When I moved to Los Angeles from New York City, I knew my usual traveling jaunts would be even farther. Jet-setting to most of the world from the West Coast easily adds a day to your excursion, if not two, round trip—some sweet exceptions being places like Hawaii, or the Maldives, or Fiji. The latter is where I found myself going after an invite to come stay at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa arrived in my inbox, and I thought—why not now? I had put off places like this waiting for the right moment, when I’d have more time off, or less travel plans throughout the year, or… something intangible I couldn’t put my finger on. But when invited, I really thought, if not now, when?
I had put off places like this waiting for the right moment, when I’d have more time off, or less travel plans throughout the year, or… something intangible I couldn’t put my finger on.
Turns out, the flight is just about 11 hours, and as someone who flies regularly between the coasts (six hours), nearly doubling that didn’t feel super impactful. As I boarded a plane plane from Fiji Airways for just a four-day excursion to the island country, I knew two things: Firstly, I was going to lose a day (yes, a whole day) by taking off very, very late Friday night (aka almost technically Saturday, according to the clock) and landing very early in the morning on Sunday, technically. (Crossing the International Date Line is no joke.) Secondly, I would “fast-forward” and gain that day back on the way back, which helped.
What also helped? A very nice, very restful business-class, lie-flat seat and priority check-in. (If you’re going to do a long-haul trip with a short amount of time, this is the way to do it.) It’s worth noting, however, that Fiji Airways does not yet participate in TSA pre-check. The champagne and meals, however, made up for that—as did the very nice configuration that basically meant I had near total privacy.
But would four days in paradise be worth it for a 22-hour trip, complete with losing a day on the way?
The short answer: Yes. Staying at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, which is just 20 minutes outside of Nadi International Airport on Denarau Island, was the perfect place to dip my toes into (shall we say) Fijian life. The staff is made up of 99 percent locals, and after Fiji re-opened to international travelers in December of 2021, the hotel debuted a full 50-million-dollar property renovation. One side of the property (where you check in) has a large pool, access to restaurants, and more, and the whole family can be together. The other side of the property is “adults only,” and is sort of like a resort within the resort, with a smaller pool, bar, etc. geared toward adults.
Most individuals traveling to Fiji will likely visit the other islands, but on this short trip, Denarau Island and Sofitel Fiji was my home away from home, and served as the restful getaway I had awaited. Drinking punches (and replenishing at the walk-up pool bar), sunbathing at the pool and beach, and most importantly—getting out onto the ocean on a boat—and landing on the island where they filmed Castaway—were all a part of my itinerary. I relaxed, I swam, I saw the gorgeousness of this island country, and I even got to experience a traditional kava ceremony (kava being the national drink of Fiji and a mild narcotic and sedative made from a plant).
And through all of this, I made a mental note to come back and explore more islands, more food traditions, and more local spots. But the best part was, I was here, now. I had laid the groundwork for future trips; I had seen a part of the world I hadn’t seen (and how lucky am I to do so?); I had gotten a taste of the Fijian way of life (Bula! Or welcome, as the locals say enthusiastically), and I had, perhaps most importantly, made use of the time I have right now. (And if the last few years have taught us anything, that time is precious.)
Biggest takeaway? Don’t wait. If you can, book the trip.