Getting away from it all requires effort — and doing so in style can demand major funds. For the discerning traveler with deep pockets and a hankering to play a well-kept castaway, one proven path to a private paradise leads to Fiji’s Turtle Island Resort.
From an initial bird’s-eye perspective, a quick seaplane jaunt — following a long-haul flight across the Pacific — illustrates Fiji’s well-earned reputation as one of the world’s most romantic destinations. Tranquil turquoise waters glisten below, the sun hovers on the horizon, and the seascape is largely undisturbed but for a few patches of verdant volcanic isles and lonely sailboats plying the waterways in between.
Soon, lost-at-sea Turtle Island appears, a special slice of South Pacific paradise nestled on 500 remote acres of Fiji’s lush Yasawa Islands chain. Romance seekers make the long trip for the reward of laid-back luxury, for casual elegance manifested. Idyllic and intimate, this honeymooner’s dream unfolds on the shores of a sprawling turquoise lagoon, rimmed by more than a dozen powdery white-sand beaches and just 14 thatched-roof bungalows designed to accommodate a maximum of as many couples. Being privy to what’s practically your own private island comes at a cost, but this off-the-path oasis delivers a fantasy island escape that is downright cinematic (no wonder “Blue Lagoon” films were shot here), with premium food, drink and activities all bundled into the upfront rates.
From the second the seaplane swoops down upon the crystalline lagoon, it is clear that Turtle Island is more than just a resort: It’s an experience. A group of Fijian minstrels, dressed in traditional costume, await arrivals ashore with traditional Fijian music and greetings; shirtless Fijian men carry ladies to land, piña coladas are passed, shoes are removed. Welcome to the barefoot lifestyle of carefree paradise.
The welcoming committee proves just a small sample of the more than 100 local Fijian staff on hand to cater to guests’ whims throughout their stays. They and guests are soon exchanging regular smiles and “bulas” (traditional Fijian greetings). The key player is the assigned “Bure Mama,” pretty much a private butler in the form of a friendly Fijian woman. Her role: to coordinate guests’ island itineraries and personal preferences and to pepper the trip with special surprises (from rose petal-covered beds to scrapbooked photo albums of trip highlights upon guests’ departure).
While most luxury resorts tend to have a sort of standoffish dynamic between staff and guests, here, engaging the Fijian staff is entirely encouraged. While service is not overly polished or by any means flawless (these are local villagers — don’t expect hospitality-school grads), it feels authentic. Intimate cultural exchanges are encouraged, whether that means opting in to attend a traditional church service, enjoying local song and dance performances or partaking in the traditional evening “kava” ritual (centered on a local root-sourced drink known for its relaxing properties).
Late evenings around the kava bowl are also a time for bonding with fellow resort guests, following on the heels of communal evening beachfront meals, typically lingering affairs of cocktail-fueled camaraderie. While private dining options abound — from beachfront picnics to floating pontoons for two — many guests enjoy the chance to socialize over evening meals and drinks, or kava bowls, after a day of independent adventure.
Regardless of where they are served, meals on Turtle Island are consistently of the lip-smacking variety, with garden-to-table produce from the resort’s own four-acre fruit and vegetable garden or seafood straight off local fishermen’s boats. Menus highlight Pacific Rim-inspired cuisine, reflecting regional ingredients: Expect plenty of freshly picked vegetables, freshly caught lobster and crab, and free-flowing cocktails, wines and champagnes.
Of course, apart from the cultural exchanges and social interactions, most couples come to Turtle Island for time to enjoy each other, indulging in one of the isle’s private beaches. Assigned to just a couple at a time, they are the sites of many champagne-and-lobster picnics and lazy swings in double hammocks. Other tailored-for-two activities that further maximize the Blue Lagoon setting include snorkeling, boating, sea kayaking, sport fishing and scuba diving. On land, head out hiking or horseback riding or hit up the recently opened spa (a half-hour couples’ massage is bundled into the rates).
Back at the “bure,” one of the 14 cottages reflecting traditional Fijian craftsmanship, expect four-poster king-size beds, soaring thatched roofs, and verandas overlooking the beach; some come with sunken jetted hot tubs for two. The two-room bungalows feature plenty of space to spread out, though couples are encouraged to spend their time together: Bathrooms come with double showerheads, twin sinks and even side-by-side toilets, for those who truly can’t stand a moment apart.
Rates from $2,499 per couple, per night, including all meals, beverages, and activities; www.turtlefiji.com.