Outrigger on the Lagoon was Fiji’s first official 5 star resort and has won multiple awards over the years, from TripAdvisor’s Top 3 Best Resorts for Families to Best Deluxe Resort, Best Destination Spa Resort and Best Fine Dining Restaurant. However, while most people have heard of the resorts around Denarau or those on the outer islands, the Coral Coast region remains an undiscovered paradise for many travellers. Here are 10 reasons to visit Outrigger on the Lagoon on the Coral Coast, a short drive from Nadi airport.
Fiji without a boat trip
Snorkelling off the beach, swaying palm trees and sparkling ocean views are what most people think of when it comes to Fiji but contrary to what the brochures might lead you to believe, you won’t find a lot of this on the mainland. However, it’s a different story at Outrigger on the Lagoon where there are views that will make your Facebook friends insanely jealous and more palm trees than you can poke a cocktail umbrella at. Here it’s possible to have that ‘Fiji postcard experience’ without a boat trip to one of the outer islands. This saves money, time and potential travel hassles – especially if you’re travelling with young children.
Spectacular Coral Coast sunsets
This area is known as the ‘sunset strip’ because it’s one of the best places in Fiji to watch the sunset. Pull up a seat at the Sundowner Bar and enjoy the view.
Coral Coast dining in Fiji
Sigatoka is the closest town to the resort and famous for its fresh produce, earning it a reputation as the ‘salad bowl of Fiji’. It is a major local hub with an upbeat, bustling vibe that is best experienced on a Saturday morning. This is when local vendors head to the markets to sell their fruit, vegetables, fresh fish and home grown goodies. Sigatoka is an easy 10 minute drive from the resort.
An all-ages kids club
Unlike some kids clubs, the one at Outrigger on the Lagoon caters for children of all ages from 3 to 13+. Younger children are divided into 2 separate age groups and kept busy with activities that have a local flavour – think pool games, Fijian songs, frog races and local tours. Teens are not forgotten with spear-making, a Sigatoka Sand Dunes adventure, Tavuni Hill Fort tour, Bebe Hill hike and a student exchange trip to a local Fijian high school.
If your child is too young for Kids Club or better suited to one-on-one care, there is the meimei nanny service which tailors activities to suit your child’s needs. Activities such as Fijian arts and crafts, traditional fishing methods, and basic language lessons are some of the things your children will get up to with this option. For a family-friendly adventure head next door to Kula Eco Park where you can hold a Fijian iguana and wander through the gardens. If the weather is hot this is a lovely, shady spot to enjoy some time out.
Outrigger on the Lagoon service
Smiling, smiling, smiling – and nothing is too much trouble. All of the staff were unfailingly friendly and enthusiastic and there was no ‘Fiji-time’ when it came to service. Those who are used to travelling in Fiji will know why the speedy arrival of food and drinks came as a surprise, albeit it a welcome one.
Room to move
Outrigger on the Lagoon was one of the first luxury properties of its kind to be built on the Coral Coast. Back then, prices were low, space was readily available and the developer bought up big. Accommodation is spread throughout the resort rather than being crammed around a central wing, there are multiple pools and relaxation areas and glorious tropical landscaped gardens. Even when the resort is almost full as it was during our visit, it still seemed quiet as guests had the space to spread out and find their own piece of paradise.
I love Fiji but it has never really had the reputation as a ‘foodie destination’ – until now. The restaurants at Outrigger on the Lagoon are headed up by Shailesh Naidu, the first and only Fijian-born, 5-star, executive chef in Fiji. However, even though his culinary skills are amazing, it’s not all down to Shailesh. He has been slowly creating a ‘culinary dream team’ to take up the challenge of creating a culture of culinary excellence at the resort (and in Fiji). These young guns have taken out a swag of awards including the prestigious “Fiji Chef of the Year”,“Fiji Junior Chef of the Year” and “Fiji Pastry Chef of the Year”. Fine diner Ivi is my top pick for a romantic night (without the kids) but it is hard to go past the sensational steak and equally sensational view at Sundowner.
Getting involved and giving back
Outrigger has a focus on community which in Fiji seems to extend to pretty much everyone including the guests who are considered ‘family’ when they are at the resort. Along with initiatives such as employing a choir from a nearby village and a strong focus on local employment, it is also possible for guests to get involved and help the community. The resort’s latest project involves building a traditional meeting hall at Conua School in the Sigatoka Valley.
Guests can volunteer their time over one or two days to assist the resort’s engineering team with all aspects of the construction phase. Along with helping out with whatever needs doing on site, guests can hang out with the local school kids, share a bowl of kava with the local villagers and visit to one of Fiji’s most prestigious cultural sites, Tavuni Hill Fort. On my visit we helped dig the foundations which was hot yet rewarding work. If something like digging is too energetic, the foreman can always find an alternative for you to do.
There is plenty here to keep you entertained. Hire a kayak, paddle board or snorkelling equipment and check out the lagoon; join an aqua aerobics class or watch one of the cultural shows which takes place each week. I especially enjoyed the Saturday night dance performance and fire twirling. Most entertainment is complimentary but if you do have to pay for something like the dance performance, the activity cost also includes dinner.
Outrigger is ideal for families but couples have not been forgotten. There are numerous adults-only areas which cater for those in search of romance and a little quiet relaxation. Kalokalo Bar is perched high on a hilltop and serves an elegant high tea and contemporary cocktails and tapas. There is the adults-only Vahavu swimming pool and adjoining bistro. Luxurious Bebe Spa has plenty of relaxing treatments and multi-award winning Ivi Restaurant offers fine dining in romantic surrounds. All of these venues are child free.
Book a butler
Book a room which includes Talai Butler Service. It doesn’t cost much more and you’ll get personal service plus extra goodies like champagne and canapés at 5pm every day. Families can also enjoy Talai Butler Service which is an extra special treat for kids (even though they can’t have the glass of champagne).
Get a meal plan and groceries
Sign up for the meal plan at the resort. Most ingredients have to be shipped in from Australia and New Zealand so food costs quickly add up. It’s also a good idea to stock up on essentials before you arrive as there are no shops within walking distance of the resort. The other option is to take a day trip to Sigatoka and buy supplies while you’re there.
Getting to the Coral Coast
Book a transfer from the airport to the resort rather than taking a taxi as the taxi will be more expensive. It’s also a good idea to get a private transfer to Outrigger on the Lagoon rather than a group transfer or you could have to wait for latecomers which can be frustrating.
Disclosure: The writer stayed as a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon after winning her stay as a prize for ‘Best Family Travel Story of the Year’ at the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards.