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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
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is NZ$243 per night from 31 Jul. to 31 Jul.
Nestled on the beach, this Arorangi resort is 0.8 mi (1.2 km) from Black Rock and 3 mi (4.8 km) from Aroa Beach. Puaikura Beach and Rarotonga Golf Club are also ...
3.8/5Good! (886 reviews)
"I loved the friendly staff, very accommodating and helpful. If you have children, this is the best place for them. They have a coconut kids club which my son adored."

Reviewed on 13 Jul. 2021

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$257 per night from 15 Aug. to 15 Aug.
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! (188 reviews)
"Great place for kids. Breakfast was nice. Beautiful location by the beach. Staff were excellent."

Reviewed on 26 Jul. 2021

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach-Adults Only
Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach-Adults Only
4 out of 5
Aroa Beach & Marine Reserve, Rarotonga
The price is NZ$337 per night from 28 Aug. to 28 Aug.
Located in Tapere of Rutaki, this beachfront resort is in the historical district and within 3 mi (5 km) of Aroa Beach and Wigmore's Waterfall. Rarotonga Golf ...
3.8/5Good! (312 reviews)
"We spent two nights at the Sanctuary and wish we could have stayed much longer! The staff were very welcoming and happy to help us with our requests. Our package included a voucher for dinner and breakfast in bed. We weren’t able to use the dinner voucher due to pre-booked family dinners, so they ..."

Reviewed on 17 Jul. 2021

Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach-Adults Only
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.
Avana Waterfront Apartments
Avana Waterfront Apartments
3 out of 5
Kaireva Drive, Ngatangiia, Rarotonga
Located in Takitumu District, this beachfront apartment building is in the historical district and within a 10-minute walk of Avana Lagoon and Muri Beach. Muri ...
4.4/5Wonderful! (57 reviews)
"Very homely, bachy feel..super helpful and caring onsite manager. The pool is pretty small, but the set up around it is fun bright colours, nice BBQ area and a bonfire site. We probably won't book again because the location is right on one of the 7 channels, which are sometimes dangerous depending ..."

Reviewed on 25 Jul. 2021

Avana Waterfront Apartments
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! (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
Tianas Beach
Tianas Beach
2.5 out of 5
Ara Tapu, Ngatangiia District, South Muri Beach, Rarotonga
Nestled on the beach, this Takitumu District cabin is just steps away from Muri Lagoon and Muri Beach. Tikioki Beach and Muri Night Markets are also within 10 ...
4.2/5Excellent! (34 reviews)
"Great location, really nice and quiet location. Really good communication."

Reviewed on 7 Jul. 2021

Tianas Beach
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.

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