Underwater, on the water or deep into our lush tropical landscape, the freedom and ease of exploring a little paradise is what sets us apart in the South Pacific. Lagoon cruises, fishing, diving, guided mountain hikes, storytelling cycling tours, buggies, quadbikes or 4WD trips inland – we’ve got it all. The diversity of our breathtaking natural terrain means you can craft your ideal itinerary. Fast or slow? Laidback, culturally enriching or full throttle adrenaline? The only limit is how you choose to define your perfect holiday. Due to Rarotonga's popularity as a tourist destination, it is essential that you book your tours and activities well before your arrival to avoid disappointment. A few of them are shown on the links on this page. Our General Manager can book all of these activities for you, and can assist you with recommendation: email@example.com.
Cook Islands dance traditions
Each island in the Cook Islands has its own special dances and these are learned from childhood by both girls and boys. Dance competitions are common and hotly contested - if there's a competition on when you're visiting, do your best to see it. Dancers are accompanied by drumming on the paté, a slit drum that's also found in Samoa and Tahiti. Dances can be sensual, fierce and incredibly athletic; all of them are utterly spellbinding. There's often dancing on stage at Punanga Nui Market or you can catch a live show at one of Rarotonga's resorts.
- Te Vara Nui Over-Water Night Show and Buffet Dinner
- Highland Paradise
- Te Maeva Nui 2022 - Constitution Celebrations 29 JULY 2022 - 4 AUGUST 2022
Cook Islands music
Apart from the traditional drumming, you'll hear at a dance performance, the music of the Cook Islands encompasses everything from traditional folk songs accompanied by ukulele or guitar to rap, hip hop and rock music. For traditional music, book for an island night performance at Te Vara Nui cultural village. Music is also a highlight of island nights, which are held every week at the larger resorts. Some of the best venues for contemporary music include Charlies Café, On the Beach Restaurant, Wilsons Beach Bar, Trio's Bar and Pacific Resort Rarotonga.
Cook Islands clothing
While smart casual or beach-style clothing is the norm for most residents of Rarotonga, you'll also see plenty of people wearing the pareu, a bright-coloured length of fabric worn as a wrap by both men and women. At traditional dance performances, women and girls wear a pareu kiri'au roroa (long skirt), papa kapu akiri (coconut bra) and pare rakei (headpiece). Men and boys wear a pareu poto (skirt), ei kaki (necklace) and pare rakei no te tane (headpiece).
Cook Islands handcrafts
When you're shopping at Punanga Nui Market or around Avarua township, look for tivaevae quilts, wood carvings featuring traditional Polynesian motifs, pareu, art works, pearl jewellery, hand-made hats and bags, and woven homewares.
Best Rarotonga food experiences
Cook Islands cuisine traditionally involves fresh local seafood, chicken, pork, coconut, ginger, tropical fruit and starchy veges, like taro and cassava. However it also embraces ingredients and recipes from other cuisine cultures, which is why you'll also find excellent sushi, pizza, curries, stir-fries and poke bowls in Rarotonga. Some of the best restaurants in Rarotonga include:
- Mooring Fish Café in Muri Village - fresh seafood and salads served simply
- Trader Jacks at Avarua Harbour - a classic waterfront eating place since 1986
- Vili's Burger Joint in Muri - often credited with the best burgers in Raro
- Tamarind House in Avarua - an excellent choice for a celebration or if you want to dress up for dinner
- Charlie's Café in Titikaveka - the best fish sandwich on the island
- Antipodes Rarotonga - Antipodes specialises in al fresco style cuisine enjoyed by the many nations occupying the greater Mediterranean Region
To discover Rarotonga's equivalent of street food, there are two markets to target. First up is Punanga Nui Market, held every Saturday morning in Avarua. Here you can enjoy things like roast pork rolls with apple sauce, ika mata (marinated raw fish), rukau (steamed taro leaves), poke (a sweet dish made with bananas and tapioca) and mitiore (fermented coconut with onion and seafood). And keep an eye out for firi firi -donuts with chocolate filling. You'll also find European favourites like sourdough bread, croissants and pastries.
The other seriously-good casual food experience on Raro is Muri Night Market, which happens every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You'll find noodles, udon, chow mein, chop suey, crispy squid, pork ribs, teriyaki, roast dinners and much more. Dessert gets a lot of attention here too, so leave room for coconut cheesecake, chocolate brownie or a doughnut (or two). Hit this market after a day of adventure - you'll need a big appetite!
Activities in Rarotonga
Walks and hiking in Rarotonga
Tropical hiking gives you a different view of paradise, so pack some sturdy boots or shoes. Once you've discovered the joys of trekking through Rarotonga's hinterland, there'll be no stopping you. Here are some trails to enjoy:
The Cross-Island Track is the most popular walk on Rarotonga, but it's far from crowded. The four-hour hike includes the 413m Te Rua Manga (Needle). North to south is the recommended direction, because there's less chance of a wrong turn
The Takitumu Conservation Area trail starts on the eastern side of the Queen's Representative's official residence in Titikaveka. One of Raro's best natural attractions, the trail takes you into the cloud forest for glimpses of the Kakerori (Rarotongan Flycatcher bird). The small entry fee assists species protection
Takuvaine Valley Trail, which starts as a drivable road, lets you see where the people of Rarotonga used to live before European settlers arrived
Avana Valley Track heads inland from Avana Harbour. It starts at Avana Road next to Manavaroa homestead. The path crosses several tributaries of the Avana Stream, so you can have a freshwater dip if it gets too hot
Maungatea Bluff Track delivers some of the best high-altitude views on the island. To find the track, follow the road on the right of Tauae Store until it runs out and the walking trail begins
Bike tours and self-guided biking
Cycling on Rarotonga is both a form of transport and something fun to do. You can hire bikes from various places around the island, then pedal forth to find beaches, snorkelling spots, cafés and shops. Biking to Punanga Nui Market on a Saturday saves the hunt for a carpark at the island's most popular weekly event. Visiting the market is one of the best activities to do in Rarotonga, so make it a priority.
Another way to enjoy yourself on self-propelled wheels is a guided ride with Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours. They offer a range of experiences, from basic lunch-and-swim options to exciting five-hour rides that involve mountain bikes and stream crossings. The theme with all their tours is storytelling - you'll hear local legends, pick up interesting facts and figures, and generally learn about life on an idyllic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This operator also gives 10% of their profits back to the community, so your fun experience is making a difference to the locals.