In March 2012, we went to Taveuni island in Fiji for a family vacation. As soon as we landed, our driver, Babu, greeted us by name, loaded our bags, and whisked us around the corner to Taveuni Palms. When we arrived, the staff was singing, clapping, and smiling. Kelly was there to meet us and gave us a giant hug. A lovely refreshing coconut drink was placed in our hands and flowers were hung around our necks. It was such a lovely warm welcome. Kelly walked us to our villa where chilled champagne and gorgeous flowers awaited.
The wonderful grand flower arrangement in our villa
It's a crisp morning, we're waiting for breakfast
Breakfast is served
First and foremost: the food
The food was amazing, delicious, and varied. Teila’s Fijian fish curry, the lobster, and the coconut crab were my favorite main courses. All of the desserts were delicious but my favorites were the lemon tart and the coconut lovo cake. Kelly and Tony have an organic farm on the island and all the meat and poultry are sourced locally. They also have a fruit garden/orchard on site and at their home. Any seafood prepared for us was caught just before it was served.
Lobster fresh from the sea alongside potatoes and green beans from the garden
Teila's Fijian fish curry is to die for
Taveuni Palms cooking classes
The food tasted so good it was unbelievable that it was low in calories and fat. Kelly gladly shared her recipes, and yet again, unbelievably they were very easy to make. If you have the time and the inclination, do take the cooking lessons. We had so much fun learning how to make papaya soup, cassava chips, and Teila’s Fijian fish curry in our kitchen in the villa.
Taveuni Palm's Papaya Soup: words can't describe how delicious it is
The culinary team
Everyone in the team was pleasant, kind, and attentive. It is clear that Kelly and Tony love their staff like their family as they were all smiling and happy, have a genuine love of their jobs, and really want to please their guests. It was the details that made such an impression: coming back from an outing and being met by Robert or Teila holding refreshing ice cold lime water, the multiple dining venues adorned with beautiful table settings like works of art carefully situated in perfect sceneries, the fresh flowers and giant flower arrangements, the presentation of the food, the lanterns and candles, how the service staff was there but “not there”, the housekeeping fairies whom you never saw but did an amazing job as with the gardeners (I never saw or heard them – except when Teila asked one of the gardeners to climb a coconut tree so I could try fresh coconut water. And yet behold, the property was immaculately groomed), and the endless supply of freshly baked coconut cookies (this was key as I had my teenage son with me who devoured tin after tin of the cookies and the cookie fairies continually replenished them).
Beautiful table display, little flowers, candles, blue lantern, perfect scenery over sunset
Special menu request
If you have a dietary restriction you can rest assured that it will be well taken care of. My son has a severe peanut allergy and we felt completely comfortable that it was seriously addressed. Kelly even researched the massage oils and the Pure Fiji bath products to ensure they had not been processed in a factory that contained peanuts. Taveuni Palms is all about the details!
Learning to make peanut-free roti in private cooking class
We stayed in both the upper and lower villas, and toured the Grand Villa. All of the villas are lovely and the Grand Villa is truly grand with breathtaking views. They are all extremely private and you would never know that other guests were even on the property because you never hear or see them. Each of the villas has their advantages but we preferred the lower villa to the upper because of the grass lawn, the bigger pool, and it has very easy access to the larger private beach. If you like the beach, you may prefer the lower villa as the beach is quite a distance from the Grand Villa. The upper villa has its own open-air spa for massages and the pool is just right outside the doors of the villa. Regardless of our own preferences, all of these villas are lovely and immaculate.
Lower beach villa with a turquoise pool and the beach is just a few steps away
Private beach at Taveuni Palms
I am a bit of a “germaphobe” and often find even the top hotels don’t always do a great cleaning job. That is certainly not the case here. I'm sure the floors must have been cleaned, swept, or washed multiple times a day. There was never any sand, debris, spots, or dust bunnies on the floor. There wasn’t any dust on the baseboards or corners, no cobwebs, and no yuck in the grout, in the bathroom, or kitchen. The entire villa was spotless. The gardens were immaculately groomed – no dead leaves, no yuck at the base of the bushes. It was simply perfection.
The service, options, and tour assistance
I loved the nightly turn down service. I won’t spoil the surprise but it was always a treat to see what the staff did to make the bedrooms and bathrooms special each evening. The service is truly what sets Taveuni Palms apart from any other five star resorts. The service staff was available when you needed their assistance and yet was very careful to give you all the privacy you wanted or needed. Teila was our service manager and she was truly a ray of sunshine. Seeing her beautiful smiling face every morning saying, “Bula” was a daily highlight. She sat down with us on the first day to discuss what excursions and activities we wanted to do so she could plan the best day and times. Take her advice, she’s been doing this a long time and has it down perfectly. Of course, being typical Americans we wanted to do everything! She was lovely and accommodating and has a wonderful spirit akin to a loving, caring mother.
There are plenty of things to do on this island. You could also do nothing and spend your entire visit at the villa and still have a lovely time. We went on at least one excursion or a trip away from the villa each day. You can guarantee that Kelly has chosen the best vendor on the island and the excursion will be entertaining, educational, and fun! Lavena Falls is a must do. The island excursion/date line, natural waterslide, and church were well worth the trip. The lovo night at Sera’s home was delightful. We went on numerous scuba diving trips with Julie and Wayne at Nakia Dive and went surfing with them as well. Nakia is a first rate operation. All of the excursions are good fun and very inexpensive. It was a treat to have Babu pick us up in the nicely air-conditioned vehicle and Teila always made sure towels, cold water, and snacks were packed for us for each trip – again, it’s the details.
Walking and exploring the beach
Under the sea, diving and swimming with the fishes
The highlight of the trip for my son was going fishing with Tony. They caught tuna, which Tony had the chef marinate, spice, sear, and serve to us as dinner. It was so delicious! Tony is such a kind and thoughtful man and my son had the best time and looked so happy when he was holding up his bounty!
Fishing with Tony, a tuna was hooked
Successful fishing expedition with John and Tony, holding the bounties of the sea, our dinner
Oyster farm and arts/crafts shops
For me, one of the many highlights of the trip was the visit to Claude’s Pearl Farm. We were fortunate enough to be there during the harvest. Claude opened ten oysters, six of which had beautiful and large pearls. He explained the entire farming process to us, which is very interesting. These pearls are unique to Fiji and the colors are spectacular! They are a good investment. Additionally, I asked Teila if she could find some Fijian handmade fans for me as the handicraft stores we visited in town had a dismal and expensive selection of arts and crafts. Teila had her mum and grandmother make a bunch of fans for me to take back as souvenirs and gifts for friends. They were beautiful, and my friends and family loved them!
Tips and recommendations
- Cooking classes: Fijian fish curry, papaya soup, cassava chips.
- Menu: Fijian fish curry, lobster, coconut crab, lemon tart, coconut lovo cake, papaya soup, cassava chips, coconut cookies. The ingredients are organic, locally sourced, fresh from the garden, or freshly caught from the sea.
- Accommodation: The Grand Villa is truly grand with unbelievable views. The Upper Villa seems better suited for honeymooners. The Lower Villa and the Grand Villa are better for families.
- Options: Turn-down service is special.
- Activities: Lavena Falls, Nakia Dive, Fishing, Claude’s Pearl Farm, Lovo Night, Island excursion.
Stella has written this review on Trip Advisor. She shared her personal pictures with BookCulinaryVacations.com and her writing has been republished and revised for this article by BookCulinaryVacations.com team and her son.
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