Where to stay in Fiji
Pacific state … absolute waterfront at Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa.
Sun, sea and sand are a good basis for a family vacation. But Fiji adds the X factor: resorts that understand how to make your holiday one that all the family members, from the smallest to the tallest, will enjoy.
At Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa, they understand what families need. They need flexibility: like the pre-packed lunch boxes that mean you don't have to drag happily playing children away from the beach to have a feed, or that allow you to eat a relaxed lunch in your room while the littlies are having their nap.
Families also need variety: like the complimentary kids' club for children between four and 12 years of age, with activities ranging from boat rides and crab races to fish feeding, family tie-dying, storytelling, sandcastle building, and an inspirational Marine Education Centre – a collaborative project with the community, where you can get up close and personal with the coral reef.
Paddle power … canoeing at The Outrigger on the Lagoon.
Families also need value for money, which is why children under 11 can stay and eat for free.
That's not all that The Fijian, on Yanuca Island and one of Fiji's most established resorts, delivers. Parents will find there's always a pair of extra hands around to assist, whether it's restaurant staff pitching in to entertain the kids while parents finish their meals, to the babysitting service – a bargain at about $13.50 for three hours.
That leaves you plenty of time to explore what else is on offer at Fiji's largest resort. You might choose to relax by the adults-only pool, play a game of tennis or golf, go riding, plunge into some water sports, or let yourself be pampered at the sensational Chi spa village.
Fantastic Fiji … entertainment from the locals at Castaway Island.
Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa, shangri-la.com. Room rates start at about $250 a night; children under 16 stay free in parents' room, and under-11s eat free, too.
THE NANNY DIARIES
Holidays are all about choice. Like other resorts, The Outrigger on the Lagoon offers adults plenty of choice, with four restaurants, five bars, a couple of tennis courts and a golf training facility, as well as a wide range of water sports. What The Outrigger, on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu island, does differently, however, is offer younger guests just as many options.
For the tiny tots, there's the Meimei nanny service. The Outrigger is the only resort in Fiji to offer dedicated nannies available for babies and toddlers (one-on-one care for children between six months and two years, or two children aged three and over). The trained nannies take the children for up to eight hours a day, keeping them busy with a range of activities from Fijian arts and crafts to fun language lessons. Parents get a daily written report on what their children have done that day.
Older kids aren't neglected, either. The resort has specific kids' clubs aimed at three- to seven-year-olds and eight- to 12-year-olds, as well as a special program catering for teenagers. While activities such as horse-riding, sand dune tours and spear-making lessons are all in demand, the most popular excursion is a visit to the local high school. Teens get to meet students their own age and learn about how they live and what their schools are like - a great reality check.
The Outrigger on the Lagoon, outrigger.com. Room rates start at about $250 a night, allowing for two adults and two children aged 12 years and under. The Meimei nanny service must be booked for four consecutive days and costs about $160.
Time doesn't matter much on Castaway Island, but there's one moment to remember: 6pm. That's when you'll need to herd the kids towards the dinner table, either in the buffet restaurant or the pizza restaurant. After they're done, you can drop them at the kids' club, while you and your spouse take yourselves off for dinner à deux.
The idea of an uninterrupted dinner is a huge draw for many parents, but that's not the only quality time they get to enjoy on Castaway. The kids' club, open to children three and over, operates between 9am and 10pm every day, and keeps the kids busy with an ever-changing roster of activities.
During your stay, your kids can make boats out of coconuts and palm leaves, then sail them on the beach; they can hone their competitive instincts with games of beach volleyball and touch football; or they can discover underwater wonders on guided snorkelling tours. They can munch popcorn by a bonfire on the beach, and even learn Fijian traditions, which they get to show off at a performance night. The sight of their sons performing warrior dances in grass skirts always gets parents' cameras clicking.
A strong environmental theme runs through many of the resort's activities, with kids taught about reef protection and planting coral cookies, as well as learning about the plants and animals that live in the sea, on the rocks and along the shore. They can bring you up to speed over lunch at the family pool, where they can tuck into the ice-cream bar while you savour some sushi.
Castaway Island, castawayfiji.com. Rates start from about $445 a night for up to four persons (any age) in an island bure. Meal deals are available between November and March, and children under five eat free.