Not being quite sure what to expect from THE LARGEST AND THE MOST POPULOUS of all the Cook islands we landed at the foot of its beautiful mountains in a stormy morning and immediately felt ready to explore! As we were coming from the surreal AITUTAKI, where we were enjoying our relaxed and well-deserved holidays on some of the world´s best beaches, we thought – Rarotonga can never beat that! And honestly, it really can´t. But nonetheless it is an amazing island and we LOVED ITS HILLY INTERIOR which we sadly did not have time to really explore this time. Rarotonga is definitely not much behind on the awesomeness scale! Due to a series of events we only had 2 days, but I think we used them really well ;). Read more about what we did!
Visited: Avarua town, Nikao, Black Rock Beach, Punanga Nui market, Muri beach, Titikaveka Beach, The Edgewater Resort
How: local bus, on foot
Stayed in: apartment
WE VISITED RAROTONGA WHEN LU WAS 5 YEARS OLD. MORE ABOUT RAROTONGA WITH KIDS IS COMING SOON.
HOW TO GET THERE
The journey to Rarotonga is pretty LONG AND EXPENSIVE if you are flying in from Europe. The quickest way is flying via LOS ANGELES, there is 1 flight a week. There are also has direct connections with AUCKLAND, SYDNEY and 2 times a week to TAHITI. We flew Frankfurt – Singapore – Auckland – Rarotonga – Aitutaki – Rarotonga.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Going around Rarotonga is pretty easy – either you RENT A CAR OR A MOTORBIKE in one of the many offices, or you simply TAKE THE BUS. We chose the bus this time – there is just ONE MAIN ROAD CIRCLING THE ISLAND and on it there are buses going in one direction (CLOCKWISE BUS) and buses driving in the other direction (ANTI-CLOCKWISE BUS).
As you see buses do not have numbers as there is just one route. Get yourselves a BUS TIMETABLE, because in the afternoon and in the evening the buses only drive in one direction. It takes around 1 HOUR TO GET AROUND THE ISLAND, the bus wills top anywhere you want and you can buy a SINGLE TICKET or a DAY TICKET (if you make more than 3 stops the day ticket is already worth buying). There are bus stations but basically you can just wave to the bus and it will stop for you ;).
This is a very popular tourist destination with lots of different accommodation possibilities – from the really posh & expensive resorts and private villas, to more affordable rooms in cheaper hotels. It does not really matter so much as you will most likely spend the days outside – so you can save some $ if you stay in a smaller hotel which is not directly on the beach.
There are lots of different LOCAL SPECIALITIES and some really interesting VEGETABLES we have never eaten before, but the simple but we also could not go pass extremely tasty FISH & CHIPS. And I´m not talking about some random white fish, no no, this was the finest TUNA you can imagine. Especially the beer-battered one! And served in the best possible way – rolled up in paper and no cutlery available – just use your hands. Yummy ;).
It is not the cheapest destination you can imagine, but compared to AITUTAKI, it was cheaper. We could see why here there was much more tourism also (firstly, because the island is much larger, there are more accommodation possibilities, it only takes one international flight and so on). Food and buying groceries was more affordable here. So if you really wish to go to Cook islands but are worried about your expanses, Rarotonga is your winner!
WHAT WE SAW & DID
We first planned to stay a full week on Rarotonga, but HAD TO SHORTEN OUR STAY TO 2 DAYS, because one of our flights got cancelled and the only other option was to leave much earlier. We thought we cannot see much in 2 days, but in the end, we did!
We circled the island 2 times and stopped at some awesome beaches, explored the main town (okay, mostly markets and shops!) and were really IMPRESSED BY THE MIGHTY MOUNTAINS! Unfortunately there was no time for a SERIOUS HIKE, but this is definitely something we are doing if we ever come back again ;).
BLACK ROCK BEACH
Our PLANE FROM AITUTAKI landed in the morning and after we dropped the backpacks at our apartment, we were eager to get and MAKE THE MOST OUT OF OUR SHORT VISIT!
I still cannot believe we actually walked to this beach from the airport in the middle of the day when it was really hot but for some reason we really felt like walking. The beach itself is really NICE TO SWIM AT, because the water is deep enough even when the tide time comes. There are also some CORALS YOU CAN SNORKEL AROUND, although some of them are dead.
The best thing to do here is also to CLIMB ON THE TOP OF THE HUGE BLACK ROCK to get an impressive view on the beach. There are also LOTS OF CORAL PIECES ON THE BEACH, so some areas around the rocks are not for gentle feet ;).
We were so lazy here, so we took our time to observe the LITTLE CRABS, COLLECTED SHELLS (and of course left them on the beach when we left) and after a couple of hours, when we felt really hungry, walked a little bit more in search of an restaurant.
Easier said than dome, as a couple of restaurants we saw on the way were closed (opened late in the afternoon or in the evening), so we WALKED AND WALKED AD WALKED (and admired the beautiful scenery) until we reached a beautiful RESORT. We thought there has to be food, so we entered – nobody seemed to mind we were not guests of the resort.
THE EDGEWATER RESORT AND SPA
Mmmm finally WE FOUND FOOD! The best thing about RAROTONGA is also the fact that ALL BEACHES ARE PUBLIC. This means you can basically walk into a resort and swim at their beach. Well, we also ATE LUNCH (yumm tuna steaks with local vegetables), had a BEER and an ICE CREAM there, so they also got something from us ;).
The BEACH WAS BEAUTIFUL! And the skies completely cleared up so we enjoyed our afternoon under the sun to the fullest.
AITUTAKI, where we spent the last 8 days before coming to Rarotonga, was pretty flat (except for that one highest hill), so seeing this wonderful lush forests covering the mountains was a SPECTACULAR SIGHT every time we turned away from the beach and faced the inner part of the island.
AVARUA TOWN & PUNANGA NUI MARKET
The NEXT MORNING we left immediately after breakfast and our first stop was the famous PUNANGA NUI MARKET on the waterfront in Avarua. It is a “MUST DO” for tourists, because all the islands CULTURAL HERITAGE is represented here. The market is opened every day but SATURDAY is the most important day, with a LIVE SHOW on the stage – make sure you visit before 2pm when it closes!
We expected a middle sized market (as it was the main one on the island), but what awaited us was something completely different – it was HUGE! And they have everything, from snacks, to vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, clothes, arts, souvenirs, music, ice cream and more. We strolled around and simply enjoyed the atmosphere.
At the edge of the market we also found this PLAYGROUND, which was quite big and of course we had to stop for a while ;).
Next stop – the BEACH, what else! We decided to take the first swim of the day at the famous and the most popular beach on the island, MURI BEACH. It was a really nice one, with some SHOPS, RESTAURANTS, BARS & smaller HOTELS along the main road and some more expensive RESORTS by the beach.
We walked from one side to the other, in search for a PERFECT SPOT IN THE SHADE, which we found without a problem. The beach itself looked a bit more lively as some other ones we were at the previous days. There are a couple of SMALLER ISLANDS around – many hotel guests seem to be KAYAKING and SNORKELLING round them. Here were some corals also, but not so many fish.
The only problem was – it was the 31st OF JANUARY and everyone was preparing for the NEW YEARS EVE so all the restaurants and bars were too busy to bother with customers as they had to prepare for the big night. So everything was CLOSED. We were soooo hungry, so we found a very expensive SNACK SHOP, splurged on a beer each and waited for the bus to come. We had one more beautiful beach in mind and we simply could not leave Rarotonga without seeing it ;).
Here we were! A bus stop in the middle of nowhere, the driver pointed towards left and commented “there is the beach”. Alright! But we did not find a real track or a path, we only saw some private houses. Then one of the friendly locals simply let us walk through his WONDERFUL GARDEN and after a funny small talk we were on the most AMAZING BEACH!
We passed a family cleaning fish, preparing them for the BBQ, got our feet wet in a WATER STREAM and threw our towels under the first PALM TREE we encountered. With a view like this! There was no argument, this WAS THE BEST BEACH ON RAROTONGA!
It was very hot and all we wanted was to jump into the sea. So we did 😉 Don´t forget your SNORKELLING GEAR if you are heading to this beach, there are quite some CORALS.
We would not be us if we did not do a WALK ON THE BEACH ;). It was so peaceful here and other than one RESORT (where you can see the hammocks) and some tourists having pre-new year´s Gin&Tonics in the shallow water, there was nobody around. Just the palm trees and the coconuts. How beautiful!
It was our LAST SWIM ON COOK ISLANDS – well, at least for a while ;). In the evening we were packing and CELEBRATING NEW YEAR´S, saying goodbye to the old and embracing the new – we do not make any new year RESOLUTIONS, but I remember saying something like: “we have to come back here again!” It did sound dangerously like a resolution! It is not the worst one, I would say ;). WE LOVED COOK ISLANDS!
There is something really wrong with taking a flight on the 1st OF JANUARY, especially if it´s at 8:00 in the morning. We were sooo tired, but EXCITED, because no no we were NOT GOING HOME JUST YET – we were off to AUCKLAND where we picked up a car and set of to our short NEW ZELAND ROAD TRIP! You can read about that in a new post soon ;).
PIN FOR LATER