What to do in Rarotonga

Wondering what to do in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands?

Mike and I flew with Pacific Blue from Auckland to Rarotonga on a Friday night. We’d got a fantastic deal on the flights (we’re talking under $300 each return for the trip).

We were picked up from the airport by our host from Tiare Village backpackers and taken to our pool-side unit accommodation for the first two nights. Tiare village is behind the airport so handy if you’re arriving late in the evening. It was very reasonably priced ($70 for the unit per night and we were in the flashest accommodation in the complex) and was near a store we could grab breakfast from in the morning. The downside was that it was neather near town or the beach so you need a form of transportation.

We hired a green Nissan March from Budget for two days which we named ‘Mulchie’ as I have a compulsive need to name any vehicle I drive in. This enabled us to drive around the island a few times to get our bearings and stop at points of interest as we pleased. I’d definitely recommend hiring a car unless you’re confident enough on a scooter.

Rarotonga Hire Car

What to do in Rarotonga

We saw a lot in our first two days on the island  inculding The Punanga Nui Markets, the waterfall and abandoned Sheraton, assorted beaches.
On our 3rd day we checked out of Tiare Village and headed for The Santuary, the new adults only complex at The Rarotongan resort and spent much of our remaining days lazing by the pool or beach with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other. It was much too hot to do anything too strenuous.

Rarotonga Beach

There were some great activities at The Rarotongan including an Island Night held at the resort where we got to experience a Cook Island BBQ and see traditional dancing and music.

I did my PADI Open Water Licence in 2003 so was able to do a dive with Amanda and Tom from Pacific Divers. Diving off a boat in the lagoon in just a bikini was very different to my training dives in Wellington’s Lyall Bay in the middle of Winter when the water was around 11 degrees and we didn’t see any pretty fish or coral.


I’ve been to Fiji and New Caledonia on previous vacations. What I really liked about Rarotonga in comparison was that all the locals seemed to be working hard and doing well for themselves. In Nadi, Suva and Noumea there was a lot of poverty – shacks on the side of the road, beggars etc. while the tourist ‘hubs’ were a complete contrast. What tourists see in Rarotonga is the real Cook Islands.

Do you have other suggestions for what to do in Rarotonga? I’d love to go back!