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Rarotonga
Travel Guide

Surrounded by clear blue water, the capital of the Cook Islands has spectacular beaches, incredible wildlife and scenery, and a laid-back island lifestyle.

Rarotonga, locally known as “Raro”, is the most populated of the Cook Islands. It's also home to the islands’ capital, Avarua. This South Pacific paradise has a lively festival scene as well as bushwalking opportunities, beaches lined with palm trees and warm, clear waters for snorkelling and swimming.

The island is fairly small, with a circumference of only 32 kilometres (20 miles). Tropical fish and coral abound in the warm, shallow waters of the lagoon that surrounds Rarotonga. The calm water at Muri Beach, in particular, provides perfect conditions for first-time snorkellers.

The island owes its existence to the collapse of a rocky volcano, which left a round island with jagged peaks and concealed water features. Take in the geological marvel of Rarotonga at Wigmore’s Waterfall, a destination teeming with local fauna, or see some of the island’s unique plant life at the Maire Nui Botanical Gardens. Many natural attractions can be accessed on foot or with a bicycle.

Visit the Punanga Nui markets on Saturday mornings in Avarua village. Sample the region’s cuisine or shop for flowers, souvenirs and fresh vegetables.

The safest way to get around Rarotonga is the island’s bus service, which travels both clockwise and anti-clockwise around the island. Each round trip takes about 50 minutes, and drivers will pick up and drop off on demand. More adventurous travellers may choose to drive their own vehicle, but the island has no traffic lights at all, and the roads are regularly blocked by coconuts, chickens and other unexpected obstacles.

Most visitors to the Cook Islands arrive at the Rarotonga International Airport. Flying between the islands is also recommended, since boats travel only occasionally between the islands and there is generally no scheduled ferry service.

English is an official language in the Cook Islands, which was once a British protectorate before control was passed to New Zealand. The islands today are self-governing, in free association with New Zealand. Many locals also speak Cook Islands Māori, which is often called Rarotongan, after the capital island.

Where to stay in Rarotonga

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
4 out of 5
Aroa Beach Marine Reserve, Arorangi, Ara Tapu Rd, Rarotonga
Free cancellationReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is NZ$343 per night from 7 Mar. to 8 Mar.

Nestled on the beach, this Rarotonga hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Aroa Beach and Wigmore's Waterfall. Muri Night Markets and Te Vara Nui Village are also within ...

4/5Very Good! (178 reviews)

"Awesome place to stay. Friendly staff and lovely surroundings."…"

Reviewed on 8 Mar. 2020

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
Lagoon Breeze Villas
Lagoon Breeze Villas
3 out of 5
Aroa Beach, Beach Road, Arorangi, Rarotonga
Get Rates

Offering direct access to the beach, this Arorangi resort is within a 5-minute walk of Te Rua Manga (The Needle) and Aroa Beach. Puaikura Beach and Wigmore's ...

4.7/5Exceptional! (124 reviews)

"Good location & amenities, Terrible cleaning of our room."…"

Reviewed on 28 Mar. 2020

Lagoon Breeze Villas
Moana Sands Beachfront Villas
Moana Sands Beachfront Villas
3.5 out of 5
Ara Tapu, Vaimaanga, Rarotonga
Free cancellationReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is NZ$400 per night from 7 Mar. to 8 Mar.

Located in Tapere of Titikaveka, this beachfront hotel is in a shopping district, 0.2 mi (0.3 km) from Maire Nui Botanical Gardens and 1.3 mi (2.1 km) from Muri ...

4.6/5Wonderful! (44 reviews)

"Super nice staff and really helpful. Location was great having a coffee shop and supermarket made life really convenient"…"

Reviewed on 27 Feb. 2020

Moana Sands Beachfront Villas
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa
Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa
5 out of 5
Avarua, PO Box 790 , Rarotonga

Nestled on the beach, this Tapere of Titikaveka villa is just steps away from Tikioki Beach and Muri Beach. Muri Lagoon and Matutu Brewing Company are also within ...

4.7/5Exceptional! (34 reviews)
Favorite place on Rarotonga!

"Everything about Te Manava is AMAZING! The villas are spacious, equipped with everything you could possibly need, private, and CLEAN. Staying at Te Manava was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip and having Jane there to help with ALL my questions made it that much better. Bonuses: - Laundy ..."…"

Reviewed on 24 Feb. 2020

Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa
Muri Lagoon View Bungalows
Muri Lagoon View Bungalows
3.5 out of 5
Aroko Drive, Hillside, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$174 per night from 8 Mar. to 9 Mar.

Located in Takitumu District, this cottage is steps away from Muri Lagoon and Muri Beach. Avana Lagoon and Te Vara Nui Village are also within 10 minutes.

4/5Very Good! (45 reviews)
Will stay again definately

"I loved staying here, the beds were so comfy and the place was spotless clean! Plus location was fantastic very close to Muri and muri night markets. Absolute value for your money. I highly recommend this place. Oh and you can use Muri beach hotel pools when you eat or purchase drinks there. This ..."…"

Reviewed on 26 May 2020

Muri Lagoon View Bungalows
Crystal Blue Lagoon Villas
Crystal Blue Lagoon Villas
5 out of 5
Muri, Rarotonga

Offering direct access to the beach, this Takitumu District villa is within 1 mi (2 km) of Te Vara Nui Village and Tikioki Marine Sanctuary.

5/5Exceptional! (30 reviews)
Beyond amazing!

"Not only was the Villa beyond what I could have ever dreamed of, the view was absolutely breathtaking. Thank you so much"…"

Reviewed on 26 Mar. 2020

Crystal Blue Lagoon Villas
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Popular places to visit in Rarotonga

Top activities in Rarotonga

Reviews of Rarotonga

4.6

Top Destination

5 - Excellent
334
5 - Excellent 69.29460580912863%
4 - Good
127
4 - Good 26.348547717842322%
3 - Okay
19
3 - Okay 3.9419087136929463%
2 - Disappointing
1
2 - Disappointing 0.2074688796680498%
1 - Terrible
1
1 - Terrible 0.2074688796680498%

4/5 - Good

Verified traveller

28 Mar. 2020

Overall a pleasant trip-holiday, Will return when virus has gone !!

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

27 Mar. 2020

Love it in Rarotonga, our favourite Pacific holiday destination. Laid back, easy to get around and great restaurants and bars.

4/5 - Good

Verified traveller

25 Mar. 2020

Raro is a beautiful island to visit and the other times I have been there I have loved it. I would never go back to the Rarotongan Resort

5/5 - Excellent

S

19 Mar. 2020

Rarotonga is absolutely beautiful and a great place to seriously relax. Would definately recommend to everyone.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

17 Mar. 2020

SweetAs car hire are recommended for a fair price and vehicle. Love Trader Jacks & Wilson's Bar

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

13 Mar. 2020

Prices the same as NZ, so not cheap but so easy not having to worry about changing currency.

Cities near Rarotonga