Seven-star Seclusion in the South Pacific
By Fiona Harper
Proclaimed one of the hundred most beautiful hotels and resorts in the world by Hideaway Hotels, Laucala Island (pronounced Lothala) opened in 2009 to guests seeking the utmost discretion and privacy amid almost unimaginable tropical splendor. Once owned by publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes, Laucala was bought by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz in 2002. One of Fiji’s northeastern-most islands (the nation has 322 islands), Laucala distinguishes itself in a crowded field of highly qualified contenders—and soars above the competition. Laucala is, quite simply, idyllic. Unofficial estimates put the cost of Mateschitz’s redevelopment at an incredible $30,000,000. At this level of excellence, exceptional service, extraordinary cuisine, a fine wine cellar, and exquisite surroundings are, as one would expect, de rigueur.
The philosophy behind Laucala is quite simple: to create extraordinary, personalized experiences amid elegant surroundings while anticipating guests’ every need. Deserving of all superlatives, Laucala takes the definition of “extraordinary” to new heights. Embracing the very finest service ethos and guided by the island’s passionate Austrian owner, German managers Thomas and Maja Kilgore have a background in fine European hospitality. Personally ensuring that each guest wants for nothing¬, they are an integral part of Laucala’s success. In keeping with the warm nature of Fijian hospitality, the ambience is intimate and welcoming with an enticing South Pacific flavor.
Guests arrive in the island’s Beechcraft King Air B200, disembarking onto the manicured grass concourse after a 45-minute flight from Nadi. By arrangement, guests arriving by their own aircraft or yacht can also clear customs and immigration on island. Presented with a chilled, freshly crushed, seasonal juice and a cool, scented towel, guests are greeted with a traditional Fijian welcome—a custom of song that embraces strangers as though family returning after a long absence. As the balmy trade winds waft across dense vegetation lining the runway, harmonious rhythmic voices rise in unison, drifting skywards on the breeze. Well known for the warmth of their culture, Laucala’s 350 Fijian staff will literally down tools in order to greet guests exploring the island with an enthusiastic wave accompanied by a grinning bula (the Fijian for “hello.”)
Zipping around in the electric club car you’ll find parked in your thatched roof garage, graded paths meander among the vast coconut plantation and tropical vegetation, allowing for leisurely exploration of this new Eden. Just 25 residences accommodate a maximum of 80 guests and are generously positioned for maximum privacy. It’s quite likely that you won’t see any other guests during your stay.
Taking the concept of maximum privacy one step further is the destination dining option, an indulgent feature of the all-inclusive tariff that raises Laucala’s culinary experience beyond already sky high expectations. In-villa dining involves a culinary team of at least six staff who prepare, cook, serve, and clear your meal. Not sure which wine in your villa’s refrigerators is an appropriate accompaniment to the meal? Fear not, a sommelier is also conveniently on hand to advise with a minimum of fuss.
Seagrass and Plantation Residences sit below towering coconut palms with direct access to immaculate private beaches, while the Peninsula Residence is secluded on a waterfront cliff. Plateau Residences, with their lush jungle and coastal vistas, cling to the cliff above the treetops. All are extravagantly spacious with exclusive individual interior designs hand-chosen, by British interiors guru Lynne Hunt, to suit each location. My two-bedroom residence, spanning over 11,500 square feet, offered a bewildering choice of four bathtubs. Oversized residence swimming pools come complete with molded in-water lounges perfect for canoodling couples, surrounded by open-sided massage, lounging, dining pavilions, and lush gardens.
For absolute privacy, the expansive Hilltop Residence sits 360 feet above sea level, with three interlinked villas, two swimming pools, kitchen, and library. It’s an indulgent $26,000 per night. All residences include premium fittings and amenities. Hand-carved stone and timber bathtubs (both indoors and outdoors), Villeroy and Bosch bathroom fittings, iPod docks and Bose entertainment systems ensure guest comfort. In-room fridges and bars are stocked with premium wines and spirits, while freshly squeezed fruit juices and snacks are replenished throughout the day. Prefer not to be disturbed? Simply roll the red coconut in front of your villa gates and your privacy is assured.
The Overwater Residence is perfect for water babies who like to roll out of bed and into a cerulean sea. Literally perched above the coral-rich reef, it has its own boat dock, allowing guests to come and go by boat if they so desire. The swimming pool, carved into limestone rock, is accessed via above-water boardwalks that link living, bathing, and sleeping pavilions. Taking full advantage of cooling ocean breezes, walls disappear, allowing the sounds, aromas, and colors of the Pacific Ocean to waft through.
The gloriously decadent Plantation House restaurant, a stylish mansion replicating colonial style architecture, is merely one of Laucala’s five restaurants. Degustation menus featuring island-grown ingredients are paired with wines and spirits. Other dining options include the Rock Lounge with its cantilevered ocean views westwards over Seagrass Bay. Think intimate low-slung couches, dreamy sea views, and enchanted sunsets, combined with elegant finger food and divine cocktails. The Seagrass Lounge is concealed amid the treetop canopy, with private eating platforms and an Asian-inspired menu. Casual barefoot dining and open-air barbeques are on offer at the Beach Bar that straddles the strip of white sand strip between pool and beach.
Laucala is destined to bask on many future best of lists. The island may be the one place that actually deserves to be called “heaven on earth.”
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