocean while we made our way back to the twinkling lights of the ship in the distance.
The locals on Denarau told us that our next stop, SavuSavu, is the real hidden gem of Fiji.