Shangri-la, [shang-gruh-lah], noun:
• an imaginary paradise on earth, especially a remoteand exotic utopia,
• a faraway haven or hideaway of idyllic beauty and tranquillity

There’s nothing imaginary about Shangri-La’s Fiji Resort & Spa on Fiji’s Coral Coast. It actually does exist, and it’s paradise within paradise. One of Fiji’s longtime favourite holiday spots for couples, families and groups, the secluded resort is a haven within itself and nestled on its own private island.

One of the earliest luxury hotels to be built in Fiji (in 1967 to be precise), the Shangri-La is on Yanuca Island and is accessed from the mainland by a short bridge. Crossing the causeway you enter a private sanctuary of overnight spas, adults-only accommodation, a dedicated family wing, and a selection of bars and restaurants all stretching around the island’s beachfront. The resort has recently undergone a US$50 million refurbishment that has lifted this iconic landmark to the next level of experience in accommodation, hospitality and dining, with a particularly strong focus on the dining experience, which I must say is exceptional. The hotel's Coral Coast location is also a long-time favourite with holidaymakers who are not only spoilt for choice by the selection of beachfront resorts but also by the sightseeing and activities in the area including the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, jetboat safaris up the Sigatoka River, zip lining, diving and surfing.

My short break at the new-look Shangri-La began in the most relaxing way ever with an overnight spa treatment, the only such treat on offer at a resort in Fiji. Already checked into a luxurious beachfront villa, I walked a few steps along the path to the overnight spa bure, also in an idyllic spot overlooking the lagoon. The luxury spa experience began with a soak in a tropical flower-filled outdoor tub while gazing out to sea, with waves crashing on the outer reef and birds flitting amongst the trees my only company. A body scrub and massage completed the pampering. Limbs relaxed and scrubbed to a glistening polish, I donned my plush robe for dinner on the deck outside in the balmy evening air. Body and soul revived and absolutely relaxed, bed beckoned me for the night, the combination of peace, serenity and relaxation lulling me to sleep.

'The new-look Shangri-La offers an overnight spa treatment, the only such treat on offer at a resort in Fiji.'

The spa experience continued in the morning with breakfast in the fresh air followed by another luxurious treatment, a facial. With my face revived and nourished I reluctantly gathered myself together and prepared to depart the sanctuary of the spa bure via a cup of warming ginger tea and a gradual transition back into the real world – well, at least a few steps out into the Shangri-La of the resort.

I then headed back to the sanctuary of my villa ready to do some resort exploring. The villas come with a golf cart to get around in, especially welcome when weary legs won’t oblige in the heat. The expansiveness of the Shangri-La didn’t strike me until my friend Janetta and I settled ourselves into the cart for some exploring. Our first stop was the adults-only wing around the corner. Here the infinity pool takes centre stage, sitting between curved accommodation wings on either side. In this particular part of the Shangri-La sanctuary the package includes a daily buffet breakfast, sparking wine on arrival, nightly poolside cocktails and canapés and more. And don’t forget the golf.

Back behind the wheel of the buggy we headed for dinner – the question was where. For the next few nights we dined our way around the resort, each venue as flavoursome as the last. First it was Takali Asian Kitchen, an Asian fusion-concept restaurant perched above the reef incorporating Malaysian, Thai, Cantonese and mainland Chinese influences in dishes created by Chef Chee Hoe Wong. The cuisine is paired with more than 40 craft gins from around the world. Sharing plates feature here. The following night it was Golden Cowrie Coastal Italian led by Italian Sous-Chef Bruno Bettinazzi, who hand-makes the soft cheeses and pasta that are the foundation of this premium dining experience and delivers a quality of Mediterranean dining not seen before in Fiji.

'The Shangri-La’s luxurious beachfront villas come with a golf cart to get around in, especially welcome when weary legs won’t oblige in the heat.'

As part of its revitalisation Shangri-La has also reintroduced a Fijian institution, the Black Marlin Tropical Bar. First established more than 50 years ago and legendary in its own right, it’s now an upmarket tiki bar featuring more than 100 rums from around the world, all sitting alongside Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa’s own signature label, Yanuca Rum, which is distilled locally and exclusively for Black Marlin patrons. I’m not a rum-on-the-rocks drinker myself, but here it’s a must. And one last tip: a sunset drink at the Bilo Bar is a must.

While a little further up the road than Denarau Island and its collection of resorts, Shangri-La Fiji Resort & Spa is idyllic and relaxing, with stunning beaches. It’s a scenic 50-minute drive from Nadi Airport and within 90 minutes of disembarking from the plane you can be settled poolside relaxing. Well worth the trip.