Trip to Rarotonga March 2012


Wednesday 14 March.

We flew from Paraparaumu to Auckland and then on to Rarotonga.  The flight across the Pacific took 4 hours and we arrived just after midnight (but went back in time as we had crossed the dateline). We then took a taxi to the Edgewater Resort, the biggest one in Rarotonga.

Next morning the temperature was warm (around 29oC) and there were occasional rain showers. After a tropical breakfast we went to an orientation session to learn about the hotel’s facilities and options for activities. We then went for a walk up the road to a local shop and bought some supplies. Everything is very expensive; no doubt because it all has to be shipped to the Cook Islands from New Zealand. We decided to take the local bus right around the island (32km) so we could orientate ourselves. The buses go clockwise and anticlockwise every hour. The people all live in a narrow strip along the water’s edge because there are big volcanic mountains in the centre of the island.  There is a coral reef between 100m to 2km out to sea that shelters the shore all the way round. We stopped to explore the largest town in the Cook’s: Avarua.  Not much happens there!  Back at the hotel we saw a coconut demonstration showing how they climb the tall trees, and shell and use the green and brown coconuts.  We are now aware of coconuts above us – if one hits you on the head it is bad news!  In the evening we walked along the road to get a reasonable priced meal then watched the sun set on the beautiful beach.



  Thursday 15th March

After our tropical breakfast we hired a scooter so we could explore a bit more freely. The scooter cost just $15 for a whole day.  We headed anti-clockwise again and stopped regularly as things caught our interest seeing gardens, churches, graves in the back yards, tropical foliage, mountains and the ever-present tropical beaches. We explored Muri Beach which is just beautiful. Its white sands are set off against the lovely blue of the lagoon and it is all framed by nearby islands.  We are glad that we will be returning here on our two excursions! (This shows that Muri Beach is the best place to stay in Rarotonga, even though it is on the far side of the island from the airport and Avarua).





Back at the resort we had a swim and a rest and then were picked up for our evening visit to Te Vara Nui Cultural village, at Muri Beach. After being welcomed ceremonially into the village we were shown the history of the Cook Islands, and demonstrations of village life including fishing, medicine, costume and tapa making, carving, fire-making and another coconut show.  We then had a sumptuous buffet dinner and watched the ‘over water night show’.  This told one of the legends of Rarotonga in dance, singing and drums. It was very spectacular with great music, dancing and lighting. Some of the dancing was on boats which circled the main stage. There was even a fire dance. Te Vara Nui is described as the ‘ultimate experience of Cook Island culture’ and it certainly lived up to its name! 




Friday 16th March.

After breakfast we were taken back to Muri Beach for the most popular tourist experience in Rarotonga: ‘Captain Tama’s lagoon cruize’.  We were taken out into the lagoon on a glass bottomed boat and did some snorkeling. There were lots of brightly covered tropical fish all around us, and giant clams on the sea floor. The sea was incredibly clean and clear, and it was good to be sheltered by the coral reef. We were then taken to Koromiri Motu – the island opposite Muri Beach.  We had a wander around the island then had a fresh fish BBQ under the tropical palms. Next it was our third coconut show, and another interesting show in which we saw many different ways to tie a sarong.



We expected that much of our time on Rarotonga would be spent reading and resting, but so far we have been too busy for that! In the evening we listened to the music by a band of just two guys. They put on a wonderful show, singing island songs, and many of the well-known oldies.

Saturday 17th March.

We caught the local bus into Avarua and went to the Saturday market. There were lots of people there buying food, produce and trinkets from the stalls and enjoying the singing and dancing. It seems the main kind of music for Rarotonga is the drum dance and the Saturday market is a very important part of the local culture, where it can be showcased.




We took the bus back to the hotel (meaning we went right around the island three times, and Muri Beach four times!). In the afternoon we learnt how to make an ei (lei) and enjoyed time by the pool. In the evening we went to the hotel’s “Island night”.  This consisted of a lovely buffet meal and then another concert of singing, dancing and drums. We were seated with Ruth and Don who were on their honeymoon but we immediately knew who they were, and they knew who we were! Small world! 

Sunday 18th March.

After breakfast we were driven to the local church by Darryl and Leigh Thorburn, friends from Lower Hutt. Darryl is just starting a 2 year contract in the Cook Islands and had a car. The church service was in English and Cook Island and the singing was just amazing. They certainly know how to harmonise and to sing with passion!  Afterwards all the tourists were invited to have refreshments in the hall. This was like a feast! The local people must all prepare food for it before the service and there was plenty to go around.  Fantastic hospitality!



In the afternoon we had our AGM then a swim and sat around the pool chatting with Darryl and Leigh.  


Monday 18th March.

We got up early and took a shuttle to the nearby airport. We then flew to Auckland and then on to Palmerston North (because the planes to Paraparaumu were out of service) and a shuttle to home. We arrived on Tuesday the 20th because we had crossed the dateline and gained a day. 

This was a fantastic short holiday in Rarotonga and exceeded all expectations.  Special highlights were the beautiful tropical scenery, the white sands  and deep blue of the water at the beaches, the wonderful dancing and singing, learning about the culture of the Cook Islands (and seeing three coconut shows),  snorkeling, going to church and the wonderful, friendly Cook Islanders. Rarotonga is a great place to have a holiday!



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