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Rarotonga

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia Cook Islands Rarotonga

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Introduction

Rarotonga Beach

Rarotonga Beach

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Rarotonga is the largest of the 15 islands which make up the Cook Islands. The population of Rarotonga is around 9,000. The island is one of the most beautiful in the South Pacific making it popular with around 90,000 visitors each year. The volcanic peaks and white sandy beaches with overhanging palm trees, inside a coral reef make Rarotonga a paradise island.

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Geography

Rarotonga is in the southern island group of the Cook Islands, with only Mangaia being further south. Just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, Rarotonga is at 160 degrees west.

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Principal Towns

Avarua Harbour Rarotonga

Avarua Harbour Rarotonga

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  • Arorangi
  • Avarua is the capital of Rarotonga.
  • Matavera
  • Muri
  • Ngatangiia
  • Nikao
  • Rutaki
  • Titikaveka
  • Tupapa
  • Vaimaanga

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Sights and Activities

  • Diving and snorkelling are very popular both inside and outside the coral reef.
  • Game fishing trips can be taken in small fishing boats or in a traditional Polynesian outrigger boat.
  • Hiking across the island is popular, but a local guide is recommended.
  • Pa’s Palace was built of coral and lime.
  • Muri Beach is one of the best spots for swimming, snorkelling and sailing.
  • Papua (Wigmore’s) Waterfall is small with an area to swim at the base. There are more insects here than anywhere else on the island, so take bug repellent.

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Events and Festivals

Punanganui Market

Punanganui Market

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  • The Cook Islands Games are held in April.
  • Island Nights are an experience not to be missed, blending a traditional Polynesian feast with dancing. These are held at several locations and resorts each week.
  • Punanganui Market caters for both locals and tourists and runs each Saturday morning from 6:00am until noon.
  • Rarotonga Gospel Day in late July and a public holiday.

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Weather

See the Cook Islands main article for details on the weather.

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Getting there

By Plane

Rarotonga International Airport (RAR) is 3 kilometres west of Avarua. There are only a few airlines flying to the Cook Islands and their routes are subject to change.

By Boat

There are no regular ferries to and from Rarotonga. The only option is to take a cruise which stops at the island. Unless you have your own yacht of course or have passage on one.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Rarotonga is a small island with a single airport.

By Train

There are no trains on Rarotonga.

By Car

The most popular way to travel around the island is by motor scooter. These, along with cars, can be hired from a variety of local companies across the island. To drive legally on Rarotonga, it is necessary to hold a Cook Islands driving licence. These are issued at the police station in Avarua at a cost of NZ$20. Be aware that the licence covers you from the date of issue up to your next birthday.

By Bus

There are two public bus routes that travel around the island. One goes clockwise, the other travels anti-clockwise. Tickets are $4.00 wherever you want to go and $7.00 for a round trip. If you expect to use the bus on a regular basis, ask the driver for an extended ticket, which will be better value than single trips. The buses originate and terminate in Avarua and you can flag one down everywhere along the road or get our everywhere as well. Buses don't run on Sunday and only half a day on Saturdays.

By Boat

There are several fishing boats which offer trips around the island.

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Eat

Rarotonga boasts plenty of places to eat. There are restaurants scattered around the island. These are often small family run operations offering a range of locally produced food. Each main resort has a restaurant and non-residents are welcome. Prices vary, with the smaller family restaurants being very inexpensive, with some resorts being quite costly.

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Drink

Matutu Brewery is based on Rarotonga and produces local beers. There is a choice of bottled or draft lager and pale ale. These are available in all of the island bars and many shops. Other drinks are imported from New Zealand or Australia. Sunday is a day of rest in the Cook Islands and all bars close at midnight on Saturday. A few places do serve alcohol on Sunday, but the majority only offer soft drinks. Locally fruit is grown in abundance and a fruit smoothie is an ideal alternative to something stronger.

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Sleep

On Rarotonga you are spoiled for choice with accommodation. Shared hostel accommodation is very cheap and is a great way to meet fellow travellers. Family owned beach bungalows are both popular and numerous. Most of these are self-catering and some have a small restaurant nearby. At the top end of the market are the resorts, catering for all meals and have comfortable but sometimes quite basic rooms. Camping is not permitted on the island.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Aremango GuesthouseP.O Box 3115, Avarua Muri Lagoon Beach,Guesthouse85
Atupa Orchid BungalowsAvarua, Rarotonga P.O. Box 64Guesthouse79
Backpackers InternationalP O Box 878 AvaruaHostel73
Tiare VillagePO Box 719 Atupa RarotongaHostel80
Vara's Beach HousePO Box 434 Muri BeachHostel-
Raro Beach BachVaimaanga Turoa BeachHotel-
Vaimaanga Views StudioVaimaangaAPARTMENT-
Rarotonga Vacation VillasKiikii, Tupapa Avarua (P.O. Box 629)Guesthouse-

References

  1. 1 Air Tahiti Website (Sourced:Feb 10, 2011)

Quick Facts

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Capital
Avarua
Population
9,000 est.
Coordinates
  • Latitude: -21.229237
  • Longitude: -159.776349

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