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    Top things to do in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

    Top things to do in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

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    If you’re looking for the best things to do in Rarotonga, let’s start with lazing on white sand beaches and enjoying the warm hospitality of its people. There’s also a wide variety of accommodation options on offer, from luxurious adults-only resorts to family-friendly villas:

    Rarotonga is the largest and most populous island in the group of fifteen that make up the Cook Islands archipelago, home to around 14,000 of the total 17,500 Cook Islands population. The starting point for any Cook Islands holiday is the nation’s only international airport, which is located near the capital, Avarua, on the northern side of Rarotonga.

    The locals are fiercely protective of the pristine beauty that makes this delightfully compact and laidback tropical island destination one of our favourite picks for a Pacific Islands holiday. There’s even a law that prevents any building from exceeding the height of the ubiquitous coconut trees!  Here are our top suggestions for things to do on your Rarotongan holiday:

    1. Explore the entire island

    With a single, coastal road encircling the entire island, it’s incredibly easy to explore Rarotonga and exceedingly difficult to get lost! A popular option that’s both reliable and affordable is the public bus system. Buses operates both clockwise and anti-clockwise around the island, making regular stops and taking around an hour for a complete loop. Another eco-friendly option is to rent a bicycle: there are several rental shops on the island to choose from, and the relatively flat terrain means you can explore at a leisurely pace. Hiring a car, scooter or motorcycle is another great option, making it easy to zip around the island and discover hidden gems away the main road.

    2. Hit the Rarotongan beaches

    snorkelling in rarotongan beaches

    Beautiful Rarotongan beaches

    The entire island measures only 32 kilometres in circumference, with many of the most beautiful beaches located on the southern half of the island. In the southeast, the crystal clear waters of Muri Beach’s famous lagoon are a popular spot for swimming, paddleboarding and other water sports. Paddling across to the four offshore islets (motu) is a wonderfully tranquil way to start each day. Titikaveka Beach’s powdery white sand borders a tranquil lagoon that’s protected by a barrier reef. As a result, you’re likely to be accompanied on your daily swim by colourful, inquisitive marine life.

    Aroa Beach is a secluded stretch of coastline with soft golden sands, offering incredible sunset views over the Pacific Ocean. Black Rock Beach, which is located on the northwest corner of Rarotonga, is named after the volcanic rock formations that dot its shoreline. These prominent black rocks provide a haven for vibrant coral and tropical fish, making it a popular spot for snorkellers.

    3. Rarotonga adventure

    At the centre of Rarotonga stands an ancient volcano cloaked in dense, tropical forest. Its steep flanks are cut by deep valleys, and its summit is marked by the towering rocky peak of Te Manga (The Needle). The Cross Island Trek is a north-to-south, six-kilometre trail that will take you right through the heart of the island via Te Manga. You can do it independently, but a guided walk is a great way to learn about Rarotonga’s flora, fauna, history and heritage along the way. A quad bike tour or buggy tour is another fun way to explore the island’s interior. Popular water-based day trips include deep-sea fishing, diving, sea-scooter safaris, speedboat tours and kite-surfing lessons.

    4. Soak up the culture

    Thought to have been inhabited since around 1000 ACE, Rarotonga has a vibrant Polynesian heritage that enhances the magic of this beautiful destination. A visit to Te Vara Nui Village is a must if you want to experience traditional island entertainment. Captivating performances of drumming, dancing and storytelling will have you transported back in time as you learn about the ancient legends and customs of the Cook Islands people.

    Many resorts and restaurants offer special ‘island night’ dinners where you can savour traditional dishes while being entertained by lively music and dance performances. Local churches frequently welcome visitors to their Sunday services, where you can listen to hymns sung in Cook Islands Māori and share in the powerful sense of community and faith.

    5. Arts and crafts

    Punanga Nui Market Rarotonga things to do Cook Islands

    Punanga Nui Market in Avarua, Rarotonga

    Saturday is the best day to visit the vibrant, open-air Punanga Nui Market in Avarua, where you can browse a vast array of local crafts, food, artwork and souvenirs. You’ll find everything from hand-made ukeleles to fresh coconuts. Keep an eye out for boutique shops and galleries that showcase the work of local artisans. From handcrafted jewellery and wood carvings to traditional woven items, each piece reflects the culture and heritage of the Cook Islands. The Cooks are famous for their locally grown black pearls, which make an exquisite reminder of your holiday. There are several boutiques on the island where you can browse for a special piece of jewellery to take home.

    6. Go island hopping

    Rarotonga is a spectacular destination in its own right, and you could easily spend your entire holiday enjoying all that it has to offer. However, adding a visit to one of the Cook Islands’ other spectacular islands will add another level of “wow” to your visit. Aitutaki is world-renowned for its immense, breathtaking lagoon, dotted with idyllic, secluded islets (motu). Offering a variety of accommodation options, it’s the ultimate add-on if you’re looking for a romantic getaway or honeymoon treat that’s all about barefoot luxury. The island of Atiu is perfect if you’re seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience – this lush, volcanic island is known for its ancient caves, untouched beauty and unique wildlife.


    Good to know before you go:

    • Best time to visit Rarotonga

    The dry season in Rarotonga runs from April to November, peaking between June and August when you’re most likely to enjoy lower humidity and rainfall with balmy temperatures in the high twenties. That being said, there really isn’t a bad time to visit – during the rainy season, you can expect slightly higher temperatures that are normally paired with sudden, spectacular deluges that disappear as quickly as they arrive. Of course, planning your holiday to fall between December and March means that you’ll benefit from lower prices and quieter beaches.

    • Time difference

    Rarotonga is located in the heart of the South Pacific between Fiji and French Polynesia. Although it’s only a six-hour direct flight from Sydney (or almost eight hours for the homeward flight), its time zone is 21 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time. Crossing the International Date Line on the way means you can gain or lose a day in the process.

    • Rarotonga currency

    The official Cook Islands currency is the New Zealand dollar. Items that have to be flown in from New Zealand can be a little pricey, but there are plenty of ways to ensure that your holiday doesn’t blow the budget. If you’re a foodie, you’ll find plenty of great dining options that showcase the finest in locally sourced food, from the tasty treats served up at the famous Muri night markets to the spectacular dishes created in world-class, fine-dining restaurants.

    Rarotonga’s immense natural beauty and rich cultural heritage combine to create a tropical destination like nowhere else on Earth. Your personal travel manager can provide more valuable information that will ensure every aspect of your holiday flows seamlessly.


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