Mana Island, Fiji, was one of our most memorable tropical holidays as a family of 4. This was our first time traveling overseas with our newest arrival, which was only 1 and a half at the time. The best thing was that it was free for him to fly and stay at Mana Island.
Mana Island, Fiji, is located in an idyllic 4-star tropical resort located on the North West of Fiji with proximity To Nadi and Denarau Island. The cheapest and most convenient way to get to Mana Island is via ferry on South Sea Cruises. If you are loaded and want to get there quicker, you can book a water taxi or take the aerial route on a seaplane. The ferry ride from Port Denarau takes approximately 1 and a half hours.
This resort is perfectly suited to people who love the ocean, great beaches, snorkeling, want to unplug themselves from devices, and chill. Mana Island is not a good choice for the types who want a 5-star resort experience with a closed-in hotel room feel, hotel minibar, access to 100s of pay-TV channels, butler service, and massive pools with water slides, etc.
Our Mana Island experience
What we loved about Mana Island was our wonderful beach bure, great choice of snorkeling spots, white sandy beaches, warm Fijian hospitality, a large pool with a swim-up bar, the bike hire, and the overall family-friendly feel. This holiday converted us from the 5-star luxury cabin fever type to the let’s do a family-friendly island getaway type. We were a bit nervous about staying on an isolated island with our restless toddler for 6 days but found there were lots to keep the kids entertained.
The great thing about Mana Island is how narrow it is, where you can easily walk from one side to the other in a few minutes. If the tide is not quite right on one side of the island (low or high), you can easily try out the other side and get your ocean fix at any time of the day.
The island’s food options were wearing a little thin after day 4, but both kids were happy with the usual western and Asian options. The breakfast buffet was a still fairly decent size with the usual western favorites, and for lunch/dinner, there were other Asian, Japanese, and Mediterranean options to choose from.
The beach bure was not fancy 5 star, but it had character and was perfectly suitable for our 5-night stay. It was clean, spacious enough for the 4 of us, the outdoor shower was amazing, and it even came with a portable baby cot.
Here are simple tips to keep in mind for Mana Island:
1. Don’t book a package tour
Booking a package tour from a travel agent without doing your research is like handing money over for no reason to someone who already has a lot. The smarter way to book travel post-COVID-19 is to do all your flights and accommodation research over the Internet and take it over to a reputable travel agent (with a cancellation policy), for the best possible deal.
2. Request a bure closest to the beach
When booking your accommodation, put in a request for a bure as close as possible to the beach (north or south doesn’t matter). There is something soothing about hearing the waves as you sip a mojito in the evening and relax into the night. If you are coming with a baby or toddler, the garden bures are more central and don’t forget to request a portable cot during the time of booking so you don’t need to worry about lugging your own.
3. Get to your ferry on time or miss out
From our experience, the South Sea Cruise ferry leaves on time and there is only one a day so you don’t want to miss it as we did. Get to Port Denarau as soon as possible so you have ample time to check in to the ferry, relax or do some shopping at Port Denarau. The taxi ride from Nadi airport to Port Denarau takes around 25 minutes but may be longer if you get stuck in the after-school rush hour. If your flight is going to be delayed, there’s not much you can do apart from contacting South Sea Cruises to rebook your trip and plan for an overnight stay.
We missed our ferry ride to Mana Island due to our Virgin Airlines flight from Sydney being delayed and the school rush, so we had no other option but to book overnight accommodation.
4. Bring your own snorkelling gear
A snorkeling mask and snorkel should be classified as an ‘essential item’ at Mana Island. If you are not into snorkeling, don’t bother going to Mana Island – it’ll be a waste of your time. Snorkeling gear doesn’t usually weigh that much so I highly recommend you add these to your packing checklist.
The best snorkeling is off the South beach (near the wharf), where the water is crystal clear and marine life is abundant. I even spotted a small white tip reef shark, so I know the marine environment is well looked after. This is also a great place for newbie snorkelers to get to the feel of snorkeling as it is right off the beach and a safe environment.
5. Bring your own alcohol and everyday essentials
As with any island getaway, alcohol and everyday essentials are on the expensive side, and there’s not much choice. There is a mini supermarket on the island, but it’s fairly pricy. I, therefore, recommend getting as much alcohol as possible from duty-free, so you don’t have to rely on the island bars so much. I recommend picking up essentials like water, long-life milk, tea, coffee, soft drinks, nappies, etc. from The Marina Deli at Port Denarau Marina before boarding your ferry.
6. Bring beach toys for the little ones
Bringing a set of beach toys was a smart move to keep our little one entertained on the beach. He would shovel sand and water to sandcastles which helped us relax more and represent The Lazy Society.
7. Slow down or get frustrated
As with most island holidays, be prepared to slow down or get frustrated – it is the Pacific, after all! All the staff we met on the Island were warm, friendly, have lots of time for a chat but were sometimes slow to provide service (by western standards). It is important to be patient and embrace island life to the fullest.
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