If you’re travelling to Rarotonga it’s likely to relax and enjoy the beaches rather than cram in lots of tourist sights. There are plenty of other things to do in Rarotonga aside from lying on beaches though, including a spectacular day hike, night markets and boat trips. We spent 10 days in Rarotonga in November 2022 and it was such a good trip – hopefully you’ll get some tips in this post!
This post contains affiliate links — if you book a hotel after clicking one I’ll get a small cut. I paid my own way on this Rarotonga trip and didn’t receive any sponsored hotel stays.
Hang out at Muri Beach
With five nights at Muri Beach we got heaps of time to relax and enjoy one of the best beaches in the South Pacific. We spent many a lazy hour relaxing at Muri Beach, both at Muri Beach Club where we stayed for a night and beneath the palm trees where the public can relax without having to worry about resorts controlling the beach.
There are lots of places to eat and drink in Muri, some right on the beach. It’s the busiest beach area in Rarotonga and the nicest — I highly recommend staying at or near Muri Beach for at least of your trip.
READ MORE: Check out our post about Muri Beach and Lagoon
While relaxing at Muri Beach you’ll see some small islands in the lagoon. You can kayak, paddleboard or walk over to the closest one, and the others aren’t much further. The glass bottom boat tours mostly hang around Muri Lagoon — more on that later.
We saw fish and turtles while kayaking in the lagoon and it’s also the playground of a group of local dogs. You’ll meet them on the beach or while exploring the islands. It’s also a decent place to snorkel although it’s very shallow in parts.
Cross Island Track
The most popular hike in Rarotonga takes you from Avarua in the East of the island across the mountainous interior to the west coast of the island. The Cross Island Track should take around four hours and there’s lots of uphill walking — you’ll struggle to get better views anywhere else on the island so it’s worth the effort.
There’s an old inland road that goes around some of the island. You can walk or cycle sections of it and also walk down some of the roads leading to the mountains. A good one to look for is the Avana Valley Road, which starts close to Muri Lagoon.
Aroa Beach is our second-favourite beach area in Rarotonga and offers up a different experience to the busier Muri Beach. Aroa Beach has a real desert island feel, and it has the rustic beach bars to complete the look.
It’s a great place to stay if awesome beaches, sunsets and a relaxing atmosphere are your main concerns. There’s good kayaking and snorkelling just offshore too if you can drag yourself away from the beach. We stayed at Aroa Beachside Inn and it was a relaxing place to spend our last couple of nights in Rarotonga.
READ MORE: Aroa Beach and the West Coast of Rarotonga
Aroa Beach is a good place to go for an island BBQ night. You’ll see signs for them all over the island — it’s a good chance to try the local seafood and meat (probably not recommended for vegetarians). The BBQ we had at Aroa Beachside Inn was the best meal we ate in Rarotonga — especially the perfectly cooked tuna steaks.
Other Beaches in Rarotonga
Other top beach areas in Rarotonga include Titikaveka Beach and Palm Grove. We walked the entire stretch from Palm Grove to Muri Beach and heaps around the West Coast — we’re confident in recommending Muri Beach — Aroa Beach — Palm Grove and Titikaveka Beach (in that order).
READ MORE: Where Are the Best Beaches in Rarotonga?
Kayaking and Snorkeling
Rarotonga is the perfect island to jump in a kayak and paddle around for 30 minutes or so before returning to the comforts of the beach. Muri Lagoon is the best spot for this as it’s more sheltered than other areas. You can do longer trips of course, but everything you’d want to paddle to is pretty close.
Snorkeling is another popular thing to do in Rarotonga. I wasn’t too impressed with the number of fish seen (I was spoilt in Indonesia though I think) but I probably didn’t go to the right spots. You can join a tour where you may see turtles, otherwise they’re occasionally spotted in Muri Lagoon — we saw a few while kayaking and it was a special experience.
Hospital Hill Lookout
If you’re keen for a quick look at the mountains and an awesome view over the island from above without committing to a long hike, the Hospital Hill Lookout is a good option. From the car park it takes around 10 minutes to reach these views.
One of the most popular things to do in Rarotonga is join one of the glass bottom boat trips. Captain Tama’s and Koka are the two main ones. Both cruise through Muri Lagoon before stopping for food and entertainment at the small island closest to Muri Beach.
We spent so much time at the lagoon that we felt like we’d seen it all and didn’t need to shell out for a tour. If you’re spending heaps of time around Muri you’ll probably want to skip it like we did, but if you’re staying elsewhere it’d be a good thing to do. I’ve heard the entertainment they put on is a bit of a highlight so you may want to do it for that and the lunch (which I’m sure is delicious).
Punanga Nui, the big market in town, seems to run most days of the week, with Saturday morning being the best time to visit. We woke up on our first day in Rarotonga and walked straight to the market — a pretty cool introduction to the island.
The Muri Night Market is the place to go for local food. There are about a dozen stalls selling all sorts of food and drink. We loved the reef and beef at one of the BBQ stalls — it’s good value too. We also went to a smaller night market at the Flying Turtle Cafe and I think there may be another couple of others.
Watch a Sunset or Sunrise
The west side of the island is best if you’re looking for sunsets. We saw one while eating and drinking at Shipwreck Hut, which added to the idyllic scene.
For sunrises you should be on the east side. We stayed at Muri Lagoon which is as far east as we got — such a pretty sunrise from the comfort of our lagoon-side bungalow.
Other Things to Do in Rarotonga
There are heaps more viewpoints and walks to explore. Some of these will be overgrown and barely maintained, so ask around before tackling the more obscure ones. We got talking to a guy who had tried to do one and had to turn back. You can also do a fishing trip, hunt for deals in the local shops, visit a museum (either in Avurua or Muri), do some off-roading, ride a scooter around the island or do some karaoke at one of the bars. Don’t try and do too much though!
Where to Stay
We loved our time at Muri Beach, both at the flash Muri Beach Club and the far more basic Aroko Bungalows further along the lagoon. There’s heaps going on at Muri and I reckon it’s the best place to stay if you’re keen to eat out at a few different places and enjoy a lively atmosphere. Aroa Beachside Inn is far quieter, but there are still various places to eat and drink nearby. Other hotels in good locations include Palm Grove and Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach. We didn’t receive any sponsored hotel stays on this trip but do earn some money when you click on a link and book a hotel.
Getting Around the Island
You can get anywhere you want to go on the bus. If staying a while get the 10-trip bus pass for $30. Otherwise you can rent bikes, scooters and cars or just walk from your resort to nearby restaurants and bars.
That should be enough to go on for those of you planning a trip to Rarotonga. You’ll spend most of your time on a beach anyway! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.
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