At one hundred and sixty kilometres long, with mountains rearing 1,400 metres high, Viti Levu – Fiji's main island – isn't your typical tropical desert island. But it is surrounded by them. With over 330 islands making up this South Pacific archipelago, Fiji has more perfectly-formed little paradises than most places on the planet. Throw in stunning sections of coral-fringed beaches, a wonderfully warm and sunny climate and a fascinating and vibrant Pacific islander culture, and you have all the ingredients for holiday heaven.
Fiji has been a major destination for holiday-bound New Zealanders for several decades now. A major part of its draw lies with the supreme quality of its hotels. Elegant, spacious and beautifully presented, Fiji has some of the best hotels in the world.
Travellers to Fiji invariably take their 'gateway to paradise' through Nadi International Airport, the island's main airport, in the west. This part of Fiji has some gorgeous stretches of coast, helping to make it a major hot-spot for resorts and hotels. These are generally high quality, well-furnished complexes, catering to all the needs of their visitors.
Many Nadi hotels spoil you with spas and health facilities, some lay-on adventure sports, but all lay on beautiful beaches. Think warm tropical shallows back-dropped by lush green mountains. Even better, the room rates here needn't be astronomical. But if luxury is something you aspire to, the nearby Denarau Island offers it in spades, with its superb facilities – though they come at a price.
Accessed over a short causeway, the sumptuous hotels here are served by an 18-hole golf course and some excellent sporting (and pampering) opportunities. Some visitors, though, are merely passing through, They're on their way to the ultimate in Fijian paradise – the sparkling coral islands of Mamanuca.
Denarau Island's marina is where boats cast off for the scattered, well-appointed and exclusive hotels found on the 20 Mamanuca Islands. These are the stuff of glossy hotel brochures, with their palm-thatched huts and board-walks over turquoise seas. And also of film. One of the islands – Monuriki – featured in Tom Hanks 2000 film, Cast Away. The snorkelling and diving opportunities of these islands are second to none.
That said, the string of resorts along the Coral Coast – a few hours’ drive south of Nadi – do their best to outshine them. This long stretch of coast is famed for its astonishing stretches of pristine corals, home to a diverse array of marine life. There are several hotels and villa complexes found in the Coral Coast's scattered bays and villages. And unlike most of the hotels on the Mamanuca Islands, you'll find the prices to be quite reasonable.
A final option, if you’re looking to get away from the busier resorts, is to head for the other big Fiji island – Vanua Levu. This is more remote, and less cultivated, than Viti Levu. But it has a decent number of more personable hotels, and quieter resorts, some budget, some luxury. Plus it has some family-friendly and adventure water-sports hotels. One or two even tap into Fiji's original creative force – its volcanoes – for hot-water springs. That must make for the ultimate in tropical island spa paradises.