When Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz purchased Laucala Island from the Forbes family for US$10 million in 2003, he used it as a getaway for friends and family. Five years and untold millions later saw the creation of 25 meticulously crafted villas. If you’re interested in hiring the entire island with 71 of your closest friends it will set you back a cool US$170,000 per night with a five-night minimum.
If that’s above your budget you can always seek approval to rent the owner’s villa, the Hilltop Residence, which sits on the highest point of the island, has 360-degree views and encompasses lush jungle cascading down to a stunning blue lagoon. This will cost about US$45,000 per night.
But really, there is no need to splurge as the standard Laucala villa is far from standard. With a traditional Fijian thatched roof and timber beams, mahogany floors, and giant bathtubs carved out of granite, this is island luxe at its best. Besides the main villa with bedroom, bathroom and sunken living room, a second lounge room is in a separate pavilion, which cleverly adds to the feeling of spaciousness. The bar stocked with decanters of scotch, gin and cognac is partnered with a fridge full of wine, beer, freshly squeezed juices and, of course, Red Bull. Upon returning to our villa each afternoon we were greeted by decadent pastries – blueberry tarts and lemon meringue pies.
Glass walls surround the lounge room and lead to a large patio, two covered cabanas, a large infinity pool, a second granite tub, and two outdoor showers. The pool area is surrounded by tiki torches programmed to light up at dusk and turn off after you’re comfortably tucked away in bed.
Villa locations vary from private beachfront to hillside jungle and there is one sprawling villa perched over the water with a pool carved into lava rock. Then there’s Oprah’s favourite, The Pavillion, which is built into the side of a cliff with a private beach below and two pools.
While nearly all resorts in Fiji rely on barges from the mainland for supplies, Laucala strives to be self-sustaining. With hydroponic greenhouses, beehives, a cattle farm, piggery, ducks, chickens, quails, and even an abattoir, all set upon about 240 acres of farmland, they are able to produce about 85 per cent of what is required to provide guests with an elevated culinary experience day in, day out. The farm tour was very insightful, I took comfort in the transparency provided by the farm tour and the farm-to-table approach.
Worried that you might get bored on an island? That won’t be the case on Laucala. Never before have I seen so many activities on offer, and nearly every one is included in your stay – even your first massage. All of the equipment is top of the range, from the clear acrylic kayaks (I watched a sea turtle swim under me), to the dive equipment, sailboats and jet skis. The horses were the most impressive I have seen at any resort and the equestrian expert, Heather from New Zealand, made my daughter feel comfortable and confident, having only been on a horse once before. We rode through the coconut plantations and along the beach, ending up at the dive shop where we impulsively decided to jump on the jet skis and take a 35-minute spin around the island – because that’s what you do on a private island, whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it.
Meke Wau Dance Performance
Nothing is ever too much trouble at Laucala, in fact I don’t think I heard the word “no” the entire stay. The ultimate activity that blew us all away was the submarine ride. Yes, they have a US$1.5 million dollar submarine. The Deep Flight Super Falcon takes one guest at a time on an ocean tour through coral filled reefs to view tropical fish, rays and turtles. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
As you can imagine, the food at any of the resort’s five restaurants is nothing short of spectacular. Australian-born chef Anthony Healy spent his early years in France and London, and prior to Laucala was at both Hayman and Lizard islands. He offers an amazing range of choices and is also happy to cook up any special request you may have. Breakfast at the Plantation House on your first morning is a special experience. It’s a breakfast degustation of sorts, with the kitchen sending out a huge sampling of what is on offer so you can try everything from house-smoked fish, chicken and ham to beef tartare and homemade yogurt, Asian chicken soup, congee, pastries, fresh fruit and coconut pancakes. The tiered silver trays keep flowing at a perfect pace. The Thai flavours at the Seagrass restaurant, which sits on the side of a cliff, were also a standout, along with Teppanyaki at the exclusive table that seats six also perched cliff-side.
Arriving at the spa is like stepping into a garden paradise with walkways suspended over pools of lotus flowers that lead to four spa suites. The beauty products are handmade on site with a primary focus on natural ingredients found on the island such as papaya, coconut and hibiscus. My daughter and I spent time in the spa kitchen learning how to make some of the signature candles and bath bombs. The girls in the spa are also happy to show the kids how to create special souvenirs to bring home while you and your partner are enjoying a treatment.
The 18-hole championship golf course is a stunning feature. Renowned Scottish course designer David McLay Kidd created the par-72 course, which, thanks to Mateschitz’s love for the environment, imposes little impact on the old coconut plantation. There is always a golf pro on hand if you would like a lesson or tips on how to improve your game. In fact, with a staff to guest ratio of about 5:1 when at full capacity, you won’t have to wait a split second for a drink refill, or anything else for that matter.
Laucala was truly an unrivalled experience. There is so much to be said about a destination that leaves you feeling that you could have done with nothing more. It was as if the skills of each and every employee were so finely honed that you could be forgiven for feeling they could sense your every want and need as soon as it came to mind. The first-class facilities and picture perfect surroundings all but solidify the opinion that this place is completely faultless.