Two bedroom beachfront villa's at Kokomo Island

Planning a holiday? According to our Editor-in-chief, paradise is found at Fiji’s Kokomo Private Island

It had been mentioned many times, by my (clearly deprived) children, that the fact that they had never been to Fiji was bordering on child neglect. Fiji, as many of you know, is the ultimate paradisical holiday for families escaping the New Zealand winter, in search of somewhere warm and someone kind and caring to palm the children off to, while parents laze the days away, undisrupted among the tropical surrounds.

While these things alone should have been more than enough to have encouraged me to take my children there, rather than tackle the 30-odd hours of travel to expose them to the delights of European (beach club) culture, I had chosen not to, until now. Fiji, you see, is a place I had visited many times in a past life, and while I will not name resorts, I will suggest that some of those experiences left me with a sense of frustration, which is not what one wants as their take away from a tropical holiday.

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Claire and her family on Kokomo Island

A destination where the words ‘Fiji time’ are said so often that they really have become a national catch-phrase, Fiji’s wonderfully relaxed way of life is tied to the idea is that everything just happens as it happens, no schedules, no stress. And while that probably sounds like heaven for most seeking true escape, for me (who is very much an active relaxer), adhering to such chilled out conditions doesn’t usually feel like a holiday. If I order a drink, I’d like it now, please, and then I can relax.

So, it may have been somewhat of a miracle then, that I surprised my unwitting family this summer with a week-long trip to Kokomo Private Island, knowing full well that this Fiji experience would not come with tropical itches (the cocktail… not the other kind), or the ubiquitous beaded hair. 

After months of planning, and having not told a soul where we were heading, the line of questioning about our final destination was starting to make me feel like I may be letting the side down. The Maldives was mentioned far too often, along with the Seychelles and skiing in Switzerland or Japan also came up a few times, but never, ever Fiji. I guess everyone had given up on that idea some time ago.

Kokomo’s secluded private island encircled by the famous Great Astrolabe Reef

Arriving at Auckland International Airport, it was blindfolds for everyone, all the way to the check-in counter. I explained my surprise tactics to the ground staff who found the entire thing highly amusing. The fact that we flew on Fiji Airlines was probably going to be a giveaway I thought, but no, I strategically managed to get everyone checked in, and all the way to the gate without them knowing where they were going. It wasn’t until the announcement “Fiji Airlines is now boarding for Nadi” that the penny dropped. And the excitement ensued. Though our final destination was still a mystery. 

“The diversity of options available to guests means that no two days are the same, whether hiking to a waterfall or a day spent on a deserted island.”

Arriving into Fiji a mere three hours later, we were greeted by Kokomo Private Island’s team, who took us across to their dedicated hangar, complete with their own seaplanes (two) and helicopters (also two). Here we freshened up and got ready for our 45-minute scenic seaplane flight to the south of Fiji’s mainland. 

Approaching from the air we could see the famous Great Astrolabe Reef that encircles Kokomo Private Island. The reef is the fourth largest on the planet, and due to its isolation makes for an utterly stunning, undisturbed and thriving underwater environment that’s teeming with life.

After an exciting water landing, we’re greeted by Grant Anderson, Resort Manager at Kokomo. Nice job if you can get it. I consider a career change, particularly given that the staff are all offered accommodation on the island for five weeks at a time. This seems like living the dream to me.

The Beach Shack’s sunken bar

And Kokomo is definitely a dream. After we’re regaled with welcome songs by the beautiful staff, we are refreshed and introduced to the enormously well appointed Beach Club. It’s a spectacular building that takes in the beach front and the crystal clear waters beyond, and is peppered with large dining tables, sofas for casual lounging, and an enormous sunken bar. The kitchen here serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the menu is unique and varied every day.

We’re then whisked away to our two bedroom waterfront villa which is to become our home for the next eight nights. Located on the reef side of the island, we have our own large lawn area, infinity pool and access to the beach and some fantastic snorkelling, as the reef comes in close on this side of the island. While admiring the water, we notice two large sea turtles popping their heads up mere metres from where we are standing. Snorkelling is definitely high on the agenda for the afternoon.

Two bedroom beachfront villa

Understanding the Island takes an introduction to its founder Lang Walker (who very sadly passed away while we were staying at Kokomo). Walker, along with his family had had a vision to create the kind of resort that they had never been able to find. A place that was luxurious in its approach yet still a restorative sanctuary for families. A successful Australian property developer, Walker transformed the dilapidated and deserted original resort into a true tropical oasis with a deep commitment to both the local communities and to the preservation of its utterly unique, pristine environment. 

“Kokomo is paradise for adventure seekers, a restorative sanctuary for families and an enticing retreat for those just wanting to get away from it all.”

Dotted between the Island’s two white sand beaches are 21 beachfront villas each with their own infinity pools and ocean views, and each encapsulating a successful pairing of both contemporary and traditional Fijian design. In addition to the 21 villas are five luxuriously grand residences that are designed to give the sort of seclusion one might want if you were a visiting celebrity, or if you just need some space (as we all do at times), to get away from the world.

Aerial shot of Kokomo Island

With three outstanding restaurants on the island, and a commitment to offering a true farm-to-table operation, Kokomo boasts a five-acre farm and hydroponic garden that yields 60 percent of the Island’s produce and dictates the daily menus. With ‘caught to order’ seafood with a ‘dock to dish’ sustainability program offered via the local villagers. (Kokomo offers the only sustainable operation of this kind in the South Pacific.)

Each of the Island’s restaurants benefit from these resources, which is reflected in their changing daily menus. Kokocabana Pool Club offers fantastic Italian, from pasta and pizza, to an array of delectable snacks, while Beach Shack presents an elevated and ever-changing daily menu of anything from char-grilled steak, through to fresh caught fish, crabs and lobsters. But to everyone on the island, it’s Chef Caroline Oakley’s Walker D’Plank — a fitting ode to Walker, who according to Caroline, came up with the name — that is a firm favourite. Tucked away in a secret cove, under the shade of overhanging trees, with waves (and baby reef sharks) lapping under the boards, Chef Caroline devises her daily menu from what is sourced locally on the day. Executed with simplicity, yet filled with a level of heart and soul that is hard to replicate, her dishes harmoniously sing, and are bursting with flavour. Caroline’s weekly ‘Curry Night’ (of which we were lucky enough to experience twice) was an absolute stand out. Caroline managed to convert both of my children into obsessive curry lovers thanks to her expert skill of combining exotic spices and the myriad flavours of Southeast Asian cuisine. 

Left: Walker D’Plank. Right: All day dining at the Beach Club

No two days are the same at Kokomo, as a paradise for adventure seekers, a restorative sanctuary for families and an enticing retreat for those just wanting to get away from it all. Cementing the long-term stay appeal of the resort were several families we met who stay on the island every year, some for three to four weeks at a time. The range of activities available to guests is vast and varied, from reading a book in solitude on a hammock, to a sublime traditional massage at the spa, to yoga sessions or tennis (with Fiji’s number one player, I might add) to snorkelling, swimming, hiking to waterfalls or a day spent on a deserted island. There is no point during our stay that we feel like we have nothing to do. But there are definitely some days where we do just that too.

Fijians are well known for their love of children, but at Kokomo, it’s on an entirely new level. My children became best friends with Patrick, James and Taka and the rest of the team who take care of activities. We would literally not see the children all day, while they rode the banana boat, paddle boarded, did endless backflips off the giant trampoline anchored off the beach front, snorkelled and fed the fish, played beach volleyball, the list goes on. And to top it all off both of my children managed to complete varying levels of Padi dive certification, starting in the resort’s family pool, before venturing out onto the reef for the real deal — a scuba dive in the ocean. This experience was life changing for my children and something that they will be sure to use for years to come.

Two bedroom beachfront villa’s

The final surprise I had yet to reveal for my family was a celebration of my 10-year wedding anniversary. Having lost a close family member on the day we arrived at Kokomo, the emotions were running pretty deep during our time on the Island. But through the sadness, I was reminded of just how lucky I am to still get to walk in the sun, with my husband and children, something that we all take for granted and never acknowledge. 

An intimate sunset celebration for Claire and her family

So, after liaising with the fantastic food and beverage team, I was able to surprise my family with an intimate sunset celebration of our life as a family unit. It was an emotional, but truly special time. We cried, we danced and we laughed a lot, and for that reason alone Kokomo will forever feel special for me and my family.

Kokomo has etched itself in our hearts, not just as a luxurious getaway but as a place where we experienced profound joy, connection and renewal. For us, the trip was a reminder of the beauty of taking a moment to truly embrace life with those we love. I can safely say we’ll be returning, drawn back by the allure of its pristine beaches, the warmth of its staff, and the promise of new adventures in this slice of Fijian paradise.


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