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

The Edgewater Resort and Spa
The Edgewater Resort and Spa
3.5 out of 5
Avarua, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$230 per night from 2 Nov. to 2 Nov.
Nestled on the beach, this Arorangi resort is within 1 mi (2 km) of Black Rock and Rarotonga Golf Club. Puaikura Beach and Aroa Beach are also within 3 miles ...
3.8/5 Good! (893 reviews)
"The Edgewater hotel was a very nice place to stay."

Reviewed on 12 Aug. 2021

The Edgewater Resort and Spa
Moana Sands Beachfront Villas
Moana Sands Beachfront Villas
3.5 out of 5
Ara Tapu, Vaimaanga, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$400 per night from 1 Nov. to 1 Nov.
Located in Tapere of Titikaveka, this beachfront hotel is in a shopping district and within a 10-minute walk of Maire Nui Botanical Gardens and Tikioki Beach. ...
4.6/5 Wonderful! (45 reviews)
"Thoroughly recommend Moana Sands Villas. Excellent location and facilities. Friendly helpful staff. We’ll be back !"

Reviewed on 17 Jul. 2021

Moana Sands Beachfront Villas
Lagoon Breeze Villas
Lagoon Breeze Villas
3 out of 5
Aroa Beach, Beach Road, Arorangi, Rarotonga
Offering direct access to the beach, this Arorangi resort is within a 10-minute walk of Aroa Beach and Puaikura Beach. Wigmore's Waterfall is 2.7 mi (4.4 km) ...
4.7/5 Exceptional! (125 reviews)
Great accommodation on the island
"We had a studio apartment which was a little on the small side but fine for our needs. However the bigger villas were very spacious. It was very clean and a good location close to the beach. The staff were really friendly and the breakfast was good. We didn’t have a car but it was an easy bus ride ..."

Reviewed on 25 Jul. 2021

Get rates
Lagoon Breeze 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 ...
4.7/5 Exceptional! (35 reviews)
"Very good location, the villa was amazing very clean and spacious. No wifi, we had to pay for internet and the coffee, given that we stayed for 7 nights there were only 4 pods of coffee and we had to purchase the rest. The kitchen had everything we needed for a long stay but not the best value for ..."

Reviewed on 22 Jul. 2021

Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa
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.
5/5 Exceptional! (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
Kia Orana Villas and Spa
Kia Orana Villas and Spa
3.5 out of 5
2 Ariki Road, Atupa, Rarotonga
Located in Avarua, this villa is within 2 mi (3 km) of Punanga Nui Market, Cook Island Christian Church (CICC) and Cook Islands Library and Museum. Beachcomber ...
4.6/5 Exceptional! (44 reviews)
"Sane, Joseph and Lai made us feel very relaxed and provided a real personal touch. Tucked away but close to Avarua. Loved the outdoor shower/bath."

Reviewed on 30 Jul. 2021

Kia Orana Villas and Spa
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

Cities near Rarotonga