Why Fiji makes family travel easy: South Pacific holidays with kids

Fiji is one of the easiest destinations to travel to with kids. Photo / Anna Sarjeant

We went to Fiji and took… a 1-year-old. Not because Mum’s collecting grey hairs. To the contrary, because in Fiji, families are welcomed with open arms, writes Anna Sarjeant.

There is nothing scarier than getting caught red-handed, say, as a teenager sneaking home after curfew. That is until you’re a parent yourself and get caught quick-stepping into the spa by your 1-year-old, having left him with nanny number five for the afternoon.

We’re staying at the Radisson Blu Resort in Denarau, Fiji and he’s on to us.

Baby in question is confined to his stroller, but nevertheless comes careering around the corner at an alarming speed. The Radisson Blu – well-facilitated for families and their buggies – has an exceptional network of ramps, and it seems nanny and he are in cahoots, determined to thwart our one afternoon of child-free bliss. Dad and I freeze behind the ping-pong table.

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Of course, this isn’t any old baby. This is a baby holidaying in Fiji. So, he’s unequivocally a king. We’ve spent six days switching between Denarau Island and the Mamanuca Islands, and the fact remains – Fijians love children. Hailed as a future All Black for his thickset legs, Max has become accustomed to being adored. No one – parents included – leaves baby in the corner.

Fijians love children. And children love Fiji. Photo / Anna Sarjeant
Fijians love children. And children love Fiji. Photo / Anna Sarjeant

It started at Nadi Airport. As I beelined for the baby changing facilities, we were accosted by a man working for Duty-Free. Presuming he wanted to sell me a litre of Bombay Sapphire, I wasn’t expecting him to approach with his arms outstretched. Seemingly, my firstborn was. Leaning into the embrace, mirroring his arms, elated to bask in the arms of a stranger.

Now, as we head out of the arrival hall and towards our transfer, a hundred more happy faces ask his name and a chorus of “Bula Max” engulfs us, echoed by Tewaka Transfers, here to escort both King and his cortege to Denarau Island. It’s such a welcome sight; minivan air conditioning and a baby seat already fixed, granting brain-fogged parents the greatest gift of all: nil requirement to think. At least for 20 minutes while we’re driven, in comfort, to the Sheraton Resort.

The flight to Nadi from New Zealand is short. Three hours – a big win for parents with kids of any age, but nevertheless, they don’t sit still with a G&T and a film noir, do they? The chance to let someone else take a fraction of the responsibility is a welcome reprieve.

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To use its full moniker, the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort isn’t a hotel, it’s a sanctuary. The lobby, easily the size of a small playing field, is an emporium of water features and instant calm.

The lobby at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort is the size of a small playing field. Photo / Anna Sarjeant
The lobby at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort is the size of a small playing field. Photo / Anna Sarjeant

Let’s pause here to discuss what I, pre-parenthood, assumed holidaying with a child would be like. Ultimately, a decade-or-so-long assault of plastic play areas, the smell of canteen food and incessant noise. Yet here we are, with a welcome glass of champagne and the trickling tranquillity of an infinity pond. It’s late afternoon and golden hour is basking the entire resort in a dusky glow. Families are lazing in the pool and I chastise my pre-baby self for presuming holidays after kids had to be a downgrade.

The following day, someone discovers that breakfast is so much more than a tepid bowl of oatmeal; it’s a buffet of gargantuan proportions. Then it’s off to the family pool, which is as deluxe and as inviting as the adult’s area. Come evening, we dine with our feet in the sand at Tatavu Grill, Max sat before a purple-hued sunset, with children laughing at the next table. It’s five-star dining with the decor to boot and all ages are welcome, which for new parents feels rather like having your cake and eating it.

Toes (almost) in the sand and sat before a purple-hued sunset at Tatavu restaurant.  
Photo / Anna Sarjeant
Toes (almost) in the sand and sat before a purple-hued sunset at Tatavu restaurant.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant

Cue the penny drop. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me why so many families holiday in Fiji. It’s not a compromise. Parents don’t sacrifice rest and relaxation in favour of a Wiggles singalong, in Fiji, everyone gets the holiday they crave. Including Max, who’s now partial to a juice box at the swim-up bar.

I’m not surprised a lot of families stay put in Denarau, its convenience to the airport is a huge advantage; the need-for-nothing resorts, of which there are nine, provide reassurance, as do the shops at Denarau Port which are stocked with every necessity the sleep-starved parent forgot to pack, but the appeal of a tropical hideaway in the Mamanuca Islands pulls us away. Even away from the Sheraton’s FJ$6-an-hour drop-in daycare service, which, let’s face it, makes an all-day cocktail-athon very financially viable.

The family pool at the Sheraton is as deluxe and as inviting as the adult’s area.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant
The family pool at the Sheraton is as deluxe and as inviting as the adult’s area.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant

Malolo Island Resort is a one-hour boat ride from Port Denarau and as we sling King Max – along with the watermelons brought to replenish the kitchen – from one arrivee to the next (most are employees returning from their break), we are greeted with a traditional Fijian welcome on the jetty.

Then unfolds a landscape of pure heaven. A series of beach-fronting bures forge a lizard-manned route from the sand into lush hillside comprising two large lagoon pools and a stately white building not dissimilar to a colonial estate, housing two restaurants and, conveniently for a mum armed with 16 sachets of baby food, a communal microwave.

A stately white building is enveloped by lush hillside at Malolo Island Resort.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant
A stately white building is enveloped by lush hillside at Malolo Island Resort.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant

February is still the shoulder season and to say we have the resort to ourselves isn’t far off the mark. Max is the only baby available for cheek pinches and quickly resumes his celebrity status. If you can envisage a burgundy travel pram as the Popemobile, you’ll get an idea of how his daily cavalcade of the grounds played out. From the beach to the pool to the bure, on repeat.

By day, he happily naps while we snorkel off the beach, nannies available any time you wish for overseeing unexpected awakenings, or he joins us in the pool. The family swimming pool is the same size as its adult counterpart, albeit without the swim-up bar, but it’s quiet enough to sneak both a baby in and a beer down.

One of two lagoon-style pools at Malolo Island Resort. Photo / Anna Sarjeant
One of two lagoon-style pools at Malolo Island Resort. Photo / Anna Sarjeant

By night, Happy Hour includes cocktails called An Angry Fijian (yet to see one) and the nightly torch lighting, while Max eats his dinner, or sits on the bar and babbles to the barman. There isn’t one staff member at the resort who hasn’t whisked my son off for some sort of adventure.

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Staff members at Malolo Island Resort whisk my son off for some fun. Photo / Anna Sarjeant
Staff members at Malolo Island Resort whisk my son off for some fun. Photo / Anna Sarjeant

The kids club is available but unnecessary such is our contentment as a family of three. We take advantage of daily iguana shows or crab racing and read our books while Max sits on the deck and plays with his boats. One night, we have the audacity to dine a la carte without inviting him and thus endure a few nights of sleepless revenge. We see more sunrises than sunsets because, well babies.

New parents will likely see more sunrises, than sunsets. Photo / Anna Sarjeant
New parents will likely see more sunrises, than sunsets. Photo / Anna Sarjeant

So you can see why, after a leisurely few days as a throuple on the outer islands, we opted for one complete couple’s afternoon at the Radisson Blu, back on Denarau.

This is where we find ourselves now, confronted by King Max and his nanny, frozen haplessly behind the ping pongs.

It’s been a success thus far, having dropped him off at kids’ club with a full belly and a packed lunch, we caught the Bula Bus to Denarau Port. It’s a fun, open-air shuttle that facilitates all nine resorts in a continuous, hop-on, hop-off circuit. We bought souvenirs and ate icecream, sat down for a lunch without wet wipes and moseyed back to the resort for a session in the adults-only pool, cocktails by the bar and a loud chat with a cacophony of drunken Australians. Then it was time for a massage.

Cocktails at the swim-up bar at the Radisson Blu Resort in Denarau, Fiji.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant
Cocktails at the swim-up bar at the Radisson Blu Resort in Denarau, Fiji.
Photo / Anna Sarjeant

And here we are, caught out by The King himself.

By the grace of God, Max looks directly through us. Irreverent. He knows as well as we do that payback will come at a much later, much more costly date. On a three-hour flight back to Auckland, perhaps? He wheels off, a well-planned tantrum already forming in his head.

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No time to sweat the small stuff though, Mum and Dad have a year’s worth of shoulder knots that need seeing to.

For more, see fiji.travel

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