If you’ve seen one of the recent seasons of Survivor, you’re already well acquainted with the natural beauty and travel appeal of the Mamanuca Islands. This stunning chain of twenty volcanic islands stretches west from the main island of Fiji, an easily-accessible tropical paradise plucked right off your television screen.
The Mamanuca Islands have so much more to offer than you’ll ever see on Survivor. In this ultimate guide to the Mamanuca Islands, you’ll find everything you need to plan a dreamy visit to the Mamanucas. From travel tips and recommendations to the best hotels and resorts in the Mamanuca Islands, here is your guide to the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji.
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It’s no exaggeration to say that the Mamanuca Islands might be the jewel of Fiji. With white sand beaches, incredible spots for snorkeling and diving, and world-class hotels and resorts, it’s no wonder that the Mamanucas have become one of the most popular destinations for travelers headed to the Fiji islands.
For travelers looking for a hassle-free experience, the Mamanuca Islands is the perfect choice when considering where to stay in Fiji. Fiji’s Nadi International Airport is just 20 minutes from Port Denarau, where in as little as 30 minutes by boat, you can reach the sandy shores of the Mamanucas.
Day trips to the Mamanuca Islands from Port Denarau make the islands accessible for travelers based on Viti Levu and make plenty of stops for swimming and snorkeling. Or, take a day trip to a beach club in the Mamanucas if you’re looking for more of a beach day rather than a cruise.
Even though the Mamanuca Islands are quite accessible and popular, you’ll find pockets of solitude and seclusion for a true castaway experience in the Mamanucas if this is the type of vacation you’re looking for. Secret beaches hidden among palm trees, private island resorts, and sunset cruises await for the perfect romantic getaway.
Are the Mamanuca Islands Inhabited?
Many of the Mamanuca Islands are inhabited – but not all of them. In fact, of the twenty islands that make up the Mamanucas, up to seven can be entirely covered by high ocean tides! You’ll find a mix of islands that are populated with those that are not, as well as private islands that are home to luxury resorts like VOMO Island and Navini Island Resort.
What Are the Mamanuca Islands Known For?
The Mamanuca Islands are known for their stunning tropical beauty, with white sand beaches and crystal clear waters exposing rich reefs below. The Mamanuca Islands is one of the most popular destinations for travelers in Fiji, offering easy accessibility and an array of great hotels and resorts to choose from for an excellent travel experience.
The Mamanuca Islands are also famously the filming location for a number of movies and television shows, so they might be more familiar to you than you even know! Uninhabited Monuriki Island was the filming location for the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, while the Survivor series has now filmed twelve seasons of the famous show on the islands.
Survivor host Jeff Probst even described the Mamanuca Islands as “the ideal Survivor location” and that he’d like to spend the rest of his Survivor career filming on the islands.
Mamanuca Islands on Survivor
If you’ve seen a recent season of Survivor, you’ve seen the natural beauty of the Mamanuca Islands as the perfect backdrop. The show has filmed twelve seasons consecutive there, starting with Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X, the show’s 33rd season filmed in 2016.
It’s no secret that Jeff Probst loves the Mamanuca Islands. He said in an interview with EW, “Fiji offers us everything that we want. Incredibly beautiful water that you can see down 30 feet, beaches that are amazing, a government that is working with us, local labor that loves to say ‘Bula!’ every day because they’re just happy you’re here. And our crew has never been as happy.”
While visitors can’t sit in on a tribal council, there is a fair amount of Survivor-related things visitors can do and see in the Mamanucas. For a Survivor-themed trip, start at Mana Island, which is the filming site for most of the show.
Survivor challenges have been filmed across Mana Island, with many of the filming locations – including the location used to film tribal councils! – even visible from Google Maps.
Mana Island Resort & Spa is famously used to house the crew while filming, while internet sleuths have discovered that Malolo Island Resort is the so-called “Ponderosa” where castaways voted off the show remain until the end of filming. Castaways have lived on beaches on neighboring Tavua, Malolo, and Manuriki Islands.
Mamanuca Islands Map
Relatively close together and near the mainland, the Mamanuca Islands are quite easy to navigate. With just a few main islands to consider for your stay, this Mamanuca Islands map we’ve created covers the most important islands in the area and the resorts mentioned throughout the article.
Click around and explore the Mamanuca Islands as you plan your trip – you can even download this map to take with you as you travel!
Things To Do in the Mamanuca Islands
Explore Above and Below the Waves
If you’re looking forward to doing absolutely nothing while on vacation in the Mamanuca Islands, you’re my kind of traveler! However, if you’re looking to hit the water, you’ll find there is no place like these paradise islands to enjoy everything from watersports and cruises to snorkeling and diving. Kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling are popular favorites.
For true snorkeling and diving lovers, there are a few particularly well-known spots to explore around these islands. Salamanda Shipwreck is a popular destination for divers itching to explore a wreck, and history buffs will love visiting the wreck of a B26 Bomber used in World War II, just off of the Beachcomber Island Resort.
You can also take the opportunity to earn your PADI dive certification while in Fiji! Earn your PADI scuba diving certification at VOMO Island, a PADI 5-star gold palm dive resort, or Deep Blue Diving & Watersports located on Matamanoa Island Resort offers lessons for guests.
Visit MalaMala Beach Club
One of the most popular destinations for daytrippers in the Mamanuca Islands is MalaMala Beach Club, a private island beach club just 25 minutes from Port Danarau. Almost perfectly circular and covered entirely with white sand, this island is a pretty dreamy spot to kick back and relax for the day.
The atmosphere can get boisterous at times, but you’ll enjoy great food, plenty of opportunities for water sports of all kinds, and you’ll find plenty of space to kick back and relax. It’s a great stress-free way to enjoy the Mamanucas for a day.
Sip Drinks Above the Reef
A visit to the Mamanucas will certainly feel like you’re on Cloud Nine, but how about actually visiting Cloud 9 itself? Located just off of Malolo Island and perched atop the Malolo Barrier Reef, Cloud 9 is a bar seemingly floating above the sea. Fully stocked with food and drinks and complete with day beds and gear for watersports, it’s the perfect spot for enjoying a day on the water.
Hike Mountains and Cliffs
While many of the islands in the Mamanucas are little more than sandy spits in the ocean, many of these islands maintain their volcanic character, boasting hills and mountains perfect for hikes with expanisive ocean views.
VOMO Island Resort is home to Mt. Vomo, a perfect spot for a hike with a view, and a must for adventurous travelers staying at this private island resort. For those staying on Malolo Island, Jona’s Lookout and Hill Fort Trail are popular walks. Many resorts offer guided hiking expeditions or maps to nearby routes as well.
If you’re a surfer, you’ve certainly heard of the famous swells at Cloudbreak. Breaking off the island of Tavarua in the Mamanucas, this is a swell to leave to the professionals but provides a world-class surfing experience for anyone willing to take it on.
Where to Stay in the Mamanuca Islands
You really can’t go wrong with choosing where to stay in the Mamanuca Islands. Whether you stay at a luxury resort on a private island or a budget hotel on one of the larger, populated islands, you’re in for stunning beaches and just as much activity – or rest and relaxation – as you’re looking for.
Malolo Island tends to be a favorite spot to stay both for its easy access and for its excellent choice of hotels and resorts at different price points, including Malolo Island Resort and the stunning LikuLiku Island Resort, among the best resorts in Fiji. Malolo Island is also visually stunning and home to several Fijian villages that you can visit.
Another popular choice is Mana Island, particularly for Survivors fans itching to step on the same beaches as all the Survivor greats. However, the selection of hotels and resorts and the stunningly clear water and white sand make it a great choice even for travelers who’ve never watched a single episode.
Read More: 10 Best Resorts in Fiji
Mamanuca Islands Resorts
You’ll find dozens of hotels and resorts scattered among the Mamanuca Islands. These are some of the stand-out favorites at a range of price points – the ones we recommend considering for your stay in the Mamanuca Islands.
Ratu Kini’s Backpackers and Dive Resort
If you’re looking for an affordable vacation spent enjoying the sand and exploring the waves, it doesn’t get much better than Ratu Kini’s on Mana Island. This fully-equipped PADI dive resort will provide everything you need, even for beginners, to make the most of your time spent exploring Fiji’s waters. Rooms are basic but clean, with dorm and private options available, but the staff is friendly, and the experience and location are second to none.
Malolo Island Resort
Airy, breezy rooms, warm Fijian hospitality, and white sand beaches await at Malolo Island Resort. Choose from sunset cruises, long hours spent lounging by the pool, or snorkeling and diving excursions straight from the resort’s ample waterfront. This special property is owned and operated by local Fijians, and you’ll feel their passion for introducing you to the area and its many gems as soon as you arrive.
Among many adults-on resorts in the area, Malolo Island Resort is a great option for families and includes a dedicated kids club, though couples won’t feel they’ve chosen a family-centric spot, either.
Survivor fans will love to know that internet sleuths have uncovered that Malolo Island Resort is the famous “Ponderosa,” where cast members spend their remaining days after being voted off the island. If you’re a fan of the show, it makes a stay at this dreamy resort even that much better.
The private island resort VOMO Island is an expansive and natural escape that brings the Mamanuca Islands to life for its visitors. It’s no wonder it’s the hands-down best resort in the archipelago and always among the very best resorts in Fiji.
Activities at VOMO Island are seemingly endless. Climb Mt. Vomo for some of the best ocean views in the Mamanucas, take snorkeling excursions throughout the Mamanuca Islands and the neighboring Yasawa Islands, or try fliteboarding, surfing, or paddleboarding. You can even come and get your PADI scuba diving certification here!
Or, kick back and relax all day long on the island’s three miles of powdery white beaches. Enjoy healing spa treatments with ocean views, or luxuriate over poolside meals under the palms.
Even better? VOMO Island is one of the world’s best eco resorts, meaning that your trip of a lifetime is entirely Earth-positive. It’s all the more reason that VOMO Island is the best place to stay in the Mamanuca Islands.
LikuLiku Lagoon Resort
Nestled on a white sand beach in a secluded corner of Malolo Island, LikuLiku Lagoon Resort mixes traditional Fijian style with five-star service and luxury details seamlessly for a one-of-a-kind getaway. The resort even offers overwater bures, Fiji’s answer to the overwater bungalows popularized in the Maldives, lifting guests above the pristine lagoon waters below.
If you’re looking for the abundant amenities and seclusion of a private island resort with more of the flexibility that comes with staying on a populated island, LikuLiku Lagoon Resort is a perfect choice. You’ll see why it’s ranked among the very best resorts in Fiji.
Getting to the Mamanuca Islands
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: a major part of the appeal of the Mamanuca Islands is their easy accessibility. Fiji is full of tiny, far-flung islands, but you’ll spend half a day to reach them. When you choose to visit the Mamanucas, you get that much more of your vacation back.
Flights to the Mamanuca Islands
The quickest way to reach the Mamanuca Islands is by air. You’ll find domestic transfers from Nadi International Airport, with Island Hoppers Fiji, Turtle Airways, and Pacific Island Air offering flights directly to destinations in the Mamanuca Islands. It’s always a good idea to check with your hotel or resort about their recommended transportation options before booking.
Private island resorts or some luxury properties on the larger islands have helipads to arrange private transport from Nadi, for an even easier journey to paradise. If you have the budget for a helicopter transfer, take it! The flight offers out-of-this-world views, making it one of the most sought-after activities for any traveler visiting these islands.
Ferries and Speedboats to the Mamanuca Islands
Most travelers opt for the countless ferries or sea taxis from Port Denarau. With frequent departure times for ferries and shared water taxis, you’ll have no problem finding economical transport options. Or, if you just can’t wait to hit the beach at your resort, private sea taxis are always available.
This guide to the ferries available in Port Denarau has much more information on ferry types and timetables – make sure to check it out before you book!
Mamanuca Islands Day Trip
Another hassle-free way to enjoy the Mamanuca Islands is on an all-inclusive day trip from Port Denarau. Day trips to the Mamanuca Islands make the islands accessible for travelers based on Viti Levu and make plenty of stops for swimming and snorkeling. Or, take a day trip MalaMala Beach Club if you’re looking for more of a beach day rather than a cruise.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.