Fiji with Kids: First Impressions From Family Travellers

Fiji with Kids:  Should you do it? After a stunning Fiji holiday, filled with palm fringed beaches and turquoise waters, we reflect upon the question, “Is Fiji only a destination for those who are seeking a resort experience and kids clubs?”

How did we end up traveling to Fiji with Kids?  

We were caught up in the magic of the movie Moana when I had to book a work trip to Sydney, ( on the other side of Australia for us).   It then seemed like a logical hop to continue on to somewhere in the Pacific.  We did some research on other Pacific Islands. However being able to book the flights to Nadi with our frequent flier points meant that we decided to go to Fiji with kids.

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There is no doubt: Fiji is absolutely stunning!

 

Resorts with kids clubs, nannies, and babysitting are an excellent option for busy people looking for a holiday in every sense of the word.   In general, a resort experience includes all the gorgeous views and fun experiences with hopefully very little discomfort. This is the ideal holiday for many people. Except, that is not our style nor our purpose for travel.

 

Sunset over the Marina at First Landing Resort. Every Single Sunset in Fiji was stunning. No exaggeration!

Our Itinerary In Fiji With Kids 

Initially, we had hoped to divide our 17 days into four places, about four nights in each. However, in the end, due to “package deals” and a number of logistical considerations this was the case. We stayed first near Lautoka, then on Mana Island (in the Mamanuca Island chain), then to Suva, returning to Korolevu on the Coral Coast, and finally a night at Sonaisali Island for an easy early morning airport transfer.

While Fiji is amazing, be warned, if you are not looking for an all-inclusive resort holiday perhaps consider another destination.

We’ve traveled with Lonely Planet for over 20 years! For unbiased and detailed advice, they are our trusted guide book. Even in this digital age, you can’t beat them for maps and info on the go.  They also are a great help when planning an itinerary.

Fiji travel guide, 10th Edition Dec 2016 by Lonely PlanetSouth Pacific travel guide, 6th Edition Dec 2016 by Lonely PlanetFijian phrasebook, 3rd Edition Jul 2014 by Lonely Planet Let's Explore... Ocean, 1st Edition Feb 2016 by Lonely Planet

 

#1 Costs – How Expensive Is Fiji With Kids?

The Wicked Walu is ranked at #1 on Trip Advisor Restaurants in Fiji, it is also adults only and incredibly gorgeous to look at!!!

We paid a lot of money for our Fiji holiday, more than we would have liked.   A critic may say, “Well you should have done your research.” True, but we have always found, all around the world, that there are ways to avoid high prices.

Fiji had us a bit confounded. Isolated resorts mean you pay for transport (not cheap). Plus, a lack of mid-range hotels (with decent pools) located in the towns made it hard to escape the resort style of accommodation and associated price tag.

#2 Resorts Or Hotels – Where To stay In Fiji With Kids?

When we realized Fiji was really resort oriented panic set in. We really wanted to get to know Fiji without staying in resorts only.  In the end, we “did our best” and ended up at resorts for 4 out of our 5 hotels. It just seemed that there were no mid-range hotels. Certainly there were none that had pools, or “better than average hotel standard”, which is an important requisite for our kid’s holidays.

A little about family friendly hotels in Fiji.  We stayed in “Bures” in 3 out of 5 places and enjoyed it.  “Bure”’  is the Fijian word for Bungalow or villa. We had plenty of space, either two rooms or a large room with different bed configurations.  Bures also had the advantage of verandas or balconies, which gave us a real island feel.  At the First Landing resort, we also had a kitchenette which meant we could self-cater; a real bonus!   In two hotels we had limited room and, only in The Wawrick Hotel, were they not flexible with bed arrangements.



Booking.com

Checking out the offerings in Viseivisei village.

#3 Bargaining & Souvenir Shopping

All across the island of Vitu Levu and in the Mamanuca Islands – the souvenirs are exactly the same.  Whether they are offered in a traditional village or at a resort shop, they are the same! We learned the hard way that souvenirs in the traditional villages had inflated prices, about double what you would pay in the “official’ tourist shops like Tappoo or Jacks.  We were able to negotiate with the ladies in the villages, but still ended up with a $10FJ necklace that seemed too expensive.

#4 Negotiation

We found that Fiji operated on a fixed price system.  Certainly when we were initially booking our hotels they weren’t interested in offering any cheaper prices. In the end, we booked through a travel agent because she was able to get much better prices than we could directly. Plus, she also got perks like free kid’s meals, free kids club, and even resort credits.  All around Fiji, there seemed to be little if any negotiation on prices; we understood by the end of the trip that package deals with flights, accommodation, and meals are the norm.  You will definitely get the best deals by looking for specials on packages instead of trying to book everything individually.

When we discovered that writing to hotels directly did not result any savings, and that sometimes booking.com had much cheaper prices than the hotels direct, we ended up talking to Anita Burgess from Burgess Travellers   As a mother and frequent traveler, Anita was very respectful of our ideas while gently suggesting some helpful alternatives!  Best email to use is anita@anitaburgesstravel.co.nz

Taking the bus in Fiji was awesome fun!!!

#5 Transportation – Fiji With Kids

When looking for transportation, resort reception staff got out a price list; when we shopped around with taxi drivers there didn’t seem to be a lot of variation from the list price.   We did negotiate for $10 here and there, but it wasn’t substantial.   We opted to get taxi drivers and have them take us to a number of places; we saved quite a bit on the tour prices by doing this.

There seems to be a well-established, and clear bus system with timetables.   The buses are lots of fun for kids, with open sides where the fragrant smells of Fiji are just delightful.

For a couple of our longer trips (Nadi to Suva for example) we used the services of Fiji Babies who provided a car seat in the car hire.

Car hire is suggested as a good way of getting around independently, and that may be the case. However, by far the best insight we had into Fijian life was through our drivers.


Who needs kids clubs when pit stops along the way look like this? (Korolevu on the Coral Coast)

#6 Tours – Fiji With Kids

There are a couple of tour companies set up in the resorts, notably Rosie’s Holidays – it seemed that their tours were around $500FJ for a full day for a family of 4.  Activities that we had been keen on doing, like zip lining, was going to end up costing around $200 FJ per person; we simply didn’t have that kind of budget

We totally support the Fijian traditional ways of inviting people into the village and their land. We found ourselves paying around $100 in half-day activities when we did DIY.  We don’t mind paying directly to the local people and like the way that they control tourism in each village (assuming that it goes to help the people), but it makes for a more expensive holiday.

Buying Sila (corn cooked in salt water) on the main Nadi-Suva road.

#7 Food – Fiji With Kids

We were soooo excited to be going to Fiji to enjoy fresh fish, tastes of the Pacific ,and especially some good, authentic Indian food!  We stayed at 5 places during our stay, and 2 of them offered only Western Style food, apart from a once a week buffet featuring Fijian food.   The other 3 offered a few traditional Fijian dishes, and a limited number of Indian (Butter chicken).   We can only suppose that the offerings are so restricted because they haven’t had the demand for a wider variety of foods in the past.

We attended Sunday Church Service; the singing was incredible… as was the experience.

#8 Learn The Language – Fiji With Kids

You will most definitely learn BULA – the traditional word of greeting or hello while you are in Fiji!!! It’s a wonderfully ebullient, bright, and fantastic word.  We also learned our numbers and a couple of other words of thanks, like Vinaka.

Fijians speak excellent English! Whether they are Fijian, Indian, or a mix of both, their English is more than fluent. This means that it’s really easy to communicate and get around if you are traveling independently.

Learning basket making at the First Landing Kids Club.  There was only one other child in the activity making it a very personalized experience.

#9 Traveling With Kids – Fiji And Children

Every SINGLE piece of promotion you will read about Fiji raves about what a child friendly culture Fiji is.  It is true that all resort staff made a huge fuss of our nearly 4-year-old, but the interest and friendliness was very similar to what he experienced in Bali.  And like Bali our daughter, who was a touch older, didn’t get a lot of interest.   It certainly is a place where small kids are very popular!  Kids clubs are exceedingly popular in every resort, and even some private places have activities exclusively for kids.  We participated in only a few but did find the activities great and the people warm and friendly.

In the flower market in Suva…this picture sums up so much. The women saw me taking pictures and called our daughter over to get a bunch of flowers and pose with them, it was beautiful.

#10 Culture – How Much Did We Experience Of Fijian Culture?  

Those Fijians we did end up meeting, other than the bright friendly staff at the resorts, were the drivers of cars.

We had some of the most interesting political conversations that we have ever had with the taxi drivers in Fiji. They seem really well versed in both matters of independence, and constitutional law.  I guess you would if your country has had 4 coups (de etat) in the past 30 years and you just got your independence back!!!

Religion was also a topic that people were happy to talk about but more in the sense of how it separates out the different cultures rather than how it shapes individuals.

In the street and shops  (away from touristy areas) people seemed a little curious but happy to help and genuinely friendly.

Crossing one of 9 creeks on a trek to the Biausevu Waterfall (also known as Savu Na Mate Laya Falls)

#11 Sustainability & Responsible Tourism- Fiji With Kids

True environmental sustainability is difficult to assess as a tourist.  When we started researching our trip to Fiji we looked for “eco” lodges and the like, but found them very expensive or possibly very rough.   Most of the hotels we stayed in had some kind of environmental policy in their Hotel guide, which was pleasing to see.

Responsible tourism was an area that we struggled with.   Australians, Chinese, and Indians largely owned the resorts; being leased from the traditional owners, there is lease income to the villages where the resorts are located.  Over and over again people told us that they were happy for this foreign ownership as long as the local Fijian people got employment from it. The figures varied, but apparently tourism represents 60% of the local income.  Wages were low (about $150 FJ for a week, or $3 FJ per hour for a 48-hour work week).

Many well-meaning tourists bring school supplies and give them to the teachers during a school visit.  The supplies seem to be appreciated by the school principals (I talked to 2 of them about it) but best practice sustainable development principles would say that this is not a good form of contribution. This is because it is not sustainable, reliable, or consistent and creates a hand out mentality among the people.

On the plus side, strong traditional village structures mean that some funds paid do go to the village elders.

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Did I mention the warm water and stunning sunsets? It was such a gorgeous place!!!

Our Final Thoughts about Fiji With Kids

Fiji is indeed a tropical paradise for those visiting the islands or staying in resorts; it is stunning with sunsets and palm trees abound. However, like most places, you need to go once to understand what the places are about and why they are popular

Would we go to Fiji again?

In a world where budgets are limited and time is finite, Fiji is not on our immediate to do list.  While we enjoyed our time in Fiji, the truth is, we were surprised at how expensive it was, and how much it was geared towards channeling families into resorts. Besides being an expensive destination for families, the resort driven atmosphere just doesn’t groove well with our families travel style.

Honestly, most likely we would try one of the other Pacific Islands before heading to Fiji a second time. Then again, our taxi driver offered that we could stay at his home in the Lau islands. We also heard some great things about the Eco Lodges down on the Kadavu group, and those sound more like our style of travel.

If you are planning an adventure to Fiji with kids, check out our blog post 11 Things To Do In Fiji For Kids.

Heading off to the local village to have her hair braided on Mana Island.

 

Our Accommodations in Fiji:

First Landing Beach Resort and Villa – Lautoka   Great little pool for the kids, and delicious restaurant.

Check out the latest rates and more information.

The Warwick Hotel – Korolevu  Gorgeous 5-star hotel. Check with travel agent about specials.

Check out the latest rates and more information.

Doubletree by Hilton Resort – Sonaisali Island  Best room we stayed in while in Fiji. Check out our review here.

Check out the latest rates and more information.

Grand Pacific Hotel – Suva  Beautiful, old-world hotel. A must stay. Check out our review here.

Check out the latest rates and more information.

Mana Island Resort – Mamanunca Island chain  Stunning accommodation, buras right by the beach.

Check out the latest rates and more information.

Our Favorite Eco-Fair Trade Beach Supplies

 

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12 comments

  • hubby and visited French Polynesia on our HM and we def did not see any kids. Fiji sounds different though – no airbnb options? I guess in a resort area sometimes you have to work to experience the culture! I would love to visit though

    • Fiji is really kids oriented… we saw a lot of them. We are told that we should have thought more about airbnb!! but the places i have mostly seen are Villas in Gated expat style communities, so not necessarily in the “thick” of the action. It was really beautiful and I hope my honest comments don’t turn people off.

  • This was a really interesting post! I’ve never been anywhere where it’s tough to avoid sticking with resorts–good for you both for trying to get out and see the “real” Fiji and for being willing to make compromises when you needed to!

  • Great review! I love how honest you are about your experience in Fiji. There definitely seems to be a big gap between the backpacker market and resorts, and you’re right – the AirBNB options are mostly foreign-owned holiday homes rather than offering a slice of local living. I think the best way to experience Fiji independently is with self-catering on the mainland (like you did at First Landing), where you have easy access to the markets etc, although that does mean sacrificing the better beaches! Thanks for the mention 🙂

    • Thank you for all your help and assistance! Our First Landing review is yet to come… but yes the self catering was great. Though ironically that was also the most local of the restaurants. (Most local variety).

    • Thank you for reading. Fiji is very accessible via Australia or New Zealand and the “main” islands are extremely child friendly, consisting of many 4 and 5 star resorts complete with Kids Clubs, Menus and Nannies. I am not sure about Tahiti though, not having been there!

  • Fiji, just the name makes you dream of crystal clear waters and sunshine. In my mind it is such an exotic location, a place where Europeans go for their honeymoon. But I guess for Australians and New Zealanders it is easy to access. Loads of good information and nice pictures. Thanks for linking up with #bebevoyage

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