Factory Fiji: A Review of the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa
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“This is not what an InterContinental is supposed to be like,” the older British man said to his wife.
She nodded in agreement. As they tried to relax in the adults-only infinity pool, a nearby horde of children screamed at a cluster of terrified crabs.
The older couple was right. The InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa may sport the signature name of the InterContinental Group, but it falls far short of the luxury brand.
Despite a nice upgrade to an oceanfront room and impressive amenities, my wife, Katie, and I were just as disappointed with our experience at the InterContinental Fiji as this British couple. Here’s our take on the resort.
The InterContinental Hotel Group has just two properties in Fiji. One of those is a practical Holiday Inn in the capital of Suva. The other an InterContinental, which is one of IHG’s top luxury brands. First impressions would confirm that it looks the part.
I was excited about checking out this InterContinental, as it looked stunning in hotel-provided photos. Plus, I was looking forward to utilizing my benefits as an IHG Rewards top-tier Spire elite and recent purchaser of the InterContinental Ambassador elite-like status.
As part of my Ambassador status, I’m guaranteed a one-category upgrade on paid stays at InterContinental properties. Per the hotel’s booking system, the room types seem to progress as follows:
- Garden View
- Pool View
- Lagoon View
- Beachfront View
- Lagoon View Suite
- Beachfront View Suite
So, we booked a pool view expecting to get a lagoon view. From our experience on the property, we’d recommend doing the same if you have Ambassador status. The pool-view rooms looked over the family pool — which could be loud and felt like you were in the middle of it all.
The lagoon-view rooms had a much better view and seemed much more peaceful.
In addition to getting a guaranteed one-category upgrade, InterContinental Ambassadors get one free weekend night each time they sign up for or renew their Ambassador status. We intentionally planned this stay for a weekend so that we could take advantage of this free weekend night. The catch: You have to book a special rate that may cost more and/or provide fewer benefits than other rates, like in this case.
As disclosed at booking and hotel checkout, a service fee of 3.5% was slapped on credit card and foreign debit card transactions. If you were set on avoiding this, you could withdraw money from the ATM in the lobby — but the ATM charged its captive audience a FJ$15 ($7) transaction fee.
We used my IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card to pay for the stay and incidentals. This card earns 10x points per dollar at IHG properties, and TPG values IHG points at 0.5 cents each. That means we got a return of 5% by putting this on the IHG Premier card, outweighing the 3.5% fee.
The InterContinental Fiji is 34 miles south of Fiji’s main airport in Nadi. The hotel quoted FJ$120 ($55) for a taxi to the airport, although you can likely arrange a ride from the airport for cheaper. The hotel’s website lists a private car transfer between the airport and the resort as costing FJ$280 ($130) one-way or FJ$500 ($230) round-trip. A shared shuttle costs FJ$63 ($30) per person each way.
As this visit was sandwiched between two other Fiji resort stays, we didn’t transfer to or from the airport for our stay. We paid FJ$80 ($35) to transfer by taxi from the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay to the InterContinental and FJ$80 ($35) to transfer by taxi from the InterContinental to the Hilton DoubleTree.
The resort consists of 39 traditionally inspired bure buildings, each containing between six and 12 rooms.
Most bures seemed to have 12 rooms, with eight of these being forward-facing and four being “garden” rooms facing another building. The suites appear to be on forward-facing corners of each floor.
CNN listed the beach just north of the resort as No. 46 in the world in 2017. That article touts the beach as “one of the few places in the country that’s good for swimming 24 hours a day,” but that was certainly not true at the resort, due to strong waves and currents.
We arrived at reception by taxi right around 5pm. There was no bellhop to greet us, even after a minute of paying the taxi and unloading our bags ourselves. We started down a corridor, but the location of the check-in desks was unclear. So we asked a nearby worker for directions. Turns out he was the sole bellhop on duty.
He asked if we were checking in — which seemed like a strange question to ask two people who were carrying bags and asking for the check-in desk. When we said that we were, he gave us conch-shell necklaces and asked for our name. After checking a list of guests and asking for our last name again, his demeanor quickly changed.
He recognized my Spire Ambassador status, welcomed us “home” — which is pretty apt when you know how we travel — and asked if we were celebrating anything in particular this trip. We noted that our 10-year wedding anniversary was coming up, and he wrote that on his guest list. Throughout our stay, we were asked this same question a few more times, and each time it’d be jotted down, but nothing ever seemed to be done with this information.
After some small talk, the bellhop welcomed us to leave our bags and pointed us down to the check-in desks. He mentioned that he was supposed to walk us down, but as he was the only one at reception, we were on our own to walk down the corridor.
There were at least five check-in desks, with one labeled with IHG Rewards and Ambassador check-in signs.
When we sat down at the desk, someone brought a wooden tray with two small bottles of Fiji water and cool towels.
Despite me being guaranteed a one-category upgrade due to my Ambassador status, my reservation in the IHG app didn’t show an upgrade from the pool-view room we’d booked. No upgrade was mentioned up to the point I was asked to sign the check-in form, so I inquired if an upgrade were available. The agent told us she had given us a four-level upgrade — indicating that we’d been upgraded all the way to a beachfront-view suite. She was a bit off, but we won’t complain about a two-level upgrade to a beachfront-view room.
The check-in process was very basic. We were given a map of the property and a folder of materials, but no overview or explanation about amenities, restaurants or other helpful information. The agent asked for my free-night certificate — which was understandable, since these were physical certificates until earlier this year. I explained that it was electronic, which seemed good enough for her to move on.
After checking in, we retraced our steps to the reception area, where the lone bellhop was watching our bags. He asked our room number and relayed this information to the driver of the Bula Bus that had just pulled up.
The driver helped load our bags in the open-air and open-back bus. As he sped around the curvy path, we anxiously looked around corners hoping that no one was on the path and hoped that our bags wouldn’t fly out the back.
As we neared our building, the driver swerved down a path, hit the brakes and sped in reverse back to our building. While he was obviously a skilled driver, our ride on the Bula Bus was certainly more of an adventure than we’d hoped for. Once we were safely parked, the driver carried our bags up to the room.
Based on the photos posted by the hotel, it seemed that buildings only had one level. It turns out that each of them had two floors. We were initially were excited to get a second-floor room, assuming that the views would be better. However, our views were a bit blocked by palm trees. Truly a minor gripe when you have spectacular views of the ocean.
Some may prefer the views from the lower-level rooms and how these rooms are able to spread out into the lawn in front of it. The upper floor rooms have the advantage of being less accessible and thus more private.
The front door was opened by electronic key with a deadbolt-looking latch that didn’t control a deadbolt lock or disable the key slot. In addition, there was a chain lock that was not functional for our room. The combination of these meant that anyone with a working electronic key could access our room at any time. In addition, our room door got stuck when opening or closing, meaning we needed to pull the door closed hard or the door wouldn’t latch.
The room power was activated by placing your key in a socket. These type of setups are good for reducing power consumption but are a pain if you want to charge electronics while you’re out of the room. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue. When we arrived, a key had been seemingly permanently placed in that slot.
The bed measured 72 inches wide by 78 inches long — slightly small for a US king bed but about the size of an Australian king bed. The bed was a great combination of soft yet firm.
A card left near the bed noted that the linens would only be changed when we requested by using the card.
On the bed, there was a combination of six Euro pillows, accent pillows and soft pillows. These pillows were more than sufficient for us, but there was a pillow menu offering hypoallergenic, synthetic and foam pillows.
On the righthand side of the bed, there was a single Australian power outlet, a phone and three unlabeled switches. One controlled an overhead reading light. Another controlled lights over the left side of the bed and the minibar. The third switch and a seeming volume-control knob didn’t seem to be connected to anything. The phone on this table didn’t work during our visit.
The table on the left side of the bed had a battery-powered iHome speaker/alarm clock. Under the table, there was a single Australian power outlet that was easy to miss.
Behind the bed, there was a long desk with two empty drawers and a single chair. There were two Australian power outlets, a LAN internet cable and an adjustable lamp.
Overall, the room felt a lot older than 10 years old — the resort opened May 9, 2009 — and this was evident in the scratches and chips on the desk.
In the corner of the room was an older, 31-inch Philips television. The TV was on an arm that allowed it to be turned to face the bed or be retracted flat against the wall. There were 23 channels of programming in addition to a channel looping a hotel promo video, a channel listing of activities and a channel listing flight schedules. The sound was powered by a Bose entertainment center and pair of speakers. I was happy to be able to catch an international feed of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
The two wicker chairs in the main room weren’t comfortable to sit in for very long, so we barely used them.
On a table in front of the chairs, there was a kava mixing bowl (but no kava), a personalized card from the “chef concierge” and a small box labeled “Chef’s Selection of Fijiana Petit Fours.”
There was no indication whether these sweets were there because of our elite status or offered to all guests. Whatever the reason, we savored the sweet welcome.
Just inside the front door of the room, there was a cabinet and shelf containing the minibar. There was no menu left inside the folder entitled “bar,” so we didn’t have any indication of prices or what was complimentary until we requested and received a minibar menu.
On top of the shelf was a mixture of free and paid items: mugs, glasses, teabags, a French press and coffee (complimentary), a 375-millileter bottle of red wine (FJ$45, or $20), a can of Pringles (FJ$9, or $4) and Dalo chips (FJ$6, or $3).
Similarly, the fridge underneath had mostly minibar items but also contained cartons of complimentary fresh milk. In a drawer next to the fridge were the room’s kettle and ice bucket.
The room had two closets. The one closest to the door had the room’s safe, two robes, two pairs of slippers, a shoehorn, a luggage rack, four hangers, an emergency flashlight, an umbrella, an iron and ironing board.
The other closet was individually accessible from both the bedroom and the bathroom. It contained several hangers and two drawers at the bottom, but it was otherwise empty space.
So a rather standard hotel room besides the ridiculous chairs, right? Well, that was until you stepped through the sliding glass doors onto the balcony.
One side of our beachfront-view balcony contained a day bed, a lounge chair and a table.
Across from that was an outdoor tub and associated towel racks, shelves, a small table and a drying rack that we found useful during our stay.
For those who wanted privacy while using the bath — or just privacy from any commotion outside the balcony — there was a heavy curtain that could be drawn.
The bathroom was just behind the bed, between the two closets. The bathroom was built with two sinks, with shelving under the sinks and a massive mirror above the sinks. The bathroom was stocked with three large towels, three small towels, two hand towels, four complimentary bottles of Fiji water (not needed as the tap water was drinkable and tasted fine), two glasses, two bottles of shower gel, two bottles of body lotion, a bar of soap and a scale.
The bathroom amenities sported the Pure Fiji brand, and — fittingly — many were coconut-based: coconut milk shower gel, coconut milk shampoo, coconut creme conditioner, hydrating body lotion and a bar of spa soap.
Around the corner to the right of the sinks was the room’s shower, which has both an overhead rainfall shower head and handheld shower head.
Around the corner to the left of the sinks was the room’s toilet. Nothing much to report there besides the phone, which rang especially loudly when the front desk called us.
Food and Beverage
There were three main options for food on site. Sanasana offered a buffet for breakfast and dinner with a la carte dining for lunch. Toba Bar & Grill was between the family pool and the adults-only pool and served a variety of fast-casual dishes. The resort’s fine dining restaurant was Navo. All three of the restaurants were primarily covered but open-air.
In addition, the Kama Lounge served drinks as well as small bites, which seemed to be brought over from Sanasana. The lounge’s nightly happy hour conveniently coincided with the nightly entertainment.
We tried Sanasana for the dinner buffet the first night. The Tahitian-themed buffet cost FJ$85 ($40) per person for everyone 13 and older. When we went, it obviously wasn’t a popular choice with guests, as the restaurant was far less than half full. The buffet offered a few dozen options of fairly fresh food.
Conveniently, there were staff members standing by the buffet to answer questions and give suggestions.
For those not interested in Fijian food, there were a selection of western options on the buffet, such as chicken tenders and fries, as well as ice cream and a chocolate fountain and items to dip for dessert.
As with the rest of the resort, there seemed to be more kids than adults at the restaurant. With parents out of sight and staff not even trying to police them, kids grabbed items from the buffet with their bare hands and ate them right there before reaching back for more.
We tried the Toba Bar & Grill for lunch after the lunch rush was over. After finding a hostess to get a table, we were seated at an unset table and asked if we wanted sparkling or bottled water. Our request for simple tap water took more than 15 minutes to fulfill. Before we got that water, we were rushed for our food order. We wouldn’t get a water refill until I flagged down the server to ask.
We weren’t sure about portion sizes, so we ended up ordering too much. Our nachos, which were supposed to be an appetizer, were brought out at the same time as our main courses (fish and chips and a poke bowl). As bad as the service was, the food was delightfully presented and tasted great.
Between being the site of the nightly entertainment, the torch-lighting ceremony and a happy hour from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, the Kama Lounge was a popular spot each evening. Again, we noticed very few couples and mostly families.
We ordered a couple local Fiji draft beers, which we were pleasantly surprised to see were discounted to FJ$11 ($5). However, they were served in especially small glasses. Well drinks were available for FJ$13 ($6) and cocktails started at FJ$21 ($10). The two cocktails that we drank the next night were well presented, but the glasses were filled more than half with ice, leaving very little drink. Drinks were served with a bowl of spicy chips.
On our second and final night, we made reservations at Navo. The fine-dining restaurant was on a corner of the property where the lagoon met the ocean. The open-air seating overlooked this pretty part of the property, but you had to go while it was still light to enjoy the view. The restaurant’s policy, however, was to have family dining through 7:30pm and adult-only dining starting at 7:30pm — when it was dark outside.
The menu started off with a map of Fiji showing the sourcing of much of the food served in the restaurant, highlighting the restaurant’s locavore focus. We skipped over the numerous starter and second courses and skipped right to the main event: fish.
I ordered the grilled tuna (FJ$82, or $40) and Katie ordered the king salmon (FJ$85, or $40). We decided to split a healthy side, broccoli (FJ$16, or $7), and an unhealthy side, shoestring fries (FJ$16, or $7). Both of the fish filets were perfectly cooked and complemented well by the recommended sauces.
Pots of hot tea were complimentary after the meal. While we received poor service at the other restaurants, our server and the service at Navo were excellent. However, it came at a price. Our two mains, two sides and two drinks (FJ$26 to FJ$29, or $12 to $13 each) totaled to FJ$254 ($120).
On our final morning, we went to Sanasana for brunch. We were asked our room number and then bluntly told that our booking didn’t include breakfast, as if we shouldn’t be there. We had to insist that we understood and still wanted to eat at the restaurant anyway. This seemed to trouble the hostess, but she reluctantly seated us. Katie ordered from the menu, while I tried the buffet.
Katie’s a la carte omelet (on the left in the photo, FJ$26, or $12) wasn’t large but was well-prepared, and her side of hash browns was large enough to justify their FJ$13 ($6) cost. She received a complimentary fruit plate as well, making her breakfast very filling at a total cost of FJ$39 ($20) before gratuity. However, the buffet was a whopping FJ$70 ($35). While it had a number of options — including a made-to-order omelet station — I’d recommend ordering a la carte if your breakfast isn’t included.
Note that, consistent with the property’s family focus, children 12 and under got free buffet breakfast at Sanasana.
The hotel advertised three swimming pools on its website, but one of these was the Club InterContinental pool accessible only to those who’d booked a Club InterContinental suite. And the hotel was adamant that IHG Rewards Club members and InterContinental Ambassadors didn’t qualify for Club InterContinental accommodation or benefits.
Besides this private pool, there were two main pools on the grounds. The family pool was a long but not-too-wide pool with a few distinct sections, from a very shallow children’s section with fountains for younger kids to a waist-deep section for older kids.
The resort had hung covers over parts of this pool, which those of us who burn easily certainly could appreciate.
The second pool was an adults-only infinity pool that looked over the ocean.
While we didn’t see any kids actually in the pool, it was far from quiet from families sitting nearby, kids running around the pool and the noise from the nearby family pool — particularly during the daily crab race.
The resort offered a variety of complimentary daily activities. In addition, there was a selection of “Reef Safari” watersport activities — like sport fishing or snorkel trips — that required additional payment.
Each of our two mornings, we enjoyed a 7am yoga session along with five other guests. The first day started right on time from the leisure concierge desk between the two main pools.
However, the second morning didn’t go so smoothly. Guests were directed to meet at spa reception, but no one was around when we got there. Wandering around the area, we caught a worker walking from the spa about 10 minutes after the yoga session was supposed to start. This person turned out to be our teacher for the morning. We wound up being joined by five other guests once they stumbled across the location of the outdoor studio by the lagoon.
One of the highlighted activities was called “All Things Coconut,” but it seemed like we were the only ones who’d shown up for this activity when we asked about it at the leisure concierge desk. We were asked to wait a few minutes, while presumably the workers prepared to actually do the class.
It was worth the wait. Two employees sporting gear from the kids club led us on a private class about all things coconut, focusing on the ways Fijians use the coconut. It ended up being a surprisingly informative — and tasty — 45-minute class, and it seemed that the presenters were appreciative of our genuine interest.
A nightly fire-lighting ceremony was held on the outdoor stage between the Kama Lounge and the beach.
It seemed that families could pay to have their kids be little warriors in the ceremony. Update: TPG Reader Lenin points out below that this is free, and you just need to ask.
In a building labeled “Planet Trekkers” — InterContinental’s brand for its children’s program — was the gym. Inside the modest gym was a rowing machine, three bikes, one elliptical, one stair machine, three treadmills, free weights (up to 30 kilograms), abdominal machines, leg machines and exercise balls.
For parents who want a break from their children, kids from 4 to 12 could be dropped at the Planet Trekkers children’s club for various sessions running from 9:30am to 10:30pm. I was told sessions cost FJ$35 ($15) per child per session.
Across from the Planet Trekkers front desk was a well-stocked game room that seemed to be open to guests of all ages. Inside, there was a foosball table, air hockey table, a pool table and various stations with gaming consoles. Just outside this area, there was a covered area with outdoor table tennis.
The only golf on the property was the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort, a six-hole putting green with putters and balls available from the leisure concierge. The putting green was pretty slow (longer grass) the morning we tried it out.
In order to play an actual round of golf, you needed to head off the ground to the nearby golf course — which wasn’t walkable. During the day, the resort provided a shuttle every 30 minutes from the front desk to the golf course.
Just make sure to plan your visit around the frequent tournaments that limit the availability of the course.
Near the Navo fine-dining restaurant, there was a beach volleyball court and a large grass field with small soccer nets.
Unofficial activities abounded, from horseback riding to Jet Skis and off-site massages (we were quoted FJ$60, or $30, for an hourlong massage), thanks to the small village nearby.
Since the resort doesn’t own the beach right in front of it, the village’s vendors are free to hawk their services to guests from the beach. And these hawkers were persistent, even when we were just trying to watch the sunset.
At night, the Kama Lounge — on the ground floor below the check-in desks — hosted a fire-lighting ceremony and band. On our first night, the Fijian band played western classics like “Route 66” and “Baby I Love Your Way.” On the second night, a local choir sang for the gathered crowd. The choir members seemed downright miserable as they performed for the western audience.
A spa menu was left in the room with a separate insert sharing prices.
We didn’t get a chance to book a treatment at the spa during our short stay.
In the midst of the conference center, there was a small business center with a couple of computers and a printer/scanner/copier.
Service was incredibly varied throughout our short stay. The Planet Trekkers leisure staff were generally the best, while service in the restaurants was generally abysmal. Service call requests were answered promptly and attended to quickly. Service at check-in was merely transactional. While other front-desk agents were friendly later in our stay, service returned to being poor when we checked out.
Each of the few times I called from our room for service, an agent picked up after a few rings. I called around noon for a reservation at Navo. The agent tried to transfer my call to the restaurant to book the reservation, but there was no answer. After a minute of waiting, the agent came back to apologize for the wait and take my booking request. She said that she’d call when she was able to confirm the reservation, and this call came just a minute later.
When I called to request more fresh milk for our coffee, I worried that the service was especially slow, but realized that we still had the “Do Not Disturb” sign up. Sure enough, two cartons of (shelf-stable) milk were waiting for us outside.
Reviewing the list of charges at checkout, I noticed a FJ$2 ($1)-per-night fee. Although it was minor, I knew that this wasn’t disclosed during booking or check-in, so I inquired about it. The front-desk agent said it was an optional community fee. I asked where I’d been told about this fee or opted in. Without answering, she cleared the screen to remove the fee.
Once she displayed the bill again, I made sure to look closer and found another issue. There was a charge for FJ$109 ($50) for lunch at Sanasana. The trouble is, we didn’t have lunch at Sanasana. We’d eaten breakfast there, and the amount was charged for both breakfast and lunch.
When I pointed this out, the front-desk agent called the restaurant to ask. She explained that the restaurant’s system was down, so charges were being manually done. Without apology, she cleared the charge.
The agent retrieved a duty manager who tried to explain the issue away by saying that many guests had been double-charged — like that somehow made it better. I asked what the hotel was doing to help all of the guests who may have already checked out and been overcharged. The duty manager shrugged it off like it wasn’t a problem.
Troubled by the dismissive attitude toward this issue, I asked for the general manager’s contact information. The front-desk agent handed me a business card for the front-desk assistant manager instead. I was told that she didn’t have a card for the GM but she could give me the email address. She excused herself to get that information and a different duty manager came over to tell me that they didn’t give out contact information for the GM. Instead, she gave me a business card for the front-office manager.
The InterContinental Fiji felt like a factory just churning through package-tour guests traveling with their kids rather than a luxury hotel. While the resort had bright spots, I can’t recommend it.
Coming from the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, we were downright shocked our first night by the difference in culture. Rather than the secluded and new Marriott resort where there were mostly couples and families with teenagers, we were overwhelmed by the hawkers, young families and the aged feel of the resort. And, where we’d participated with a couple of dozen Marriott guests in a respectful and informative kava ceremony, the few Fiji cultural activities offered here were either ignored by guests or merely used as a chance to take photos of the locals.
That said, the InterContinental impressed in other ways. The rooms were spacious, and the outdoor patio with bathtub was a unique experience. The beach is beautiful if the hawkers don’t ruin your experience.
Seemingly thanks to a number of family-friendly promotions, the resort feels overwhelmed by young families. That means the resort is certainly kid-friendly for families looking to travel together. But the vibe isn’t right for those looking for a peaceful, luxurious getaway.
All photos by the author.
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