Denarau Island is the largest integrated tourism resort in the Pacific region and home to major resort brands that include Hilton, Sofitel, Radisson Blu, Wyndham, and the Starwood’s Sheraton.
Denarau is connected to mainland Nadi Town by a 64-metre bridge and is renowned as a major hub of tourism and recreational activities, as well as a key transit point to the postcard perfect Mamanuca and Yasawa groups of islands. This integrated island resort community comes under the body corporate management of Denarau Corporation Limited (DCL), which binds all owners and occupiers of this 850-acre landscape, covering the hotel, residential, commercial, marina and golf and racquet precincts.
Denarau Island began as a tourism destination after being reclaimed from mangrove swamps and developed as a private retreat by American investor, Dennis McElrath in the late 60s to early 70s. In 1975, construction of its first hotel property was completed with the Regent of Fiji (now the Westin Resort & Spa). In later years, a spate of other upmarket properties joined the ranks, all within walking distance of each other, and establishing the island as a major wedding destination and conventions centre.
As noted by DCL, construction of the Sheraton Fiji Resort and hard tennis courts was completed in 1987, and in 1988, Japanese property developer, EIE International Corporation purchased this development land alongside the Regent- and by 1991- the balance of the resort. From 1988 to 1993, vast reclamation of swampland got underway, including the clearing of 600 acres if the island, the construction of its 18-hole golf course, club house, marina facilities and dredging and foreshore protection.
In 1995, EIE International Corporation went into receivership and in 1996, Denarau Island was sold to a consortium of Tabua Investments Limited, ITT Sheraton and national airline, Air Pacific (now Fiji Airways). A tenure reorganization known as the Land Swaps was implemented, resulting in all resort hotels sitting on Native leases, while the residential properties sat on Freehold and the golf course and remaining land for commercial development becoming Crown.
Tabua Investments led the development of the island into a fully integrated island resort and by 1997, construction began on the Sheraton Denarau Villas- Fiji’s first strata-title development. in 1998, work commenced on the residential precincts, with the first released in 1999. The marina was founded in 1999 and has grown into a major gateway for commuting to the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups of islands. By 2001, a mini shopping complex was added, adjacent to the Sheraton Denarau Villas.
The Terraces were constructed in 2003 and with a total of 44 apartments, opened these 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units in 2005. A year later, work began on the Radisson Blu Resort, which opened in 2007. That same year in July, Port Denarau Retail & Commercial Centre opened with an inventory of fine-dining, offices, retail outlets and luxury stores, making it one of the country’s most upmarket cosmopolitan areas.
Economy & Main Industries
Aside from the large volume of tourists, the wide variety of resort facilities and packages has also propelled the tourism and the meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE) market in this area. All resorts have onsite chapels and ocean decks for weddings.
There are a host of supporting providers that include landscaping, cleaning, yachting, spas, tour guides, rental cars, banks, medical treatment, gymnasiums, and other convenient and recreational services. The Denarau Convention Centre is located at the Sheraton Fiji Resort and hosts the country’s major awards ceremonies and industry events, as well as the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa ballroom.
Private berthing (for vessels measuring up to 85 metres), superyachts, a boat yard and commercial operations make Port Denarau a major yachting centre in the country. Classed as a sufferance port, vessels can be cleared at Port Denarau on a case-by-case basis, though forms are required to be sent through at least two days prior to arrival. The marina has a wide array of services, including haul out facilities and a boat yard, short and long-term boat storage, travel-lift, forklift services and dry stack facilities. There are also engineering and welding workshops, hydraulic workshops, outboard and jet-ski repairs, aluminium fabricators and boat builders, dive and gas bottle refills and other services. The marina is divided into commercial vessel and passenger operation districts. Construction and engineering companies for residential and commercial projects also feature on the island.
Key Areas of Development
One of the largest developments to take shape in recent years is Denarau Waters, an exclusive gated community of waterfront land lots, commercial and retail precincts on the Southern half of the island. The first stage of this masterplan development by Avoser Limited sold all 59 home lots within four months of its release in early 2016, and sold out Stage 2 within two months. Its third residential stage and commercial lots also proved popular, with buyers foreseeing the impending establishment of Denarau Waters as a major and retail tourism hub in the coming years.
Port Denarau’s retail precinct is a hugely popular district for tourists and locals alike, offering a variety of bars and restaurants, spas, beauty and wellness centres, shopping outlets, banking and foreign exchange, cultural shows and live entertainment, tour operators, car rental and real estate needs, architectural and legal services, domestic and international freighting, landscaping and design consultancy, postal services, an accounting firm and other conveniences. All along the waterfront are eateries and bars specializing in different cuisine and a plethora of day cruises to the scenic Mamanuca and Yasawa islands from Port Denarau.
Resort properties are also home to a great variety of ethnic cuisine and al fresco dining, with great views of the sea, and lounging areas on the beach and by the pools. There are also a variety of beauty and wellness centres at resorts for visitors to indulge in, including yoga classes.
The Denarau Golf & Racquet Club is a social hub of the island, with a panorama of the 18-hold greens designed by Eiichi Motogashi of Japan. The club-house hosts major functions and events and is popular for wood-oven pizza, and walking distance to all hotels.
Apart from Port Denarau, Denarau commercial properties can be found at Denarau Industrial Park, located to the left of Denarau Island’s entry point and home to popular recreational activities, including the Flavours of Fiji Cooking School. This covers Fijian feasts, Indian Thali, tropical sweets and a kid’s kitchen for experienced cooks, beginners and children aged 8-16 years. The cooking school also hosts private events and caters to groups and incentives markets with team-building activities.
Totoka Hair & Makeup Fiji is also based at the industrial park and renowned for a wide selection of hair and makeup services with staff trained to international standards (including for film and television), exclusive studio packages for wedding parties, exclusively-retailed beauty products and a mobile stylist team.
There is a private health facility operated by Zen’s Medical Centre adjacent to the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club, which can be contacted on 679 6703533 or 679 9996366.
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji is responsible for maritime safety services and marine navigation and can be reached on 679 6707615.
Denarau Corporation Limited is the body corporate of the island can be contacted on 679 - 675 0643. The hotline for fire and ambulance services is 910, while the National Fire Authority’s Western base and Nadi Police Station are available on 9985057.
Key Transport Services
Private rental vehicles and hired bicycles are popular amongst tourists, although the proximity of hotel properties and leafy walkways to the marina and Port Denarau makes walking a comfortable stroll. The Bula Bus is operated by Denarau Shuttle Co and provides transport between Port Denarau, all hotel lobbies, the Big Bula Waterpark and the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club. The casual, open-air bus also offers private charters for wedding parties. Its usual charge for hopping around Denarau is FJD $8 an adult per day, while children under 12 travel FOC with a valid ticket holder.
There are a range of public buses that service the island and Nadi Town, with stop overs at hotel bus bays and Port Denarau.
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji has an office at Shop 10 of Port Denarau’s retail precinct and can be contacted on 679 6707615. Its functions include the registration of ships and seafarers, certification of ships, the licensing of commercial ships and seafarers.
Types of Properties
Denarau is home to a selection of private dwellings on the river, sea and golf front, and strata-title units with great proximity to the port and resort facilities.
The residential neighbourhoods include Riverside Gardens, Sovereigns Quants, The Links, Paradise Point, Fairway Palms, Mariners Reach, The Cove, Peninsula and Golf Condominiums. Executive apartments can be found at The Palms, The Terraces and Sheraton Denarau Villas. Onsite real estate agents include Professionals, based at Port Denarau.