Fabulous family Fiji escapes

Fiji's many island resorts truly offer a little tropical bliss for everyone, but especially for families. The first clue is when you arrive at Nadi International Airport, where families are often ushered through ahead of others in the immigration queue. So for special treatment, be sure to bring the kids.

At many island resorts, the centre of attention is usually the babe on the beach or the hunky guy running the dive centre. Not so in Fiji, and not if you are travelling with children. Kids are neither an infringement nor an obligation, but pure joy. Here they can run barefoot and free, build sand-castles while you enjoy a romantic dinner under the stars, experience the magic of their first scuba dive, and make new friends at kids club. And never fear, Fiji is also a great place for grown-ups. As you relax knowing your children are in safe hands, you can get reacquainted with your partner, be pampered in the spa; take a moonlight stroll along a white sandy beach or snorkel through emerald green waters. Fiji offers families the best of both worlds.

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa
This is a great spot to start your Fiji holiday and the five-star service starts on the 45-minute transfer from the airport in luxurious V8 Toyota Landcruisers, which come equipped with baby and child car seats.

The five-star resort is located on Vitu Levu’s best beach, Natadola, and is more contemporary, Asian- inspired than traditional Fijian resort. The 271 rooms and suites, whether beachfront, lagoon, pool or the incredible Club one and two bedroom villas are spacious and terrific for families.

Planet Trekkers, the resort’s kids club runs three sessions a day at ($FJ30) per session, while kids eat free at Sanasana Restaurant when accompanied by a dining adult. There’s also another four restaurants and bars, a world class spa, four swimming pools, including an adult only infinity pool and family activity pool, an 18-hole championship golf course, kid’s club and wedding pavilion. For my money however, spend a bit extra and book a Club Room, where inclusions cover all sessions at Planet Trekkers, Club Lounge and pool access, a la carte breakfast, all non alcoholic drinks in the lounge, afternoon tea, and cocktails and canapés between 5-7pm.

Holiday bliss ... Enjoying the crystal waters at Malolo Island.
Holiday bliss ... Enjoying the crystal waters at Malolo Island. 

During drinks, the club lounge is child free, and access to Planet Trekkers is offered at that time to look after young guests. The only downside of the Club is it’s located a fair distance from the rest of the resort facilities including family pool and restaurants, however butlers provide buggy access 24/7 and nothing is too much trouble for the warm, professional staff. Otherwise opt for a room overlooking the family pool and let the kids burn off energy, meaning they’ll sleep like logs. And be sure and book at least one child free, cabana dinner at the resort’s signature Navo restaurant overlooking the lagoon. Dine on mud crab dim sum, lobster kokoda and Vaklalolo hotpot, while you’re kids enjoy themselves at Planet Trekkers, or are tucked into bed by Fijian babysitters.

Prices start from $FJD656 for a garden view room, inclusive of buffet breakfast, kids dine for free for breakfast and dinner when accompanied by a dining adult. Airport transfers cost $FJD300 for a private Land Cruiser, or $FJD50 for an adult and FJD$30 for a child by shuttle. Competitive rates can be found on wotif.com and packages purchased through Flight Centre, Qantas and Creative Holidays. See www.ichotelsgroup.com.

Kid rating: 4/5
Couples comfort:

Kids are neither an infringement nor an obligation, but pure joy. Here they can run barefoot and free, build sand-castles while you enjoy a romantic dinner under the stars ...

Castaway Island, Fiji
There’s a saying on Castaway Island that you check in as a guest and leave as family and it’s not just rhetoric. From the moment you step ashore, your feet sinking into the crystal waters with the welcome Bula song ringing in your ears, you know you're in for something special.

There are 65 traditionally thatched-style bures, which accommodate four (five maximum as part of the Castaway Five package) - beachfront, oceanview or island - surrounded by safe, pristine swimming beaches and coral reefs. There is also one Family Beach Bure that sleeps 10. Each bure features a high vaulted tapa-lined ceiling with overhead fans, island-style furnishings, fabrics, linen, day beds and modern Fijian artwork.

Kids adore Castaway’s Kid’s Club where the focus is on natural activities: playing duck, duck goose on the beach, building sandcastles, crafting boats out of coconut rusk and leaves and swimming races in the resort’s new, super safe kid’s pool. The kid’s club staff are warm and friendly, and act as pied pipers collecting kids and involving them in activities and games leaving mum and dad to chill out by the new adult’s pool, enjoy a cocktail at the Sundowner Bar or a romantic dinner on the beach with the sand between your toes.

The resort's award-winning dive centre offers escorted dives to world-famous sites, including the Supermarket Shark encounter, Big "W'' and Gotham City, all within 15 minutes aboard the resort's purpose-built dive boat, Sokia. Children 10 years and over can learn to dive and accompany parents on the 1.5-hour trip. Snorkelling trips to the outer reef are also offered, or families can simply pick up mask and fins from the dive centre and explore the tropical fish-filled waters just offshore. On a sunny blue-sky day, kids and parents playing on the beach, there were lots of happy customers at Castaway.

Five nights in an island bure (room only), with return launch costs from $1380 per adult. Meal plans cost from $AU38 per child per day. Contact Island Escapes toll free on 1300 305 870. See www.castawayfiji.com.

Kid rating: 5/5
Couples comfort: 4/5

Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort

Many properties in Fiji cater for families - Fijians are renowned for their love of kids - but few get the balance right between child-friendliness and adult comfort. The understated Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, however, manages to offer island indulgence for adults and one of the best kids' clubs in the South Pacific.

On a coconut plantation on the island of Vanua Levu (Fiji’s second biggest island), the property overlooks the pristine Savusavu Bay, with world class diving and fabulous snorkelling moments away. There are 25 spacious thatched bures with garden or ocean views, including the Villa, which won Fiji's leading suite in the World Travel Awards, but it isn’t ideal for families with young children as it has an unfenced pool.

The Bula Club – largely considered the best kid’s club in the South Pacific - is free for children under 13 and has two daily programs of activities based on age: 0-five years and six to 12 years. One nanny is assigned exclusively to each child under five, while buddies are assigned to older kids. The club stays open until 9pm. There are enriching activities that teach younger guests about Fijian culture and the island environment, from coral reef exploration to coconut-leaf weaving, while families love having a picnic on the resort’s own private island Navivia, hunting for crabs or jumping off the pontoon. You know how special this place truly is when nannies, children and parents (particularly mums) alike cry at departure time. This is simply heaven for families.

All-inclusive rates for two adults and two children start at $1074 a night for a garden-view bure including all meals, non-alcoholic bottled beverages, ground transfers to and from Savusavu Airport, access to Bula Club 8am-9pm daily and nanny for each child five and under. Stay/pay packages are available. See www.fijiresort.com.

Kid rating: 5/5
Couples comfort: 5/5


Shangri-La Fijian Resort and Spa
Fiji's largest resort is set on nearly 30 hectares of private island, accessible to the mainland by a causeway bridge. It is by far one of the most popular family resorts in Fiji for Australians, with facilities including the Little Chief's Club and a stay-and-eat-free program, which allows up to two children per room, aged 12 years and under, to eat free.

There are loads of activities such as golf, lawn bowls, tennis, scuba diving, snorkelling and water sports, so there's no chance of being bored. The resort underwent a $31 million upgrade a few years back, which included the refurbishment of all its 436 rooms and the creation of a swish new all-service spa for serious pampering.

The resort is offering a ‘Fijian Family Getaway’ package from $FJD484 per night, valid till October 31, 2012 (minimum of four night stay. Conditions apply).
See www.shangri-la.com.

The offer includes:
• Daily buffet breakfast
• Roundtrip airport transfers
• One time 30 minutes beach body massage for two adults
• One time one hour bike hire
• One time, one round of 18 holes Putt Putt Mini Golf family package
• 20 per cent savings on laundry services excluding Laundromat
• 25 per cent saving on second room.

Kid rating: 4/5
Couples comfort: 4/5

Malolo Island Resort, Fiji

Malolo is one of the best outer islands in the Mamanuca Island group. Accommodation is in 45 free-standing, plantation-style, air-conditioned bures (villas) or duplexes reminiscent of the colonial era, with high vaulted ceilings and traditional Fijian touches such as woven Fijian mats, carved flower bowls, original artwork, sandstone sculptures, and jasmine and sandalwood soaps, shampoo and conditioner. There's also three huge family bures with spacious veranda and fantastic ocean views.

The resort is similar in many ways to neighboring Castaway, but with less rooms, it feels more spacious and spread out. There are two pools - one for families connected by waterfall to the adults-only pool. Malolo also has a complimentary and fabulous kids club, Tia's Treehouse – one of the best designed and run kid’s clubs in Fiji. It consists of a spacious, open-style bure set into the hillside under a huge, shady flame tree tended by friendly Fijian staff. There’s also an old yacht in the huge sandy grounds for kids to bring out their inner pirate.

With kids occupied, book in for a decadent, luxurious treatment in Leilani's Spa, with its jungle-like setting.

This is the quintessential Fiji island experience at its best. On the launch home, fellow Australian guest Jenni Heads said; “Happy kids mean happy parents and mine couldn’t have been happier at Malolo”.

Five nights on Malolo including free kids meals start from $FJ3650 for two adults and two children. Transfers start from $FJ110 per adult or half price for kids under 15 on South Sea Cruises scheduled fast catamaran.  Full meal plans start from $FJ75 per day and half meal plans from $FJ57.50 per day for kids 2-12. See www.maloloisland.com.

Kids rating: 5/5

Couples comfort: 4/5

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Leanne Hunter (pictured above) is a local Fijian and mum of two young boys. Her family own J Hunter Pearls, the largest producer and exporter of pearls in Fiji. Leanne has recently been appointed as Expedia’s Fiji Insider to share her hidden secrets about Fiji for travellers. Below are her top tips for families.

Leanne’s top Tips for Getting the Most out of Fiji for Families
- Fijians are amazing with children. Everyone from the burly dive guy through to kid’s club staff adore children and will love them as their own. Make use of the resort’s fabulous kid’s clubs and nannies that are available to babysit at reasonable rates.

- Make sure you do a village tour with the family. Children love to experience Fijian dancing, the food and singing. It’s an authentic and fun cultural experience for everyone.

- Fiji offers great swimming in protected bays and fantastic family friendly swimming pools at resorts.

- Take your kids paddle boarding among the mangroves on the undeveloped and tidal Salt Lake, a half hour drive north east of Savusavu on Fiji’s second largest island Vanua Levu.

- Split Rock, just outside of Savusavu is a terrific and safe snorkeling spot or families.

- Take the kids on a tour of the local farmer’s market - where everything from fresh fish, crab, lobster, kava and Indian spices are sold.

For Leanne Hunter’s top tips for experiencing ‘real’ Fiji see Expedia.com.au/insider.

Read Sheriden's tips on travelling to Fiji with kids, or share your own in the Essential Kids family travel forum.

Sheriden Rhodes is a travel writer and photographer who travels the globe with her ‘frequent small flyer’, Ella. You can follow their adventures and pick up family travel tips on the Frequent Small Flyer Facebook page.