Libe Nuñez Martinez knows all about travel because she works in the business, but for someone who's seen more of the world than most, it was not just the Cook Islands scenery that left her hungering for more. As a self-confessed foodie she discovered great places to eat out and drink. Here she shares her top tips and some suggestions on where you should visit along the way
"The Cook Islands are a tropical explorer’s paradise. Located in the middle of the South Pacific, the island nation offers you mountains, hospitable locals, seemingly untouched beaches, and lagoons and beach bungalows that look as if they were straight out of Fools Gold. Getting there is rather simple, too. If you are traveling from New Zealand, direct flights are available from Auckland International Airport, straight to Rarotonga, the largest Cook Island. JetStar Airlines and Air New Zealand are the most common airlines departing to and from the island countries. If you are departing from Australia, Sydney International Airport offers the most convenient travel route with most travelers also flying with Air New Zealand and Jetstar. If you want to keep your car in safe hands while traveling, Flyparks offers car park options - for both long and short-term stays - when looking for Sydney Airport Parking while you are away. Be sure to book in advance so you get the best prices available. Now, let's get into why the Cook Islands are so great"
"If you are visiting the Cook Islands, you are likely to be flying into Rarotonga. It has some of the best beaches, lagoons, cafes and markets. Because I am a foodie and explorer at heart, I’ve listed a few of my favorite things to do and places to eat when on the island".
RECOMMENDED IN RARO
Te Vara Nui Village: If you are
looking for both a fun and cultural experience, be sure to visit here - you
will get to experience a live performance by Cook Islanders while
indulging in delicious Rarotongan cuisine. The cuisine offered has just about
something for everyone - vegetarians and pescetarians alike. Be sure to make a
reservation as the shows can sell out quickly.
Muri and Punanga Nui Market: Both markets are must-sees. Punanga offers you the opportunity to buy local gifts and food during the day while listening to live bands play as soon as the sun goes down. Muri is a night market where food stalls are plentiful and you will never run out of a new local dish to try. If you wish to beat the queues, indulge before sunset in the garlic prawns with churros for dessert. If you are gluten-free, there is something at Muri for you. Visit Papa’s Pizza to try some of the delicious GF pizzas.
Tuoro Tapas Bar : Be prepared to get world class service when visiting here. The staff members are some of the best, most friendly people we have met - they make the experience what it is. When visiting, be sure to try the Frutti Tutti Punch and Prawn Bruschetta or Coconut Panko Fish Morsels.
The Mooring Fish Cafe: If what you are craving is fresh seafood (who isn’t?), this is your stop. It offers an unbeatable outside ambience with fish tacos and salads that you can’t pass up. The Fish burger is one of my favorite meals there.
Must visit markets
Mooring Fish Cafe
"This island is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful you will visit. It is often disputed how much time you should spend here versus Rarotonga, and while both are great, we have to say this takes the cake – mainly because the lagoons and more quiet atmosphere offer a tranquility that can’t be surpassed.
Lagoon Day Tour, The Vaka Cruise: Set a day aside while visiting Aitutaki to take this lagoon cruise, you won’t regret it. The tours run Monday through Saturday starting at 10am. It lasts about 6 hours and promises you the chance to see a variety of aquatic life while indulging in fresh caught fish and choosing from a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks when bouyed on an island. You can choose from a range of activities like snorkeling or ocean swimming where you will marvel at an abundance of coral reefs. The cruise is hassle free as the company will pick you up from your accommodation in Aitutaki"
AWESOME ON AITUTAKI
One of our favorite places we visited was this family
owned cafe. Having lunch or brunch here is a must as they offer smoothie bowls
or a fish taco trio that is absolutely divine. They also have a cute shop where
you can buy trinkets and island outfits you will definitely want to wear
throughout your stay.
Black and White Pearl Charters: If you want a deep sea fishing experience unlike any other, book a day trip with Black Pearl Charters. Mere, Mike, and Leo will take care of you and make your trip as personalized as possible for what you wish to do and see. The crew will pick you up around 6am at your accommodation, provide delicious snacks and drinks, and tell you stories that will keep you laughing and entertained all day long. You will catch your own fish to eat and try decadent coconut bread in between! If you aren’t interested in the whole fishing scene, opt for the White Pearl Charter, where Leo will take you out snorkeling and show you the fascinating beautiful Lagoon and all that inhabits it.
Aunty Odeez This is a restaurant you do not want to miss out on. It was one of our favorites and has us already thinking about when we will travel back to eat here again (that's how good it was). Located on the beach in Amuri, you will feel right at home in this family, local-loved restaurant. If you do plan to go on the Black Pearl Charter, go here after with your fresh caught food as Aunty Odee’z will take your hard-earned catch and prepare it for you. Every meal is reasonably priced and while it may take a little longer to get your food if it's packed, the atmosphere you are in is incredible and brings an authentic island experience.
Aunty Odeez Restaurant
"Atiu island is the perfect place to escape the crowds with your travel companion if you want - and I really mean this - the whole beach to yourself. It's true that if you also want a very local, traditional experience where you can interact with locals when you want and also experience your solitude when it's enjoyable for you, staying on Atiu Island is the right place"
AMAZING ON ATIU
Experience a Tumunu A Tumunu is a beer hut owned and hosted by, you
guessed it, locals! They tend to be on the outskirts of Atiu villages but are very
accessible via car or walking. If you want to know where some are, just ask
your local accommodation or pedestrians on the street where their favorite one
is. While there, you will likely be sat in a humbling seat (a tree stump or
nearby chair) and be offered an orange, home-brewed beer, also known as a bush
beer. It is strong and delicious, so try to not have too many!
Kura’s Kitchen If you plan to stay at the Atiu villas, or really even if you are not, Kura’s restaurant is a great place to dine for a two-course meal. You will be greeted by fabulous hosts, Jackie and Robert, and welcomed in as if you are an old friend. Robert makes great drinks behind the bar and Jackie indulges you in stories at dinner that she has accumulated over the years while living on the island. They do only serve dinner and should be informed of your visit and any dietary restrictions before 3pm if you are not staying at the Atui villas in order to accommodate your needs. You are bound to meet locals and travelers alike while staying here as you sit at a family-style dining table, making the experience even more worthwhile. Be sure to ask about an “Ïsland Night” while here.
Atiu Island Coffee Tour If you are a coffee lover, and want to spend some time tasting coffee and learning the magical ways of the roasting process, we highly recommend taking this tour with Mata Arai. You’ll learn about the roasting process from start to finish, see an arabica coffee plantation, and, if you are lucky, will be let in on and try a secret ingredient the family has been using in their coffee production for decades. Like many other places on the island, it is a family-owned business, making the experience on the island authentic and unforgettable.
Akai Bakery Be sure to not leave the island without trying Akai Bakery for some delicious sweets, pastries, and doughy bread. It is located in Mapumai Village, a village home to only 120 lovely islanders whose smiles will make you happy you came.
"If it’s only one island you choose to visit or 3-4, the ones listed here are some of the most unforgettable. The Cook Islands are often overlooked by tourists who rather opt for the extravagant Bora Bora or Fiji, but don’t let these islands escape you. They are every bit worth visiting"