Fiji’s Starwood Denarau Resorts & Kava Ceremony
After departing the Outrigger Lagoon Resort, we traveled back to the Nadi area and Denarau Port, where ferries and boats depart for the Mamenuca and Yasawa islands.
Denarau is a man-made island, located 20 minutes from Nadi Airport and 10 minutes from Port Denarau, that hosts large international hotels, such as Hilton, Sheraton, Westin, and Sofitel.
We started ou Fiji vacation by visiting the two Sheraton properties and the Westin. Starwood Denarau has three beachfront properties: Sheraton Fiji, Sheraton Denarau Villas and Westin Denarau Resort and Spa. All three are located across from Denarau Golf and Racquet Club, and offer all the amenities and luxuries you would expect from a Starwood resort.
Sheraton Fiji attracts a lot of families looking for a deluxe family resort. With spacious rooms, very large lagoon pool and kids club. A great option for families are the connecting rooms with a king bed connecting to a room with two double beds. All rooms have been updated and feature casual, modern decor.
Sheraton Denarau Villas offers 2- and 3-bedroom luxury self-catering villas for families and guests. Each offers a full kitchen and a gas bbq on the patio. I like this option for couples traveling together, or for families looking for a place to feel like home.
Westin Denarau, a more intimate resort, offers a more romantic setting for couples, featuring their ‘Heavenly Spa’ and ‘Heavenly Beds’. Of the three Starwood resorts, the décor here is the most Fijian, with pitch roofs, dark woods and a South Pacific feel.
The Westin also offers a Fijian cultural show on Wednesdays and Saturdays with fire dancing, kava ceremony (see below), basket weaving and other activities.
Of these properties the best beach is Main Beach located in front of Sheraton Fiji. Located across the Sheraton Denarau Villas and Westin Denarau property is the Resorts’ private island “Akuilau”. Registered guests from all three properties have access, via Starwood’s private launch, to the island’s sandy shores and clear waters to snorkel in.
After visiting the Starwood resorts, we moved down the beach to visit the Fiji Beach Resort managed by Hilton. This property offers studios as well as 1-, 2-, 3- and 5-bedroom villas. The resort is well laid out, with easy access to pool areas, restaurants and the beach. Rooms and public areas of the hotel were light and airy, and overall the resort felt welcoming. There are seven pools to choose from, a spa, fitness room, 2 restaurants as well as a bakery, and a kids program.
Our final stop for the day was at the Sofitel Resort, where we enjoyed lunch. The Sofitel certainly felt the most deluxe of all those visited in Denarau, and boasted a stay by Oprah Winfrey. The lobby was large, open and breezy, with views out to the ocean.
Rooms were all set at an angle allowing for good views. There was a wedding chapel on site for destination weddings, beautiful pool areas, and lovely beach side restaurants. At lunch, portions were generous and tasty. There is a spa and gold on property. Though there were many kids and families here, this resort had a more relaxed energy than other family resorts we had visited, perhaps due to the larger size of the property.
The Fijian Kava Ceremony: Kava is a dried powder pounded from the pepper plant piper methysticum. It is traditionally offered as a ceremonial gift to the chief of the village. After the plant is pounded, the pulp is placed in a cloth then mixed with water till it turns brownish grey in color. It is soaked and strained frequently. It looks and tastes like dirty muddy water.
A group of us sat down in a circle on a large tapa mat and given a small coconut bowl. I was chosen to be the honorary ‘Chieftess,’ so I was served first. I had to clap once, call out ‘Bula’ (the traditional Fijian greeting used throughout the day for any occasion) then I quickly drank the kava in one gulp, then clap 3 times at the finish.
Kava has a mild narcotic effective. My tongue and gums were a bit numb and I felt relaxed.