I see you’re thinking of planning a trip to Rarotonga! You’re probably now being bombarded with targeted ads about hotels and experiences that promise to make it the best holiday ever. But what’s it really like? You obviously shouldn’t trust ads, but as an impartial blogger (I didn’t receive any sponsored hotels, flights or experiences) hopefully you trust me.
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 rooms.
Rarotonga is the main island in the Cook Islands, and it’s stunning. Many places on this planet are, but it’s up there with the best beach destinations I’ve been to, which includes the Caribbean, Maldives, Thailand, Australia and Indonesia. There’s a 32 km road around Rarotonga with beach areas, resorts and villages scattered around the whole island.
One reason I rate Rarotonga so highly is the mountainous interior. It’s ripe for exploring if you can drag yourself away from the beach! Check out the Cross Island Track for some of the best views in Rarotonga.
READ MORE: Cross Island Track + the Needle: Walking Across Rarotonga
I’m sure you’re now aware of Rarotonga’s beauty, but what’s the vibe like? We visited in November, which is shoulder season, and it was pretty quiet. It definitely wasn’t dead though — lots of families and couples, and a few wedding parties. I’m sure it’s busier during high season, but even then I reckon it has a very laid-back, quiet atmosphere.
The locals are really friendly and there was a complete absence of touts — it’s nice to be able to sit on a beach and not have people try to sell you stuff.
So, It’s not a Party Island?
It doesn’t seem like it. Most of the resorts have bars, and there are plenty of places to drink and meet people, but it’s more beach-shack bars and other small establishments that seem aimed towards the older crowd.
Maybe not the best place to party, but there’s something wrong if you’re into drinking and can’t enjoy a few cocktails at the resort or nearby beachfront bar.
There are some great beaches in Rarotonga, but some average ones too. Deciding where to stay is key. Muri Beach is the best place to stay if you’re after a beach town vibe. There’s plenty going on and you won’t run out of restaurants and cafés to try.
Where to Stay at Muri Beach: We stayed at Muri Beach Club Hotel and Aroko Bungalows and highly recommend both. Muri Beach Club Hotel is quite upmarket while Aroko is a cheaper bungalow option by Muri Lagoon.
If you’re after something quieter you should consider Aroa Beach. It’s a beautiful beach area but it’s nowhere near as developed as Muri.
Where to Stay at Aroa Beach: We stayed at Aroa Beachside Inn — such a peaceful place and the beach there is one of the best on the island.
The stretch between Muri Beach and Aroa Beach is home to the best beaches on the island, but even if you’re staying away from that area you’re never more than a 30-minute bus ride from the best spots. The photo below is from Palm Grove Resort – we didn’t stay there but it’s on the list for next time.
Nothing / Lots to Do
Rarotonga is the perfect beach destination if you just want to relax by a beach for a few days, but there’s lots to keep more active travellers busy. Boat trips, hikes, viewpoints, snorkelling, kayaking and cultural shows are all popular activities in Rarotonga — but there’s no pressure to do any of it.
You’ll see dogs everywhere in Rarotonga, often wandering around on their own. They aren’t strays — a lot of locals just let their dogs roam. You’ll see them relaxing on the beach, walking around in the water and, if you’re lucky, one might join you on your standup paddleboard!
It’s Easy to Get Around
My last point here is probably the biggest reason it stands out from other places in the Pacific. Everything on the island is accessible by bus, meaning you aren’t stuck at your resort. You can also rent cars and motorbikes — you’ve got a lot of freedom with how you explore Rarotonga, and the bus definitely keeps the costs down.
Hopefully, this post has shown you what a trip to Rarotonga is really like. I’ll be posting a lot more about the island in the coming months and may also return to the Cook Islands this year to visit Aitutaki.
Are you planning a trip to Rarotonga? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
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