travel experiences



If you are after paradise, then the Cook Islands should definitely be at the top of your itinerary list. The Cooks are a collection of Polynesian islands situated in the South Pacific. Lonely Planet's description of 'white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, limestone caves and lush tropical forests' is definitely an accurate description of the country that we discovered.


wish you were here?

about Rarotonga

Although only 32km in circumference, Rarotonga, the Cooks main island has a considerable amount on offer. Whilst the rugged, volcanically formed interior provides a scenic lush-green backdrop to the coconut tree-lined beaches, a protective outer rim of coral surrounds the sea island. It's been likened to the island of Tahiti yet thankfully half a century behind it's cousin's development. The country's capital of Avarua, must be one of the world's quietest - there's not even one traffic light in town!! Amongst Rarotonga there are 14 other islands to explore including Nassau and Aitutaki, which is also a popular side trip. The people must be some of the friendliest this side of the Pacific and with the lush scenery it really should be a 'must visit' destination.


Rarotonga is only a 3-5 hour plane ride from Australia and New Zealand and is a viable option for people travelling on the North America - Australia/New Zealand route. Increasingly popular with Antipodeans, the Europeans and Americans have somewhat lagged behind, partly because of the distances involved and partly on the misguided assumption that the Cook Islands are too expensive. If you're travelling to either Australia or New Zealand, then the Cook Islands should definitely be on your itinerary. With increasing 'no-go' terrorist-threatened areas, the Cooks are a popular, safe area, with a warm climate all year round. Offering safe beaches and entertainment for children and adults alike, accommodation standards are high and most importantly affordable!




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when to visit


Anytime is a good time to visit, although December to April is hurricane and the rainy season although the rain comes in short showers, with clouds soon breaking open again.


The peak tourist season runs from the end of June to the end of August with an influx of New Zealanders and Australians seeking warmth. Christmas and New Year can be a busy time with many islanders returning home to see family. In general, finding accommodation is no problem as long as you book ahead a few weeks. We have managed to book Matavera 3 weeks before flying out and then with a few days notice managed to find ourselves booked in elsewhere. To avoid the risk of disappointment we recommend to book as early as possible. Check our accommodation now!


If you're not weather-dependent here's what's happening when:


- Arts and Crafts Exhibition

- Dancer of the year competition - come and see fantastic traditional dancing - one of the best in the Pacific!
- Taemoemo Canoe Races

- Canoe Regatta
- Coconut Festival - displays and competitions

- Maire Maiva Nui Festival - cultural inter island competition

- Constitution Week - most popular of the island's festivals. Celebrating independence day, August 4, 1965.
- Beer Festival
Tivaevae Festival - quilt weaving displays

- Cook Islands Art Exhibition Week

- Gospel day (last Sunday in October)

November - December
- Cook Island Food Festival
- Round Rarotonga Road Run - 32km of sweat sweeping adrenalin round the island
- Tiare Floral Week - Fantastic opportunity for photographers to snap away at the colourful flower adornments in shops leading up to a climax at a parade of flower-covered floats.


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what to do and see


- Experience island life in the capital, Avarua that will cater for most of your requirements. Relax and have a coffee at one of the many cafes.

- Purchase one of the many black pearl products available from one the world's best pearl producing areas.

- Visit the eastern heights of the interior to experience the sunrise over the exotic and turquoise waters of Muri Lagoon

- Engulf yourself amongst the lush green valley interiors of the island such as Avatiu with views of 'The Needle' (Te Rua Manga).

- Immerse yourself at one of Rarotonga's evening dance shows (not Sundays). The Rarotongan and Edgewater Resorts have the best traditional movers.

- Soak up the local culture by visiting Rarotonga's Cook Island's Cultural Village or taking on a cultural tour of the island.

- Examine the island's ancient road (Arametua) which was built and paved with volcanic slabs by the island's ancestors

- Visit Muri Lagoon with its many water activities and safe swimming. The 14km beach faces little islets, which can be easily reached by canoe or boat.

- Experience fine dining on the islands many top restaurants

- Examine the island's flora and fauna and see how these are used locally - Pa's Nature Walks are highly recommended.

- Papua waterfall (Wigmore)

- Tune in to the local TV or radio (one minute you'll be listening to the world's latest rap artist the next minute you're being lambasted by an over energetic American evangelist).
- Further afield: - Aitutaki is one of the few remnants of Old Polynesia where fishing and farming are still undiminished priorities. It's also noted for its crystal-clear lagoon.

- Visit Aitutaki's 'One Foot Island' (Tapuaetai) where the sand is distinguishable from most other Pacific islands in that it's pure white and soft like icing sugar.




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where to stay


Although the Cook Island's has a number of top class hotels, the majority are foreign owned and therefore little of the money, which is earned, will only line the pockets of their owner's abroad. My advice is to try and find local accommodation, which is often comparable price wise offering great value. Why share a 300-bed hotel room when you can have your very own private paradise right on the beach?


Dismiss package tours to the Cook Islands. Although there is always the perception that package tours are the best means of holidaying beware of the drawbacks.


Choosing that bargain tour may actually put you on that bottom rung in terms of hotel quality. As you're paying less for your package tour, you may well end up in a high volume hotel large concrete type village structure with an impersonal ambience where staff give you that forced smile (forced in by the training drill-master). If you are after privacy and seclusion, hotels are not the place to go and you'll soon start wishing that you booked yourself into that bungalow down the road. Also carefully check whether the hotels activities are inclusive of sports etc that can otherwise further increase the costs. And whilst your package may include all meals, do you really want to eat your meals at the hotel? - what about those restaurants down the road?


I therefore highly recommend that visitors consider some of the island's private accommodation, which offers high quality, a personal service, and offers great value for money. These are locally owned, well-loved properties and kept to a very high standard.


Click here to preview what Pacific Paradise can offer!




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where to eat, drink and play


Remember 'island time'. Be prepared for the slower Pacific style service you may receive here. Usually the service you receive in cafes and restaurants isn't bad service - it's just the way things are done here. Your order has been taken and your drinks will come - eventually.


The Flame Tree - has been described as one the South Pacific's top restaurants.

Rarotonga Sailing Club - Although the quality of the service swings like a pendulum, a good place for a coffee. Weekends get busy with all sorts of sailors even with landlubbers who bring along their remote controlled sailing boats!!!

Maire Nui Gardens & Cafe - Fantastic green surroundings with mountains cape backdrop. Unfortunately, the coffee wasn't up to scratch when we visited and somewhat overpriced. Unfortunately they charge you $3 on top to visit the gardens themselves.

The Café - Surely one of the best places on the island that serves good quality coffee in an ambient atmosphere across from the Raromart shop. Great waist expanding cake too!


tours and activities


Whether you're into trekking, swimming, golf, cycling, flying, sailing, snorkelling, diving, tennis, bowls......Rarotonga has it all.


Diving - With diving rates being the cheapest in the Pacific, Rarotonga also has to offer various depths and wrecks to dive to. There are caves, canyons and coral to explore with visibility at an excellent 30-60 metres.

Reef to See - Offers snorkelling and diving on the islands fringing reef. Informative, safe and fun. Tourism CI Accredited. T Margaret or Terry 22212

Raro Lagoon Scuba - Based at the Pacific Resort Beach Hut, this outfit offers free demos before you decide to book one of their scuba trips. T 20427

Pacific Divers - Located at Muri Beach, offers PADI courses whilst two-tank dives are their speciality. dive@ t/f 22-450

Dive Rarotonga - Make 2 daily dive trips as well as snorkelling trips on request. T 21-873 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cook Island Divers - Offices in Avarua and Arorangi offering 4-day PADI and NAUI courses. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. t 22-483 f 22-484


other activities


South Pacific Sailing Tours - Experience sailing on their trimaran 'Hotel California', whilst taking you out to the best snorkelling and whale watching sites around the island. Also offer sunset and overnight cruises. t 23577 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. PO Box 394.

Teking Aitutaki Water Taxi Service - Offers trips to Maina (Honeymoon Island) as well as snorkelling and fish feeding. Private charters available. Tourism CI Accredited. Contact Teariki George t/f 31-582 Bookings and reservation essential.

Raro Mountain Safari Tours - An ideal way to see the island is to undertake a 3.5-hour 4x4 tour of the interior. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. t 23629

Tandem Microlight Flights - Has various options available. Whether you simply want to take in the magnificent views of the island or whether you wish to earn your wings on a micro light, talk to the island's only micro light company. T 55311

Going Loco - An unusual yet very interesting outing is to experience riding on the island's only steam railway. This polish locomotive arrived on the island as part of a long-term project to establish the Rarotonga Steam Railway. Open every Saturday 10am-5pm. Located off the main road in Upper Tupapa (Just look for the unmistakable sign!).

Cook Islands Cultural Village - Featuring thatch huts, the village is a showcase to traditional Cook Island living. See crafts in the making, cooking and dancing. Various 'itineraries' are available. T 21-314

Pa's Nature Walks - Whether you do the Cross Island Mountain Trek or the Nature Walk, you'll definitely learn a lot about how local wild plants have been used for cooking and medicinal remedies. A great day out away from the beach! T21-079




Internet - There's a growing list of internet availability on Rarotonga. Prices from $9-15/hour:

Muri - The Internet Cafe serves fresh juice and drinks and also buys and sells magazines and books. 25C/min

Avarua - Don't bother with many of the ones in town where the going rates are as much as $15-21! There's a small computer store in Ingram House, just past the market place, which will only cost you $9/hr. Alternatively, behind The Cafe there's another place that charges $10.90/hr on a prepay basis. The Telecom Centre is expensive and a bit out of the way!

Telephone - Telephoning to or from the Cooks is expensive. Typically expect to pay $4/hour not forgetting the 40c connection fee. ''Kia Orana' Telephone cards ($10 and $50) can be used with most phones.




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getting around


Travelling around the Rarotonga is both easy and safe. Whether you wish to cycle, drive, use the islands buses or simply wish to walk around, it won't take long to travel between places. For example, cycling from Muri Beach to Avarua will only take 30-40 minutes.


Rentals - The island has an abundance of rental companies who offer mokes, jeeps, cars, mopeds or bicycles:

Budget 20-895
Avis 21-901
Tipani Rentals 22-327
Rarotonga Rentals 22-326 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Bookings advised.
Polynesian Bike Hire 20-895
Terekira Bike Rentals


Book your car rental here!




Taxis - There are plenty of taxis around the island although you'll probably have to phone for one unless you're in town:

Tiare Transport - The friendly and amiable Henry Hoff specialises in 24-hour taxi service, tours and hotel-airport transfers. T 55-217/29-629 (PO Box 516, Rarotonga, CI).
A's Taxi 27-021
Ngatangiia Taxi 22-238
BK Taxi 20-019
Muri Beach Taxi 21-625


Public transport


Public transport consists of the islands efficient buses, which travel on the hour from Avarua in opposite directions. A great way to meet the locals and to see the island. Get on and off where you want.




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reading list


To get you in the mood of the Pacific lifestyle here are a few of our recommend books:




Rarotonga & the Cook Islands, Lonely Planet - simply the best, indispensable guide to the islands. Although, now 6 years old it still informs you all there is to know.
On the Road to Rarotonga: You Gave Up Your Careers to Do What?
How to Get Lost and Found in the Cook Islands 
A Cook Islands Maori Coursebook: Cook Island Maori Coursebook
Pacific Island Style:Contemporary Pacific style is a blend of the cultures from the many islands of the Pacific and colonial influences.



Click here for more many more links to Cook Island reference books, maps, music etc




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For further information about the Cooks here are our recommended websites:


Cook Islands Tourism Corporation This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Telecom Cook Islands - Amongst the usual telecom products (phone and mobile rentals etc), also provider of the islands only ISP.


Air Rarotonga


Budget This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Cook Islands News


Takitumu Conservation Area Provides info about guided forest walks and an insight into conservation projects on the island.

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