Population 10,572
25.9 sq mls/67.1 sq. kms



Scooters are the main form of transport and there are plenty of places to hire them.  Helmets are not compulsory but given the potholed state of the roads, you'd be foolish not to wear one.    You must have a current full licence from your own country for the class of vehicle you want to drive.  If you're planning to hire a motorbike or scooter, you'll also have to take a short test...to prove you know how to go round the only roundabout on Raro!   (pictured above right)
Driving tip: Keep left and give way to traffic from the right

A UNIQUE WELCOME:  "MAY YOU LIVE LONG"

As soon as you step off the plane, you know you've arrived somewhere very special...
 
Straw hatted Jake Numanga Snr stands in the corner of the arrivals area in Rarotonga airport strumming Polynesian love songs on a banjo, as you wait to get your passport stamped.   He's been providing his unique entertainment for every single arriving and departing flight for more than 20 years.   And he was awarded an MBE by HM the Queen for his serivces to tourism.  

Immigration and customs are efficient but very friendly, welcoming you with words that will quickly become familiar because everyone greets you with them... "kia orana" meaning "may you live long".

Cook's Island Bus is an inexpensive way of travelling.   It goes all round the island and stops anywhere you want to get on or off.  You only need to decide if you want to go clockwise or anti-clockwise!
Check the timetable

Muri lagoon from the air
Another day in paradise
Muri is the main resort beach with beautfully clean sand and sea: you can snorkel on the reef (a marine conservation park) or walk across to the uninhabited islands in the lagoon - or both!   The lagoon islands are the most popular venue for island weddings
What to do and where to go    Essential info about getting married
Access: 
Daily International Flights
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Scooting around Rarotonga
Cook's Island Bus
The Capital Island
Jake's tuneful welcome to Rarotonga
Don't be surprised to see gravestones in the gardens of homes as you travel round the island.  Islanders are often buried on family land even if it's the front garden
Tangaroa carving
This is Tangaroa, an ancient god whose image you'll see all over the place and an unofficial symbol of the Islands.  Smaller versions of this wooden carving are popular souvenirs!
Family graves in the garden
Continue the tour
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The Punanga Nui cultural market near the harbour is a must visit for tourists and islanders alike.  It's open daily from 8 till 4, but the main market day is Saturday (6am- 2pm) and that's the best
More about the market
Location map
Rarotonga airport exterior
Continue the Rarotonga tour
Vara's budget accommodation
Vara's is a budget property also on Muri beach
Aro'a Beachside Inn in Arorangi is highly rated on review sites
Cultural market entrance
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ABOUT THE ISLAND
Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands and the capital, Avarua is the main commercial and administrative centre.  Locals just call it "town".   It's also the most commercialised of the 15 islands, but it still retains a Polynesian charm.  The main street looks out across the Pacific Ocean and from June to August you can stand on the sea wall and watch whales as they migrate to warmer waters to breed.  You won''t find any fast food chains like McDonalds or any of the ubiquitous supermarket or store chains.  Instead there are palm lined roads and friendly locals.
GETTING THERE
Rarotonga is the most accessible of the 15 Cook Islands.   Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia operate regular flights into the island from New Zealand, the USA and Australia.  Services from New Zealand are daily
Rarotonga international airport...it was completely rebuilt in 2013
GETTING AROUND
The only roundabout on the capital island
Rugged Rarotonga interior
Looking towards one of the mini islands in Muri lagoon
Aerial view of Rarotonga - Ewan Smith, Air Rarotonga
The island's centre is a series of magnificent mountain ridges and peaks.  They include Te Manga, which at 652 metres (2,138 ft) is the highest point in the Islands.   You can join a guided walk with Pa (below) if you're energetic..and fit.
SHOPPING
Pa will give you an expert tour of the interior
There are no big shops but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of places to spend your money.  My advice is to wander round not just the centre of the Avarua but across the island.   My particular favourites are Tukis ("the store with more") Vonnias (the best kind of emporium) and, if you're looking for the best black pearls, I'd personally recommend Bergman and Sons.  Also on my best of the best list is
CITC Rarotonga
This is the closest you'll get to a superstore in Rarotonga.  CITC - the Cook Islands Trading Company - has been a part of Islands life for over 100 years.   They also have a liquor superstore just outside town
Rarotonga from the air
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Rarotonga map
Click here for a detailed map
Aro'a beachside inn
Pacific Resort Rarotonga beach front room
Right on Muri beach in Rarotonga
I can personally recommend the Pacific Resort Rarotonga (left and centre) which is in the prime position on Muri beach.  The Crown Beach Resort (right) is also particularly stunning and has a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor

Remote doesn't mean rough and ready when it comes to staying on the capital island.   Rarotonga has a wide choice of places from the luxurious to the cheap and cheerful backpacker type. 
STAYING IN RAROTONGA