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$191 per night from 19 May to 20 May
Stay at this 3-star beach resort in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, a private beach and breakfast. Our guests praise the helpful staff and the spacious rooms ...
3.5/5 Good! (590 reviews)
"The garden was so well cared for and beautiful… the plants were incredible and a real highlight"

Reviewed on 14 May 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$245 per night from 27 May to 28 May
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! (904 reviews)
"Love staying at the Edgewater resort. The staff are friendly and food is fantastic."

Reviewed on 6 May 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$214 per night from 31 May to 1 Jun.
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! (209 reviews)
"Friendly staff"

Reviewed on 22 Mar. 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.
The Passage Villas
The Passage Villas
3.5 out of 5
Main Road, Ngatangiia – Muri, Rarotonga
Stay at this 3.5-star beach aparthotel in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, a beach locale and WiFi. Our guests praise the helpful staff in their reviews. Popular ...
5/5 Exceptional! (2 reviews)
"Loved our stay here, the room was great and we were very comfortable. The ocean view was memorizing and having the air conditioning was a real plus when the days got really hot. Most of all the owners Michele & Svein were so welcoming and they went out of their way to help us out, they gave us with ..."

Reviewed on 27 Apr. 2022

The Passage Villas
Rarotonga GolfSeaview
Rarotonga GolfSeaview
3.5 out of 5
Ara Metua Road, Rarotonga
Stay at this 3.5-star villa in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, WiFi and an airport shuttle. Our guests praise the pool in their reviews. Popular attractions Black ...
4.5/5 Wonderful! (13 reviews)
"Nice and central with great views, property was very clean and perfect for our little families short stay."

Reviewed on 29 Apr. 2022

Rarotonga GolfSeaview
Serenity Villas Rarotonga
Serenity Villas Rarotonga
4 out of 5
Arorangi, Rarotonga
Stay at this 4-star beach villa in Rarotonga. Enjoy free parking, a beach locale and WiFi. Our guests praise the pool in their reviews. Popular attractions Black ...
5/5 Exceptional! (16 reviews)
Exceeded expecations
"Serenity Villas will not disappoint anyone unless you insist on a restaurant / bar onsite. The villas are lovely, the gardens are lovely, the location is excellent and surrounded by bars an restaurants we would not stay anywhere else in Rarotonga in future and will return. I really recommend it."

Reviewed on 21 Aug. 2021

Serenity Villas 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.

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