I admit, counting this as a roadtrip is cheating a bit, as with a scooter you need about 45 minutes for the trip, by bus about an hour… Nevertheless, we would like to bring Rarotonga a little closer to you, as it is the main island of the Cook Islands and therefore eponym of our blog! We wanted to end our honeymoon with a few classic paradise island days. We had the following criteria: idyllic beach, opportunity for snorkeling and swimming, water temperature above 25 °C, but no jellyfish, no sharks and no zika. After a lot of research both in the official monthly zika statistics of the WHO and in various blogs on South Sea travel, we then decided on a country that we had not even known existed before: the Cook Islands.
As to the idyllic beach, Rarotonga has definitely kept what the googled photos and the South Sea image promise! The island is surrounded by a coral reef, whereby one has several hundred metres of turquoise lagoon water up to the reef, with some small islands, so-called Motus. Especially around Motu Taakoka is a good spot for snorkeling, because it is a bit rockier and therefore attracts countless fish, sea urchins, starfish, and other sea creatures.
On land, we were surprised that the island was different from what we would have imagined as such a paradise island. Except for bananas, there was barely any fruit and except for two or three kinds of birds, there were hardly any different birds. All in all, we were wondering where the people there get some fruits and vegetables, as we neither found much of them at the supermarket nor at the weekly market. But Alex was happy all around, as the menu consisted mainly of seafood! Especially for breakfast I rather stuck to banana bread, which we will present to you in another article.
- Duration: 45 minutes by scooter or car, 55 minutes by bus
- Start: Avarua
- End: Avarua
- Distance in total: 31 km = 19 mi
View the route on Google Maps.
Rarotonga has actually only one bigger road, the Ara Tapu. This road goes oncearound the island, always along the beach. The road can be used in both directions and the tour can start at any point. There are also buses every hour in each direction, with stops at regular intervals. For such a short drive, a detailed description of the route is of course not really worthwhile, especially as one cannot get lost. Nevertheless, I would like to present to you a few possible stops that you can make during the trip, including two small detours to the interior of the island.
Avarua is the capital of the Cook Islands, although with its 5,500 inhabitants it is more of a village than a city. Nevertheless, it is home to ministries and official institutions, restaurants and cafés, a movie theatre, small shops and supermarkets as well as the weekly market Punanga Nui Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings (6-12 am).
1. Stop: Matavera CICC (6,3 km = 3,9 mi)
The most important religion on the Cook Islands is the Cook Island Christian Church (CICC). There are several churches on Rarotonga, including Matavera CICC, which usually hold their main service on Sunday morning at 10 am. Tourists are also always welcome there, although the service is mostly held on Cook Island Maori and only a summary is given in English. But just for the Polynesian chants and the beautiful hats of the women alone it is worth a visit! Plus, they are welcome to join the picknick after the service. It goes without saying that you should be polite and reserved and dress appropriately for the occasion, i.e. you should not show up in a baggy or beach look.
2. Stop: Muri Beach (3,7 km = 2,3 mi)
Probably the most picturesque beach in Rarotonga with a beautiful lagoon is Muri Beach with its four motus Motutapu, Oneroa, Koromiri and Taakoka. This is a great spot for swimming and snorkelling.
3. Stop: Muri Night Market, Ngatangiia (0,4 km = 0,3 mi)
The Muri Night Market takes place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 5 to 8 pm. There are a number of different food stands where you can get something and then eat it at one of the central tables and benches to live music or DJ.
4. Stop: Fruits of Rarotonga, Tikioki (2 km = 1,3 mi)
We have not tested this ourselves, but Tikioki is recommended as a very good snorkeling spot. The place is also known as Fruits of Rarotonga, after the café of the same name there. However, it seems that this café does not exist anymore since 2017.
5. Stop: Charlie’s Café, Titikaveka (0,5 km = 0,3 mi)
Charlie’s Café is a wonderful café/restaurant/bar where you can have a nice evening with live music, lights and a pleasant atmosphere.
6. Stop: Wigmore’s Waterfall, Papua (6,6 km = 4,1 mi)
Whether the side trip to Wigmore’s Waterfall is worthwhile or not is probably a matter of taste. You can either go there on foot or by car or scooter, but if you are driving there, you have to pay 2 NZD. The waterfall is rather small and not very spectacular, but it can be a nice destination if you want to see something else than the beach. Apparently, the trip is however not worthwhile in dry season. The path is also the last part of the Cross-island Track.
7. Stop: Black Rock Lookout (9,7 km = 6,0 mi)
We were not there ourselves, as it was raining cats and dogs at the end of our trip around the island, but Black Rock is said to be a beautiful view point especially at sunset.
8. Stop: Cross-island Track Parking (6,5 km = 4,0 mi)
If you want to do the Rarotonga Cross-island Track or at least a part of it on your own, you can park your car or scooter here and start from here.
Finish: Avarua (3,2 km = 2,0 mi)
…and back to Avarua, where you can end the day with a stop at a café or restaurant. Alex is still raving about all the fresh seafood he ate there!
Which of you has been to Rarotonga before? And, on the contrary, who has never heard of the Cook Islands? In which group do you think there are more people, the former or the latter?