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Cross Island Track + the Needle: Walking Across Rarotonga

Cross Island Track + the Needle: Walking Across Rarotonga

It can be tough to drag yourself away from the beach in Rarotonga, but at some point on your trip you might want to explore the interior. If you’re into hiking then the Cross Island Track is the obvious choice. We did it on our recent trip to Rarotonga and loved the mountain views and the chance to see the island from one of its highest points.

Road Work

It’s recommended to hike the Cross Island Track from east to west. We were staying at Muri Beach and caught a bus to the depot in Avarua Village.

From there it’s a few kilometres’ walk through the backstreets of town. We were guided by Google Maps and it was easy to find the trailhead, but if you get lost there should be plenty of helpful locals to point you in the right direction. Once you see the Cross Island Track sign (which is on a shelter that looks like a bus stop) you know you’re on the right track.

There are some cool views along these roads, and eventually you’ll get a glimpse of “The Needle”, one of the most famous landmarks on the island.

READ MORE: Muri Beach and Lagoon, Rarotonga

The Climb

Once on the track you’ll be heading steadily uphill along a narrow forest path. It’s not the hardest climb but is steep and there isn’t a lot to see. Soon enough you’ll reach a clearing and then “Ridge Junction”, where you’ll see the short detour to the Needle.

The Needle

That short detour takes you to the base of the Needle — there are great views from there but you may be tempted to climb it. There’s a chain to aid in your ascent of the Needle but I reckon it’s too dangerous (for inexperienced climbers at least).

There’s a big drop-off directly below where you’re climbing and it seems easy to slip — there’s a sign saying do it at your own risk — definitely risky in my opinion!

The Other Side

Once you’re finished with the Needle all that’s left is the descent down to sea level on the West Coast of Rarotonga. Some of the best views on the Cross Island Track are found on the first part of the descent. You’ll see the Needle in all its glory as well as some of the coastline.

You’ll soon leave the views behind, with the rest of the track meandering through the forest. It follows a river for a while too and there are a couple of small waterfalls along the way.

READ MORE: Check out my post about Aroa Beach and the West Coast of Rarotonga

Wigmores Waterfall

We were looking forward to seeing Wigmores Waterfall, which is apparently the best waterfall in Rarotonga. It seemed like it’d be the perfect end to a fun day walk, but there was barely any water in it. Pretty disappointing, but that can happen to waterfalls I guess. From the waterfall it’s a bit of a walk back to the main road where you can wave down a bus.

Cross Island Track FAQs

  • How long does it take? It took us just under four hours to walk from the bus depot in Avarua to the west coast.
  • Is it hard? The climb is steep, and it can get hot walking on the road sections. It’s easy enough though, especially for experienced hikers. I’m not sure if I’d take young kids along, it depends on their abilities I guess.
  • Do you need good footwear? I wouldn’t want to do this walk in jandals! You don’t need hiking boots, but decent shoes are a must.
  • What about the weather? It’s not recommended to do this walk in wet weather (or soon after rain) as it gets very muddy. If in doubt, ask a local!
  • Which direction should you walk? It’s advisable to do this walk east to west rather than west to east. There’s a sign at the west end of the track warning that you shouldn’t start there, and to go to the east entrance. We didn’t see anyone doing it west to east. Again ask a local if in doubt.

  • What about transport? We travelled by bus during our time in Rarotonga and it was really convenient. Two buses go around the island (one in either direction) and will drop you close to wherever you want to go. We took the bus to the depot in town, walked from there and then caught the bus again at the other end (from the end of the track to the main road takes around 10 mins). We walked to Wigmores Supermarket and grabbed lunch once we reached the main road, but you can wave the bus down anywhere. You can find bus timetables here.
  • Is there an easier alternative? Yes! The Cross Island Track isn’t for everybody, and there are easier alternatives if you want to see some of the interior. The best one we found was the Hospital Hill Lookout — awesome views and it’s only a 5–10-minute walk from the hospital car park.

Are you planning to hike the Cross Island Track on your next trip to Rarotonga? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.