The Budget Guide to Visiting the Mamanuca Islands
A common misconception about Fiji is that staying in an island resort backed by lush tropical forest just moments away from pristine sandy beaches is something only the super-rich can afford. Jump on a ferry to the Mamanuca Islands, just 30min-1 hour trip from Denarau or Wailoaloa near Nadi, and you could be sipping cocktails by the pool in an island paradise. What’s more, those cocktails could be only marginally less expensive than your accommodation! This guide to the Mamanuca Islands on a budget will show you just how you can plan an affordable trip for yourself in Fiji.
The Mamanuca Islands are more than 20 islands just off the northwest coast of Nadi, Viti Levu. Their close proximity to the mainland makes them some of the cheapest islands to access in Fiji. What’s more, the islands have a wide range of accommodation styles, including island resorts with backpacker dorms, tent sites, affordable family bures and private rooms. As for spending your time on the Mamanuca Islands, you are spoiled for choice with coral reefs to snorkel in, use of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, cultural entertainment and that’s just the free or inexpensive activities! This guide will go through all the activities, accommodation and travel tips for visiting the Mamanuca Islands on a Budget.
5 Tips to Save Money in the Mamanuca Islands
Get Supplies Before Going to the Islands
Buying supplies on the Mamanuca Islands is much more expensive than in the mainland supermarkets, so stock up on things like sunscreen, insect repellent, some food (check if your accommodation has a fridge) and anything else you might think you’ll need.
Stock Up on Water
Bring a few bottles of water to drink with you. Not only is it important to keep hydrated in the Fiji sun, but the tap water on the Mamanuca Islands doesn’t agree with everyone. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying way too much for bottled water. (Pro tip: consider buying a purifying-filter water bottle which is more eco-friendly and will help save money in the long-haul).
Take Advantage of the Cheap Accommodation
Stay in the cheapest type of accommodation the resorts offer, like a bure (wood or straw hut) or backpacker dorm. However, see if you can pick a bure that is sheltered from the trade winds which blow from the southeast for a more comfortable sleep.
Load Up on the Free Activities
Be choosy with activities. Non-motorised water activities (basically anything that doesn’t require a boat) are some of the most affordable activities to do on the island, such as snorkelling or hiring a kayak. But remember, some of the best things to do are free, like swimming, relaxing on the beach, talking to the locals working at the resort, and some resorts do free snorkelling trips!
Be choosy with the food. Remember, the food portions in Fiji resorts are pretty darn huge! Most of the time, an entree will be all you need. (Power tip! Have a late lunch/early dinner so that you can order off the lunch menu for almost half the price of dinner!)
Cheap Ways to Get to the Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands are some of the easiest islands to get to from the Fiji mainland of Viti Levu. For this reason, they are also some of the cheapest islands to get to with multiple transport operators offering transfers to the islands.
Ferries & Water Taxies from Port Denarau
A popular location for island transfers is from Port Denarau, a tourist hub just 15km from Nadi Airport. From there, the most affordable way to get to the Mamanuca Islands is via the two ferry services South Sea Cruise and Malolo Cat. These ferry services depart according to a schedule three to five times a day. Alternatively, water taxis operate from Port Denarau allowing you and your group to get to your chosen destination at a time you choose. However, you will have to pay for this privilege.
Boat Transfers from Wailoaloa
Wailoaloa, 6km from Nadi Airport, is another popular hotel and resort destination with two operators doing daily boat transfers to selected islands in the Mamanuca Group. Mana Flyer departs from Wailoaloa Beach every morning, while the Ratu Kini Cruiser departs from Fantasy Island. Plus these options offer a cheaper way to get to the Mamanuca Islands compared to the Port Denarau ferries.
Transport-included Day Trips
Your final budget option for getting to the Mamanuca Islands is via day trips, otherwise known as island excursions. These can be a great option if you are on limited time in Fiji and still want to get that “island experience” into your itinerary. Day trips to the Mamanuca Islands are well worth considering if you are on a budget, as transport, food and access to a few fun and free activities are included in the price, such as snorkelling (complimentary snorkel gear is usually provided), swimming at the beach or at resort pools, and sometimes cultural performances. There will also be the option to add activities to your trip at an extra cost.
Things to Do in the Mamanuca Islands
What makes the Mamanuca Islands so great for budget travellers is the array of cheap and free activities. Check-in or take a day trip tour to a resort and you will have access to either free (or very cheap) snorkelling gear to check out the nearby coral reefs. Alternatively, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are usually available for you to spend more time out on the water. Or if you are looking for more of a relaxing experience, then you won’t want to miss lazying next to the resort pools or trying some local cuisine (the fresh seafood on the Mamanucas is amazing). Check out our complete list of 12 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Mamanuca Islands for more inspiration!
If you do want to treat yourself to something special on the Mamanuca Islands, there are some unforgettable experiences to be had. Scuba dive among the tropical fish at famous dive sites such as the Big W and Gotham City. Surf at Fiji’s most popular surf spots! Ride the elements in windsurfing or parasailing! When you want to wind down, relax with a spa treatment or hit the floating pizza bar at Cloud 9. Check out some of the highlights of the Mamanuca Group in our list of 10 Must-Dos in the Mamanuca Islands.
Which Island to Choose in the Mamanucas
While there are around 20 islands in the Mamanuca Group, at least all of them are beautiful. When on a budget, it’s best to choose an island with a resort that you can afford. Many of the resorts have backpacker dorms, budget private rooms and affordable family rooms or bures. Make sure to check out our 6 Budget Accommodation in the Mamunca Islands for your cheap and cheerful options. No matter what type of room you go for, the resort itself will be packed with great things to do and based on the edge of a stunning island by the beach. It’s the Mamanucas after all, you can’t go too wrong! However, if you are looking for something that stands out, try these:
- Mana Island – If you’re a sucker for the TV show, Survivor, then don’t miss Mana Island where the latest Fiji instalments were filmed.
- Monuriki Island – This island is more commonly known as Castaway Island after the movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks was filmed here.
- Tavarua Island – Looking for a romantic getaway? Then this heart-shaped island is the perfect place.
- Malolo Island – The largest island in the Mamanuca’s has the largest selection of resorts, lots to explore on the island, and is close to the Cloud 9 floating bar over the Malolo Reef.
- Namotu Island – Head here for some of Fiji’s best surf breaks!
For more about each island in the Mamanuca Islands, check out the 10 Best Islands in the Mamanucas.