Rarotonga

Travel Guide
Muri Beach featuring tropical scenes
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

Club Raro Resort
Club Raro Resort
3 out of 5
Ara Tapu, Avarua, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$217 per night from 19 Aug. to 20 Aug.
Stay at this 3-star beach resort in Rarotonga. Enjoy free breakfast, free parking and a private beach. Our guests praise the helpful staff and the spacious rooms ...
3.5/5 Good! (605 reviews)
"Friendly. Enjoyed bar service"

Reviewed on 9 Aug. 2022

Club Raro Resort
The Edgewater Resort and Spa
The Edgewater Resort and Spa
3.5 out of 5
Avarua, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$320 per night from 11 Aug. to 12 Aug.
Stay at this 3.5-star beach resort in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, 2 restaurants and a beach locale. Our guests praise the breakfast and the family amenities ...
3.8/5 Good! (923 reviews)
"Lots of Activities. Friendly."

Reviewed on 9 Aug. 2022

The Edgewater Resort and Spa
The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
4 out of 5
Aroa Beach Marine Reserve, Arorangi, Ara Tapu Rd, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$280 per night from 12 Aug. to 13 Aug.
Stay at this 4-star beach hotel in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, 2 restaurants and a private beach. Our guests praise the comfy rooms and the family amenities ...
3.9/5 Very Good! (220 reviews)
"We loved our stay at The Rarotongan Resort! The kids (aged 10 and 8) had an amazing time swimming, sliding on the water slides, snorkeling, hanging in the games room and kids club and finding friends. Room servicing and restaurant was a bit slow, however totally understandable in the current times. ..."

Reviewed on 11 Jul. 2022

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
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 Vakaroa Villas
Te Vakaroa Villas
5 out of 5
Ara Tapu (Main Road), Muri Beach, Rarotonga
Stay at this 5-star luxury villa in Rarotonga. Enjoy free breakfast, free parking and a beach locale. Our guests praise the pool and the helpful staff in their ...
4.8/5 Exceptional! (45 reviews)
"top classic accommodation in a perfect setting"

Reviewed on 21 Feb. 2022

Te Vakaroa Villas
Rarotonga's Fishing Lodge - GT's
Rarotonga's Fishing Lodge - GT's
4 out of 5
Tupapa, Avarua, Rarotonga
Stay at this 4-star holiday home in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, private pools and a terrace. Popular attractions Muri Beach and Beachcomber Pearl Market are ...
5/5 Exceptional! (2 reviews)
PARADISE.
"Prefect in every way. Hosts are the best nothing was a problem . Breakfast & our special dinner was delicious. Accomodation ten outa ten. First time in Rarotonga loved our location & would go back there again."

Reviewed on 8 Aug. 2017

Rarotonga's Fishing Lodge - GT's
Paradise Holiday Homes Rarotonga
Paradise Holiday Homes Rarotonga
4 out of 5
Ara Metua, Kauare, Titikaveka, Rarotonga
Stay at this 4-star apartment in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, private pools and WiFi. Our guests praise the bathrooms and the family amenities in their reviews. ...
4.8/5 Exceptional! (6 reviews)
"Lots of space ,in the proximity to the mountains"

Reviewed on 17 Jul. 2021

Paradise Holiday Homes Rarotonga
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

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Cities near Rarotonga