The Fijian focus on first-class care for children means adults get plenty of time to unwind, writes Adam Ray.

We've always turned up our noses at package holidays, preferring to plan everything ourselves, to race around on holiday and return home in a state of exhaustion. But the arrival of twin boys last August put paid to that.

Now we have a simple goal: relaxation. So we headed to Fiji with friends and their kids. And a great choice it proved, too, with seven days of brilliant, warm weather at beautiful Mana Island, an hour from the mainland by boat. But the island and its climate are only half the appeal for a family holiday, because Fijians are seriously good with children.

As we stepped off the boat and wandered through the island resort, all the locals wanted to say hello to our kids. We were stopped by people wherever we went. We soon got used to it because Fijians are so child-friendly. So it seemed a good idea to try leaving the boys at the resort's kids' club for an hour or two, while we went snorkelling.

Despite the bevy of friendly babysitters, one of our boys began shrieking when we left them. So snorkelling was put on hold but there was still plenty to do with the kids - taking them around the coral-fringed island for walks and playing in the warm sand in the shadow of palm trees. They even took to crawling in and out of the cool sea.

Advertisement

We finally figured out a way to get our snorkelling time in the fish-filled water when we realised the boys tolerated kids' club during their naptime.

The kids' club was just the start of a whole new world. Who'd have thought the children's buffet could elicit such joy? From 5.30pm each evening we joined the throng of children and parents at the free buffet. The kids were parked in their high-chairs and stuffed themselves full of pizza and pasta, and the odd bit of fruit. And parents used the money saved on the free buffet to spend up on cocktails. It was happy hour, of course.

The kids enjoyed the mash, we enjoyed mojitos. And evenings got even better when we realised some of the kids' club babysitters would mind the children for just F$10 ($6.50) an hour. By the time we left, we'd tried all the restaurants and takeaway options at the resort. We'd even found the island's best curries outside the resort, in the village.


A pool at the resort. Photo / Supplied

So it was a happy, but tired, set of parents and children that headed back to Nadi Airport for their the home.

At least the X-ray machine operators had their priorities right. As we passed through security with a pair of scratchy one-year-old boys, all four staff showed considerably more interest in the kids than checking our baggage. The X-ray machine operator gave up scanning baggage and demanded a cuddle. It was a perfect distraction that averted the boys going into tantrum mode, and at the end of a week-long holiday in Fiji it underlined what a great place it is for kids.

CHECKLIST
Getting there: Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways have daily departures from Auckland to Nadi, Fiji.

Accommodation: Mana Island Resort & Spa is in the Mamanuca group of islands, 32km west of Nadi.

Adam Ray is a 3 News reporter.