Though it’s true that Fiji is the ultimate place for people who want to escape their everyday life and take refuge under the shade of a coconut tree, I’ve never been the type to sit and relax. If I’m not working, I want to be outside exploring. Minutes spent sipping a cocktail in a lounge chair could be time spent hiking, surfing, or searching for sharks.
Enter Tides Reach Resort, an all-inclusive resort with just four luxury villas set on a sandy beach of Taveuni, Fiji. The resort invited me and a friend to experience life at the resort over the course of five days. Previous reviews of Tides Reach Resort called it “tranquil,” “quiet,” “romantic,” and “a paradise on earth.” This stressed me out greatly. Would my friend, Clare, and I have enough activities to do? Or would we end up recreating our own Lord of the Flies situation?
Taveuni rightfully earned its alias as the Garden Island, thanks to its dense forests and brightly colored flora. It’s home to the tagimoucia, a red flower that only grows on Taveuni. The coastline is lined with vine-covered cliffs, palm trees, and slivers of beaches while the interior is mountainous and rife with waterfalls.
Clare and I boarded the plane to Taveuni on a 19-passenger DHC-6 Twin Otter, a plane so small, you have to step on a scale before takeoff so that the staff can distribute the weight properly. Though my original ticket said 1A, a scribble and note dictated I sit elsewhere. There is no door between you and the pilots, making the experience an immersive one. The airstrip at the island’s tiny airport (consisting of just a small building with an outdoor seating area) seemed like a one-shot-and-you’ll-miss-it type of deal. If left unattended for a few months, jungle would take over and there’d be no airport at all.
Alas, we made it. George, one of Tides Reach Resort’s friendly staff, picked us up and drove us to the resort itself, where we were greeted with a welcome sign, fresh coconut, and the key to our two-bedroom villa.
Clare, an adventurous Kiwi, held up her husked coconut and told me, “It takes a lot of effort to make them like this.”
She’s lived in the tropics for a while.
Our villa opened out to the ocean and was decorated with fresh white linens and enough throw pillows to make a gargantuan fort, if you’re into that type of thing. Both of the bedrooms had plush beds that looked out to the water. Shortly after scheduling who would use the giant stone bathtub on what nights, we were served lunch; fried rice and vegetable kebabs cooked inside of a fresh pineapple. It tasted so good, my future self is still envious of my past.
After lunch, Clare and I grabbed the resort’s standup paddleboards and paddled along Taveuni’s coral reef coastline to a cluster of small outer islands. The water was so clear, it looked as though we were gliding over an aquarium. Two sea turtles swam under us as we went. Small waves lapped along the reef and we tried to catch their momentum towards the shore.
Back at the resort, the staff helped us set up a plan for our stay. We wanted to scuba dive, hike along the coast, see the waterfalls, take a tour of town, and go down the water slides. Would this be possible? Much to my surprise, Niu, our guide for the stay, was not phased by this long list of requests. Their only caveat was, “There are only two things that don’t run on island time here–the scuba dives and the massages.”
Over the next three days, our guides Niu and Suka took us on a gamut of adventures.
Waitavala Rock Water Slide
After a short hike along a stream, we reached the Waitavala rock water slide. At first glance, it’s impossible to know where to enter and exit. Some parts of the water slide looks steep, fast, and sharp. I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the first one to test where the water slide was slow and smooth. Niu slid down first and turned his body into a dam by laying across the stream, building up a backlog of water. When we sat in front on the rock slide, he’d stand up to create a surge of water behind us, pushing us down the falls. Clare and I would’ve been entertained by the slide for a while, but we had a hot date with a dive boat and couldn’t be late.
Scuba Diving with Sea Turtles Around Taveuni
Dividing Taveuni and the island of Vanua Levu is the Somosomo Strait, an area that’s home to two of Fiji’s most famous dive sites, the Rainbow Reef and the Great White Wall. The three-mile Rainbow Reef is made up of colorful soft and hard corals, thousands of fish, and is one of the only places like it in the world. The Great White Wall is made up predominantly by a white soft coral that covers its portion of the reef, giving the appearance of underwater snow. Our captain and guide took us to a site called The Ledge, where we were mesmerized by the hundreds of reef fish, a huge Titan triggerfish, and a mellow sea turtle who roamed around a pinnacle.
Lavena Coastal Walk
The Lavena Coastal Walk ($30 FJD) is a hiking trail that traces Taveuni’s eastern coastline. Bushes of taro, kava, and cassava wedge themselves between palms and papaya trees. After each turn, we saw a new view that looked into a tunnel of green foliage or out onto the ocean. At the end of the walk, we were rewarded with two waterfalls cascading into one spacious freshwater pool. It made for a prime swimming spot and place to snack on wedges of freshly cracked coconut.
Buoma National Heritage Park
Just a mile into hiking through Buoma National Heritage Park, it’s obvious that the $36 FJD entry is put towards maintaining the trail with freshly-painted signs, solid steps, and clear pathways. The park has a series of three waterfalls all ranging in height, flow, and width. Though we hiked only to the first two falls, the slow pace meant I could properly enjoy commanding Clare and Niu to swim closer to the falls so that I could get the perfect photo of them from above.
Crossing the International Date Line
Ever wanted to time travel? At the edge of a small field, you can find what once was the site of many killer New Year’s Eve parties, where Fijians celebrated the coming of each year over the span of 48 hours. Today, you can jump between today and yesterday at the date line. Clare liked this so much, she teleported about fifteen times.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
After each day of adventure, I felt my eyes get heavier at an earlier hour. Though we initially planned to go cycling, running, and walking, we found ourselves chatting by the pool area with a drink in hand instead. Our conversations delved into the serious and silly as we kicked back and enjoyed the luxury of lounging on the villa’s daybed. I closed my eyes during daylight hours, telling myself that naps aren’t just for babies. Come dinnertime, I savored each part of our three course meal just a bit longer. Especially dessert. I knew we’d caught the relaxation bug when Clare’s suggestion of going for a sunrise paddle seemed a bit overly ambitious (we still went, though).
Sadly, Clare departed a whole day before I did. I spent my time alone in the villa moving from one couch to the next, enjoying the view, and wondering where in Suva I could buy some comfy throw pillows.
Looks like relaxing in paradise isn’t so stressful after all?
The author was a hosted guest of Tides Reach Resort. All words and opinions are her own.