Yasawa Islands

Sailing The Yasawa Islands, Fiji

Our kids have visited Fiji more times that we can count. To say they’ve been going their whole lives wouldn’t be an understatement.

But it dawned on us that we’ve always stayed in resorts.

So, when Kate suggested recreating one of her most memorable childhood trips – sailing around the Yasawa Islands – we couldn’t resist. And when we shared the idea about our newest adventure with our 4 kids, we all started getting very excited.

Over the next six months we planned our eight-day sailing trip. We had lists everywhere – where to stop off, what to pack, what we would eat each day. The trip was all we talked about.

And then the day of epic family adventure arrived!

The night before we were due to sail out, we met our Captain, Sam, in Nadi. He happily fielded endless questions from the kids: What fish they would catch? Where could they go snorkelling? What was sleeping on a sail boat like? And he showed us around our new home for the next eight days; the 44ft catamaran, Oniva.

Unfortunately, there was a looming cyclone, which was a bit concerning; however, Sam assured us he knew of and was tracking the latest weather updates, to ensure we would miss it.

The next morning was meant to be our first day sailing. We met Sam and offloaded our luggage onto the Oniva, which included dry food we brought from Australia (breakfast cereal, pasta, and biscuits) that was allowed through customs.

While Kate and the kids unpacked, Sam and I headed to the bustling markets in Nadi to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables, and to pick up our vacuum-packed (and frozen) meat we had pre-ordered from a local butcher. We were mindful not to forget the most important staple, drinks. Despite our extensive planning, we realised we’d overlooked a few essentials. Unfortunately, the only place we could buy these missing essentials was at the marina, at over-inflated prices.

Instead of facing Cyclone Mona, Sam decided it would be safer to leave the following day. That evening we relaxed with cold drinks in hand and watched the sun disappear behind the clouds dusting them with orange, red (always a good sign), and violet. We tucked into barbecued steaks for dinner and went to bed early, eager to set sail in the morning, if the weather permitted.

Oniva, home for 8 nights
The Village on Waya Island
Great Trek high on Waya
Mollys loved the snorkelling, crystal clear in the Blue Lagoon

On day two, we awoke early to sunshine and clearing skies, and Sam decided it was safe to set sail! We motored out of the marina, and with Denarau behind us, we launched the sails and headed north-west for the Yasawa Islands, 60 kilometres away.

With a soft tropical breeze and the gentle sway of the boat, our little family escape had begun. The kids quickly fell into holiday mode as they lay dozing on the front net.

For lunch we feasted on ham and salad wraps as we sailed past Vomo Island (the last of the Mamanuca Islands) and headed to the Yasawas.

Six hours later, the dramatic Yawa Island, with its jagged, mist-covered peaks appeared on the horizon. We anchored in a secluded bay, near a deserted beach.

Keen for a swim, everyone dived in. The kids loved jumping off the side of the boat. They were so preoccupied with snorkelling and relaxing on deck, they hadn’t mentioned any form of technology once. Kate and I sat in awe, thankful we had already found paradise.

Our third day in Fiji started with a quick breakfast of cereal and fruit. Sam had organised an island trek with a local guide named Solo. His plan was to hike up one of the tallest peaks within the Yasawa Islands. Whilst steep, and often precarious, we puffed our way to the top and despite four kids, the only whining was from me, (though Solo sometimes carried Molly, our 6 year old, on his back).

Achieving something tough as a family helped us bond. It was such an important reminder that time truly is the greatest gift you can give your children.

From the summit, we could see the rest of the Yasawa Islands; pockets of perfection leading to the horizon. From here, our tiny catamaran was just a dot in the bay, a reminder we were the only people here.

We returned to the Oniva, sweaty and exhausted, but before lunch we took the tender to a cute beach where only our footprints squeaked in the sand; it was otherwise undisturbed. I tried taking a photo to capture this, but the kids were more interested in diving into the turquoise waters, which had beckoned them on our hike back down the mountain.

That afternoon, we visited the local village on Yawa, drank kava, and danced as they played happy songs on guitars and ukuleles.We popped in to visit the village school where curly-haired youngsters with beaming smiles laughed and waved. Our kids made instant friends with the locals, who led them into the onshore breakers using whatever could float; broken surfboards, paddle boards or just bits of wood. They had fun as they laughed and played in the waves.

Beautiful walk through a Forest in the Blue Lagoon
The Kids loved it!

It’s making memorable travel moments like these that makes all the hard work saving and planning worthwhile.

Early on our fourth day we sailed towards the renowned Blue Lagoon (which the 1980s movie of the same name is based on). Along the way a pod of spinner dolphins joined us, surfing off the bow, leaping and twisting out of the water. Just when we thought our holiday couldn’t get better, Fiji surprised us once more.

We arrived at lunchtime and dropped anchor off Tavewa Island; so perfect, it belonged on a brochure. With visibility so clear, you could see fish and coral below without getting into the water.

After a lunch of noodles and fruit, we jumped in for a refreshing swim before Sam took us onto the island to meet his relatives. The island boasted thatched huts nestled amongst swaying palms and we could have spent days exploring, but the kids were begging to get back into the water.

We were in awe when we discovered magnificent snorkelling not far away, off Nanuya Island. We were often surrounded by multi-coloured fish from yellow to blue, green to purple, black to orange. There were hard corals forming huge mounds and soft coral red fans swaying in the current. It was incredible and something the kids will never forget.

Fiji for Families
Picture perfect

It’s making memorable travel moments like these that makes all the hard work saving and planning worthwhile.

Day five saw us sail north of the Blue Lagoon to visit the ancient limestone, Sawa-I-Lau caves, which were all ours to explore. The kids climbed up the rocks and jumped into the cool fresh water of the cave; their squeals and laughter echoed off the walls.

Afterwards we explored Yasawa Island and Sam took us to Champagne Beach, another perfect, white-sand paradise, just for us. The kids body surfed as Kate and I relaxed and planned our next trip to Fiji.

That afternoon the winds picked up, so Sam suggested we move back to the protected, Blue Lagoon.

By day six work and school were a distant memory as we sailed south stopping at Long Beach where we caught a huge barracuda. We couldn’t eat it all ourselves, so we shared with a local family, who were ecstatic. The rest of the afternoon involved playing on the beach and swimming. Each day as wonderful as the last.

We stopped at Barefoot Kuata Resort, for a short hike to a lookout, and to explore the resort aquarium. After indulging in a few cold beers we rejoined the Oniva, to find our anchorage spot for the night.

We settled on, Paradise Cove, a peaceful little bay, which delighted us with a stunning sunset. Once the clouds disappeared the dazzling Milky Way filled the sky.

Our second last day was a big sailing day, so we filled up on cereal then headed off, before a lunch stop at the stunning Vomo Island.

We had a long swim in their magnificent pool and beautiful lunch , although they rarely accept day trippers, we were super lucky when they said yes to our special request! It was greatly appreciated!

The day ended in Musket Cove (where Kate spent a lot of time as a child when she was sailing around Fiji), which revealed the greatest sunset on our entire trip. Fiery reds and oranges, and deep purples splashed across low clouds.

Dinner that night was pizza, yet another treat at the marina at Musket Cove.

Amazing underwater world in the Yasawa Islands
A snorkelers paradise

On our last day onboard the Oniva, Sam took us to a famous surfing hotspot, Cloudbreak. The waves were heaving and it was inspiring seeing the raw power of the ocean. Conditions weren’t great for snorkelling so we headed to our drop-off point, Castaway Island. A fitting end to what was one of the best weeks we’ve ever experienced in Fiji.


Even though it was our kids’ first live-aboard sailing experience, they loved every moment – from the deserted beaches, the remote islands, the snorkelling, the fishing, and the dolphins through to even the night-time peace and quiet spent drawing or reading.


And an unexpected and added bonus during the trip – minimal bickering or arguing amongst the kids, which is a common event back home in a house of 4 kids.

The experience taught us that we don’t have to buy things to keep our kids happy; all we need to do is spend time together as a family doing things we love.

Credit must also go to Sam, who ensured a memorable and safe trip to remote and incredible islands.

Bon voyage Oniva and Captain Sam, thanks for having us.

We’ll be back soon.


Vinaka (thank you)

Oniva, Anchored at Musket Cove, Mamanucas, Fiji


Please get in touch and we would love to help you create these incredible family memories Bula@fijiforfamilies.com.au or give us a call on 1300 564 466