A tantalising taste of Cook Islands life
Rarotonga is a quintessentially Pasifika paradise, combining blindingly white sand, impossibly blue ocean and vibrantly green jungle with the warm, welcoming hospitality of the Cook Islands people. It’s the perfect getaway for nature lovers, thrill-seekers, families or just those who want to relax in a tropical wonderland.
Take advantage of the island’s bountiful lagoons or spend a day cooling off in its mountainous interior. Get to know Cook Islands cuisine at one of the buzzing local markets, where you can enjoy tropical fruits, fresh seafood and local specialities such as rukau (a dish of taro leaves and coconut sauce). End the day by watching an idyllic sunset framed by palm trees.
Things to do: Rarotonga
Take a dip
The fluorescent blue waters that surround Rarotonga teem with life. Get underwater and find tropical fish, sea turtles, giant clams and healthy coral enclaves. The best snorkelling in Rarotonga is found around Black Rock, Tikioki, Muri and Aroa Beach. If you’re looking for a shot of adrenaline with your ocean, there’s sailing, kite-surfing and sea scooter safaris, and for those who want to stay dry, an array of relaxing cruises around the lagoons.
Explore wild jungles
Make your way inland into Rarotonga’s mountainous interior, where lush, green jungles and breathtaking mountain views await. Spend half a day hiking up to the spectacular Te Rua Manga or get dirty on a buggy or quad bike tour. Cycling the island’s 32km perimeter is a great way to experience Rarotonga life, and for the intrepid rider there’s plenty of mountain biking as well.
Get a taste of a local market
Sip on a smoothie made from island-grown fruits as you browse the unique handicrafts and listen to live music at the weekly Punanga Nui Market on the north side of the island. If you’re more of a night owl, head along to the Muri Night Market and dine al fresco on local chicken curries, BBQ and seafood – all washed down with a fresh coconut, of course.
Have a cultural experience
Enjoy a hefty dose of Pasifika hospitality at an island night, where you’ll be treated to an evening of traditional music and dance while feasting on classic Cook Islands cuisine. Many hotels on the island do their own island nights. If you’re interested in diving deeper, spend an evening at Te Vara Nui Cultural Village or Highland Paradise immersing yourself in Cook Islands’ fascinating history and legend, before getting stuck into a full island buffet.
Chill out on island time
Massage on the beach? Yoga on a paddleboard? If you want some serious relaxation, Rarotonga is where it’s at. Treat yourself to a spa treatment at one of the award-winning day spas, snooze in a beachside hammock, or chill out on one of the many intimate beaches around the island. Looking for something even more chilled? Secluded Aitutaki, popular with honeymooners, is just a 50-minute flight north of Rarotonga and home to the world’s most beautiful lagoon.
Distance to Aroa Beach 8km
Travel time 15 minutes
Taxi A taxi will cost around NZD $40-60 to accommodation in the Aroa Beach or Muri areas.
Bus The clockwise and anti-clockwise Cook Islands Bus opens in new window services both stop at the airport. Each service departs every hour and costs NZD $5. The anticlockwise service stops near the Air New Zealand office and the clockwise service stops at the RSA Club across the road from the airport carpark.
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When to go
Rarotonga has a subtropical climate that is reasonably consistent year-round. The summer months (November – April) are warm and humid, with temperatures reaching 26-30°C and higher rainfall, often in the form of afternoon storms. From May to October the climate is drier and cooler, ranging from 22-28°C.
The most important event in Rarotonga’s calendar is Te Maeva Nui in late July, a week-long celebration of Cook Islands’ independence featuring music, dance, arts and food. Other important events include the Te Mire Ura Dancer of the Year competition in March/April and the Te Mira Tiare Flower Festival in late November.Back to top
Cook Islands Bus runs clockwise and anti-clockwise services around the island, starting from Cook's Corner in Avarua and going through Tupapa, Muri Beach and Arorangi, passing all major hotels and the airport.Back to top
Discover more about Rarotonga
Why the laid-back charm of Rarotonga will have you hooked
You might come for the pure white sand and clear waters, but it’s the Cook Islands people and culture that will have you plotting your return.
The best things to do in Rarotonga
Land or water, there are plenty of things to do in the Cook Islands capital. Try these out for size.