When you fly all the way across the Pacific to Fiji, you could be forgiven for wanting to do nothing but eat, drink, and have a small army of friendly people waiting on you and entertaining you.
Turtle Island resort is happy to grant that Fantasy Island wish for you. The staffers even know you’re coming when they see “The plane, the plane!” as it glides down toward the beach after landing in the water. As I took off my shoes to wade to the shore, two men grabbed my wife and carried her to the beach. There someone handed us our welcome cocktails—the ones we had requested in advance via an e-mail form—and then our private “bure mama” introduced herself.
A bure is a traditional house in Fiji and our “room” had more square feet than the first starter home I bought in my late 20s. Our bure mama explained how everything worked as we looked around the flower-strewn space. She showed us the walkie-talkie we could use to request anything we wanted. Later we used it to ask for a cookie jar refill and some more beers in the fridge. But another guest told us later he’d requested a bottle of rum and a foot massage.
There’s a comfortable king-sized bed, a living room, a wet bar, and a great bathroom with two toilets and three shower heads (two indoors, one outside and completely private). Ours had a whirlpool as well, but those are on the way out because of the maintenance hassles and will be replaced by cool plunge pools. This little coconut head guy on a stand is the do not disturb sign. When he’s in front of the door frowning, nobody is going to come knocking.
Yes, it’s a sensual place, ideal for a honeymoon or anniversary. It does’t hurt that every other day you’re assigned a private beach you can have all to yourself. The staff brings you everything you need, like a picnic lunch and a full cooler, then they take off until it’s time to return, putting up an “occupied” sign where the golf cart would enter.
On the first day we had happy hour on Honeymoon beach–where we saw rays and an octopus in the shallow surf. Another day a sunrise breakfast on Long Beach, with mimosas, fruit, and warm pastries to welcome a new day. The last full day on this private island we had a few hours and lunch on Devil’s Beach, walking in the footsteps of Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins when they filmed the 1980 movie The Blue Lagoon. Just as we were finishing up the lunch of salad, asian noodles, and lobster with cold Fiji Bitters beer, we heard singing from a distance. Soon a troupe of six people came down the hill singing an anniversary song and carrying a cake with our names on it.
These kinds of experiences are what define this romantic, laid-back resort on its own island in Fiji. It’s not ostentatious and it’s certainly “barefoot luxury” rather than a “dress to impress” hotel. (One couple draped in gold jewelry and diamonds left after one night while we were there.) Island breezes and fans are the means for cooling—along with a dip in the water—since air conditioning would require way too much fuel to keep running. Without it the place can run primarily on solar energy, thanks to a large array of panels and battery banks. Much of what the restaurant produces is sustainable as well, with an extensive garden on the island and both fish and lobsters caught in the local waters.
There are only 14 units on site at Turtle Island Fiji, a number that hasn’t budged and probably never will. This is not a place designed for volume. It’s one designed to create an unforgettable experience. That extends to the nightly entertainment, performed by the same people driving the snorkeling boats, taking dinner orders, cleaning the rooms, and tending the gardens. When they duplicate a local kava ceremony accompanied by singing and dancing, the entire staff is there to be merry and then pass the cups.
There are plenty of activities on the island, planned and unplanned. We loved the “Subwing” experience that’s like speed snorkeling. A boat cruises along at below-wake speed and you look down below with a snorkel mask on. When the water is deep, you hold your breath and dive down with the help of the Subwing, angling back up to catch a breath. There are also paddleboards, kayaks, and snorkeling gear to use on your own and the dock captain is ready to line up a snorkeling excursion or fishing trip further out.
There’s also a full spa on site, with a range of treatments. Some packages include a credit here. You can buy the locally sourced scrubs and lotions to take home. There’s also a gift shop and boutique nearby, which happens to be the only place you can get an internet signal. Some guests are reportedly stressed out by the thought of this upon arrival, but soon find they have a lot less stress if they don’t log on at all.
Meals here are divine, with the fresh produce and seafood adding to experience and the kitchen keeping things interesting for anyone here for a week. There are “dine-outs” couples can take advantage of for private romantic dinners: on a hilltop, by the Polynesian pool area, or or on one of the two platforms offshore.
When The Blue Lagoon was filmed here, much of it took place on the beach where we had our picnic lunch. Down a pathway are the remains of a temple the couple stumbled upon on the “forbidden” side of the island, where they witnessed a human sacrifice. Now crumbling pieces of foam on a concrete slab, it hasn’t held up as well as the name plaque from the sinking ship they left in a lifeboat. It’s now perched over the bar, where skilled bartenders whip up tiki drinks and piña coladas.
This is an idyllic getaway where most guests spend a week unwinding. It comes with a hefty price tag (figure $1,500 per person per night and up, all-inclusive), but it delivers superlative, comfortable service in a way stuffier, more formal resorts could never manage. Here’s a look at what’s included. Thanks to a high staff to guest ratio and on-site workers who are clearly happy to be here, Turtle Island Fiji serves lots of couples who came for a “once in a lifetime” celebration and then immediately booked a return. The resort has hosted plenty of movie stars, rock stars, and sports stars, but this is a place where people don’t talk about work much and everyone’s a VIP, so usually they just put on a bathing suit and blend right in.
See the Turtle Island Fiji Resort website for more information and bookings.
Review by travel writer and editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted at Turtle Island for purposes of review. As always, all opinions are his own.