Finding great restaurants is one of the challenges when traveling. So it’s always handy to get a few insider tips. This also applies to Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands. There are many places where you can eat deliciously, but only a handful are also quite charming and make a visit a unique experience.
Living in Rarotonga for some years, we have tried all kinds of restaurants, from fast food to fine dining. But we only got back to the places that had something special.
In general, here are the best places to eat in Rarotonga, where you find superb food but also a vibrant atmosphere:
- OTB – On the Beach
- Beluga Café
- Vaima Restaurant
- Pacific Resort – Private Gazebo
- Maire Nui Gardens Café
- Tamarind House
- Bite Time Café
- Pacific Fish & Chips
- LBV – Le Bon Vivant
- Trader Jack’s
In the following, we’ll tell you more about these restaurants. What is their charm factor and makes them a must to visit?
1. OTB – On The Beach@ Manuia Resort
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Eat With Feet in the Sand
OTB is an all-time favorite, and for a good reason. The restaurant sits right on the beach, on the island’s western side, so it’s great for sunsets. It doesn’t matter whether you have the aperitif on the beach or your feet in the sand in the eating area – barefoot is the motto, and that makes it so relaxing!
The bar and dining area are beautifully decorated, and the staff is so caring. Oh, and not to forget the food itself: Well-known chef Philip Nordt creates superb menus with mostly locally grown ingredients – and super delicious.
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Eat in a Multi-Level Restaurant Open to the Ocean
The unique thing about Waterline is its layout.
The restaurant extends over two levels, is open to the ocean, and also has some chairs on the beach. You can enjoy the sunset from any table and seat. The decor is rustic, and the bar feels like you are in a harbor pub.
In the evenings’ fairy lights create a homely atmosphere.
The food is all about fresh local cuisine with a touch of Asian. The dips and sauces, in particular, are hot and tasty. And the cocktails are inspiring – in every way. Before eating, you can have a sundowner on the beach in front of the house. Grab yourself one of the deck chairs.
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Mediterranean-Arabian Style Restaurant Overlooking Black Rock
When we first came to Antipodes, we felt transported to the Orient. The entrance area looks like a quiet oasis. A bridge leads over a pond, and there are oriental tiles on the floor and the walls, cozy benches, and lots of greenery. It is an area that invites you to hang out.
But also the eating area, which opens up towards the ocean and overlooking Black Rock, is fantastic. Inside and on the large multilevel outside terrace, you come across a vibrant Arabian-Mediterranean style mix. So far, about the unique environment.
What about the food? It is a combination of local and Mediterranean food with some exciting twists. And it’s pretty delicious.
4. Beluga Café
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Eat In an Art Gallery
Beluga is a popular meeting place for locals and visitors. It’s on the main road of Arorangi, on the western side of Rarotonga. Once it was a gallery, today it’s a cafe in the gallery. So, inside, you sit comfortably between local art exhibits – and outside next to the family grave. The atmosphere is fantastic, and so are the guests.
Foodwise, Beluga serves breakfast and lunch/ brunch, and it is closed in the evenings. On the menu, you find yummy dishes with lots of fresh fish and vegetables, and they do an excellent job with vegetarian food. Delicious pastries and coffee complete the picture.
5. Vaima Restaurant
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: A Touch of Fiji
The Chef and most of the staff are from Fiji. All of them have an incredible sense of humor and are so welcoming.
You feel a bit like you are in Fiji, even more, when you order a delicious Fiji Gold beer.
The best spot is the tables on the beach and under trees. From here, you can enjoy superb sunsets as you are on the west side of the island.
After sunset, fairy lights create a cozy atmosphere.
Vaima offers fantastic fish dishes with Asian and Fijian influence. And they have a great choice of pizzas. And of course, much more, all of it is excellent food.
6. Pacific Resort – Private Gazebo
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Eat Under a Baldachin in a Private Beach Section
See the Title Image!
The Pacific Resort is known as luxury accommodation with extraordinary service in a great environment.
It sits in the center of Muri on a beautiful part of Muri Beach, and so does its Sandals restaurant. The dining area is under a large tent roof on the beach, so you are in the restaurant and at the same time part of beach life. This is already awesome, eating while watching the ocean scenery and people passing by.
But, the real excellent eating spot is around the corner, in a separate garden area and yet on the beach, where you eat under a baldachin. Make a reservation for a special occasion, like a romantic dinner for two, and enjoy this unique place.
7. Maire Nui Gardens Café
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: In a Botanical Garden
This café is placed in the Hidden Gardens, the famous Maire Nui Botanical Garden. Small paths meander through a paradise of tropical plants, fantastic flowers, and giant palms, along with ponds, kitchen gardens, and areas for growing plants. It’s a colorful maze. And in the middle of it all sits the idyllic café.
You’ll always find delicious cakes, especially cheesecake. At the same time, the day’s menu includes yummy poultry, delightful curries, fresh fish, and more.
And the owner also sells wine from his winery in Australia, including some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons we’ve ever had.
8. Tamarind House
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Colonial Style Eating Experience
The Tamarind House transports you back in time. The colonial-style building celebrates the past with lovingly Victorian decorated dining areas. It opens up over a terrace to a large garden area and the ocean behind. Between the courses, you can walk across the lawn, enjoy the green outside space and the ocean view.
Especially dinner there is an experience. Visitors and locals alike, and from couples to big families, all types of guests meet there. It is lively and cozy.
The food focuses on local seasonal fruits, vegetables, and fish, with many traditional dishes and delicious desserts. Tamarind House is also a favorite place for functions, as they cater perfectly to larger groups in a warm atmosphere.
9. BiteTime Café
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: In the Middle of the Dazzling Punanga Nui Market
The Punanga Nui market is famous for its market day on Saturdays when it is full of stands and people. But meanwhile, also on weekdays a couple of locals sell some items.
However, the food huts in the back area are open every day (except Sunday) and offer both yummy locally made food and a vibrant atmosphere on the market site.
Especially BiteTime is fantastic.
Taste the fresh sashimi or grilled fish with a chilled Nu (young coconut) while sitting in the shade under the big tree and watching the scenery.
10. Pacific Fish & Chips
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Best Fish & Chips From the Cutest Beach Hut
A great mix of local and reggae music greats you when you enter the yellow-blue hut of the Pacific Fish & Chips Shop. But this is not all. The staff is so welcoming and friendly, always chilled. No wonder they sell the best fish and chips on the island, be it battered or crumbed.
Take your food outside, where the Swedish color scheme (yellow & blue) extends to the eating area on tables and benches. Lay back and enjoy listening to the music and people you can hear through the open windows and door. Very inviting!
11. LBV – Le Bon Vivant
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Awesome Authentic Colonial Style Place
LBV is a bit similar to the Tamarind House. It’s a quaint cafe in an old colonial-style building in the middle of Muri. Iconic, very popular with visitors and locals. You can sit on the large terrace that runs around the building or take a seat in the huge and super green garden.
Some of the adjoining rooms sometimes host exhibitions, and it is also a popular location for functions in general. Take a seat in the lounge-like seating areas and enjoy one of the best cafes on the island and delicious baked goods and fresh local dishes.
12. Trader Jack’s
Charming Places to Eat In Rarotonga: Iconic, Lively, Next to Avarua Harbor
No question about it, Trader Jack’s is the go-to place on Rarotonga when it comes to relaxing with friends and family.
The bar & eatery sits right in the Avarua harbor area, where you can watch the scenery with cool drinks and food. Rowers, divers, and swimmers start from here, and also competitions take place, such as the famous international canoe race festival Vaka Eiva (held in November).
In terms of food, you choose finger food, dishes based on fresh fish, and delicious pizzas. Try the fresh tuna sashimi pizza! The place where you can hang out perfectly.
We hope this article will help you choose places to eat in Rarotonga that are really worth trying.
Let us also take you visually around in our video about Rarotonga. Have an awesome stay and enjoy!
Where to Get Detailed Information About the Entire Cook Islands?
Want to learn more about the Cook Islands? Surf through our website for everything you need to know, plus many videos and photos of all the inhabited islands!
Additionally, we have a Cook Islands Travel Guide covering all 12 inhabited islands with the following details:
- How to get to Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston, Pukapuka, Nassau, Manihi, Rakahanga, and Penrhyn (plus their contact details and geocodes)
- Best time for traveling
- Useful facts and statistics
- Details on the infrastructure
- Tips on where to shop and what to eat
Plus a lot more. Dig right into it!