Rarotonga – you had me at Kia Orana!
Map of Cook Islands • Introduction • To do in Rarotonga • Pacific Resort Rarotonga • The capital: Avarua • Cook Island Christian Church • Around Rarotonga on a scooter • The Needle • Restaurants in Rarotonga • Facts about the Cook Islands
Map of the Cook Islands
The islands were named after James Cook, the English explorer, who set his foot on Palmerston atoll in 1773. The Cook Islands comprises of 15 islands and has c. 20 000 inhabitants. The capital is Avarua.
There is no criminality on the Cook Islands. I read some where that the worst thing that can happen to you on the Cook Islands is that you get a falling coconut on your head. To be sure, approximately 150 people a year get killed by a falling coconut, that is, more people get killed by cocnuts than sharks ( the approximate number for the latter is 5 a year), but that is a totally different story.
It gets better: You have neither mass tourism nor poisonous animals on the Cooks. However, there will be flying cockroaches and they are huge!
What is really interesting is that tipping is not customary on the Cooks.
If you are planning to go to the Cook Islands be sure to book a week in Aitutaki as well.
To do in Rarotonga
- Visit Avarua, the capital of Rarotonga
- Put on your sunday finest and attend a service at the Cook Island Christian Church
- Rent a scooter and explore the island
- Climb the Needle aka Te Rua Manga
- Swim and sunbathe, for sure
Pacific Resort Rarotonga
We stayed at the Pacific Resort Rarotonga, a nice enough family-friendly resort by the beach.
However, next time I plan a visit to the Cooks (and there will be a next time) I will book a room at the amazing, little boutique hotel Little Polynesian Resort. We had a dinner there once and met a Swedish couple who praised the hotel. They told us that the owner of the hotel had invited them to celebrate new years with all the hotel staff and the unforgetable evening had ended with fireworks and dancing in Avarua.
I am sure, though, that things like this happen all the time in the Cooks, I just never have met such neighbourly and nice people.
There are neither large hotel complexes nor sales people on the beach.
Sea cucumbers keep the water clean by picking up all the crap from the seafloor and eating small particles in the water. Their poop contains calcium carbonate, a key component of coral, which may help to save the coral reefs.
Did you know that the sea cucumber is considered to be a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in China?
Dogs staring in the water
They just stand there for hours, motionless, staring into the water. I never saw them catch a fish.
The capital of Rarotonga: Avarua
There are neither traffic lights nor apartment buildings in the Cooks. And definitely no McDonalds.
Trader Jacks Bar & Grill, one of the most popular restaurants in Avarua, is located in the harbour. (Not pictured, though, only the view.)
Cook Island Christian Church in Ngatangiia, Rarotonga
The majority of the locals go to church on Sundays. Don’t miss a service – the church choir is singing so beautifully and everyone is dressed in their Sunday finest.
The priest gave us a hearty welcome and the whole ceremony was such a great experience.
Around Rarotonga on a scooter
It is common to bury your loved ones in the garden which means, of course, that the property stays in your family for ever.
Te Rua Manga (The Needle), Rarotonga
I truly recommend a hike up to the Needle. The hike is a little difficult at times and takes c. 4 hours in total but when you reach the top you have an amazing view. Be sure to book via Pa who is such a nice and special person.
Some people were hiking on their own but it just was a little too difficult to see which way to go sometimes so I definitely would not do it without a guide.
The trail, you guys! And it is really steep in real life.
Restaurants in Rarotonga
- Little Polynesian Restaurant , the hotel’s restaurant. According to many, you get the best desserts here. And yes, they are right. Dress up a little (think chic casual).
- Tamarind House. Beautiful location by the beach and good food.
- Trader Jacks. Everyone ends up at Trader Jacks sooner or later. Loud and cosy.
The international airport of Avarua, Rarotonga
Facts about the Cook Islands
- In free association with New Zeeland since 1965.
- Currency: New Zealand dollar, Cook Islands dollar.
- Climate: Tropical climate. Rain season through November and March with temperatures around 29 degrees and occasional showers, during the dry season between June and September the weather cools down a little. You can visit the Cook Islands all year round.
- The Cook Islands consists of 15 islands. Rarotonga is the main island with its c. 10 000 inhabitants. The pace is much calmer in Aitutaki which only has c. 2 000 inhabitants. Aitutaki is famous for the amazing blue lagoon.
- Language: English, Rarotongan.
- Shopping: Black pearls. But – make sure to buy them at an authorized jeweller.
- Dress code: Casual, smart casual in the evening
- Hello! Kia orana!