The star-studded Mamanuca Islands in Fiji

The star-studded Mamanuca Islands in Fiji

The idyllic Mamanuca Islands in Fiji are home to swoon-worthy overwater villas, secluded sandbars, private beach clubs and even something rather unexpected: links to Hollywood.

Likuliku Resort in Fiji
Likuliku Resort

Yes, it turns out this chain of islands a one hour boat ride from the main island of Viti Levu has hosted some big name productions which need no introduction like the movie Cast Away and TV show Survivor, along with the lesser-known reality series Celebrity Love Island which filmed on Bounty Island.

Sailing around the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji
Sailing around the Mamanuca Islands

Those who make the trip out by boat can see the sets up close during an island hopping excursion, whiz by tribal council set-ups and even walk on the same island from Cast Away that Tom Hanks was marooned on.

From star-studded stays to celebrity proposal locations, here’s how to do a Hollywood bus tour, Fiji style.

Tavarua island Fiji
Tavarua Island. Courtesy of Tourism Fiji

Monuriki Island

The island where Cast Away was filmed is called Monuriki, which can be a tad confusing since there’s a different spot nearby that’s actually called Castaway Island resort.

Boats can pull right up to Monuriki’s rugged shoreline, and once you navigate the crashing waves (just like Hanks’ character Chuck Noland did after the plane crash) you’ll get to explore this gorgeous island which provided the backdrop for the iconic film.

Monuriki Island, where Cast Away was filmed
Monuriki Island, where Cast Away was filmed

While there isn’t any sign of Wilson the volleyball, there’s a ‘help me’ sign spelled out with rocks, the bush where the pilot’s body had to be dragged, and the sharp rock Hanks used to break coconuts.

Monuriki Island, where Cast Away was filmed
Monuriki Island
Putting survival skills to the test on the same rock Tom Hanks did

It also only takes about 15 minutes to hike up to the peak that Hanks ‘climbed’ to try signaling for help–though it turns out a helicopter was actually brought in to shuttle the Oscar-winner up and down during filming.

It’s also interesting to note that the neighbouring islands were edited out to make it look like Monuriki Island is completely remote.

The rock where the pilot was dragged

Mana Island

Survivor fans will get absolutely giddy when sailing past Mana Island, where multiple seasons of the show have been filmed. In fact, producers don’t even bother disassembling the set anymore since Jeff Probst loves Fiji so darn much that they keep coming back!

While Australian and French versions of the show have used the islands as a backdrop, the long-running US-version undoubtedly gets the most attention.

Season 14 was the show’s first foray into Fiji which was filmed on the country’s second-largest island Vanua Levu, and production returned to the country for season 33′ Millennials vs. Gen X and has been filming in the Mamanuca Islands for every season since.

Mana Island, where Survivor is filmed
The Tribal Council setup on Mana Island

Security is tight around here leading up to and during shooting, so it’s not easy to get close. However, boats are permitted in the open water and get a view of the tribal council torches and an obstacle course that are set up in the water along the southeast coast.

It might be surprising to see how large and developed Mana Island actually is despite how isolated it looks on TV–heck, there are even multiple resorts here like the Mana Island Resort & Spa and swanky Tadrai Island Resort.

It’s also easy to find locals who have worked on set who just might spill a few secrets; one guide who used to work as an animal wrangler told me that instead of removing creepy-crawlies he was actually hired to bring more in!

Mana Island, where Survivor is filmed
Mana Island, where Survivor is filmed

Mociu Island (Honeymoon Island)

Another Survivor set is on Mociu Island (pronounced “Moor-thiew”), better known as Honeymoon Island. It’s a popular spot for sunrise hikes, thanks to the spectacular panoramic views from the top which takes about 20 minutes to hike up to.

A sunrise hike on Mociou Island
A sunrise hike on Mociu Island

Some Survivor challenges have been filmed on the secluded, white sand beach below, which normally has a palapa that couples can rent out for the day to enjoy a romantic escape.

Mociu Island Fiji
Mociu Island. Courtesy Brook Sabin

Mociu Island Fiji

Modern Family star Sarah Hyland and her now-hubby Wells Adams (of the Bachelor franchise) also got engaged here back in 2019.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Wells Adams (@wellsadams)

Mociu is a protected nature reserve, and the Paramount Chief of the Mamanucas declared the waters and reef around it as a marine “na tabu” which means no fishing or shellfish collecting is allowed.

Experiences to Mociu private island like snorkeling, hikes and picnics can be booked through Likuliku Lagoon Resort (more below) which is a 15 minute boat ride away.

Survivor challenges have been held on this beach on Mociu Island
Survivor challenges have been held on this beach on Mociu Island

Where to stay: The best Mamanuca Islands resorts

The remoteness of the Mamanuca Islands makes them an ideal celebrity hideaway, which is why the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Paris Hilton and singer Pink have come here to vacation far away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. Luxe spots that are worth the splurge are:

Likuliku Lagoon Resort: With bragging rights as being home to the first overwater bures (villas) in Fiji, Likuliku Lagoon Resort is one of the country’s most unique and luxurious properties.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The adults-only resort boasts gorgeous infinity pools, a long beachfront, the Tatadra Spa and incredible snorkeling in the ocean lagoon on its doorstep. Gourmet dining and cool cocktails await, and the real highlight is the incredible garden, beachfront and overwater bures.

A bar at Likuliku Lagoon Resort
A bar at Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Infinity pool at Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The overwater rooms have private decks with direct access to the water, huge soaker tubs in the bathroom, and a large bedroom and lounge area incorporating natural Fijian materials and decor.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Overwater bures at Likuliku Lagoon Resort
Overwater bures at Likuliku Lagoon Resort
Bathrooms in the overwater bures. Courtesy of Brook Sabin

The deluxe beachfront bures are equally luxe, thanks to their own private plunge pools, pavilion with a daybed, large bedroom, living room and a spacious outdoor shower area surrounded by stones.

A beachfront bure at Likuliku Lagoon Resort

A beachfront bure at Likuliku Lagoon Resort

A beachfront bure at Likuliku Lagoon Resort
A beachfront bure at Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Perhaps most importantly, Likuliku is also a leader in sustainability with a protected marine sanctuary on its doorstep, an iguana conservation program and a tropical dry forest restoration and reforestation program. Click here to book

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Iguanas at Likuliku Lagoon Resort
Iguanas at Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Six Senses Fiji: This 120-acre property has just 24 spacious pool villas and five residences with two to five bedrooms, guaranteeing privacy.

Lush vegetation surrounds infinity pools, a spa, yoga pavilion, restaurants and bars, and guests can enjoy experiences around Malolo Island like SUP, sailing, snorkeling, village visits, mixology classes and movie nights under the stars.

Six Senses in Fiji
Six Senses in Fiji

Tokoriki Island Resort: This five-star resort has won a swath of awards and accolades thanks to its free-standing bures and villas surrounded by gardens, great dining and Fijian hospitality.

On-site activities at the age 16+ resort include unlimited massage packages, snorkeling in the crystal-clear lagoon, relaxing by the freshwater infinity pool and glass bottom boat trips.

Exploring sandbars in the Mamanuca Islands
Exploring sandbars in the Mamanuca Islands

Book a tour around Mamanuca Islands Fiji

With 20 islands to choose from in the Mamanucas plus countless reefs, coves and sandbars, there are lots of fun activities in the Mamanuca Islands. Some of the most popular excursions are:

Cloud 9 and Seventh Heaven: What do you get when you combine a multi-level platform floating over a pristine reef in the South Pacific with world-class snorkelling and an all day party fuelled by sunshine and colourful cocktails? The floating platforms of Cloud 9 and Seventh Heaven!

 
Cloud 9 in Fiji
Cloud 9 in Fiji

Guests spend the day lounging on the sprawling sun beds overlooking the water, saddling up to the bar for a drink and jumping off the second storey into the clear water to head out for a snorkel.

While most visit as a day trip from Nadi, both are located in the Mamanuca Islands which means it’s a quick 15 minute boat ride over which most resorts are happy to arrange.

 

Cloud 9 Fiji
Cloud 9
Cloud 9 Fiji
Cloud 9

Surfing at Cloudbreak: World-class waves lure surfers from all around the world to this legendary spot which can see 20 foot swells from April to October. You’ll need some serious skill to tackle this one, otherwise you can take on Tavarua Rights, Namotu Lefts and Wilkes for a more chill ride.

Cloudbreak. Courtesy of Tourism Fiji

South Sea Sailing catamaran cruise: One of the best things to do in the Mamanuca Islands is hop on board the Sabre, a gleaming, sunshine-yellow catamaran that sails around the reefs and sandbars.

A catamaran cruise in the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
A catamaran cruise in the Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

Spend the day lounging under a shaded canopy as the boat glides through the shimmering turquoise water past Malamala Island. There are two snorkel stops, and anchor is put down near Malolo Island where a tranquil sandbar awaits.

South Sea Sailing catamaran cruise

Zip down the boat’s slide for fun, fast access to the reef, where staff set up chairs, umbrellas and coolers of drinks. Or, opt to stay on board and be serenaded by the musically-inclined crew.

An excellent lunch, soft drinks, beer and wine are included, as well as snorkeling equipment. Tours depart daily from Port Denarau.

South Sea Sailing catamaran cruise

Malamala Beach Club: What’s better than a beach club? A beach club on a private island! Malamala Beach Club has a glittering infinity pool, beachside cabanas and butler service, along with a restaurant, bar and complimentary snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding.

Malamala Beach Club Fiji
Malamala Beach Club. Courtesy Brook Sabin

It’s a quick hop over for those who are already in the Mamanuca Islands; otherwise, the beach club is a 30 minute boat ride from Port Denarau.

Book one of these fun tours in the Mamanuca Islands:

 

 

Malamala Beach Resort
Malamala Beach Club

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