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RarotongaCook Islands

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

Arorangi featuring kayaking or canoeing and general coastal views

Arorangi

4.5/5Wonderful!(245 area reviews)

Arorangi is beloved for its stunning beaches. Take some time to explore sights in the area like Aroa Beach and Black Rock.

Arorangi
Avarua which includes mountains and a bay or harbour

Avarua

4/5Very Good!(114 area reviews)

Beaches, snorkelling and bars are just a few things travellers enjoy about Avarua. Check out Cook Island Christian Church (CICC) or Cook Islands Library and Museum while you're exploring the area.

Avarua
Titikaveka which includes tranquil scenes

Tapere of Titikaveka

4.5/5Wonderful!(40 area reviews)

Tapere of Titikaveka is known for its beaches, and you can plan a trip to Muri Beach and Tikioki Marine Sanctuary while you're in town.

Tapere of Titikaveka

Top hotels in Rarotonga

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Pacific Resort Rarotonga
Pacific Resort Rarotonga
4 out of 5
Muri Beach, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$700 per night from 21 Sep. to 22 Sep.

Nestled on the beach, this Rarotonga hotel is just steps away from Muri Lagoon and Muri Beach. Te Vara Nui Village and Muri Night Markets are also within 5 ...

4.4/5Wonderful! (211 reviews)

"We loved this resort! The staff and amenities were amazing! We were able to SUP every morning in the gorgeous lagoon, then eat a fabulous continental style breakfast, kayak out to the island and snorkel until the afternoon! So much fun! The food at the resort restaurant is really good! Breakfast ..."…"

Reviewed on 16 Mar. 2020

Pacific Resort Rarotonga
Moana Sands Lagoon Resort
Moana Sands Lagoon Resort
3.5 out of 5
Muri Beach, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$480 per night from 21 Sep. to 22 Sep.

Nestled on the beach, this Tapere of Titikaveka hotel is just steps away from Muri Lagoon and Muri Beach. Tikioki Beach and Tikioki Marine Sanctuary are also ...

4.6/5Exceptional! (30 reviews)

"It was a great experience staff were friendly & great location"…"

Reviewed on 14 Feb. 2020

Moana Sands Lagoon Resort
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 27 Sep. to 28 Sep.

Situated near the beach, 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

Popular places to visit in Rarotonga

Muri Beach
Image for Muri Beach

Muri Beach

4.5/5(329 reviews)

Stretch out comfortably on the bone-white beach while watching the sunrise over Rarotonga’s popular lagoon.

Aroa Beach
Image for Aroa Beach

Aroa Beach

4.5/5(196 reviews)

Leave the bustle of the modern world behind and lounge on stretches of powdery white sand with the transparent Pacific Ocean at your fingertips.

Cook Island Christian Church
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Cook Island Christian Church

4.5/5(59 reviews)

Attend a service and chat with locals in this small and charming whitewashed church, which dates back to the mid 19th century.

Cook Islands Library and Museum
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Cook Islands Library and Museum

4/5(53 reviews)

Through art and literature, learn about the history and traditions of the Cook Islands in a library and museum run by friendly local residents.

Tikioki Marine Sanctuary
Image for Tikioki Marine Sanctuary

Tikioki Marine Sanctuary

4.5/5(89 reviews)

Swim with multi-colored fish or spend hours on a stretch of powdery white beach at one of Rarotonga's best coastal spots. Dive around nearby shipwrecks.

Te Vara Nui Village
Image for Te Vara Nui Village

Te Vara Nui Village

4.5/5(114 reviews)

Join an interactive experience to appreciate the authentic educational and entertaining story of Cook Islands’ culture.

Top activities in Rarotonga

Glass Bottom Boat, Snorkeling & BBQ Fish Lunch Experience
Image for Glass Bottom Boat, Snorkeling & BBQ Fish Lunch Experience

Glass Bottom Boat, Snorkeling & BBQ Fish Lunch Experience

NZ$79
Per adult
94% of travellers recommend
Spectacular Over-Water Night Show & Dinner
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Spectacular Over-Water Night Show & Dinner

NZ$115
Per adult
92% of travellers recommend
Going Troppo Nightlife Tour
Image for Going Troppo Nightlife Tour

Going Troppo Nightlife Tour

NZ$59
Per adult
Glass-Bottom Boat Lagoon Cruise with Barbecue Lunch
Image for Glass-Bottom Boat Lagoon Cruise with Barbecue Lunch

Glass-Bottom Boat Lagoon Cruise with Barbecue Lunch

NZ$79
Per adult
96% of travellers recommend
Highlights of Rarotonga Tour By Electric Tuk Tuk
Image for Highlights of Rarotonga Tour By Electric Tuk Tuk

Highlights of Rarotonga Tour By Electric Tuk Tuk

NZ$79
Per adult
100% of travellers recommend
Cook Islands ultimate Turtle Tour
Image for Cook Islands ultimate Turtle Tour

Cook Islands ultimate Turtle Tour

NZ$133
Per adult
100% of travellers recommend

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

Ngatangiia

Ngatangiia

Muri Beach which includes general coastal views

Muri

Titikaveka featuring signage

Takitumu District

Muri Beach which includes general coastal views

Areiti Tapere