Day 1 in Rarotonga
Welcome to Rarotonga! Upon arrival at the airport, you will go through customs and immigration. Should you opt to purchase a transfer to your hotel; a representative will be waiting for you as you exit immigration. Arrive at your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do!
We recommend you get acquainted with the main town of Avarua on the island of Rarotonga. This seaside village is found at the northern tip of the island featuring the main wharf, palm-fringed beaches, and a beautiful tranquil blue lagoon. There are many accommodations, restaurants, shops and attractions nestled along the beach and throughout the town. Stop into one of the restaurants with an unobstructed view of the beach and waters and enjoy a delicious lunch and some cocktails, then stroll through town and check out the quaint craft shop and stores where you can pick up some necessities for your stay.
After lunch, take a short walking tour of Avarua, which will start at the Para O Tane Palace, where the Queen signed the treaty accepting the Cook Islands as a British protectorate in 1888. The palace was built in the 1840s of limestone and timber, but was damaged during a cyclone in 1942 and has been renovated since.
Make your way over to the Cook Islands Christian Church which is the largest religious denomination on the Cook Islands. Built in 1853 featuring a whitewashed coral exterior, the church boasts around 18,000 members and was the final resting place for American author Robert Dean Frisbie and Albert Henry who was the country`s first prime minister. Be sure to head back to the church for their magnificent Sunday Morning Service at 10 am, the church is packed with locals all dressed in their Sunday best with hymns sung in Maori, then stay for tea and cake after and get to know the locals.
Next stop is the BCA Gallery (Beachcomber Contemporary Art) found in the courtyard of the Beachcomber Pearl Market featuring a wide selection of contemporary art housed in a historical building. The gallery has some excellent pieces of art on display from both international and local artists, it is dedicated to Modern Pacific Art. Visit the gift shop on site and pick up some unique pieces, then stop into the cafe set in the beautiful courtyard for a drink and snack.
Make sure you stop by the Beachcomber Pearl Market, black pearls are cultured and perfected by nature in the pristine lagoon of Manahiki making them abundant on the Cook Islands. These magnificent natural pearls have been harvested around the islands since the 1890s and can be found in the form of jewelry and more, the Cook Islands are the heart of the pearl industry.
If time allows, visit the Cook Islands Library and Museum, a private organization dedicated to the preservation of history and culture of the Cook Islands. The library features a collection of Pacific literature and the small museum exhibits ancient items such as an old whaling pot, spears and the islands` first printing press.
As evening approaches head down to the beach to capture a spectacular island sunset. Rarotonga boasts some of the most amazing sunsets in the world, there are a few great restaurants/bars that offer great views at sunset including the Shipwreck Hut with live music and a great selection of cocktails to toast the end of a fabulous day and Wilson`s Bar with great happy hour deals and amazing views.
There are a number of great restaurants to choose from all over the island offering a wide range of different cuisines including Mexican, Italian, Pacific and of course freshly caught fish and seafood. Find a place that suits your palette and enjoy a delicious dinner.
Afterwards, stop into one of the open air bars providing a cool island breeze and laid back vibe and enjoy a nightcap under the stars. The Cook Islands are situated far away from any major light source which makes it a great location to see millions of stars light up the night sky.
Day 2 in Rarotonga
Start your day with a delicious breakfast enjoy beachside or at one of the open air cafes found dotted around the island. Then head out on a bike ride around the island, the circumference of the island of Rarotonga is just under 20 miles and can be explored in one day by bicycle or scooter. Taking this route around the islands gives you the freedom to stop anywhere you would like and enjoy the stunning scenery along the way, the speed limit around the island is slow with an inner road especially for cyclists.
Explore the spectacular hidden beaches and lagoons dotted all around the coast, we highly suggest making a stop at Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve, a protected lagoon and one of the best snorkeling spots on the island and a natural breeding ground for several hundred species of tropical reef fish.
Relax and sunbathe on the soft white sands then take a dip in the transparent turquoise waters filled with fish, corals and other marine life. The visibility here is amazing and allows you to snorkel through the tropical lagoon waters and see an abundance of underwater sea life.
Kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are another popular activity on the lagoon giving you a different perspective of the marine life beneath you, including butterfly fish, sea bream, octopi, clams and moray eels. For lunch stop into the popular Shipwreck Hut found on the beachside by Aro`s Beachside Inn offering a wide menu selection, tropical cocktails, and great views.
Check out Titikaveka Beach situated on the islands southwest coast featuring a beautiful crystal clear lagoon perfect for swimming and snorkeling and filled with tropical fish. There is vibrant coral present in the lagoon as well as an abundance of stunning blue sea stars, take a kayak ride over the pristine waters and capture some amazing photographs of the sea life below the waters.
Black Rock Beach is another fantastic location for snorkeling, situated on the west coast of the island. The beach is named for the unique black basalt rocks that sit on the beach and in the waters, it is said to be where the spirits of the dead commenced their voyage to `Avaiki` (the afterworld).
Visit the Maire Nui Gardens, seven magnificent and vibrant tropical acres of lush gardens that boast spectacular views of the mountains. Wander through the lush verdant vegetation of the gardens brimming with plant life, palm trees, vibrant tropical flowers, and lily ponds, stop into the cafe for refreshments and try something off the menu made with fresh ingredients from the gardens.
Head over to the Matutu Brewery, this microbrewery is 100% locally owned and operated and produces some of the popular brews found at restaurants and bars all over the island, including Mai Lager, Kiva Pale Ale and Matutu Drafts. There are tours offered around the brewery daily at 12 and 1 pm along with free tastings.
Make your way back down to Titikaveka Beach to capture another awe-inspiring sunset while relaxing at one of the many beachside bars with a refreshing drink in hand. Choose from a number of amazing restaurants found in this neighborhood and enjoy another delicious dinner while taking in the stunning vistas and the laid back island vibe.
Day 3 in Rarotonga
Today check out the rugged jungle interior of the island of Rarotonga, which was formed by a giant, rocky volcano that collapsed thousands of years ago. The magnificent heart of the island yields ancient temples, stunning rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking scenic views. A popular activity to partake in is hiking The Cross Island Walk, which takes you through the lush verdant rainforest scenery that leads from the main town of Avarua on the northern coast 1.86 miles to Avatiu Valley on the southwest coast.
This four hour journey takes hikers through the rugged uninhabited rainforest and lush surrounding scenery to the distinct Te Rua Manga (The Needle) Mountain, a steep, bald rock that juts 1,355 feet in the air (which is possible to climb if you are a serious rock climber), weave along the cool mountain streams and learn about the cultural, historical and scenic sights along the way. The trek concludes at the spectacular cascading Wigmore`s Waterfall, take a dip in the refreshing pool at the base and cool off from your hike, enjoy a picnic in the surroundings of the falls and end your trek on the other side of the island. It is highly recommended to take a guided tour, Adventure Cook Islands provides these tours, which are filled with an abundance of information regarding the local flora and fauna seen along the way.
Take a trip to the Highland Paradise Cultural Center located high in the rugged mountains of Rarotonga the homeland of Tinomana Ariki, the paramount chief and his tribe in the 1800s. The village now features an open-air museum with shows highlighting the historical village and the survival of the Polynesian people. Take the tour here and relive Polynesian life with cultural activities and demonstrations including traditional cooking, coconut husking, and visit the souvenir shop
Visit the Koteka Winery owned and operated by the Koteka family, established in 1994 by Dr. George Koteka who personally will welcome you to his property and give you a guided tour. This is a great place to visit for a unique cultural experience and to taste some delicious wines including banana wine! Take a tour of the rustic factory and witness the winemaking process, then enjoy some tasty samples.
Capture another wonderful sunset, tonight on Black Rock Beach. This is a great location to see the sunset over the glistening blue waters decorated by the black basalt rocks. There are BBQ grills at the beach where you can cook up your own ingredients for a beachside dinner in the sand.
Day 4 in Rarotonga
Head out first thing to the Punanga Nui Market, a popular marketplace on the north shore of the island by the Avatiu Harbour in Avarua. Wander around the different stalls selling delicious vibrant produce, freshly squeezed juices, island food, crafts, and unique souvenirs. The market is open Monday through Friday from 8 am until 4 pm and on Saturdays, which is the main market day from 8 am until 2 pm. Sample the delicious food and some fresh tropical punch then pick up some fresh goods for a picnic later on and purchase some unique black pearls as a keepsake.
Visit the Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife Center, a great place to learn about whales and other wildlife that frequent the Cook Islands. Get up close with some of the islands marine life including whales, sharks, and turtles, see the aquariums filled with tropical fish, eels, prawns and coconut crabs. Stop into the cafe on site and enjoy drinks and snacks, then stop into the souvenir shop and pick up some items to take home.
Spend the rest of your day on island time, this spectacular tropical island is surrounded by the shimmering waters of the breathtaking blue lagoons brimming with vibrant tropical fish and the perfect location to swim and cool down.
There are companies all over the island that offer scuba diving tours to magnificent dive sites where coral and marine life can be seen, there are shipwrecks offshore that are exciting to explore along with limestone caves. There are fishing trips offered with tour groups where passengers can see the deep seas and catch some mighty fine fish.
In the evening time head back down to the markets. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights the Muri Night Markets are open starting at 5 pm (get there early the food runs out fast!) and are a great authentic place to enjoy some delicious island food including chicken and rice, spicy curry, ribs, noodles, and homemade crepes. The stalls are all family owned and the locals sure know how to cook up some tasty grub in a hospitable atmosphere.
Day 5 in Rarotonga
Spend your last day at the picturesque Muri Beach and in the breathtaking waters of Muri Lagoon, two of the islands most popular places. There are four `moto` (small islands) found just offshore from Muri Beach, the lagoons here are at the widest and deepest on the island and reach up to 328 feet out to the reef.
The beautiful Muri Beach is covered in sugar like sand and fringed by palm trees making it the ideal location for a laid back day at the beach. The stunningly clear, shallow waters of the lagoon make it one of the most popular spots on the island for swimming, paddle boarding, and kite surfing. There are glass bottom boat tours where passengers can see the abundance of marine life below the boat, stop at spots for snorkeling and visit the islands to enjoy a beach bbq.
Visit the award-winning Rumours Waterfall Spa for a relaxing massage. Divulge in some other rejuvenating spa treatments.
On your last evening on the island, enjoy some traditional evening entertainment at the Island Nights spectacular show featuring traditional singing and dancing. The Te Vara Nui Village puts on an award-winning show that tells the story of a local mythical legend acted out by dancers that showcase the rich culture of the Cook Islands. Guests get to dine on a delish a lavish buffet dinner and watch a breathtaking show. There are several other island night shows hosted around the island at various hotels throughout the week, however, the experience at Te Vara Nui Village is one of the best.
Additional Days in Rarotonga
If you are able to spend additional days in Rarotonga visit Tapuaetai `One Foot Island` which is one of the 22 islands in the Aitutaki atoll. A picturesque tropical island fringed by swaying palm trees and lined by soft white sand and tranquil turquoise lagoon waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Visit Arutanga, the main village on Aitutaki Island with a population of around 2,000 people, it is the second most visited island of the Cook Islands. Visit the main wharf which provides access to the lagoon and spend a day on the beautiful beach here with luxury accommodations nestled along the beachside, this is a popular place for honeymooners.
Your Last Day in Rarotonga
Depart from your hotel to the airport for your return flight home. We recommend that you purchase a private transfer to the airport if so the representative will meet you at your hotel with plenty of time to get you to the airport for your flight out.