Fiji has so many wonderful resorts for families it can be hard to choose one over another when planning a Fijian family holiday, or to decide between the options on Denarau Island and beyond – Christine Kane sets out four of the most popular family-friendly holiday regions in Fiji.
It’s a fact. Aussie families LOVE Fiji! Year on year, inbound tourist figures show that nothing can diminish our enthusiasm for holidays in this near and exotic destination. Our Fijian love affair starts from the moment we arrive in Nadi, and hits us quicker than we can say a hearty ‘BULA’!
The four most popular family resort areas of Fiji are Denarau, the Coral Coast, the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands and Savusavu. Each has more than its own fair share of vast blue skies, crystal clear waters, palm trees, smiling faces, fantastic resorts, fabulous kids clubs, nannies and babysitting, free facilities and entertainment, watersports and many also offer meal plans and accommodation packages just to sweeten the deal!
Fiji is comprised of two main islands – Viti Levu and Vanua Levu – and hundreds of smaller islands. The largest, Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, and the main towns of Nadi, Sigatoka, Ba, Lautoka and Denarau Island. Depending on where in Fiji you’re holidaying, Nadi International Airport is the busiest and most convenient gateway, although a handful of resorts are easier accessed by direct flights from Australia to Suva.
This man-made island sits on the west coast of Viti Levu, a 20-minute taxi ride from Nadi Airport, and is Fiji’s only integrated island resort with a choice of accommodation, an international championship golf course and a bustling and buzzing retail hub at the Port Denarau Marina. This thriving hotspot of restaurants, cafes and boutiques is also the departure and arrival point for transfers to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island resorts.
At Denarau you will find well-known international hotel brands including The Westin Resort & Spa, Sheraton Resort and Villas, Hilton’s Fiji Resort & Spa, Wyndham Resort, Radisson Blu and the Sofitel. These five star resorts each have a wide range of accommodation to suit different sized families, with a choice of restaurants, bars and dining options, kids clubs and activities, in-house babysitting, swimming pools, fitness centres, day spas and full concierge services.
Denarau is also the perfect base from which to get a taste of the distinctly different Fijian island lifestyle. A day cruise to nearby South Sea island is manageable for even the smallest of holidaymakers with the comfortable ferry from the marina delivering you to a beautiful sandy beach in under 25 minutes. After a traditional Fijian welcome, you have the best part of your day (half day trips are also available) at leisure here to snorkel, swim, kayak, bask in the sun, play in the sand and laze in hammocks, and enjoy an all-inclusive beach lunch, refreshing cool drinks and a different slice of Fiji!
From Nadi head southwest and you’re on the Queens Road taking an 80-odd km scenic road trip along Fiji’s famous Coral Coast. The changing vista is like a rural Fijian odyssey through tiny villages and traditional roadside fruit stalls, village schools and long stretches of beach, mangroves and mountains.
Resorts are dotted all the way and in under half an hour you’ll arrive at the four-star Sonaisali Resort, in around 50 minutes at the iconic Shangri-La, and the InterContinentalFiji Golf Resort & Spa,in an hour to the five-star Outrigger on the Lagoon and in 90 minutes at both The Naviti and The Warwick.
Most Coral Coast reosrts offer shuttle transfers to and from Nadi Airport as part of their packages or you can haggle an agreed price for the trip with any one of the many waiting taxi drivers. (For a one-hour, one-way taxi ride from Nadi you should expect to pay approximately FJD $80.)
These two groups of islands lay a spectacular trail north west of Viti Levu, scattered left and right as your cruise vessel from Denarau Marina cuts through the beautiful blue ocean, delivery holidaymakers to their island resort destinations. The nearest islands in the Mamanucas are the most popular with families and all are reached within 60 minutes of leaving Denarau. Treasure Island, Malolo Island Resort, Plantation Island Resort, Musket Cove Resort, Mana Island Resort, Castaway Island Resort and the new Sheraton Tokoriki Island Resort await!
Some of the smaller coral atolls boast a single resort and you can walk (or kayak) around the whole island with relative ease. Other islands are bigger, even mountainous, and are home to several resorts each nestled in its own tranquil lagoon on different sides of the island.
South Seas Cruises operate transfers to most of the Mamanuca Islands resorts, while the Malolo Cat services both Plantation Island Resort and Musket Cove. The Yasawa Flyer/Awesome Adventures transfers look after Yasawa Islands hopping. You can also access many resorts via light plane, sea plane or helicopter!
The tidal nature of the islands means that the waters around some resorts are too shallow for larger boat access. Transfer is made at seas from the ferry onto a resort speedboat that whisks you (and your luggage) straight to your island destination. Often there’s a short, barefoot wade through shallow, clear warm waters and friendly boat crew and resort staff are on hand to carry your luggage and assist you out of the boat and onto the soft sand. Nothing sets your clock on Fiji Time quicker than a leisurely ferry trip past beautiful islands and a barefoot arrival at your beachfront resort!
At-sea transfers and shore wade-ups are great fun and certainly add to the sense of excitement, adventure and relaxation that only an island holiday can offer, however, if you’re travelling with anyone for whom that process might be either difficult or daunting, consider staying at one of the family-friendly resorts with deeper waters and their own jetty like Plantation Island Resort, Musket Cove or Mana Island Resort.
Island resorts cater for all budgets and range from five-star to three-star holiday bliss.
Not a great amount of time is spent indoors because wherever you holiday in the Mamanucas you’ll be surrounded by amazing transparent waters that reveal incredible marine life and are perfect for all-day swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.
Accommodation options can vary from traditional beachfront and garden Fijian bures to hotel-style, low-rise rooms.
Resorts boast restaurants, bars, kids clubs, nannies, daily and nightly cultural entertainment and games, beautiful swimming pools, boat tours that can take you diving, fishing and to local villages.
Fiji’s fantastic surfbreaks, including the famous Cloudbreak, are found here and many resorts offer keen surfing dads the opportunity to grab a board and try the waves for themselves! During the Pro surf tournaments, spectator boats head out from most resorts, giving guests the opportunity to maybe catch a glimpse of world champion surfers like Kelly Slater or Joel Parkinson!
Savusavu is the quaint town centre of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s other ‘big’ island. The island is lush and tropical with hot springs, rainforests and waterfalls and the world-renowned family favourite, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort calls this place home. A firm commitment to local ecology and, in particular, the conservation of the stunning marine life, drives many of the fantastic kids activities at the resort, educating and entertaining little ones as they engage with the natural environment.
The beautiful Koro Sun Resort can also be found at Savusavu. Sprawling across 60 ha, the resort landscape includes a magnificent coconut plantation and sensational rainforests, circling a gentle lagoon and the resort offers plenty of activities for kids and plenty of opportunity for parents to relax and unwind!
Pacific Sun operates three daily flights between Nadi and Savusau or you can charter a seaplane through Pacific Island Seaplanes in Nadi. You can also travel by ferry to Savusavu from Suva several times a week.