There is something decidedly exotic about hopping on a private jet and being whisked away to a far-flung South Pacific island. Particularly so when your destination is a recently opened Fijian island retreat declared one of the 100 most beautiful hotels and resorts in the world. But what exactly defines such a resort? What is it that allows one to ascend above a crowded field of otherwise highly credentialed contenders? Sure, at this level of excellence, exceptional service, extraordinary cuisine, a fine wine cellar, exquisite surroundings, combined with enough leisure and cultural options to suit the most fastidious guest are de rigueur. Some would say if you've seen one fine resort, you've seen them all. In Laucala Island's case (pronounced Lauthala), however, you would also be wrong.
Hideaway Hotels travel guides allocates Laucala seven stars, an unquantifiable rating, as there is no such category. However, I understand their sentiment: Laucala is simply so unique, raising the bar well beyond merely exceptional. Against a backdrop of manicured coconut plantation silhouetted on a cerulean sea, Laucala has the goods.
Stepping from the King Air Beechcraft B200 onto the manicured arrival concourse after the 45 minute flight from Nadi, I'm presented with a chilled freshly crushed juice, tasting of papaya, pineapple and coconut. A cool, scented towel is pressed into my other hand. With the balmy trade winds wafting gently across the dense vegetation that lines the runway, harmonious rhythmic voices from the welcoming party rise in unison, as an almost hypnotic Fijian song drifts skywards on the breeze. Almost unconsciously, my own hips start to sway to the soothing voices: I feel as though I've been welcomed home after a long absence, despite the fact that I've never set foot on the island before.
Later, I'll come to expect regular cold towels and freshly pressed shot glasses of seasonal juices as I move around the island in one of the two electric Club Cars at my disposal. Staff seem to know intuitively of my advance even before I know myself where I'm headed, preparing a refreshing towel and juice before my arrival. Slightly more disconcerting, until I catch on, is the way my Club Car seems to have a mind of its own. Parking my buggy, each time I return to the vehicle, it has been turned around to face outwards. Initially I wonder if I've perhaps imbibed in too much of the champagne that flows freely, until I linger behind one time. I watch as a deft, buggy valet hops in and conveniently re-parks it for me, so as I don't have to be bothered with pesky reversing or manoeuvring.
It is just the sort of significant attention to detail that prompted those seven stars from Hideaway Hotels. And it is consistent throughout. Aware of my Australian background, the wines in my villa's fridge are Australian (barring the French champagne of course). A discreet enquiry before arrival was enough to alert the entire hospitality staff that one in our party did not eat seafood, ensuring she need not be embarrassed with inappropriate menu offerings. Discarding my smalls in the laundry hamper one morning, I'm not surprised at all, though I am delighted, when they return the same afternoon, washed, pressed, folded in delicate tissue paper and smelling as though they spent the day in heavenly Spa Laucala without me. It's enough of an incentive to send me straight there.