In this land of 333 islands – where Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky recently spent the holidays – you can’t go anywhere without shouting “Bula!” which means life and is a sincere, enthusiastic greeting that makes “hi” seem almost impolite.
In May, Jaclyn Sienna India, CEO of ultra-luxury travel concierge Siena Karel, explored Fiji for a major actor client and found Navotua, a village where she (and later the actor and her family) stayed and experienced kava ceremonies, traditional welcome rituals that show respect and reverence for guests. The client “really wanted to understand the culture,” says Sienna India. “They lived with these local tribes in huts on the beach for four days, wearing straw skirts and walking around barefoot.”
The warm hospitality, says Sienna India, was “unreal.” They went on boats to islands where hardly anyone has been and the staff caught fish and cooked it for them on the beach. Of the $75 a night with a homestay, she adds, “It wasn’t luxury, but you couldn’t have paid more for a more remote, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience.” It was exactly what they were looking for in terms of immersion.”
Wakaya Club & Spa
Then her client flew by helicopter to the private island Wakaya Club & Spawhere they rented the entire island ($2,500 to $11,000 per night and $330,750 for a week buyout).
At legendary Wakaya – where Keith Richards is known to have fallen from a coconut tree in 2006 and Celine Dion, Jim Carrey, Michelle Pfeiffer and Bill Gates are rumored past guests – there are two organic farms and a team made up of 95 percent native Fijians cooking from island to fork, plus a guest experience of foraging or spearfishing and cooking in a traditional lovo volcanic stone fire.
In addition, the resort of 10 waterfront cottages and an immense private residence features a nine-hole golf course, sailing with Hobie Cat, snorkeling excursions in the marine reserve and a tennis pro.
The intimate eco-resort frequented by Al Gore Turtle Island (from $2,800 per night with a five-night minimum) — where Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson each spent their first honeymoon — seized the pandemic as an opportunity to further regenerate the 500-acre private island into a self-sustaining ecosystem that grows and grows its own food, all in an effort to benefit the local people, the environment and Fijian heritage. Dinners are communal and hosted by a different team member each night, and there is also a nightly kava ceremony for further bonding with the longtime staff. They quickly learn (or remember, as there is a 55 percent return rate) from each guest, treat them like family and even invite them to see local village life.
Jean Michel Cousteau Resort
“When I’m in Fiji, every day I dive with my team in the most beautiful, immense ocean with healthy, abundant coral reefs with diversity of species, which is synonymous with stability,” says film producer and ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, who has been visiting Fiji for over 32 years. “Fijians are happy and healthy, and when I’m in Fiji I am too,” he says THR. “Fiji is where I recharge my batteries… take time to slow down and enjoy the simplicity of being in nature.”
The eco-friendly all-inclusive Jean Michel Cousteau Resort (from $925 per night), which he opened on Vanua Levu in 1995, is now owned by Canyon Equity. “Fijians are great protectors of their land and embrace their cultural heritage,” says Cousteau, “to me it is a land of great hope.” Joss Stone performed a concert there for the Fijian community during her 2019 world tour.
Vomo Island Fiji
End of 2021, rebel Wilson spent time on the islands filming Fiji’s ‘Open for Happiness’ tourism campaign for a week Vomo Island Fiji (from $1,048 per night). “Even more than the landscape, what I love most about Fiji is its people. Everyone greets you with a smile and a ‘bula,’ the warmth and hospitality of everyone I met is something I will always remember,” Wilson said in a press release for the campaign.
Vomo, a 225-acre all-inclusive island, just debuted the Architecture Building Culture-designed beachfront residence, Reef House, for 10 people. For ultimate privacy, guests can reserve their sister island, Vomo Lailai, for a gourmet uninhabited island picnic beneath a lava wave formation, sunbathing and swimming, with a walkie-talkie to summon the boat. As of November 2023, buyouts of a minimum of four nights on private islands of the 55 bedrooms plus the second island are available for $95,000 per night.
Como Laucala Fiji
In the fall of 2022, Como Laucala Fiji (from $5,600 per night) – where Miranda Kerr and Evan Spiegel spent their honeymoon and Ludacris celebrated a birthday by swimming in the transparent pool after being welcomed by singing staff – reopened under the banner of Como, which is a signature wellness center of Como Shambhala Retreat means. Treatments include the island’s river stones, mineral crystals and even volcanic soil, plus herbs, flowers and fruit from the island’s extensive 240-acre farm, which also raises Wagyu cattle.
At the resort where Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney are rumored to be regulars, each unique accommodation – designed around the specific beach, jungle, hilltop or lagoon environment with free-form pools and giant bathtubs – comes with its own tauFijian for friend, as butler.
Nanuku Resort Fiji
Nanuku Resort Fiji is another five-star paradise favored by super-private producers and high-profile actors, who are greeted with a traditional “warrior welcome” complete with lali drumming after landing on the private airstrip or helipad. Though it’s on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, Nanuku claims nearly two miles of beach, a private six-bedroom house with six pools where most of the VIPs stay ($13,260 per night inclusive), and a private island off the coast for special overnight or day trips out. As well as a truly adventurous Lailai Adventure Club for kids, where trips include swimming in waterfalls, there are new astrotourism offerings, including learning about Fiji navigation by the stars, and full moon massages.
Kokomo private island
All inclusive Kokomo private island, on the Great Astrolabe Reef, which is epic for diving, has the largest private homes in Fiji and comes with a butler and babysitter (from $6,900 per night). The resort has new chef classes at its organic farm and sommelier-led tastings of its prolific wine collection.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.