Denarau juts out of a peninsula like an angry pimple, some 10 km south of Nadi International Airport and 5 km northwest of the town of Nadi. It was molded into its present form in the 1980s by rapacious Japanese developer Harunori Takahashi, who bulldozed its 850 acres of swamps and mangroves and replaced them with high-end resorts, golf courses, marinas and gated housing. The only mosquito in the ointment is that mangroves grow in mud, meaning that despite decades of landscaping, including a few truckloads of imported white sand in strategic spots, both the beaches around Denarau and the water lapping at them are expanses of impenetrable slate grey muck.
The resorts thus expend much effort to distract tourists from this rather basic failing. They’re all suspended well above the surf on concrete plates, angled so that you can Instagram the infinity edge pool and have it blend seamlessly into the palm-fringed Mamanuca Islands in the background, conveniently ignoring all that squelchy mud in the middle. The roads and gardens are manicured, the fancy housing complexes with names like Paradise Point and Sovereign Quays are behind tall, sturdy fences with more security out front, and the Port Denarau shopping mall has a Hard Rock Cafe, duty free retailers and a shoppe (sic) dedicated to Fiji Bitter couture. It's all very artificial and generic, and to ensure that the real Fiji doesn't intrude, the resort is separated from the mainland by a short bridge with a 24/7 manned checkpoint armed by private security at the entrance.
Denarau is a 15 minute drive from Nadi town and up to a 25 minute drive from Nadi International Airport.
The only form of public transport is the Westbus service, which shuttles hotel workers and the occasional tourist and to and from Nadi for a flat $1. You're supposed to pay with a special smart card, but despite printed signs to the contrary, cash is happily accepted.
- Bula Bus, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A shuttle bus service that goes around the resort, taking you to all of Denarau's major hotels and attractions. It's the most convenient way to get from one part of the resort to another if it is too far to walk. $8 per adult for a day pass, free for children under 12.
There are no real sights of interest in Denarau. However, there's a rotating schedule of free Fijian dance and music performances at the major hotels, ask at any hotel reception for the schedule.
- 1 Big Bula Waterpark, Jayant Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10am-5pm. A little pricey but a fun and exciting water park dominated by inflatables. Adults $99, children $84.
- 2 The Denarau Golf & Racquet Club, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Golf course with tennis courts and a restaurant. The golf course is par 72 and has water hazards in 15 of its 18 holes. Private teaching lessons for golfers at all levels are available.
- 3 Spa Maya, Suite 3 , 1st Floor, Terminal Building, Port Denarau Marina, ☏ . Ayurvedic spa treatments. Facials, hair cleansing, body massage and aromatherapy. From $75 to $275 depending on package.
- 1 Flavours of Fiji Local Cooking Classes, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9:30am–4pm. The cooking school offers class, market tours and food tours. A daily session involves eight courses where you learn how to make Fijian dishes, Indo-Fijian dishes as well as tropical sweets. This ranges from root crops, local fruit and vegetables, Fiji's own style of curries and chutneys, and tropical juices. $135 per adult and $105 per child for cooking class only. $180 per adult and $130 per child for cooking class and market tour..
Because much of Denarau was designed and catered for tourists, you will be able to buy many more things in foreign currencies (Australian, US, New Zealand dollars) than in the rest of the country. Shops are also more likely to stay open in the night and on Sundays. However, keep in mind that the souvenirs you will find at Denarau, like black pearls, bula t-shirts and wooden carvings, are more expensive than the same souvenirs at Nadi town, which is itself more expensive than the less flashy towns.
- 1 Port Denarau (take the Bula Bus). The only shopping mall in the resort, a low-rise, mostly open-air cluster consisting primarily of souvenir shops and somewhat overpriced restaurants. However, there is also a small supermarket (Yees Xpressmart) and a pharmacy (Denarau General Store). It also has currency exchange bureau.
- 1 Hard Rock Cafe, Port Denarau Shopping Complex, ☏ , ✉ Info@hardrock.com.fj. Daily 10am-11pm. Here the well known American rock 'n' roll franchise has two levels, 150 seats, authentic merchandise and a performance stage. Happy hour is between 3pm and 6pm daily, during which beers are only $2. Keep in mind that there is nothing particularly Fijian about this Hard Rock.
- 2 Nadina Authentic Fijian Restaurant, Building C, Shop R1 & R2, Levu, ☏ . Daily 10am-11pm. The standout restaurant in Denarau providing local Fiji cuisine. The seafood and kava ceremony is topnotch. Vegetarian options are also available. With oceanfront views, you will feel a cooling sea breeze as you sit and dine at Nadina.
- 1 Lulu Bar, Port Denarau Terminal, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 7:30am–late. They have Fijian and international beers, a variety from wines from New Zealand, Australia and the United States, and a decent selection of cocktails, including their espresso martinis.
The prime resorts of Denarau are all lined up along the northern and western shoreline.
- Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa, Beachfront, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 11am. The resort has 296 guest rooms looking over the ocean and a 26 acre garden. The walls are decorated with all kinds of traditional Fijian art such as paintings, carvings and sculptures. Amenities at the hotel include an interactive kids club, beach club, pool, gym, cultural activities, beauty salon, water sports, fitness centre, day spa, and five restaurants. They also cater for conferences and wedding packages.
- Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau South, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The complex consists of the Sheraton, Westin and Golf Club. A range of water sports are offered, including kayak, hobie cat, paddle boarding and jet ski. A total of 297 rooms are available at the resort.
- 1 Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, Beachfront, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Two beachfront restaurants and a swimming complex with seven pools. One of the pools is adults only.
- 2 Radisson Blu Resort, Resort Drive, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Radisson is geared towards the family market and is very child friendly. The Blu Banana Kids Club engages children aged 12 and under with a range of activities. Apart from that, there is free Wi-Fi, many pools, a day spa and a private beach at the hotel. Couples on a romantic trip may find the atmosphere too noisy with the number of kids running around.
- 3 Wyndham Resort, Narewa Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the few resorts with a good Mexican restaurant.
- 4 The Westin Resort & Spa, Denarau Island North, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The rooms are a little bit older but are among the most spacious in Denarau. It is popular with couples. The buffet-style breakfast is complimentary.