Visit the capital of the Cook Islands to hike through mountainous peaks to hidden waterfalls and swim in sparkling blue lagoons off white-sand beaches.
Spend your days snorkelling, bush walking and relaxing on palm tree-lined beaches on this island paradise. Rarotonga is part of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean and is home to the islands’ capital, Avarua. As well as natural beauty and warm waters perfect for swimming, “Raro”, as it’s known locally, offers culture in abundance, including colourful festivals and bustling marketplaces.
While it’s the most populated of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga measures just 32 kilometres (20 miles) at its widest. The island is surrounded by a lagoon, with water that is shallow, warm and full of tropical fish. Beginner snorkellers can learn the ropes in the calm waters off Muri Beach on the east side of the island.
Rarotonga’s natural landscape is made up of small mountainous peaks, rivers and waterfalls. Trek to the stunning Wigmore’s Waterfall and explore hidden valleys and hillside forests on foot or by bicycle. Visit the Maire Nui Botanical Gardens to learn more about the island’s plants and wildlife.
Experience traditional island life in Avarua village. Buy fresh seafood, locally sourced fruit and vegetables and handcrafted souvenirs from the Punanga Nui growers markets on Saturday mornings.
There are no traffic lights on Rarotonga and obstacles such as chickens and coconuts often litter the roadways, making driving difficult. It's best to get around using the bus service that picks up and drops off on demand. It takes about 50 minutes to get around the whole island.
Fly in and out of Rarotonga International Airport. The best way to get between the Cook Islands is by light aeroplane, as boats and ferries are infrequent. The Cook Islands are self-governing in free association with New Zealand and English is one of the official languages spoken on Rarotonga. You’ll also notice locals speaking Cook Islands Māori, or Rarotongan.
The wet season for the Cook Islands is December to March. It brings more humidity than it does heavy rain, but you’re never far from pristine waters. Plunge into blue lagoons to cool off, then throw a towel down on white-sand beaches and relax.