It’s no secret that the Cook Islands are high on my list of favourite holiday spots. It’s just so easy to slip into the island way of life, settle into the resort pool or on a beach and not stray more than a couple of hundred metres from your hotel room.
Well, I decided to change my ways and have a bit of a look around Rarotonga and discover some of the island’s landmarks.
TANGAROA 4×4 TOUR
A great way to go to places you would probably never find on your own and experience some of Rarotonga’s lesser known attractions. Safari tours will get you out and into it, mix it up with locals and learn something of their culture – all in the comfort of modern 4 wheel drive vehicles.
Te Rua Manga is a needle-shaped rock in the centre of the island. Once Rarotonga was one mountain and when a volcanic eruption occurred, everything else imploded and left the needle.
You will see across to the Muri Lagoon and gaps in the reef. They are natural passages, and through each one is a river running to the mountain. You won’t believe the views from Hospital Hill, and you will see the point where seven canoes left on their journey to Aotearoa in around 1250. Their destination is now known as New Zealand.
Inexpensive and comfortable accommodation with beachfront access and lagoon views is available at Aquarius. It was opened around five years ago by Scottish couple Dorothy and Cameron Robertson who visited the islands and fell in love with them. They say they pinch themselves every morning when they look at their surroundings.
Built on the site of an old laundry shed, guests can stay in one of eleven ocean view rooms or in the dormitory. Rooms have two king beds, ensuite, ceiling fan, air-conditioning and spectacular views. Dormitories have twelve sets of bunks in private cubicles with storage facilities, overhead lamps, air conditioning, lockers and three bathrooms.
Coral Club Bar & Grille serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks overlooking the pool. Diners enjoy fine food and beverages, magical sunsets and whales splashing around between July and October.
This is a fantastic way to meet locals, learn something of their customs and traditions and enjoy home-cooked food. Tourists visit three homes and enjoy a dinner course in each one. One look at lush gardens growing coconuts, passionfruit, mangoes and papaya assure you dessert will be worth waiting for. Taro and coffee beans are also grown.
Guests are collected at their accommodation and taken to the first home for sparkling wine and an entrée of Ika Mata, a delicacy of local marinated fish. At the second home, the main course could be barbecued fish or chicken served with taro leaf and coconut cream salad and possibly served al fresco with fabulous views. If guests prefer, more ‘western’ style meals can be catered, but why not give local cuisine a try?
Desert at the third home may be a cake or pudding, often made from banana, fruit salad and ice cream and locally grown coffee. All in all, you are assured of a relaxed wine-and-dine experience with local musicians providing entertainment. All the things we hear about friendly and generous islanders are true!
They also offer private group evening tours for groups of fifteen or more on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Private group lunch tours are available on Saturdays.
Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
WHAT TO WEAR
- Try to go to church if you’re there on a Sunday. Wear white, a hat too if you like, the singing is so uplifting and the locals may even ask you back for a Sunday island feast! It’s important to remember that most Cook Islanders are quite religious, please be respectful of that. In church, cover your shoulders and in general don’t wear anything too provacative.
- Rugby is huge there, even the girls play, everyone is welcome at the games.
- Stock up on Monoi Oil at the local supermarket, this local oil has inspired everyone from Francois Nars to Tom Ford.
Head to Lonely Planet to read up about the top sights of the Cook Islands.