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Castaway Island Fiji
With one final glance, I waved goodbye to the wonderful people at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort. The lilting tones of the farewell song still occupying my mind. I can’t be too sad though, as I’m not heading home just yet. I’ve got more of these beautiful South Pacific islands to see. The destination today is Castaway Island. It’s connected to the movie of a similar name that Tom Hanks made famous in 2000. In fact, the movie was not filmed here at all, but I will keep its true origin a secret for a little while longer.
On board the South Sea Cruises catamaran, I settle in for the journey that will take approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes from the Port of Denarau. Carrying hundreds of passengers, it will cruise through the Mamanuca Islands, dropping off passengers at many of them along the way. Most of them are small but they allow for quick day trips to the Fiji Islands where time might be an issue to get to the larger ones.
Many also have the usual beach and water activities on offer including snorkelling, paddleboarding and kayaking. Most of the islands will have at least a small resort on them where you can add good food and drinking cocktails on the beach to your list.
Arriving at Castaway Island Fiji
My eyes follow a long line of white sand to the end where a resort takes centre place. Even though we are still a short distance away from here, I can see people starting to form in a group at the water’s edge, their bright attire taking on the features of a beacon.
The waters around Castaway Island are shallow and full of coral reefs, so the South Seas boat must moor in deep water. We are efficiently moved from the catamaran to tenders and transported quickly to the beach where the ebullient welcoming party are in full song. The first thing I hear is from a departing guest. “You’ll love it he says to me”. With that enthusiastic endorsement, my sadness at leaving the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort dissipates.
Whilst the resort only occupies a small part of the overall 174 acres of rainforest, it packs a lot into a small area on the north-west end of the island. With oceanfront and beachfront bures, it also makes the most of its enviable position on the ocean.
Beach bures at Castaway Island Fiji
As the name would suggest, these are the bures located along the beach. Castaway Island Fiji has two accessible beaches, the North (where you will arrive at) and the South. The North Beach feels closer to all of the action, but it is also the busiest. When the resort is busy (which is most of the time) you will have a constant parade of people walking past your bure. Still, it has unrivalled access to the ocean, beach and main resort area. A small price to pay perhaps for occupying such a prime position. For families with small children, you could still sit on your balcony and watch them play in the sand in front of you.
The South Beach is only a short walk from the main resort buildings and has more of a deep-ocean feel. When the wind is blowing, as it was when I was there, the ocean feels a little more rogue over this side. There is also more privacy here, being away from the main swimming beach.
All 26 beach bures offer direct beach access and a view of the water.
I stayed in one of 12 ocean view bures, with a view of the North Beach. Set back slightly from the beachfront views of the water can be seen. I could also see the beach from mine, although not all oceanview bures have this. Personally, if I was staying here again, I would choose to stay in an ocean view bure for no other reason than they have a little more privacy, without feeling as though I am missing out on the view. Protected by the lush garden that surrounds them, and hidden from the direct sight of those on the beach, these bures are more hidden from the public.
Dotted throughout the resorts leafy garden, 27 island bures offer the same style of accommodation as all others, without the water and beach views, meaning they are the most affordable places to stay on Castaway Island. Despite not having ocean or beach views, you are merely a quick walk from both.
Family beach bure
Located close to the North Beach, the family beach bure is a one-off. Accommodating ten guests, it consists of two beach bures joined together. It has three bedrooms that connect and two separate bathrooms. It’s perfect for large families or groups of friends.
Other than the aspect, all bures are created equally. All (excluding the Family Beach bure) have a king size bed in the rear of the room and two single beds at the front. The single beds also operate like a day bed so are the perfect place for a spot of reading or a nap during the day. They can be separated off via a sliding door.
The bathroom has a separate shower and toilet area and a large general bathroom area with double basins. Toiletries (shampoo and body lotion) are housed in pottery jugs, allowing for refilling and the reduction of single-use plastics.
Bottled water is not provided in the rooms. All bures are airconditioned and have a large ceiling fan also. There is a digital room safe. iron and ironing board and hairdryer.
There’s an abundance of pillows and coffee making facilities. There is a small table and chairs on the patio at the front of the bure, a great spot for an afternoon drink whilst watching the beach activity.
They are designed like a traditional hut, with a thatched roof, and lined inside with the beautiful tapa, paintings made from the bark of the mulberry tree. The ceilings are high, giving them a generous feeling of space, and allowing the cool air to circulate.
It’s peaceful here at night. This isn’t a party island, although you can still sing and dance the night away down at the bar. Here, tucked away in my bure at night, the thick curtains provide excellent block out from the light. Most of the families that are staying around me have called it a night long ago. With no television, radio and wifi connections in the bures, there’s nothing left to disturb my slumber.
Dining and drinking at Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji
Fortunately, the dining options are of high quality at the Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji, or else you’d need to learn how to fish very quickly! With two restaurants, a casual eating cafe and a bar, you are spoiled for choice on the island. Of course, this doesn’t come about by accident. Guests on remote islands have high expectations for quality food, given they have limited other options. Castaway Island Fiji also hire excellent chefs, ensuring a consistent level of dining and food experiences.
With a view out over the beach and ocean, the Sundowner Bar was an obvious choice for my first lunch on Castaway Island. Pizzas from the wood-fired oven washed down with a local beer made me feel right at home. If you’d prefer to eat in your Bure, or on the beach, the pizzas can be prepared for takeaway.
At sunset, join the other guests on the deck for a cocktail and a magnificent view of the sun setting over the ocean.
Nuku Marau bar and Grill
Located by the family pool, this cafe serves up a mix of burgers, sandwiches, sushi and juices. If eating a breakfast buffet isn’t your style, breakfast can also be taken here mid-morning.
Water’s Edge Restaurant
As the name suggests, this is another dining location with a brilliant view. Of the two restaurants onsite, the Water’s Edge has a casual vibe with a menu to match. It is also the location for the morning breakfast buffet. Whilst you can sit undercover, if the weather is pleasant then pull up a chair on the outside deck and relax.
Breakfast has a range of bread, pastries and fruit. A live egg station looks after the healthy protein fix for the day, giving me plenty of energy to get involved with all of the activities on offer here. I loved how all of the hot dishes, many of them traditional Fijian dishes, were served in French Le Creuset cast iron pots.
Lunch and dinner can also be taken here with a la carte offerings. On some days of the week, themed buffets are available.
Coming from a warm climate, I love eating outside, so being able to do the same here at the Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji was awesome. With the sun setting in the background and the ocean lapping softly on the beach, we took up a table right on the edge of the outdoor terrace.
Dinner tonight is a celebration of the locally sourced food found on the island. Being an island resort has its challenges, especially when it comes to food and water, but the team here are doing their best with vegetable gardens and water treatment facilities.
As a non-shellfish eater, the Fijian Kokoda passes me by. Pronounced Ko-Konda, this is the local equivalent of ceviche but made with coconut milk. The fish is lightly cured and then brought to life with the zingy flavours of lychee, ginger, orange and chilli. By the looks on the faces around me, the other guests are delighted with this plate of food.
Still, I’m not too disappointed, as my spring rolls, filled with pull-apart beef short ribs are delicious.
Pumpkin soup, not necessarily at the top of my list when I think about Asian food arrives with the largest piece of garlic bread I’ve ever seen. With hints of cinnamon and coconut overtones, it had a burst of Asian inspiration.
A delicate piece of fish sat atop a piece of aged black Angus beef, fulfiling the role of a “surf and turf” quite nicely. With a béarnaise sauce, potatoes and asparagus, it was a great combination that lead on to our final course. A moist carrot cake, with meringue frosting, was paired with ice cream to close out a wonderful meal.
This is the premier dining restaurant at Castaway Island Fiji. Chefs prepare the food on purpose-built cooktops and guests dine with their feet in the sand. The cuisine is Fijian-Asian, and along with the restaurant, celebrates the arrival of the first Chinese in Fiji in 1808.
On a balmy evening, I was happy to join other guests and explore the menu here. I think I did a little too much exploring, but when the food on offer is good, it’s hard to say no. We start off with a masala tea, said to cleanse the palate and awaken the senses. My eyesight was certainly awoken when a plate of pork belly was placed in front of me.
The pork had been infused for three days in a natural seawater brine. Brining in sea water is a traditional Fijian method of cooking and is said to remove any impurities from the pork. Having brined food ourselves at home, I also know how much it adds to the tenderness of the meat. With a dash of hoisin sauce, an inventive green papaya salad and a piece of crackling, it was amazing.
Any time duck is served to me I’m always going to be thankful. As the smoky aroma of the wood-fired duck came my way, I knew this would not let me down. Paired with Asian coleslaw, more caramelised onions and perfect drops of hoisin sauce and mango aioli, it had my taste buds singing.
Fired Mochiko chicken arrived next, as our stomachs started to fill up. It was hard to beat the first two courses but this one was my favourite and remained so for the remainder of the meal. The chicken was tender, having been marinated overnight in rice flour, oyster sauce and raw honey. Served over soba noodles, the chicken was full of flavour and ever so crunchy.
Cantonese fish came next, followed by a fillet of beef, served sizzling on a hot plate with a traditional Mongolian sauce.
The dessert tasting plate arrived laden with offerings of lemongrass and mango pannacotta, sticky date pudding and coconut haupia cake. With a full stomach, I was now happy just to sit back and listen to the musical trio who had been providing the musical backdrop all evening.
Note: As Restaurant 1808 operates outdoors, in times of inclement weather, the restaurant will not operate.
Facilities at Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji
The Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji is a four-star resort that offers excellent resort facilities. I loved the provision of a “Courtesy Bure”, made available for guests who need to check out in the morning but who might not be departing until later in the day. Instead of losing the time in between checking out and leaving, guests can still enjoy all the usual activities, like swimming and other watersports.
Luggage can be left here and prior to the final departure (which I know guests will put off as long as they can), guests can freshen up or even have a shower here. It’s a masterstroke in customer service and one that is not at all common.
There are two pool areas here. The family pool attached to Nuku Marau Bar and Grill is designed to suit people of all ages. The Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji is heavily frequented by families so for adults wanting a little more peace, Malua pool is the place to be. Whilst this isn’t strictly adults only, any children in attendance are encouraged to respect those around them.
If life on a remote island isn’t relaxing enough, you can always head into one of the designated Bures for a massage.
Activities at Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji
There are tennis courts, table tennis tables, a boutique for shopping and of course heaps of water activities. A daily activities board keeps guests up to date with the available program that is likely to include such things as bushwalks, volleyball on the beach, and coconut husking.
It’s an island, so there are endless opportunities for water activities. Try your hand at windsurfing, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. When the wind is blowing, take one of the small sailing boats for a ride.
Go snorkelling in the clear waters straight off the beach. It’s easy enough to do and you are never far from the mainland so it’s perfect for those who are first-time snorkellers. I saw my first starfish on the reef here.
The Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji is also a very active participant in OZONE, an environmental program created by the Outrigger group to support, protect and educate others about the importance of the reef that surrounds their island. Like the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, there are similar activities carried out here in order to look after their own reef. Environmental Officer for the Castaway Island resort, Koli Vulaomo, takes us for a trip in a glass-bottomed boat out to the coral reef that lies just offshore. Here we can see the coral re-planting that is underway.
It is his role to administer the OZONE program and he is heavily (and proudly) involved in all aspects of it. “We aim to re-grow enough coral to cover a football field”, he said, “currently we have achieved around 12% of that target”. Unfortunately, nature plays a role that is sometimes not expected, which sets their efforts back. In 2016, Cyclone Winston created havoc as it tore across the Fijian islands. Much of the coral reef was impacted during this time.
Still, this doesn’t stop Koli from wanting to teach others about the importance of the reef, running environmental presentations and activities for the guests.
Every Wednesday, guests can participate in a traditional Fijian event. In the evening, a dance and song show occurs and dinner is served Fijian style, having been cooked in an underground oven. Kava ceremonies also form part of the evening and is something that should be witnessed if you are here on the island. I’m not so keen on drinking the kava myself but being part of the ceremony was something I wouldn’t have missed!
I’m not sure if this fits into the cultural category, but it is very cool. Pull up a chair or sit on the sand to watch nightly movies, projected onto the sail of a sailing boat.
Day trips from Castaway Island
Staying on an island doesn’t preclude you from getting off it and exploring other areas. Fiji is known for having some of the best surf breaks in the world and when you stay at Castaway Island, you are literally close by one of the best! CloudBreak near Namotu Island is also considered to be one of the most challenging breaks to surf. If you aren’t quite up to surfing, spend some time on the nearby Cloud 9 pontoon. With a bar, pizzeria, a DJ rocking tunes it’s a great spot to hang out.
If you are looking for something a little less adrenaline-filled, why not take a speedboat ride past some of the nearby islands and have a picnic on the beach at Mondriki Island. Mondriki is the actual location where the film Castaway was shot.
The ship-wrecked Tom Hanks would have killed for just a slice of the hospitality we were enjoying under the thatched roof of a beach hut. As we toasted our arrival at Mondriki Island with a glass of bubbles we lifted the lid of our picnic lunch. In a Bento-box style creation, we enjoyed chicken and salad and fresh fruit whilst watching the clear blue waters break softly on the sand.
With some time to ourselves now on this beautiful island, there was nothing left to do but head to the water and relax.
Why is Castaway Island Fiji different?
I’d be no good on an island like Castaway if all I had to do all day was sit on the beach and drink cocktails. Fortunately, there are so many activities to get involved in that I was never in danger of being bored and I barely had time to sit on the beach at all. That’s perfect for me. Of course, for those who are the complete opposite of me, you’ll be more than happy to while away your hours on a lounge or nestled in one of the many hammocks swinging between palm trees.
On the surface, Castaway Island looks like many other beautiful islands dotted around the world. A lush green oasis, surrounded by clear blue waters and white sand in the middle of nowhere. So what’s their secret?
When I asked General Manager Steven Andrew how long he had been on Castaway Island, his reply was simply, “not long enough”. For 14 years, he has been the barefoot GM, getting around the island in the most relaxed style possible, sans footwear. He said “People come back for the familiarity. We have a low turnover of staff and they feel like they are coming home and coming back to family”.
Family was a word I heard used often whilst I was here, but not in any kind of staged way. The team here at Castaway Island really do treat you like their family. They are locals and with that comes a love for their island and those who visit. Like anyone who welcomes friends and family into their own homes. They remember their guests, they remember what they don’t and don’t like, they make them feel special.
Castaway Island has a strong occupancy rate any old day of the year but it is the number of return guests that tells the story and is the most compelling.
Approximately 30% of guests each year are repeat guests. That’s an incredibly high rate but one that is hardly surprising once you’ve spent some time here. Of that 30%, another 30% return in consecutive years.
One guest is returning this year for the 45th time. His family has grown over this time and they have all now become part of this holiday institution. Whilst I was here, a family covering three generations were holidaying here together. Many guests book and pay for their next visit before they have left the island.
Who should stay at Castaway Island Fiji?
There is no mistaking the fact that Castaway Island is a terrific location for Fiji family holidays, particularly for those with small children. With beautiful accommodation, excellent facilities and a range of activities and day trips, there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied. Some accommodation packages include meal plans, making the dining experience a simple one for those who don’t want to worry about food. There is a free kids club and kids menus too.
This Fiji beach resort also caters to couples, honeymooners, or anyone wanting their own space to have some time out. Take a hike through the tropical rainforest, find your own patch of beach away from the crowds, or plan a day trip to a secluded island.
Whoever you are, I know that you will open the curtains of your bure on your first morning here and remember it wasn’t all a dream. You are on Castaway Island. Now all you need to do is enjoy!
Best time to go to Castaway Island
As Australian families in particular love to flock here in school holidays and during summer, if you are wanting a little bit more space, I’d consider going outside of these times. Fiji is perfect for visiting all year round but be mindful of the rainy season from November to April.
How to get to Castaway Island Fiji
We flew from Brisbane to Nadi with Virgin Airlines, who operate one of the better timetables out of Australia into Nadi.
You can check airlines, timetables and prices on Skyscanner.
From here we took the South Seas catamaran from Port Denarau to Castaway Island. The total journey time was 1 hour 50 minutes.
Check timetables with South Sea Cruises.
There is also a water taxi that can be chartered, or, if you feel like arriving like a celebrity, you can get a helicopter or seaplane to Castaway Island (weather dependent)
You don’t need to stay at the Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji to enjoy it or its surrounds either. Day trips including lunch at the Castaway Island resort are available through South Sea Cruises.
Beer and Croissants was a guest of Outrigger Castaway Island Fiji. As always all opinions, editorial and images are our own
Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.