It’s hard to describe the sheer beauty of the Mamanuca Islands, but if you imagine a tropical paradise, then this Fijian archipelago could be closer to that image than anywhere else in the world.
The Mamanuca Islands are home to spectacular white sand beaches, verdant jungle scenery and gorgeous blue lagoons. There’s colorful coral, a wonderful range of marine life and some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean.
But more than this, the Mamanuca islands offer both refined luxury and high-end resorts, as well as basic backpacker lodgings and party beaches.
It’s a great place to visit, and to inspire your trip, here’s our guide to exploring the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Fiji (Travel Guide)
Ultimate Mamanuca Islands Fiji Guide
Location of the Mamanuca Islands
As an island nation, Fiji consists of an archipelago of 330 islands and 500 islets. These islands sit in the South Pacific Ocean and are officially part of Melanesia.
The Mamanuca Islands are a small archipelago consisting of around 20 islands and atolls. This group of islands is located off the north-west coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.
They sit to the south of another famous group of islands in Fiji, the Yasawa Islands. While they are in the same general area, they cannot be grouped together.
How to Travel to the Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands consist of around 20 small islands which are located off the west coast of Viti Levu.
This is Fiji’s main island, and the close proximity to Nadi, where you can find Fiji’s major international airport, makes this a popular destination.
If you’re flying into Nadi International Airport, then you’ll need to travel first to the port at Denarau. It’s a short journey, and you can make it by bus or taxi or arrange a transfer with your accommodation in advance.
From Denarau, you can then catch a boat across to the Mamanuca Islands. There are several departures throughout the day to the different islands, with travel time varying from just 30 minutes to the closest islands, to a few hours for the further out destinations.
You can book your accommodation in advance and liaise with the hotel or resort for the best boat timings. Some even offer private transfers from the marina.
If you’re after a real experience and aren’t worried about the costs, then you can even take a Sea Plane or a helicopter flight from Nadi across to the Mamanuca Islands. The shortest hops take as little as five minutes by air!
The remote Yasawa Islands are located to the north of the Mamanuca Islands, but to reach them you’ll need a private boat transfer.
Or you’ll need to return to Denarau and catch the Yasawa Flyer catamaran service to the archipelago.
Best Time to Visit the Mamanuca Islands
Fiji has a lovely tropical climate, and no matter what time of the year you choose to visit, you can guarantee that you’ll enjoy warm weather.
Average temperatures hover around 30 degrees celsius, with seasonal highs and lows occurring in summer and winter of course.
A bigger factor to consider than temperature is the rain because the Fijian climate is split into a wet and dry season.
The wet season occurs from November through to March, coinciding with the more humid summer months. The dry season is also winter and runs from April through to October.
Peak season in Fiji is during the dry season, and again over the Christmas period. Australians and New Zealanders flock here between June and August when it’s colder at home and there are school holidays too.
Again, they tend to travel here in large numbers for Christmas and New Year. These times are best avoided if you want a cheaper flight and lower hotel costs and fewer crowds.
The Mamanuca Islands are fairly developed in terms of tourism and are one of the more popular destinations in Fiji, so avoid peak season if you are looking for solitude.
To help you to plan your Pacific getaway, here’s our month by month guide to choosing the best time to visit Fiji.
A Brief History of the Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands have been populated by Polynesian people for hundreds of years, but until very recently, they have remained remarkably isolated from the outside world.
The islands themselves are mostly volcanic, being situated in a seismic part of the Pacific. They were formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity.
Tourism arrived in the Mamanuca Islands in more recent years, with resorts popping up on the white sand beaches and providing a new way of life for the locals, away from the traditional fishing and subsistence farming practiced for centuries.
The Mamanuca Islands have been made famous by films such as Cast Away and TV shows such as Survivor, which have all been shot here. Today the islands are one of the most popular places to visit in Fiji.
Where to Stay in the Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands have a great range of hotels and resorts to stay at, and most of these will easily help you to arrange transportation there and day trips too.
The hotels also have on-site bars and restaurants, however, remember that there is little choice once you are there, so do your research in advance. To save on costs you’ll want to bring over supplies from the mainland.
Each island has a different vibe, and there’s usually one main resort on each island. Beachcomber is the backpacker island for instance, while Treasure Island is better known for its resorts.
Our top recommendations for where to stay in the Mamanuca Islands
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Costs in the Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands are frequented by backpackers and budget travelers, making it the go to place for those that want to experience the island life for less.
However, if you’re seeking a more intimate, romantic or upscale experience, don’t let that deter you. The Mamanuca Islands can accommodate all budgets.
Throughout the Mamanuca Islands, it is very common to find only one property per island, so once you make your commitment to where to stay, you’re going to be working out of that location as a base for your visit.
Changing locations isn’t easy and requires arranging private transport, so you’ll want to plan your trip with good research ahead of time.
As far as prices are concerned, the following information can be used for cost considerations and help you to plan a budget for your visit.
VARIOUS COSTS IN THE MAMANUCA ISLANDS:
Homestays & Hostels: Prices for basic hostel accommodation range from $35 FJD to $45 FJD, depending on theseason. This price is for a multi-bed dormitory-style room. Private rooms with shared bathrooms range from $175 FJD to $200 FJD.
Budget Hotels: These will be two to three star hotels that offer basic, private rooms with private bathrooms. They start around $200 FJD.
Mid-Range Resorts: The next step up will get you into a resort but not a high-end one. These typically offer a nicer property with private rooms and private bathrooms. Prices start around $300 FJD and go up.
High-End Resorts: If you value the finer things in life or are looking for a resort-type experience, then you can find it in Fiji. Higher-end resorts offer large rooms, private beaches, often have all-inclusive programs and generally start around $500 FJD or more.
Food & Drink: It’s important to research your food options when you are looking for accommodation in the Mamanuca Islands. You will be limited to what is offered by the property you are staying at. Daily meal plans at hostels and budget hotels will cost around $120 FJD per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Domestic beer will cost around $10 FJD. With higher-end resorts, you can expect to pay more, in all cases. Resort prices are often double that of the hostels and budget hotels.
ACCESSING MONEY IN THE MAMANUCA ISLANDS:
While you’ll be able to find plenty of places to use an ATM in Nadi and Denarau, be sure to take out plenty of cash before you head for the Mamanuca Islands.
You will not find ATM’s anywhere on these smaller islands. Additionally, it is best to plan for mostly cash use, as the internet and phone signal is not reliable, meaning that credit cards are not always a possibility.
Budget Needs for the Mamanuca Islands
Establishing a budget for the Mamanuca Islands doesn’t have to be a challenge. We’ve done the research, made the trip and have the answers to help you plan depending on your travel style.
Of course, there is always some leeway for personal interests and spending habits, but this budget information should provide a good baseline for your planning.
BUDGET ESTIMATIONS FOR THE MAMANUCA ISLANDS:
Backpacking Budget: $200 FJD per day will get you a dorm bed, island hopping pass and hostel meals. It does not include activities or any meal plans.
Mid-Range Budget: $550 FJD per day will include a private room, meal package, some drinks, a couple for day tours and an island hopping pass.
Luxury Budget: $1,000 FJD per day (or more) will land you at a nice resort and include a meal package, drinks, day trips and island hopping pass.
These estimations above include the necessities of your visit, but don’t account for spending on souvenirs, excess tours, etc.
Prices will also vary depending on the season, so you can add around 20% to those prices if you are visiting during the peak months of June, July and August.
Best Beaches in the Mamanuca Islands
You’ll be hard-pressed to not find a fabulous beach during your visit to the Mamanuca Islands. The archipelago is known for its fine white sand beaches and bright turquoise waters.
Being made up of 20 different islands, it is possible to find a variety of beaches, both popular and lesser-known, if you spend some time exploring.
Below are some of our favorite beaches in the Mamanuca Islands:
- Vomo Beach (Vomo Island): In our opinion, this is hands down the most beautiful beach in the Mamanucas. This is due to the options you have here. Not only is it stunning, but you can hike and snorkel some beautiful reefs at this beach.
- Malolo Lailai: If you’re short on time but still want to visit the Mamanucas, this island is the closest to Viti Levu and the Nadi airport. Making it great for day trips.
- Monuriki: Not only is this beach stunning, it’s also the filming location of the famed film Cast Away, with Tom Hanks.
- Malolo: This island actually features multiple beaches, meaning it can cater to visitors of all budgets. The most coveted, however, are the private beaches of the main resort that are open only to people that stay there.
- Mana: Besides stunning beaches, you can also access hiking trails and forests.
Best Places to Dive in the Mamanuca Islands
Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world, meaning you can get into some pretty amazing scuba diving here, if that’s your thing.
The Mamanuca Islands are no exception to this and you’ll be able to explore the underwater world at a number of great dive sites through these islands.
Below are some of our favorite dive sites in the Mamanuca Islands:
- Vomo Island: Famous spot for scuba diving in the Mamanucas because it offers dive sites for all levels. It is also known for it wall dives, swim through and shark alley.
- Castaway Island: Fantastic soft coral and pinnacle diving at a site called the Three Brommies.
- Namotu Island: Features a 40m wall dive called the Namotu Wall. Turtles are often seen while diving here too.
- Plantation Island: This is a great place for beginners and those that want to get certified in the Mamanuca Islands. The island offers a variety of dive sites and also the well known Plantation Pinnacles.
15 Best Things to do in the Mamanuca Islands
1. Enjoy the Beaches
The Mamanuca Islands are best known for being a tropical paradise, and that means that there are plenty of beautiful beaches to enjoy. In fact, the beaches are one of the best reasons to visit in the first place.
Every island and every resort has a wonderful stretch of white sand, but some of the best beaches can be found on Beachcomber Island, Malolo Island and Treasure Island.
Short on time but still want to experience the Mamanuca Islands? No worries you can take a South Sea Island Day Cruise and enjoy some of the best islands on a simple day trip from Denarau Island, Fiji.
2. Take in the Sunsets
The Mamanuca Islands are also well known for their fiery sunsets, and you can catch these every evening when you look west across the Pacific Ocean.
One of the best ways to experience the tropical sunsets of the Mamanucas is to join a late afternoon sailing trip, as you are taken out onto the water to wait for the explosions of color in the sky when the sunsets.
3. Enjoy the Spas and Relaxation
Of course, when you’re on the Mamanuca Islands, you don’t need to have action-packed adventures to enjoy yourself, in fact, one of the best things to do here is nothing at all.
Check into a resort, find a quiet beach, and sit back and simply relax, and escape the rest of the world on this isolated part of the planet.
4. Stay in an Overwater Bungalow on Malolo Island
One of the best islands to visit in the archipelago is Malolo Island, which offers white sand beaches and perfectly clear water.
This is the essence of the word tropical and it’s often the island you’ll see advertising the Mamanucas in tourist brochures and websites.
You can find one of the best resorts in the Mamanucas here, mixing luxury with Fijian traditions. The island’s resort is owned by the same family that has lived on the island for centuries, making this a truly local place to visit.
Why just visit when you can stay at the Malolo Island Resort.
5. Escape it All at Treasure Island
Treasure Island is a small island that’s home to perfect beaches and a great resort. The island takes its name from the book, Treasure Island, although that was set in the Caribbean.
The island is a real treasure in itself though and it’s a favorite place for honeymooners and couples who just want to escape the world and enjoy time together.
Why just visit when you can stay at Treasure Island Resort on Treasure Island.
6. Party at Beachcomber Island
If you’re not looking for relaxation, and you aren’t on a honeymoon, then you might want to head over to Beachcomber Island.
This is the party island of the Mamanucas, a place for backpackers and budget travelers who want to spend the day drinking Fijian beer and the evenings dancing on the beaches.
It might be a party island, but Beachcomber Island is also remarkably beautiful too, making this a tropical getaway with a lot of fun to be had.
Why just visit Beachcomber Island when you can stay there?
7. Relive Cast Away at Monuriki Island
Film fans won’t want to miss out on a trip to Monuriki Island, where they can stand on the same beach Tom Hanks was trying to escape all the way through the movie Castaway.
There are no resorts here and no one lives here, which is why the island was chosen for the movie.
The beach is glorious and the flora and fauna on this untouched island paradise are equally as exceptional to see when you visit on a day trip.
Seaspray Day Adventures offers a great day trip that includes exploring this popular island in the Mamanuca Islands.
8. Explore the Islands by Kayak
A great way to explore the coastlines of the islands and to search out a few hidden beaches and lagoons is to hire a kayak for the day or join a kayaking tour.
The water is wonderfully clear and calm, especially during the dry season, and you’ll be able to paddle alongside the shore and admire the islands from the Pacific Ocean.
All the resorts and hotels generally have kayaks available for rent.
9. Enjoy the Snorkeling and Diving
It’s hard to find better snorkeling and diving anywhere else in the world, so jumping into the water to explore the marine world is one of the best things to do in the Mamanuca Islands.
You can snorkel off most of the beaches, as the islands are surrounded by colorful coral reefs. Just check locally when it comes to the tides and currents to ensure it’s safe.
You can also join diving trips that head further afield, venturing out to the coral reefs away from the islands.
You’ll find turtles, tropical fish and sharks all year round, but head here in the dry season for the best visibility and the chance to dive with Manta Rays.
10. Spend a Day at Cloud 9
Who doesn’t love the idea of spending an entire day relaxing and partying on a floating bar in the middle of the ocean? We’re not partiers, but we loved our visit to Cloud 9.
The raft features two stories decked out with hammocks, lounge areas and sun decks. It has a full service bar and serves fresh made to order wood fired pizza.
There are also a number of jumping platforms and they offer snorkel rental to explore the nearby reef.
Read more Cloud 9 Fiji: Is It Worth Visiting?
11. Surf Epic Waves
If you’re a surfer, then you already know that Fiji offers from gnarly waves for surfing. While there are plenty of places in Fiji for you to try or learn how to surf, the epic waves in the Mamanuca Islands are not for that.
Instead, these waves draw professional-level surfers from all over the world. In particular to surf the world-famous Cloudbreak. If you’re not a surfer but love to spectate, it is possible to join boats for observing the action.
12. See a Fire Dancing Ceremony
Hundreds of years ago in Polynesia, the ancient art of fire dancing was started. Today, it is possible to see these performances in the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands of Fiji.
These performances tell stories through various techniques that involve fire, knives twirling, dancing, chanting and flashing.
You’ll see dancers dressed in traditional island costumes, intensely focused as they perform these ancient rituals for entertainment.
13. Participate in a Kava Ceremony
Fiji is famous for its local Kava Ceremonies, a traditional practice involving the preparation and then consumption of a root based Kava drink.
Kava is made from a native plant, and the ceremony that surrounds its preparation is steeped in legend.
For many, joining a local Kava ceremony and trying this mildly sedative drink is one of the best things to do in Fiji.
The Mamanuca Islands are still very traditional and you will quite easily find local Kava ceremonies occurring across the archipelago during your stay.
14. Take a Multi-Day Cruise
Island hopping cruises are a popular way to experience the Mamanuca Islands and it’s possible to book a variety of routes that depart and return to Denarau or Nadi.
These cruises range from budget, catered to backpackers, to more upscale yacht type experiences.
These multi-day cruises mix and match the islands to create itineraries that will show your multiple places during your stay. Some utilize the properties on the islands for overnights, while others offer cabins onboard.
This is the best way to experience multiple islands over a short span of time, although you won’t have the chance to slow down and relax much.
15. Visit Robinson Crusoe Island
What we love about the Robinson Crusoe Island is the diversity that it offers. Due to its location, close to both Nadi and Denarau off the coast of Viti Levu, the island is inhabited with local villages.
This means that not only can you have the classic white sand beach, palm tree, island life, reef exploration vacation that you dreamed of, but you can also get to know the locals too.
With the prominence of villages, you have the opportunity to do village visits, cooking classes and guided hikes on the island too.
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