There are two kinds of people when it comes to travel – the ones who love to hide away, hibernating on a deserted island far away from the world. Then there are those that prefer a more lively escape, one where drinks are free-flowing, the atmosphere is buzzing and there is always something to do and somewhere to be.
Being an introvert on holiday, I’ve discovered I want two very distinct things. I’m happy to be around the action, feel the holiday vibe, get amongst the buzz, but I want a place to escape, to ignore the world and doze the days away. Luckily I’ve found the perfect place to stay and revive both your introverted and extroverted holiday self.
Away from the tourist hustle and bustle. The InterContinental Fiji Resort & Spa sits in Natadola on Vitu Levu’s coral coast. Our 45-minute drive in air-conditioned comfort takes us through Fijian villages and past the hubs of Nadi as we settle for a quieter pace. We have arrived on a steamy afternoon in the peak of Summer, tropical dreams come true with just a three-four hour flight.
We’re welcomed with drums, a sound we will come to hear many times over the next few days, exchanging with each other a knowing smile that a new group of guests have arrived. Our hosts welcome us by name, they ask about our days, they check we’re okay, they give us local tips and share resort knowledge. Not once during our stay do we feel like we are among strangers. Instead this is a place where we feel like we have returned after a long journey.
The hotel is nothing if not monolithic as you pull up to the reception. The long hallway alone casts a grand architectural feature in its tropical surroundings. It’s easy to feel daunted by the sheer size (on 30 acres) of the InterContinental . But it’s here that our gold buggy waits to whisk us off to somewhere more private, and it is this luxurious highlight of the resort that really sets it apart.
The Club InterContinental is a steep climb above the main resort much like the arrangement of the nearby village chief’s hut, it is the crowning jewel looking over the rest of the resort.
There are 50 suites on Club InterContinental, each filled to the brim with amenities. Our mini bar is replenished every afternoon with complimentary drinks and snacks and every morning we receive the local papers which are hung on our door. Our enormous room is much more like an apartment than hotel suite with it’s six seater dining table, a couch that runs the entire length of the wall, a spacious bedroom with king sized bed and bathroom with marble counter tops, double sinks, Pure Fiji toiletries replenished daily, and decadent shower.
It is Fiji of course, so the real attractions lie outdoors – every room at the InterContinental features a Cleopatra style bath on the balcony (complete with thick curtains for a little added privacy). And only on Club level, a select few rooms offer deliciously cool plunge pools and private lawns, overlooking the ocean that become our hideaway from the world. One night we return to our room to find candles lit, towels laid out and the bath filled with a hot milk bath and flower petals, the best way to spend a honeymoon of romantic bliss.
It isn’t just privacy that the Club InterContinental offers though, it’s actually a lot more. Your butlers welcome you by name every time you walk into the adults only Club level lounge, using their local knowledge to recommend the best tours, or arrange gifts from the resort’s shops. Eroni and Josephine were particularly favourites of ours, their warmth and welcoming smiles always welcoming us in from our latest adventure.
Like most Club Level luxuries, breakfast is included in the lounge area, but guests can also make use of the two other breakfast restaurants (Navo Restaurant and Sanansana buffet) on the property for a little variety.
You may as well skip lunch as Club Lounge guests because the food is laid on all day. Every afternoon you can sit down to a delicious high tea – and the best part, and the highlight for me – evening serenades at cocktail hour (which includes a menu of free flowing cocktails and platters of canapés served hot and fresh).
Not only do you watch the sun set over the Club InterContinental’s private infinity pool (complete with sun loungers and shady pods) but we’re also swept into the romance of Fiji with our serenading duo Ulaiasi and Timoci on ukulele and guitar.
The Club Level is touted as a resort within the resort, an extra stamp of luxury if you will that sits inside an already beautifully orchestrated band of many.
There are 216 guest rooms at the InterContinental Fiji, starting at garden view and moving to pool view, lagoon view (our pick) and beach view – mere steps away from Natadola’s beach (often ranked as one of Fiji’s best beaches). Each room comes complete with balcony Cleopatra bath, king beds, Pure Fiji toiletries, CD/DVD Player with BOSE sound system. There are the usual guest facilities – a gym, decadent day spa, pools (one adult only and one children friendly) a well equipped kids club, concierge, and tour booking office. The resort providing the best of all worlds for their guests’ styles and needs.
There are five restaurants on the resort. The most casual Toba Bar & Grill sits between the children’s pool and the adults only area. Serving up poolside lunches (our favourite was the wood fired pizzas), cocktails and casual meals it’s a firm favourite for both adults and children alike.
Kama Lounge serves as the hub of the resort, the bar open well into the night and right on the sand, the meeting spot for the nightly fire lighting ceremony and accompanying entertainment of fire dancers. Fijian choirs and live bands play here every night and it’s the place to go if you want a little more action after dark.
Sanasana Buffet has a themed menu changing nightly. We dined on the South Pacific themed evening and filled our bellies with fresh fish, local Fijian curries (local mud crab curry one of my favourites), Ika Vakalolo, made with fish and coconut cream also topped the list, and although I had left no room for dessert, Mr Polka made the most of the ice cream buffet.
Navo Restaurant though is the real treat for honeymooners and my favourite place to eat at the InterContinental . The adults only restaurant overlooks the beach and allows candlelight dining under the stars. For an extra splurge, one of the relaxation by day cabanas becomes a private dining option. The restaurant houses Chef Amitwar Ram who pays homage to Fijian cuisine with lobster kokoda, warm coconut bread served with coconut oil and rock salt and the most amazing surf and turf, complete with enormous lobster tail that we could only help but be talked into. Superb!! Breakfast here is equally as divine with local mud crab omelette with accompanying beach and palm tree views the perfect combination.
The facility of the resort, of course extends to weddings (so much more on this to come in a future post). It doesn’t get much better as far as tropical weddings goes than the InterContinental’s glass fronted wedding chapel looking out onto the quintessential tropical island view. Dance away the night on the beach, or dine under the stars and fairy lights with your guests and say your ‘I do’s’ before retreating to your private bathtub sparkling with candlelight and iced champagne.
The in house wedding team, led by the beautiful Jane, makes sure to tick every box and line up every detail for the couples that marry here, even providing discounted accommodation for their wedding guests and endless romantic touches.
If lazing by the pool or day isn’t your thing, you can make use of the endless daily schedule of activities. We take a glass bottomed boat tour, stopping to let other guests jump off and be guided through snorkeling. Guests can also visit the nearby award winning golf course, visit the popular markets, take a yoga class, play a game of beach cricket, take a sunset cruise, learn to scuba dive, surf or head out fishing.
Our favourite though, was the day we drove with Lucoco to the local village. The chief comes to welcome us, along with three tiny children who don’t let go of my hands the entire visit. The chief guides us through a tour of the village before we sit inside his hut, watching him make kava and indulging in three (or was it four? my tongue got numb and my memory faded) cups of kava as we learn and talk about the local community and traditions.
While all the perks of a big resort are right on your doorstep, what I loved about the InterContinental Fiji was how easy it was to float away. The adult’s only pool reminds guests of quiet, advising that for a rowdier time, the nearby beach might be a better option. Navo Restaurant is all about the romance, and the Club InterContinental lounge? Not a yell or a scrum of noise in sight. Our room may as well have been on a deserted island, our private plunge pool providing welcome relief from the Fiji heat and a place of solitude.
But equally, it’s easy enough to rejoin the world when you want to. A quick buggy ride down to the hotel and you can catch up for a drink. Walk along the beach or swim in the lagoon. We loved heading down at sunset for a quiet drink as the band played, or curling up in a beach side cabana as the water lapped mere steps away.
The staff here, make InterContinental truly what it is – luxurious touches can only go so far if there is not the service to accompany it. Greeted every day by name, we were guided to a seat in the lounge, Eroni and Josephine always greeting us with a smile, giving us cold drinks to take on our tours and remembering what we had told them earlier in the stay to truly customize our experience. We arrived after our flight to a freshly baked high tea, pre-ordered for our arrival, we’re asked about our day and welcomed every time we walked through the doors with open arms.
Our final night sums up our stay. High up on the Club Level deck overlooking the sea and the rest of the resort, we have cocktails in hand and bellies full of canapés curled up in our poolside eggs chairs as the sun sets.
The acoustic duo of Ulaiasi and Timoci, who we had come to love for their beautiful music move toward us, calling the Club Lounge staff as they go. Soon, we are surrounded with Fijian voices as they sing the traditional farewell song, a song that is later explained, speaks of sadness and disappointment of new family members going away, leaving the clan and leaving Fiji. With their open-hearted, genuine nature, it did not seem contrived, or a marketing ploy to get you to re-book and stay again. As each team member shook our hands, it felt like I truly was leaving not just staff members, but friends.
Polka Dot Bride was flown to Fiji and stayed at The InterContinental Fiji Resort & Spa as a guest of The InterContinental Fiji Resort & Spa for editorial consideration in accordance with our disclosure policy.
Images by Polka Dot Bride.