A tantalising taste of Cook Island life
Rarotonga, the most popular of the Cook Islands, is a combination of tropical sun, fragrant frangipani and lush green mountains capped by rocky peaks. Add to that the festive and friendly nature of Polynesian culture and you have the definition of paradise. Hiking, watersports and cultural activities are on offer and cater not only to the adventurous but couples and families seeking sun and sea.
Take advantage of the island’s turquoise waters, colourful reefs and tropical fish or spend a day cooling off in its mountainous interior. Foodies can look forward to tropical fruits, fresh fish and local specialities such as rukau (a dish of taro leaves and coconut sauce). A local beer from the Matutu Brewing Company is the perfect way to end the day.
Things to do: Rarotonga
Explore the land
While the island has a wide array of water activities, Rarotonga also has an incredible mountainous interior opens in new window to discover. From buggy tours to four-wheel bike adventures, eco cycle tours and more, there's something for every explorer. There’s even a Cross-Island Trek that traverses Rarotonga north to south. This is a moderate track so if you don't fancy doing it on your own, you can book in a guided hike.
Spot tropical fish, explore coral enclaves and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of turtles and giant clams as you go snorkelling in Rarotonga opens in new window. Some of the best and most accessible snorkelling is around Black Rock, Tikioki (opposite the Fruits of Rarotonga cafe), Muri and Aroa Beach. Organised tours are also available through Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes and Koka Lagoon Cruises opens in new window. You can also try sailing, kite surfing or go on a sea scooter safari to find turtles and other sea life.
Tasty market vibes
For a taste of local ‘Raro’ life, head to the Punanga Nui Market opens in new window held every Saturday from 8am, where you can feast on island grown produce and fresh coconuts while shopping for unique handicrafts. Another hot spot for local cuisine is the Muri Night Markets. Open from 5pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, you can dine al fresco, amidst the sizzle of stalls serving up tasty chicken curries, local BBQ meals, seafood, desserts and more.
An island night opens in new window is a must do in the Cook Islands. You’ll find many hotels and resorts do their own island nights where you’ll experience traditional music and dance while feasting on classic Cook Islands cuisine. If you’re after a more in-depth cultural experience, you can also spend an evening at Te Vara Nui Cultural Village opens in new window or Highland Paradise opens in new window. You’ll learn about the history and legends of the Cook Islands before experiencing an evening show complete with dance performances, live music and 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 opens in new window 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 opens in new window, 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, divided into a wet season (November–April/May) and a dry season (June–October). The wet season is hot and humid with temperatures reaching 29°C, before late afternoon downpours. During the dry season, temperatures average at 25°C before dropping in the evening.
The most important event on the calendar is the yearly celebration of self-rule that takes place at the end of July. Also known as Te Maeva Nui, the festival is an extravaganza of song, dance and national costumes. Other events include Rarotonga Gospel Day (July) and the Te Mire Tama flower festival (October).Back to top
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.
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