Looking for paradise? You will love these things to do in the gorgeous Rarotonga, Cook Islands, a small, yet vibrant island in the heart of the South Pacific!
When I told my family and friends that I was taking a trip to the beautiful Cook Islands, they were excited. I heard stuff like, “Wow that’s awesome, you’re going to an island?” and “I wish I could travel like you do for a year!” And then, “Wait – where in the world is Rarotonga?”
The Cook Islands are located in the South Pacific, right off of the east coast of New Zealand. There are 15 major inhabited islands, Rarotonga being the largest and most populous, and the only island with an International airport. I feel like Rarotonga is not too much on the radar of U.S. travelers, we hear about other islands in the South Pacific, but rarely the Cooks. It’s a shame too, with it’s turquoise waters, year-round sunshine, island cuisine, plentiful adventure, lively culture and a laid back, relaxed island vibe, the gorgeous Rarotonga, Cook Islands are definitely a destination that is worthy of a visit!
We ended up taking a direct flight from LAX with Air New Zealand. It left around midnight, so we slept pretty much the whole 9 hour flight and woke up when we landed! This was a sisters trip, we were looking for sand, sun, and sea and ended up having plenty of great adventures that are unique to the island! Here are some of my favorites:
5 Awesome Things We Did In Gorgeous Rarotonga, Cook Islands
1. Driving around the island of Rarotonga
Yes, when you’re from the United States, driving in Rarotonga is an adventure in itself! They drive on the opposite side of the road, and the drivers seat in each car is on the right hand side. We got a rental car courtesy of Island Car & Bike Hire, the best prices on the island!
There is one main road that goes around the entire island with one lane going each way, it only takes 45 minutes to go all the way around! I do recommend renting some sort of transportation so you can get to where you need to, right away. Scooters are also a popular choice, you have to get a scooter license and you can rent one from Island Car & Bike Hire to use during your stay. Book your Rarotonga rental car here.
2. Swim, Snorkel and Island Show – Koka Lagoon Cruise
The Muri area seems to be the most popular, full of businesses and tourists alike. It is home to the gorgeous Muri Lagoon, where Koka Lagoon Cruises operates a fantastic glass bottom boat tour! Sail out into the middle of the lagoon for great snorkeling, then cruise over to one of the outer islands to partake in an island feast, made by the awesome crew, and a fun and informative island show!
I am going to write an entire post sharing all of this, there’s so many things to highlight! I highly recommend this tour, it’s great for all ages and a family owned business. Book your Rarotonga snorkeling and glass bottom boat lagoon cruise here.
3. Local beer – Matutu Brewery Tour
There is only one local brewery on the whole entire island, and that’s the Matutu Brewery! They specialize in the local brewing process, using no extra sugars or artificial ingredients in the product. From start to finish, Matutu brews and bottles their beers, and delivers to local restaurants and grocery stores. It was cool to walk through the small warehouse and hearing all about the barley and hops used in their beers.
4. Highland Paradise Cultural Show and Feast
This sunset cultural show and feast is set up in the mountains by the Pirangi family, descendants of the Tinomana tribe, preserving the sacred area and traditions for centuries. The Highland Paradise Cultural Show and Feast in the mountain village is actually a project to fund and maintain the land and preserve their cultural heritage. “Amongst 25 developed acres of magnificent gardens and views you will experience drumming, singing, dancing, weaving, carving, medicine making, story telling and umu feasting just as they were more than 600 years ago on this very spot!”
I am going to share much more about the Highland Paradise cultural show and feast as well, there’s lot’s to tell! Book your Rarotonga Highland Paradise cultural show and feast here.
5. Punanga Nui Cultural Market
Enjoying the local foods and arts of the gorgeous Rarotonga, Cook Islands is easy at the Punanga Nui Market. On Saturday mornings, the main town of Avarua is filled with vendors and shoppers alike at the Punanga Nui Cultural Market. Held rain or shine, this outdoor market has so many great local foods and drinks, arts and crafts, clothing, produce, souvenirs, and even a stage where there were a few tribal dancers putting on a cultural show. Get there early, the market opens at 8am and closes down around noon, but much of the best products are gone before then!
Visit the gorgeous Rarotonga, Cook Islands, there is so much beauty and so many great adventures to be had. Next time, I want to do the island hike to the Wigmore Waterfall, take a eco-bike tour, and visit the island of Aitutaki, another one of their gorgeous islands and the only one that has over water bungalows! For more information about this destination, visit the Cook Islands Tourism webpage.
As they say in the Cook Islands, Kia Orana!