Eleven days ago I boarded two flights that found me in Fiji. I booked the trip on a lark, after suffering the tremendous loss of my dear Sophie, and I’d always wanted to trek to this part of the world. A series of three hundred some odd islands, a dot on a map, a faraway place where people take things slow. During the course of my trip, I kept hearing the phrase “Fiji time,” which means that folks here operate at a slower pace; the vibe is low-key and relaxed, and I felt this energy as soon as I checked into the Fiji Beach Resort + Spa at Hilton. Located on Denarau Island, an island that was once farmland, reclaimed by the Japanese and transformed into an idyllic oasis. Admittedly, where I’m staying is probably one of the more affluent parts of Fiji with its verdant golf courses and bleached-white shores. The photos don’t do the island justice, for the waters are a true azure and the island is rife with exotic flowers: gardenia, plumeria and orchids. Although it sounds quite lofty, the value of the hotel is spot-on. I secured a room (which includes breakfast) for about $215US/night, which included a jacuzzi, beach-front terrace, a breakfast that had me weeping with its muesli and fresh fruit, and Peter Thomas Roth bath products. The rooms are perfectly appointed, impeccably and simply decorated, clean and wonderfully located to local buses and a “Bula Bus” that tours the town every half hour.
Note that while this the resort is not “authentic Fiji,” it is a perfect place to rest, unwind and treat yourself should you want to take a long holiday or celebrate your honeymoon (lots of couples here). I also took many trips that allowed me to experience Fijian customs, culture, food and local artistry. All in all, I would absolutely come back to the Fiji Beach Resort + Spa. In. A. Heartbeat. Fantastic service, lovely rooms, fabulous food and a location that feels what I’d imagine paradise feeling like.
The resort is home to two fantastic restaurants, a deli, gift/surf shops, two pools and lounge areas (one for adults, and the other for adults + kids), water sports, a beach with bar service, a full-service gym, liquor and convenience shops, spa and volleyball/tennis. You're not want for anything while you're here. The staff are beyond kind and gracious, always greeting you with a Bula! (hello) when they pass you on their golf carts and in the lobby.
A few things I did notice that were key to note, however. Thankfully, I’m no longer a drinker because alcohol in Fiji is insanely expensive. We’re talking $14 for a glass of wine, expensive. It’s best to BYO (this is actually the norm in Melbourne, I found, where liquor is also pricey) or opt for the local Fijian beer. Like most resorts on the island, no one takes cash — everything is either charged to your room or requires a debit/credit card (a nice 2-3% fee is added on top of every bill, so best to charge to your room, as I quickly learned). Our exchange rate (U.S. to FJD) was pretty amazing (everything was pretty much 1/2 off), and you can get great deals in markets outside of Nadi (neighboring town) and the island. Also good to note, most of the hotels don’t have WIFI in the rooms unless you upgrade to one of the $$$ suites. I’m typing this from one of the cafes that offers WIFI passcodes, by the hour. Scary when you’re uploading 200+ snaps to Flickr.
Taking a short journey (okay, not so short — the flight is FIVE HOURS from Fiji) to Melbourne, Australia, I was after a markedly different vibe. I wanted an East Village feel, and found the most amazing AirBNB: The Warehouse Space, located close to Richmond. About a half-hour from the airport, my rental was right off bustling Swann Street, home to bars, bakeries, local flavor and some pretty good Mexican restaurants. The area is still under development in many parts (read: slightly seedy), but completely safe and convenient to all bus/rail transport, and a 20 minute walk to downtown CBD.
While I loved the space itself — a commercial loft warehouse transformed into an insanely large apartment adjacent to a shared artist’s space — the fact that I was surrounded by various forms of art was a constant source of inspiration. Come mornings I’d sneak down and peek at the paintings-in-progress, dresses half shorn and pages of elegant calligraphy.
The space itself is pretty fantastic. The ceilings are monstrous, the kitchen is outfitted with all the accoutrements you can imagine, washer/dryer, a television with all computer adapters, a sound system with Apple adapters, and a shower with the best water pressure going. My host, Alice, was gracious and accommodated my every query, and while the streets can get rowdy on the weekends, during the week it’s amazingly quiet.
In short, I would absolutely recommend this space to anyone traveling through Melbourne. I’ve been really lucking out with my AirBNB choices + lodgings for holidays. Perhaps this is what being a meticulous Type-A researcher affords you.