Island-Hopping in the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
I’m sure the Mamanuca Islands are already on your Fiji bucket list. And why wouldn’t they be? This group of twenty islands is one of the most visited archipelagos in Fiji for a reason. And they’re absolutely worth the trip.
There are endless options for activities and experiences throughout the Mamanuca Islands. This is great, but it can make it hard to figure out what you’ll actually be doing on your magical island vacation.
Here, I’ve put together my favorite things and places in the Mamanuca Islands to help you finalise your Fiji plans.
Whether you’re traveling solo, with your family or looking for that romantic getaway, the Mamanuca Islands have what you’re looking for. I’ll do my best to help you find it (and if you’re still not sure from this post, just email email@example.com with your questions!).
This collection of islands feels like an undiscovered paradise that has all the comforts of modern accommodations. What’s even better, is the islands naturally form a barrier to the harsher Pacific waves, creating calmer waters perfect for swimming and scuba diving. (But don’t worry, if you’re looking for surfing you can always head to the southern islands to find the bigger waves.)
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Current COVID-19 situation (as of April 2022)
Fully vaccinated travellers can enter Fiji without quarantine, pending a negative PCR or supervised RAT. See Smartraveller for more details.
You will also need travel insurance that includes COVID coverage.
How to get to the Mamanuca Islands
One of my favorite things about the Mamanuca Islands is how easy it is to get there. It takes only ten to fifteen minutes to fly from Nadi Airport to one of the airstrips on Malolo Lailai, Castaway Island, or Mana Island. Alternatively, the journey takes about an hour if you choose to enjoy the scenic views from the water on one of the many operators (such as Malolo Cat) that depart from Port Denarau.
If you only have an afternoon to explore the Mamanuca Islands, hop on a boat and head to Malolo Island. Here you can sightsee, snorkel and walk through the shallow waters. Though I would definitely advise taking a few days to fully explore these islands if you can!
Which of the Mamanuca Islands should I visit?
While there are twenty islands in this archipelago, here are my personal recommendations for which ones to visit.
Malolo Island is the largest in the Mamanuca group and is well known for its snorkeling, boating and sightseeing.
One of my favorite things about this island is that at low tide, you can actually walk through the shallows to Malolo Lailai Island. I bet you weren’t expecting to walk from island to island!
If you want to stay in the Mamanuca Islands, you will find more affordable options on Malolo Island as well as the all-inclusive resorts.
Where to stay: Malolo Island Resort is wonderful for families. For something super luxurious but still kid-friendly, Six Senses Fiji is a wonderful option. For an Adults-Only paradise, absolutely book a stay at Likuliku Lagoon Resort. And for something fun, surfy, and budget friendly, try Funky Fish Beach & Surf Resort.
Malolo Lailai Island (Plantation Island)
Once you’ve walked over to Malolo Lailai Island, which is also known as Plantation Island, you’ll quickly see that this is the ideal spot to have lunch or dinner and browse some of the local shops.
You will most likely notice that this is the most developed island in the Mamanucas since it has a golf course right off of the water.
If you want to stay on the island, you have several resorts to choose from and you will see there are great choices for couples as well as families with small children.
Castaway Island (Qalito Island)
Get ready for fun in the sun on Qalito, otherwise known as Castaway Island. The vibe here is unreal – it’s just pure happiness and sunshine.
The island and resort are synonymous – Castaway Island Resort is the only place for tourists to stay.
I really like Castaway Island for families. It’s a solid 4-star property, not overly luxurious but it has absolutely everything you need…Including a gorgeous pool with swim-up-bar and very spacious bures to stay in. The staff here are absolutely fabulous and the resort is really well equipped for families.
If you’re looking for privacy, untouched nature and a remote location, visit Tokoroki Island as you explore the Mamanucas.
Tokoriki is the most remote island in the archipelago and is a favorite spot for those looking for a romantic island vacation. There are two resorts on this island, complete with restaurants and spas.
My favorite part about this island is that it has its own reef, making it perfect for free diving and snorkeling.
Remember the island from Cast Away with Tom Hanks? Parts of the movie was actually filmed in the Mamanucas on Monuriki Island and you can explore the deserted island yourself! Just hop on one of the day cruises that leaves from Malolo Lailai Island and you’ll get an afternoon to wander Monuriki Island.
Keen? Click through to book a Monoriki Island sailing tour!
Have you dreamed about having an entire island in paradise to yourself? Well, in the Mamanuca Islands this is actually possible. If you’re feeling extravagant and have a bigger budget, look at Wadigi Island for your private island experience.
Just off the coast of Malolo Island, Wadigi is easy to get to but also feels a million miles away.
You will have the entire island to yourself, as well as a luxury villa and two personal gourmet chefs at your disposal.
Whether you’re looking for absolute privacy for yourself and your loved one, or ready to bring the whole family, Wadigi Island is your paradise.
For more information, read our guide on where to stay in Fiji.
Activities in the Mamanuca Islands
So, now that you know which islands you want to visit while you’re in the Mamanucas, let’s talk about the adventures you will have while there.
Pack your sunscreen, biggest beach hat, and your adventurous atmosphere because the Mamanucas are the ultimate outdoor destination.
Personally, I think there is no better way to explore these beautiful islands than from the water. You can always go island hopping on one of the high speed tours, but I really love renting Kayaks and taking the day to go from island to island.
The best thing about kayaking between the islands is that you can so easily see the reefs below. This is something that is fairly affordable, great for couples as well as families and is just as beautiful as it is fun!
One of the best things about the Mamanuca Islands is the calm waters. This makes the Mamanucas an ideal location for beginner scuba divers.
There are several services to choose from that will walk you through how to dive safely, so don’t worry if you’re completely new to scuba diving. Many of the resorts will actually offer PADI certification onsite.
If you already have a scuba diving certificate, there are over thirty spots throughout the Mamanuca Islands where you can rent diving gear. Scuba diving really is the best way to get a close up look at the breathtaking reefs that lay below the water’s surface.
If you’re reading A Winter Escape, you know that travelling with kids is my passion. I really believe travelling is one of the best ways for kids to learn about the world.
When it comes to the Mamanuca Islands, I think the kids should get involved in everything their parents are doing! That means kayaking, snorkeling, sailing – get those kids out on the water as much as you can.
If you’re traveling with family throughout Fiji, keep an eye out for the kid’s clubs located at some of the resorts. Fijians are absolutely beautiful with kids (Western culture could learn a thing or two). The kids clubs are no exception. Of particular note are conservation programs… here, kids can learn about the importance of protecting and valuing natural beauty and wildlife.
Click here for more traveling with kids inspiration.
Remember when I said the Mamanuca Islands have some of the calmest waters? This is true at the center of the archipelago, but you can actually find some incredible waves just off the southern islands.
Cloudbreak, one of Fiji’s most famous surf spots, is just a quick boat ride south of Malolo Lailai Island. (This is only for very advanced surfers). Desperations is another great spot, and beginner friendly, just south of Malolo Island.
These are just two of the many incredible surf spots throughout the Mamanuca Islands, so if you’re looking for waves, you will find them here!
Malamala Beach Club
The Malamala Beach Club was actually the world’s first island beach club! It’s a great spot if you want to experience all of the Mamanuca Islands in one place.
Here you can dine in some of the best restaurants in the islands and hang out on the pristine beach… and go snorkeling, kayaking or paddle boarding if you like.
This is also a perfect stop if you can only spend an afternoon in the Mamanucas since it’s only 25 minutes from Port Denarau.
Ready to explore the Mamanuca Islands?
Overall, I suggest taking a few days to fully experience the Mamanuca Islands so you can wander both the islands and the reefs, have some amazing food and go on plenty of adventures. If you’re on a budget, it will be more affordable to stay on the larger islands, but I personally think spending a bit more and experiencing one night in the Mamanucas is absolutely worth it.
Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or if you’re looking for a romantic vacation with your person, I think you’ll find what you’re looking for. Some of my favorite memories of Fiji are from the Mamanuca Islands, so I hope you will enjoy them just as much as I did!
If you’re looking for more travel tips, check out my guide to planning the perfect Fiji Holiday. I do also have a lot of experience traveling with young children, so check out my article for traveling with kids for even more tips and tricks!