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Rarotonga is by far the most populated of the Cook Islands and its township of Avarua is the capital. Located in the southern group of islands, it is known just as Raro locally.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Rarotonga International Airport (IATA: RAR) is the main gateway to the Cook Islands. There are daily services to Auckland. The international airlines are:

The Air NZ flights depart too early and arrive too late for connections to Australia.

Air New Zealand has code share arrangements with all other Star Alliance members including United Airlines and Rarotonga is a popular stopover on round-the-world flights.

Avarua harbour

There is a Westpac ATM at arrivals after you pass through immigration and customs. There are two duty free stores open to meet all incoming international flights. There is a cafe open in the departures area for departing flights.

Get around[edit]

Rarotonga is made up of districts containing several villages located mainly around the coastal fringe of the island. Avarua is the main village on the northern side of the island and has most of the population and services. People tend to refer to it as the town. Muri on the eastern side is probably the main tourist centre, with apartments and the Pacific Resort scattered around the lagoon. Aroa is on the western side is a protected lagoon and beach, and home to the Rarotongan. The airport situated in Nikao, is close to Avarua, about 2km anti-clockwise.

Rarotonga's main island is encircled by a 32km two-lane (one each way) bitumen road that is in good condition. There is also an inner road that is paved, but narrow, and doesn't quite go around the entire island due to property owners.

Expect a remarkable number of chickens to cross the road. It is hard to understand why they do this, but they do. Dogs, walkers, children, and coconuts provide other obstacles on the roads that keep driving interesting. The speed limit is 50km/h, with 30km/h in some towns. Allowing 30 minutes should really get you to the furthest point on the island, provided you start off in the right direction.

The main road is called Ara Tapu. The inner road, Ara Metua, links side roads between the inner and outer roads and have more recently been given names. Addresses with just the village name in the address can be assumed to be on the main road, or not far from it. The local free maps available at the airport and tourist information are quite detailed, and list the villages, and most places of visitor interest.

If you head off on any of the unsealed roads that start off heading inland, expect them to quickly peter out to narrow unsealed roads, with stream crossings often more suited to quad bikes.

By car[edit]

The requirement to obtain a $20 Cook Islands driver's license has been rescinded, although it does make a nice souvenir, you can drive on the island(s) for up to 6 months as long as you hold a valid drivers license from your home country.

There are plenty of rental car choices around the island. Some operate from multiple locations. Expect to pay around $50-60 per day for a small car. $15-20 extra to pick up or drop from the airport. The opening hours, like everything else on Rarotonga can be limited. Expect many to open around 09:00, and close again before 16:00 on weekdays, expect some to be open for very limited times on Sundays, if at all, the accomodations at which you are staying can often times be of great service in assisting you with a rental car.

By motor scooter[edit]

To drive a scooter you need a Cook Islands driver’s license. If you don't have a motorbike licence, be prepared to do a short test, which requires you to zigzag between cones to demonstrate that you are able to control a bike. Some places can issue you with a temporary license for $10, no test or queueing up required.

The licensing section at the Police HQ in Avarua is open 08:00-12:00 and 13:00-15:00. The drivers license office stops administering the tests at 14:30 so it's best to arrive in the morning or as close to 13:00 as possible to ensure that you can get your license. Pay $20 for the licence, and $5 for the test. If you happen to be travelling to Aitutaki it is wise to obtain your licence there, because there are no queues and it costs $2.50 instead of $20. On the other islands, nobody asks for a licence.

It is not compulsory to wear helmets by law, unless the speed for motorised scooters and motor bikes is exceeded (40km/h).

There are lots of motor scooter hire options. You will find a couple in most villages. Expect to pay around $20 per day or $100 a week for scooter hire.

By bus[edit]

Digital watch owners, beware

Buses circle the island clockwise and counterclockwise every hour. Clockwise buses leave town on the hour, and counterclockwise at 25 minutes past the hour, and take around 55 minutes for the trip. The locals all own scooters, so it is usually visitors using the bus service. The counterclockwise buses break for lunch, and don't run Saturday afternoons, Sundays, early mornings or in the evenings. The clockwise buses do not run on Sunday evenings either. The sign on the front of the bus states its direction. If you're going to use it regularly, you can buy a day pass or a book of 10 tickets.

The bus has designated stops on the map, and there are a few bus shelters around to wait in. However the bus will pick up and drop off almost anywhere on the round island route, although the drivers prefer spots where they can pull off the road to let traffic pass. Single trips are $5, return trips are $8, a day pass is $16. All-day family passes cost $26, for two adults and an unlimited amount of children in the one family (children are 15 and under). A pass for 10 one-way trips is $30.

Some buses have buttons to request a stop, but these are just for show. Pressing them will probably see you doing another lap of the island. Simply stand up and tell the driver when you want to get off.

By bike[edit]

Bicycles would seem to be a very practical way of getting around. Road speeds are slow, and taking the inner road is also an option for cyclists. However it is very tiring in the heat for non-experienced cyclists and you will be constantly overtaken by buses, cars and scooters. It is illegal for bicycles (and scooters) to travel two abreast, and you must ride single file at the left of the lane.

Bicycle hire is available widely, most rental places and resorts have them. Don't expect them to be very high in quality.

By foot[edit]

The villages tend to be around 15-20 minutes walk from each other. Most places on the island are within walking distance to a beach, an ATM or small convenience store. There aren't many footpaths outside of Avarua & Arorangi, but traffic is slow and walking on the main road isn't a problem. Walk on the RIGHT hand side facing the oncoming traffic on your side of the road, please. Walking along the beach between villages is usually possible, especially at low tide.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Rugby Union is the primary sport here, as in New Zealand. Check out a game at the National Stadium, or one of the other rugby fields around the island.
  • Maire Nui Gardens, is the botanical gardens of the island, around 3km clockwise from Muri, about 600m past the Fruits of Rarotonga. The gardens are nicely laid out, and contain many samples of much of the fruit and flora of the islands. Admission is $4. There is a cafe in the gardens, selling coffee ($4) and light homemade quiche and focaccia ($15-20). Pineapple cheesecake is amazing ($9). As of September 2012 the cafe was closed, but the gardens themselves still open.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • The Dive Centre (The Big Fish), Aroa Beach, +682 20238, [1]. 08:00-17:00. Padi 5 Star full service dive operation, direct in front of one of the best snorkel spots in Raroronga - The Aroa Marine Reserve. They offer a wide range of courses from introductory courses up to Divemaster. Boat trips twice a day and also Lagoon dives. Onsite they have a well equipped retail shop and snorkel hire.  edit
  • Marlin Queen, +682 55-202, [2]. Rated as the best fishing charter within Rarotonga. Marlin Queen provides a full itinerary game fishing experience. Authentic experience with local guides.  edit
  • Captain Tamas Cruizes, Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga, +682 27350, [3]. Rated one of the best attractions on the island. Experience local music, food and dancing while cruising around Rarotonga's Muri Lagoon.  edit
  • Akura Fishing Charters, +682 54355, [4]. Game Fishing Charter that provide private and shared chartered boats. Include top-quality gear and the staff make sure you get the best possible experience. Staff will even fillet fish caught on the trip.  edit
  • Seafari Fishing Charters, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 00682 55096, [5]. The longest operating charter business in the Cook Islands, operating daily. Private and shared charters available. Home catered lunches, Filleted fish to take home to eat.  edit
  • Pacific Divers (The Cook Islands leading dive operator.), Muri, +682 22450, [6]. Established 15 years ago and currently operated by Steve Lyon, Pacific Divers offers a comprehensive and enjoyable diving service catering for all levels. Dives include coral terrain dives, canyons, drop offs and drifts. Fish life is varied and includes Hawksbill and Green turtles, White Tip and Grey Reef sharks, Napoleon Wrasse, Giant Moray, Giant Clams and the myriad of reef fish and invertebrates you’d expect to see on a coral reef.  edit

Scuba Diving[edit]

The diving in and around the reef is breathtaking. With warm tropical waters of around 27 degrees C in summer time, only a short 3mm wetsuit is required. If you are a certified diver, you can book a dive with one of many dive operators on the main island. A two tank boat dive will cost you about $140 with all equipment provided.

There are wrecks (but well broken up) to explore, small cave systems and plenty of fish. In August you should be lucky enough to experience diving with whales that are passing by the island.

Black Rock, located on the west coast of Rarotonga, is great for snorkeling


  • Te Maire Maeva Nui (Cultural Festival of music and dance) Each year, performing artists from Rarotonga and the outer islands gather at the National Auditorium in Rarotonga to present traditional dances, songs, chants, drum beats and costumes expressing the cultural theme chosen for that particular year.
  • Vaka Eiva (Canoeing Festival) The Rarotonga Steinlager Vaka Eiva has to be rated as one of the most fun outrigger canoe festivals in the world.


Snorkelling in Rarotonga is easy, and a great variety of tropical fish and corals can be seen snorkelling off the beaches in calm waters all around the island. Not all beaches are suitable - some rocky beaches are not so pleasant but head for the coral lagoons and sandy beaches.

Muri beach offers beautiful clear, shallow water - it remains shallow very far out so is ideal for beginners, and perhaps a bit better on the high tide. You can also book on a snorkelling cruise around this lagoon in a glass-bottomed boat, stopping off to snorkel by a small island, and a barbecue lunch and cultural show on the other side of the lagoon, however this doesn't really take you anywhere a competent swimmer with fins can't get to from the beach. Watch out for the currents between the island and the beach on the tide.

Snorkelling can be done at the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve directly in front of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa, you can access the lagoon either side of the resort. The Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve has been continuously operating as a dedicated Marine Reserve in Rarotonga as well as being a natural breeding ground for several hundreds of species of tropical reef fish. The result is that you will be able to see hundreds of fish with metres of the white sand shores of Aroa Beach. There is no need to feed the fish! and please avoid standing on the corals. Snorkelling equipment, lessons and guided snorkelling tours (both night and day) are complimentary to guests of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa or are available at The Dive Centre just 200m up the road. Expect large schools of Trevally, Moray Eels, butterfly fish, sea bream, wrasse and much more. Also expect to see octopuses, clams, and eels.

Also try the beach in front of the Fruits of Rarotonga, which is where the first permanent marine reserve was established on Rarotonga.

In front of fruits of Rarotonga the snorkelling is quite good, also try in front of The Dive centre - right next to the Rarotongan Resort.


Off the perimeter road, the terrain is rough

There are several inland walking tracks which can be followed for a pleasant few hours in the bush. The Needle & Cross-Island Walk crosses the island from Uruau Drive to Wigmore's Waterfall and is steep and challenging in places. The Raemaru track goes up to Raemaru Peak (350m).

Rarotonga was formed by a giant, rocky volcano. Just a few thousand years ago, it collapsed into a beautiful, round island teeming with wildlife. There are lots of small peaks around the area and waterfalls hidden in mini-sanctuaries around the jungle. They are easy to tramp to and to bike to.

There are walks along streams providing opportunities for fresh water swimming.

The local guidebooks recommend a guide for the more difficult treks which cost around $60 which includes a lunch and transportation to and from the trail heads. For people who are experienced hikers this is not the case. The needle trail is marked with green markers. Guides are good for information on local flora and fauna. A guidebook is available at the Treasure Chest which has topographical maps along with information on flora and fauna.

Jet Blast[edit]

The Sea wall is relatively close to the airport, you can stand on the sea wall and when the jets come in it's about ten feet above your head. Check the wind sock to see which direction the planes will land. The locals call this getting jet blasted. If getting jetblasted during landing is a bit too tame, head for the eastern end of the runway: Getting jetblasted during takeoff is much more exciting (and deafening if you live dangerously and forgo the reasonable precaution of earplugs).


Muri lagoon is a great place to windsurf, although the winds are never really that strong, great for beginners. You can rent them in the building right beside the sailing club.

Buy[edit][add listing]

There are ANZ and Westpac ATM's scattered at regular intervals along the villages of the main road. All the supermarkets accept credit cards for supplies purchased above $20 minimum. Currency exchange is available at the ANZ, Westpac banks and Western Union in Avarua, and the fees for exchange are around $8 per transaction.

Due to import of supplies, non-local foods and groceries are expensive, therefore it is worth the trip into Avarua to shop at the large grocery outlets. Expect the range available to be limited to service the small island population.

Black pearls are local produce, and there are several shops selling these in Avarua and other villages.

The resorts at the Rarotongan and Pacific have their own resort shops, as do some of the smaller accommodation providers.

Every Saturday there is a growers market in Avarua, called Punanga Nui, where you can listen to live music buy music, local fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, souvenirs and cooked food platters. It ends at noon, make sure you get there before then. There is also a variety of food stalls at the market.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Local produce tends to be seasonal. Mangoes grow wild, and are plentiful and cheap during summer. Avocados are also plentiful in summer/autumn. Outside of season, however, these fruits can be hard to come by. Passionfruit, guava and paw-paw and oranges are other seasonal fruits freshly available in season. Starfruit, pawpaw and coconuts tend to be plentiful year round, and these can be just as cheap at the village convenience stores as they can be in Avarua. Fresh reef fish is available daily near the harbour in Avarua, but not in the supermarket. Taro, kumara (sweet potato), and breadfruit are also grown locally, and make delicious island fries. Fidjian spinach known as Bele is popular, as are the leaves of the Taro,called "rukau" and which are commonly available.

There is an Island Night on every night at one of the resorts. Ask at tourist information for the roster for the resorts.

There a selection of some 30+ restaurants and cafes on the island to choose from. Making a booking can be a good idea, if you want to be sure not to end up hungry. Pacific Rim, Italian, pizza, Mexican, are all options, or try the seafood platter at the Sailing Club on the lagoon at Muri, with reef fish, octopus, and rukau (taro leaves). The resorts and some of the other accommodation all have a choice of restaurants.

Expect to pay around $18-25 at a restaurant for a main course. Burgers at Fruits of Rarotonga cost $6. There are takeaway hot meals in Avarua for $7. Espresso coffee is available widely, expect to pay $4, look for some blends of Atiu coffee to try the local produce or coffee from the "Cook Islands Coffee Company", imported beans locally roasted [20].

Drink[edit][add listing]

The island has major problems with waste management, so please consider using the available refilling facilities for water and beer. Drinking coconuts also produces no non biodegradable waste.

Vaima drinking water is locally produced. It is available in many supermarkets and can be refilled on the back road in Avarua.

There are 2 microbreweries on the island, so before you buy imported beer and produce even more waste on the island it's a good idea to try the local beer which you both can refill:

  • Matutu Brewery, Tikioki, Titikaveka, Rarotonga (100m anti-clockwise from Fruits of Rarotonga, 10 min walk from Muri), +682 26288, [7]. 09:00-16:00. Matutu Brewery a 100% locally owned micro-brewery in the Cook Islands. The microbrewery produces Mai Lager, Kiva Pale Ale & Matutu Draught. Sales at the door, or they will fill containers. The beer is available in most restaurants to try and can be purchased at Foodland, Super Brown and Oasis supermarkets.  edit
  • Cook Islands Brewery, (just behind the Budget car hire in Avarua). They offer an informal tour of the brewery (and taste of the beers on draught); look for the sign on the main road. They brew a lager, blonde, and darkie. You can buy and refill containers.  edit

Imported alcohol can be purchased in the supermarkets and convenience stores until 21:00 - but not on a Sunday.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are a few backpacker type places, many villas, from large complexes to one or two villas in a group. There is also resort style accommodation.

Consider where on the island you want to stay, and pick a location near a beach or lagoon if you are looking for the beach and snorkelling activities. The accommodation providers are used to people arriving and departing at odd hours, according to the flight schedules. Don't expect any discounts for arriving at accommodation at 02:00, and expect to pay extra to check in early or to get a late checkout. Resorts like the Rarotongan and the Pacific have their rates for early and late checkout by the hour on their website.


  • Rarotonga Backpackers, (682) 21590, [8]. slap bang on the western end of the island right on the beach. Unparalleled views of the sunset. Dorm beds are NZ$25 per night (NZ$23 if staying 3 nights or longer. Communal kitchen, lounge, swimming pool, BBQs, and internet access. The sunset views along are worth the price! Airport transfers are $10 per person  edit
  • Backpackers International hostel. A family-run place with internet access (slow!), kitchen facilities and, it's close to the beach. The hostel also offers pick-up (and drop-off) service at the airport. 'Bill' is a great source of information about the Island and its recent history.


  • Mama Ru's Bungalows (On the beach. Secluded.), Avarua Rarotonga, +682 29-066 (), [9]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Three meters to the beach. A very private setting with spectacular gardens and wildlife. Best snorkeling on the island. NZD149.  edit
  • Titikaveka Club Pacific, Tikioki Beach (on the beach), +64 21 213 2955 (), [10]. New accommodation situated on the south-east part of the island offers private accommodation in a relaxing location with amazing views - and a 5 second walk to the beach. Facilities are brand new.  edit
  • Vara's Accommodation, (about 15 minutes outside of town in the clockwise direction, on Muri beach.), +682 23156, [11]. checkin: Flexible; checkout: 10:00. Vara's has many different types of accommodations, ranging from the dorm rooms to the Grand View Lodge. Split between the hillside location, which is usually quieter and has a pool, and the beach there are quite a few beds available. The beach dorms look out over the lagoon to the east, and share the best beach on the island with the expensive resort hotels. Vara's beach location has a, perhaps well deserved, reputation for late night revelry and partying. If you are looking for quiet and solitude this is perhaps not the best location, but if you are looking to meet people and have a good time you will find that at Vara's. One of the best features of Vara's is that the Koka Shack is on premise. This business offers kayak and snorkelling gear rental, as well as spear fishing, deep sea fishing, guided hikes, BBQs, poker nights, betting days, and plenty of games. By organizing these events on premise you get to know many of the people staying with you. $25-160.  edit


  • The Edgewater Resort & Spa, Ara Tapu, Arorangi District, Cook Islands, +682 25 435, [12]. On 6 acres of lush, tropical beachfront grounds on the sheltered western coast of Rarotonga, the Edgewater Resort & Spa is only a 5-minute drive from the International Airport and 3 miles from Avarua township. The Resort provides free on-site parking.  edit
  • Ara Tapu, Avarua District, Cook Islands, +682 22 415, [13]. One of our top picks in Rarotonga. This beachfront resort is set amongst beautiful mosaic pathways, swaying palm trees and tropical gardens. Guests can relax around the swimming pool or enjoy cocktails at the swim-up bar.
  • The Rarotongan Beach Resort & SpaAroa Beach (PO Box 103, Rarotonga), Rutaki, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, +682 25 900, [14]. One of our top picks in Rarotonga. This 4-star resort, situated on a private beach, features a restaurant, bar, outdoor pool and luxury day spa. Guests can enjoy a relaxing massage on the beach. Free continental breakfast is included.  edit
  • Edgewater Resort & Spa, Avarua, +682 254 35 (fax: +682 254 75), [16].  edit
  • Pacific Resort Rarotonga (Muri Beach), +682 20427 (fax: +682 22427), [17]. 64 room waterfront resort right on Muri Beach with bar and restaurant. Cultural shows on Monday and Friday nights.  edit
  • The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa, Aroa Beach & Marine Reserve, +682 25800, [18]. checkin: 1400; checkout: 1000. Directly on Aroa Beach & Marine Reserve, snorkelling direct from the beach. Daily resort activities, swimming pool, air-conditioned rooms, and a choice of buffet ($36), a-la-carte restaurants ($18-27) and cafe ($5-10). Bar and restaurants open to guests and casual diners. Family friendly with a kids club for young kids, and kids are welcome at the activities. Interconnecting rooms and two bedroom bungalows available.  edit
  • Vai Villas, Vaimaanga, Titikaveka (Opposite Wigmores Superstore), +682 23333, [19]. Vai Villas offers two spacious one bedroom Pacific Island style villas overlooking the Titikaveka lagoon, a quiet and peaceful beach. $275 (2 persons) - additional person $45 '''minimum stay 3 nights'''.  edit


Mobile phone towers are located at regular intervals around the island, and mobile reception is good. Roaming or picking up a prepaid SIM card are both options.

Payphones are available at the airport and in Avarua.

Wi-Fi hot spots are available in Avarua, and now widely found at the resorts, hotels, and many restaurants. You are never more than a few minutes from one, but there is no free access. Internet terminals are located in Avarua, in the resorts, and at the airport. Expect to pay $2-$3 for ten minutes or so. Some resorts have internet access provided by Zenbu wireless. Rates are $0.10 per MB so 100MB costs $10, 500MB costs $50, etc.

Internet access is extremely expensive. Telecom Cook Islands (BlueSky) offers Wi-Fi hot spots at their office, in some hotels and restaurants, and at the airport (beware, it works only before security checks, once you're in you have no more reception and cannot finish the rest of your credit! Clever, eh?). Prepaid cards in various denominations can be purchased from the hotels and the post office. Logically, data is measured, not time. You can now (July 2016) buy a visitor's SIM card from BlueSky for $49 from the BlueSky shops which will last 30 days and includes 30 minutes of local calls, 300 texts and 3GB of data which is the best deal available by far.

Get out[edit]

Rarotonga is the gateway to all the other islands in the group.

The uninhabited islands of Takutea and Suwarrow can be visited by private yacht, or with a research vessel stationed at Rarotonga.


  • Sp-flag.png Spain (Honorary Consulate), PO Box 3148, Vaimaanga, Titikaveka, Rarotonga, +682 25-206 ().  editCreate category
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!