Three of our favourite retreats in the Pacific Islands
The Pacific Islands are home to some wonderful places to stay. Laura Birtles reveals three of our favourite retreats in Fiji + Tahiti
For those looking for a truly off-grid escape, the Pacific Islands – mere pinpricks in the world’s biggest ocean – are incredible. Discerning travellers make the long journey here to enjoy their seclusion, tranquillity, breathtaking beaches, unusual wildlife, indigenous cultures, diverse watersports and extraordinary marine experiences. They also come here to make the most of some of the most idyllic hotels on earth. Below, you will find three of our favourite island retreats in the South Pacific, all stand-alone destinations in themselves:
1 Kokomo Private Island, the Fiji Islands
This tiny islet, north-east of the Kadavu archipelago in the Fiji Islands, is home to palm-fringed shores, turquoise waters and verdant gardens nurtured by an impressive team of 29 gardeners. The 26 villas are stylish and spacious, each one with its own courtyard and lawn.
Kokomo is suitable for wellness addicts – you will find the largest spa in Fiji here – and foodies. The three restaurants serve Fiji-Asian-fusian dishes made with fresh ingredients. The lodge is self-sufficient, with its own farm growing fruit and vegetables, as well as resident hens and bees. We suggest going on a guided walk around the grounds, which is also a fun expedition for children. Indeed, Kokomo is a superb place for families. It’s two-bedroom villas are lovely, and there is an excellent nanny service, a kids club and a sea trampoline, which will keep both youngsters and adults entertained.
Of course, other than general relaxation, the focus of any stay here is the watersports and marine life. The activities range from kayaking, deep-sea fishing, stand-up paddleboarding and sailing to treks, glass-bottom boat trips, tennis and surfing. Scuba enthusiasts can explore some of the best dive spots on the planet, home to exquisite coral gardens, turtles, dolphins, manta rays, tuna and sharks. There is a ‘shack’ packed with snorkelling equipment, so guests can plunge in right off the beach. However, we can arrange some fantastic outings slightly further afield, such as at Bomby Reef, a brilliant snorkelling spot that’s just 10 minutes away by boat. Divers should explore the very unspoilt Great Astrolabe Reef, Fiji’s equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef, which has more than 30 sites and is just a 20-minute boat ride away. In addition, one of our favourite experiences to set up for clients is a picnic on an uninhabited island, where you will feel as if you are the only people in the world.
The island also has an impressive coral reef restoration programme, among other conservation efforts, and we strongly encourage you to get involved. We can organise lectures and snorkelling expeditions with marine biologist Cliona O’Flaherty, where you can assist with replanting coral.
2 The Brando, Tetiaroa Private Island, the Islands of Tahiti
The Brando, situated on Tetiaroa Private Island in French Polynesia’s Society Islands, is another stunning ocean hideaway. Tetiaroa is one of a dozen or so small islands that encircle a heavenly, three-mile-wide lagoon and are privately owned so guests have exclusive access to them. Each of the 35 villas here have their own pools beside beautiful, white-sand beaches. There is a huge infinity pool, a tennis court, a library, a fabulous spa and two great restaurants, dishing up delicious, Polynesian-inspired and French dishes.
We love The Brando’s eco credentials. The hotel has its own organic garden and bee hives, solar panels, a coconut-oil powered electric plant and a desalination water plant. There’s also an environmental research station and we always urge our clients to get involved in the remarkable conservation work going on. Interesting talks on the conservation of the reef can also be arranged. There are also opportunities to engage with local Fijian people by joining them in their traditional customs, such as weaving, dancing and music.
Tetiaroa provides the perfect setting for endless fun adventures, such as sailing in the lagoon, island-hopping by paddleboard, deep-sea fishing, canoeing in the serene lagoon or exploring the island by bicycle or on foot. Alternatively, if all you wish to do is relax, you can swim at Mermaid Bay, unwind by the pool or go for serene walks along the beach. There are so many special experiences that we can organise, depending on your interests, such as a private barbecue by your villa or a bicycle ride with a specialist guide who will take you to a sacred Polynesian temple and open your eyes to the story of the first Polynesians and their beliefs.
Nature lovers will be in their element at The Brando. As well as snorkelling and scuba-diving in a spectacular and biodiverse ecosystem, where you often glide past white-tip sharks, eagle rays and turtles, we can ask a naturalist from the Tetiaroa Society to take you birdwatching, where you will spot boobies, terns, egrets and noddies nesting. In addition, between August and October, we would highly recommend swimming with humpback whales, which gather to breed here.
3 Six Senses Fiji, Malolo Island, the Fiji Islands
Situated on Malolo Island, part of the Mamanuca archipelago in the Fiji Islands, this stunning hotel overlooks gin-clear waters and chalk-white beaches. The 24 spacious villas, set in a tropical paradise, have elegant interiors, outdoor baths and showers, and private decks with pools.
The food-and-drink options here are very much up to Six Senses’ usual standards but strongly influenced by local dishes. There is a deli, an ice creamery and several top-notch restaurants, but a definite highlight is Tovolea – a surreal place to sip cocktails and watch the sun go down. We can also organise dinner on the beach or a mixology class during your stay.
You can pass the days here kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, surfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing and snorkelling above the vibrant coral and prolific marine life of the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, including swimming with bull sharks and manta rays. We can also charter a boat to take you to explore other nearby castaway islands, hopping from secret cove to secret cove and enjoying some pristine, utterly deserted beaches. Another amazing experience we like to arrange for our clients is a helicopter flight over the surrounding area. Soaking in the vistas of the Mamanuca Islands from the air is unforgettable. Adrenaline addicts can even go sky-diving.
It is becoming increasingly important to be aware of the sustainability of a place and ensure that everything possible is being done to protect fragile environments. Six Senses Fiji has taken this responsibility seriously, with the foundation of its Coral Reef Project in 2015, which aims to conserve the surrounding habitats. Guests can support the programme and get involved by joining snorkelling trips to replant and maintain the health of the coral. It’s also exciting to set out with a guide to attempt to spot one of the 17 Fiji crested iguanas residing in the grounds. These creatures are critically endangered, according to the IUCN Red List, but here their population is on the rise.