Let’s face it: if you have ever been to Fiji, you’ll know that the real beauty of the island is not captured in Denarau, where a string of luxury hotels and resorts are crowded around a harbour with a swag of bars and restaurants, supermarkets and gift shops. Nor is it to be found in Nadi, the dusty, laidback sprawl of a city that is a stepping-stone for tourism in Fiji. To experience the real beauty of Fiji you either have to board a boat and make your way out to one of the hundreds of islands, or you need to hit the road and head up to the Coral Coast.
For our honeymoon, we set forth and found ourselves in one of the most beautiful, contemporary and relaxing resorts Fiji has on offer. It’s a melting pot of style in an idyllic location. Think New York warehouse funkiness mixed with laidback Sydney sophistication and then add coconut-lined white sandy beaches and ‘Fiji time’ to the equation. Pretty much the kind of place most of us envisage when we know we’re due for some time out on a tropical island, complete with a poolside bar and exotic cocktails. Flanked by flower-laden jungle, perched on the beach above one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the area and complete with a championship golf course and a pool with its own caves and recently constructed cocktail bar, The Pearl has evolved over the years into a stunning testament to luxury and style.
The Pearl South Pacific Resort, Spa and Championship Golf Course is the accumulation of Edwin Phillips’ ideas on luxury, relaxation and sound business ideals. Having spent most of his working life dealing with the marketing and smooth running of international health clubs and spas, Phillips knows more than a thing or two about luxury, people and property. Known to many as Eddie – or The Spa King, if you’ve had anything to do with the health and beauty scene in Australia or Asia over the last 30 years – he is a man who knows how to live life well and to the fullest, and this shows in the businesses he has had a hand in creating and nurturing.
Starting out in his early 20s working as a fitness trainer in Sydney’s biggest health club and gym at the time, American Health Studios, Phillips’ talent and natural business inclinations soon saw him poached by Joanne Drew, a renowned fitness and health spa established in Bangkok. It was a womens’ only salon and spa and within six months, Eddie had the “figures going though the roof”.
It was this experience and a subsequent trip to Hong Kong that got Phillips thinking about opening up his own chain of spas. He checked out the Hong Kong scene and realised there was a big hole in the market. There were plenty of women with the money to spend on luxurious pampering and yet Hong Kong lacked an upmarket spa scene. Eddie sorted out meeting with his friend Barry Wain; at the time a hotelier with some capital on hand, and the two went into business together in 1977, creating Phillip Wain International, a fitness and beauty spa that rocketed to the top of the best health spa lists in Asia and then the world. “Back then it was the Rolls Royce of spas. We had the best of everything designed and installed. Women would spend four to five hours in the spas a day, having the finest treatments in a place that was for women only. In Hong Kong that was important. Husbands felt their wives were safe and they could spend as long as they liked there.”
Before long, there were four Phillip Wain spas in Hong Kong, two in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur and one in Taiwan. The partners kept the business empire rolling, setting up Camp Eden in Australia, one of Australia’s most successful health retreats and camps. Phillips ran this retreat for 18 years while also importing high-end cosmetics and skincare products from France, Italy and Switzerland into Asia. He then set up the Temple of the Body and Soul in Edgecliff, Sydney, which still operates successfully today.
After 23 years of a strong partnership, Phillips decided it was time for a change and he and Wain sold their businesses and decided to move out of the spa industry and concentrate on other interests, such as property acquisition and development. They went their separate ways and it was in 2003 that Eddie visited Fiji and heard that The Pearl was for sale. He immediately loved the position of the resort, being three hours up the Coral Coast from Nadi. But the beautiful surrounds, and the fact that it boasted a championship golf course as part of the package, had his interest peaking.
The Pearl’s 18-hole golf course was designed by Robert-Trent Jones Junior (son of Robert Trent Jones, founder of the world-renowned self-titled golf design firm) and it was the golf course that Greg Norman won his first international tournament on, at the 1978 Eisenhower Cup.
Eddie bought The Pearl and the Fiji coup hit in 2006/2007.
“The timing wasn’t too bad for us actually,” Phillips said. “As it meant I had the time to get a team together, redesign and completely renovate the place. Details are everything to me and I wanted everything to be top notch.”
The most recent additions to The Pearl are a swimming pool, complete with caves (with a light like a shining pearl inside one of the caverns), a tapas restaurant that spreads across widely-flung open deck areas above the ocean and the river that runs beside the resort, and an underground spa offering some of the most luxurious treatments in Fiji. The restaurant and cocktail bar in the pool have also had a complete make-over and everywhere there are touches of Phillips’ style – whether it be the unique paintings in the corridors, gentle waterfall-like fountains cascading down across a mirrored walls behind a bar in the lobby, the classy, suede, chaise longues in the reception area or the contemporary décor of the themed penthouse suites that overlook the resort.
Phillips brings the best ideas from the spas he spent his life setting up and running to The Pearl. “I’ve also always mixed with a lot of high-flyers and I am inspired by their knowledge and their ideas,” he said. “I find it fascinating listening to their ideas unfold and I believe that I have a good eye for investment. I really rely on my gut feelings and they almost always turn out to be right.”
The Pearl’s six penthouse suites are all graced with different themes designed to induce that luxurious holiday or honeymoon mood – a feeling of reaching a place disconnected from the life you are familiar with. The Indian, The Oriental, French Provincial, Sand and Surf, Moody Blues and Red Passion penthouse suites are located on the upper level of the resort’s west wing, enjoying breathtaking views of the ocean taking in Nanuku, Beqa or Yanuca Islands or overlooking the lush tropical gardens surrounding the resort. The suites are decorated with imported furnishings and provide a perfect atmosphere to enjoy the handmade chocolates guests receive on arrival.
Eddie Phillips knows that it’s the small, beautiful details such as handmade chocolates and a welcome card on your bed that make an experience exceptional. There are a thousand places you can choose as a getaway in the stunning Pacific islands, but if you are lucky enough to stay at a resort that has had the Edwin Phillips touch, you’ll have memories that will remain as vivid as the photos you took.
With The Spa King being the brains behind the creation of this luxurious spa’s blueprint, of course you’re going to get the best of the best. There is an extensive list of treatments for women and men on offer, including a eucalyptus-scented steam room, but one of the signature treatments at The Pearl is a body wrap. There are a few to choose from, including an Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap using seaweed for a detoxifying treatment and the exotic Coconut Rub and Milk Ritual Wrap for skin smoothing and softening combined with a facial pressure point massage and a de-stress scalp treatment. But the Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap is one treatment that shouldn’t be missed. Aromatic Tahitian coconut and frangipani flowers are soaked together to produce the Monoi used in this wrap. The experience is heightened by the fact that the spa is like a warm, inviting cave beneath the resort, so stepping into the treatment rooms is like leaving the sun-drenched world above and sinking into a comforting, hidden haven where it’s all about you.
The Ultimate Pearl Spa Experience is a half-day package that is The Pearl’s signature treatment, created by Eddie and the resort’s spa team to deeply nourish, firmly lift, relax, rejuvenate and enlighten the spirit. The experience begins with an Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap, where a seaweed wrap treatment detoxifies and deep cleanses the body inside and out. The sense of relaxation is so intense you’ll have no choice but to let all thoughts drift away while your body is cocooned in a comforting foil wrap and treated to a pressure point facial massage and de-stress scalp treatment.
Following the treatment is a Swedish massage, where traditional techniques use acupressure to stimulate muscles and help relieve any aches and pains. As if that isn’t enough to have you in silent rapture, the treatment includes a Pro-Collagen Marine facial, which helps to slow down the signs of premature ageing, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and crow’s feet, using specialised lifting massage techniques and a Japanese silk mask impregnated with a Pro-Collagen Booster Serum. For that finishing touch of luxury, the experience is complete with a manicure and pedicure.
The spa uses Elemis products imported from Britain. “The brand has grown into one of the most successful professional spa and anti-ageing skincare ranges available in the world today. Its international popularity and high quality are some of the many reasons we chose the range for The Pearl,” Eddie said.