Shangri La Fiji Review - Bountiful Buffets, Friendly Fijians & Amazing Holiday Snaps
My eyes close for a minute and I imagine being back in the lagoon of the Shangri La resort in Fiji. The water is crystal clear and there are fish swimming inches from my fingertips. The sun is shining hot on my skin and there is a picturesque clump of palm trees further down the beach.
I’m looking forward to dinner in one of Shangri La’s many restaurants this evening and a stroll around the gardens beforehand…I remember being completely and utterly relaxed…
If you’re looking for a fantastic Fijian resort to spend your holiday in, you couldn’t do better than the Shangri La in Fiji. When I visited Fiji in 2012, I stayed at three different resorts to try to get a feel for each place. The Shangri La beat the other two hands down. I’ll explain why in this hub.
In the meantime, as the Fijians say, "Bula!"
Please note that the images in this article were photographed by me, on location and are © 2013 Suzanne Day.
What’s So Hot About Shangri La Fiji
Well, it’s a resort that does everything right. Breakfast is amazing. The accommodation is comfortable.
The grounds are outstanding and there’s lots to see and do. But the main reason I liked Shangri La so much is because the photo opportunities there have to be seen to be believed!
I’m a big believer in holiday snapshots to remind one of holidays, especially when grey work days set in again. The photos I took away from Shangri La can make me feel like I’m right back there, swimming in the infinity pool and walking around under the palm trees.
No, it’s not because I am a particularly good photographer – it’s because the location is ready-made for amazing photographs!
Set on 109 acres of tropical splendour, Shangri La has obviously worked hard landscaping the gardens on Yanuka Island. Yanuka Island is a manmade island, especially created for the Shangri La Resort.
You can tell there was a lot of planning with the landscaping because there seems to be special placements of plants and palms for maximum beauty.
It reminded me a little bit of a Japanese Zen Garden combined with a Botanic Garden as the formation of plants was more an art form than gardening.
Buildings were aesthetically combined into the landscape with vegetation to make it all tasteful and photography worthy. Even the deck chairs around the pools seemed to be chosen especially for the location, to add, not detract.
I especially liked the beautiful views of the teeming reef on the southern side of the island, which were on my doorstep. Waking up at 6am to go see the crabs ferreting around under the overhangs was very interesting, as were seeing starfish and the different coloured sea snakes swimming around in the shallow beach pools. And this was only a 10m walk towards the sea from a very accessible beach!
Apparently at night, hundreds of crabs come out and walk around on the beach. I did see a number of them scuttering across the sand after dinner.
Fijians seem to take environmental (and in particular, marine) awareness and protection rather seriously. There were many ads and documentaries on the TV, not only for tourists, but on the nightly news too. Programs featured unusual species that needed protection as well as areas where marine biologists conducted research into environmental issues.
Shangri La Restaurants & Food
Let me start by telling you that the breakfast buffet at Shangri La is really good, with a wide selection of foods to suit every taste, including fresh foods (which can sometimes be lacking in breakfast buffets).
They’ll cook you a fresh omelette with your choice of ingredients. You get to choose which restaurant to have it in too, as they all serve similar foods – so pick your favourite view!
If you eat till you’re full at the breakfast buffet, there is no need to eat much for lunch as you will still be full.
Beach Bar & Grill
This al fresco restaurant overlooks the resort’s main lagoon. You can dine indoors or half-out. Lots of different food to suit all tastes on the menu. Seafood and international cuisine. A HUGE buffet dinner on once a week (well there was when I went anyway).
What can I say but GO TO THE BUFFET AND DO NOT PASS GO. In the buffet is everything, better than many buffets at home.
Grab yourself a plateful of hot roast/Asian/pizza/the usual or a plateful of the unusual, like some of the amazing salads you can get and divine desserts with splendid presentation. Why not grab several platefuls – I did and was stuffed with really yummy food.
Of course, the brie and prawns disappear really quickly but if you keep going back, eventually they put more out.
The place is buzzing with all types – families with kids, grandparents, singles, etc. You will be full. The price is good. Definitely one to go to if your eyes are bigger than your stomach, don’t miss this!
A beachfront bar where it’s romantic to watch the sunset. Get yourself a cold beer, a wine or one of the many tropical cocktails or mocktails offered. I only went as far as walking past this bar on the way to restaurants to drink and watch the sunset. But it looked very nice from the outside.
Black Marlin Bar
A small bar, with some interesting lighting, the Black Marlin Bar is a nice place for dancing without too many crowds.
Apparently they serve a buffet dinner sometimes, though I didn’t know it. Some nights there is a DJ, other nights it’s live entertainment. Interesting drinks too.
If you dance enthusiastically, some Fijians might come and join in on the dancefloor! Or you might fall over. I did both.
Light lunches abound here, with sandwiches, pasta and snacks featuring on the menu. Situated near the infinity pool, you can have things like iced coffee, toasted foccacias, pot curries, cakes, pastries, smoothies, juices etc.
Service is on Fijian time, so be prepared to hang out for a bit while your food is made fresh by the one cook available.
Filling, nice food. The menu was enticing. Worth the price, which was reasonable. Would go here again for lunch. And for a cold drink when swimming. You can see from the photo I was really sunburnt that day.
Golden Cowrie Restaurant
An Italian restaurant with nice views over the southern end of the lagoon. Somewhat expensive, but quite nice if you’re in the mood for being subdued with Italian, or even with muted soft furnishings.
Not a place for louts or loud people.
Get a selection of breads and pastas, which are sumptuous, and combine with wine to create a nice mood before moving on to the next place to drink or dance.
Unfortunately, if you have a man with a bottomless stomach then he won’t be full here for less than AU$200 but have fun trying something new anyway!
The only Shangri La airconditioned restaurant with an all day a la carte menu and innovative cuisine such as scallops with coriander salsa and avocado puree (or alternatively, twice cooked duck with duck terrine, cauliflower puree and fennel salad).
Dress code is smart here so make sure your man packs some covered footwear (my man didn’t, hence we didn’t get to dine here, though the menu looked really good and I was disappointed – it was my first restaurant of choice).
Lagoon Terrace Restaurant
A lunch venue serving pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Apparently it has a Mediterranean inspired cuisine. We didn’t go there as breakfast was so big, it tided us over until dinner. But I’m sure it caters well for families where the kids could be a bit fussy.
Takali Terrace Restaurant
A restaurant at the southern end of Shangri La, near the adult only swimming pool. Nice views of the reef (or ocean, depending on the time of day) and a romantic place to have dinner. An Asian inspired restaurant, you’ll find lots of delicious food here to eat and lots of seafood (lobster, crab, prawns etc).
I had lots of things with lime in them and also a yummy crab, which, while not filling, was a hot taste explosion and a bit messy. However, after eating the four other dishes with the crab I almost had to be wheeled out. Neat casual dress code – think “date night”.
Be prepared for a partner feeling romantic and “in the mood” after this one! But also be prepared to let your full stomach subside first.
There are many types of accommodation at Shangri La Fiji, to suit all tastes and slightly higher end budgets. We stayed in a Superior Lagoon View Room, which had a nice private balcony area and lovely views.
It was a short walk to most facilities and about 200m from the nearest breakfast buffet location. The room was outstanding and I found no issues at all in it. It was cosy but spacious enough for holidaying in, and the attention to detail was very good, both by the housekeeping staff and the tasteful design and furnishings used.
Swimming is the main activity you will do as there are plenty of lovely pools and a lagoon to do it in. Pools are naturally warm enough and nice enough for extended swimming sessions.
There are deckchairs near all pools for sunbathing and reading. Towels are provided upon request. There is a choice of pools, catering for adults only or for families.
Snorkeling in the lagoon is encouraged, so bring your snorkeling gear, otherwise you will need to buy some at the Shangri La shops.
You can also go out on a boat and snorkel the reef, which is quite good with ravines full of coral, and lots of colourful fish.
There is canoe hire and banana boat hire available, to paddle around the lagoon and have a good look.
Walking through Shangri La is an activity almost everyone does, because it is pleasant and beautiful in the gardens.
Other activities include mini golf, grass skirt making, bike tours, PADI certified scuba diving, volleyball, dancing, tennis, parasailing, deep sea fishing, spa and massage, gym, visits to Marau village, visits to Sigatoka and many more. There are noticeboards of daily activities near the pools.
Souvenirs & Shopping
Shangri La has its own handmade jewelry/craft mini market, formed of a group of local crafters, which is situated in the central hub area of the walkway (you can't miss it as it's on the main thoroughfare). Some nice beading and shell trinkets can be found there.
There is a Jacks of Fiji located in the Shangri La, as well as a few other shops. Jacks is a kind of franchise souvenir shop found in many Fijian cities, offering a wide range of items to purchase, from hand made wooden sculptures worth thousands, to pens, to Fijian shells set in resin into bigger shells and everything in between. I found Jacks to have reasonable prices and lots of items catering for Western holidaymakers.
I was a bit naughty and decided to step outside of Jacks to find out about the real Fijian shopping experience. Tourists tend to be bussed and herded into Jacks without mention of other stores. Well I’m here to tell you it is all for a reason.
The average Fijian shop, while interesting, offers a range of products that you can find in any $2 bargain shop back home. Plus a few more brightly coloured items of clothing. And some Indian gold jewelry stores. If you go into Fijian supermarkets, you can find food that has packaging that looks like it is from the 1950s. There’s some real vintageware cans and tins in there.
Of particular note are cafes and restaurants in local Fijian towns, which are exciting if you want to try something new. The handmade craft market in Lautoka has some original items for sale too, though check with customs on all the wooden products as they looked somewhat fertile.
Beware of hawkers and beggars, they will zoom in on any tourist and it’s hard to extract yourself from these professionals. There’s only one way. Just say no. I didn’t and I lost AU$50 for some crappy wooden sticks, laughingly carved with names for a souvenir. One of the names was spelt wrong.
My conclusion is that you will end up with adequate nice souvenirs and mementos of your trip. If you don't get enough stuff, there's some cute Fiji Bitter Beer fridge magnets you can buy at the airport on the way out. And there's also a Jacks.
Essentials To Pack For Shangri La
- Snorkeling gear
- Sunscreen (SPF 30+)
- Nice outfit for dinner
Location & Getting There
To get to Shangri La, you travel across the main causeway from mainland Fiji to Yanuca Island. Shangri La Fiji is near Sigatoka, on the southwest part of Fiji.
Fly into Nadi Airport, wait an hour to collect your luggage, then hail a taxi to take you to Shangri La. Enjoy a long, long story about the taxi driver’s life on the way if you ask for it (the journey is about 43km on winding roads). Actually, it was quite an interesting experience, hearing about the political history of Fiji, the effects of the 2012 cyclone, the dead or dying sugar industry and the economy etc, mixed in with personal anecdotes.
I would tend to heed any taxi driver warnings about travellers not being safe in Suva at the time of travel. Suva is a long way from Shangri La, on the Eastern side of Fiji. If you ask your taxi driver about it, you’ll get to hear all about the kidnappings and the major work the police are performing regarding harsh tactics and massive brutal punishment to get the tourists back from the local clan lords.
Map Of Yanuca Island (Shangri La Island)
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© 2013 Suzanne Day
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