"Rarotonga - Cook Islands" Top 5 Page for this destination Rarotonga by pure1942

Rarotonga Travel Guide: 169 reviews and 421 photos

Turquoise Heaven

Smack bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about halfway between New Zealand and South America, lies the stunningly beautiful Cook Islands. The Cooks consist of 15 main islands scattered over around 2 million square miles of ocean which sit between the neighbouring Pacific territories of Tokelau, Samoa, Nuie, Tonga and French Polynesia.
The islands are a self governing nation but have close political, military and economic relations with New Zealand, which is responsible for defence of the Cook Islands. The close links between the two countries is evident from the minute you arrive, with a shared currency (although the Cook Islands have their own coins) and similar cultural and linguistic links to the New Zealand Maori.

Rarotonga is the largest island of the Cook Island chain and home to the capital, Avarua. As the location of the Cook Islands’ main international airport, Rarotonga will be most people’s first port of call in the Cooks and a lot of visitors will base themselves here, although many will move onto the Aitutaki Lagoon to the north of Rarotonga either on a day trip or for a few nights.
Although we would have loved to visit Aitutaki, we were visiting the Cook Islands as part of a year-long round the world trip and found ourselves on a very tight budget after 2 months in Australia and a month in New Zealand had made significant inroads into our savings. We really couldn’t afford to take the expensive flight to Aitutaki and although regret hangs heavy on our mind we at least have the memories of beautiful Rarotonga to ease the pain of not visiting Aitutaki.

Although Aitutaki steals the plaudits as the Cook Islands most beautiful island atoll, Rarotonga itself isn’t exactly wanting when it comes to natural beauty. The volcanic island is blessed with a jagged mountain chain running through the centre of the island and is ringed by a coral reef which protects a gorgeous turquoise lagoon filled with fish and backed by white sand beaches lined with swaying palm trees. The island has plenty of activities for visitors ranging from island cultural nights, sporting events, snorkelling, diving, hiking, cycling, kayaking, as well as beach bumming and swimming in the bath warm waters of the lagoon.
After arriving on Rarotonga, after 10 days on the Cook Islands western neighbour, Tonga, we were really surprised at how different the two nations are. Tonga is wild and rugged and has yet to develop the same level of tourist infrastructure while the Cook Islands has a strongly developed tourist industry and has more services catering to tourists, such as restaurants, shops and organised activities. Of course there is for and against all this. I think Tonga offers a unique look at Pacific and Polynesian culture and lifestyle without having to lower itself to touristy kitsch, while the Cook Islands offer a more relaxing beach holiday destination where all your needs are catered for but can feel overburdened by the weight of tourism on such ecologically fragile and small islands. So glad we chose to visit two contrasting Pacific Islands instead of just basing ourselves on one of the more popular beach/package holiday destinations.

  • Last visit to Rarotonga: May 2010
  • Intro Updated Mar 6, 2011
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Reviews (18)

Comments (5)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Sep 12, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    nice page

  • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
    May 27, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    Hi Brian, a really wonderful page! The more I read about Cook Islands, the more I fall in love with the place... I really hope I'll get there one day. It sounds all so great with the beaches and the bus service. I especially liked your tip about the wildlife at night, fascinating pictures!
    How sad that your camera got stolen!

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2012 at 2:36 AM

    While I was reading Cook Islands entered into New Year 2012 :-) You have marvellous photos, Brain! I especially loved the one of Turoa or Titikaveka Beach with the coconuts in shape of a heart! Marvellous nightlife with wildlife. Had to laugh about the idea of getting a driver's licence..... Oh, and I really like your colour concept for your tips!

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Mar 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Brian fantastic page with outstanding photos. A pity your Cook Islands coins got stolen. I love your "Getting a License" tip. Well done. :-)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 9, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    Brian, your wonderful story and amazing photos convey the tranquility and the unique character of the place... Thanks a lot! ><><><><

pure1942

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