Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands, a fantastic holiday paradise in the South Pacific. International visitors arrive on Rarotonga, and most of them stay there. However, unlike other vacation destinations, the laid-back island does not offer much shopping. You will not find many stores and very few good grocery stores.
When we lived on the island for several years, it also took us a while to find out where to buy food in Rarotonga, of good quality and not too expensive. So, we are happy to share our experience and knowledge about food shopping – to make it an easier exercise for you.
Where can you buy good food in Rarotonga? In general, here are the best places to get fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, healthy food, bread & pastry, and basic staples:
- On the Road
- Daily Punanga Nui Market
- Ocean Fresh Fish Shop
- Prime Foods
- Wigmore’s Superstore
- CITC Supermarket
- Jancey’s Bakery & Deli
- LBV Bakery & Deli
In the following, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about buying food in Rarotonga. The best places to do so – and what exactly is on offer.
Buy Food in Rarotonga – Four Important Facts Upfront
1. Imported food is expensive: Rarotonga heavily depends on food imports, mainly from New Zealand. This drives up the prices of groceries, and they are generally more expensive no matter where you buy them. One example is dairy products, e.g., 1 kg plain yogurt costs around 16 NZD/11 USD.
2. Delivery issues: Since products come by ship and plane, there are often delivery delays. So do not expect all (basic) food items to be available all the time. For example, it can happen that there are no eggs on the island for weeks.
3. Summer is the fruit season: Although Rarotonga is a tropical island, there are only a few tropical fruits available all year round, such as pawpaw, coconut, and bananas. You’ll find all other fruits only in summer (November to March), like mangoes, pineapple, watermelons, passion fruit, star fruits.
4. The chicken and egg paradox: Rarotonga has the highest density of chickens that we have ever seen on any South Pacific Island. But the primarily free-ranging chickens are not a popular food source, as they don’t taste good. Their meat often looks yellowish, which the locals explain with their (unknown) ways of self-feeding. Interestingly, you do not find many local eggs either; most of them are imported.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? On the Road!
Yes, you’ve read that correctly. You can buy many delicious groceries from stands next to the street, where locals sell products from their gardens, sometimes coming even from other islands such as Aitutaki. Also, self-made yummy dishes are on offer. The prices are lower than buying it at the shops.
Many Rarotongans sell food in front of their houses or use the covered picnic areas along the main road. However, you should do your shopping tour in the morning, because the best things sell out quickly.
So, what exactly do you find on the street?
Fruits and vegetables: All year-round, you can get freshly pealed young coconuts (the so-called Nu’s – yummy to drink), pawpaw, bananas, taro, breadfruit, potatoes, and irregularly lemon, lime, tomatoes, cucumbers, and salads.
But only in summer, from November to March, pineapples, mangos, watermelons, star-fruits, passion fruits, etc., are available.
Fresh and dried fish: Depending on the day’s catch, you can find fresh fish such as tuna, parrotfish, mackerel, snapper, and very rarely also lobster. Try also one of the local favorites, the Maroro, a flying fish, which you can buy fresh or dried. However, get up early to get the best fish!
Cooked, baked, and marinated food: There are also heaps of yummy self-made dishes on offer along the road, such as donuts, meats of all types, Ika Mata in many different versions (the national dish, raw marinated tuna with veggies), taro and potato-based meals, and much more.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? Punanga Nui Market
The Punanga Nui Market is the largest market area in Rarotonga, located in downtown Avarua. Most visitors only know it because of the famous Saturday Market from around 7:30 am until noontime.
But also during the week, from Monday to Friday in the morning, a couple of locals sell self-grown or self-prepared food.
While on Saturdays, the entire market area is packed with stands. In terms of food, you come across a large variety of freshly prepared local and Asian food, smoothies, and, above all, delicious bread and pastry.
One Tip: You can buy VMV’s fantastic sourdough bread also on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Muri outlet store, the yellow building with the gas station.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? Ocean Fresh Fish Shop
The Ocean Fresh fish shop is the most reliable source of fresh fish on the island.
It’s open daily – also on Sunday morning – and you have a choice of different types of deep-sea fish, such as tuna, wahoo, mahimahi, moonfish, broadbill/ swordfish, and more.
And the prices are decent.
You can get fresh fish only cheaper if you buy directly from fishers, as in the photo on the left.
But in this case, you have to prepare the fish yourself, to be ready to eat.
However, Ocean Fresh’s fishing boats can be out for a couple of days. Then the shop is closed, and you’ll find outside the A-frame sign that tells you “Gone Fishing – Will be back soon” 😉
Location: Just before the Airport. Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Saturday, 7:00 am – 1:30 pm, Sunday, 6:00 am – 10:30 am.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? Prime Foods
Prime Foods has the reputation of being the best grocery store in Rarotonga.
We can underline that – here some examples of yummy food you can find:
Fresh and frozen meat, frozen fish, frozen dough/pastry: Beef and pork are of good quality, and the butcher is always willing to cut a particular piece for you. Avoid fresh chicken, though, for the reason mentioned at the beginning, and go for a frozen one. Pizza, pastry, and dumpling dough are also pretty good.
If you are looking for non-local fish, like salmon, smoked salmon, sardines, and similar, you can buy it here frozen.
Local and imported fruits and vegetables: Local fruits and veggies are the same that you can find on the road and the market. But Prime Foods also has a good selection of herbs and different types of lettuce. In the same way, it is the best place to buy imported fruits and veggies if you are looking for apples, pears, oranges, kiwis, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, etc. However, the prices for those are pretty high.
Italian delicacies: The co-founders are of Italian heritage, and they bring in more and more Italian food that you do not find elsewhere in the Cook Islands. Such as Italian sausages, mortadella, prosciutto, or Italian cheese like mozzarella, Parmigiano, and provolone.
Location: In central Avarua, St. Joseph Road. Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, 8:00 am – 5:30 pm, Friday, 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, Saturday, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm. See more details about Prime Foods here.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? Wigmore’s Superstore
The first great thing about Wigmore’s Superstore are the opening hours: 24/7.
Secondly, they have the best selection of healthy food on the entire island. You will find all kinds of grains, nuts, seeds, healthy mueslis and spreads, superfood, whole grain, vegan products – and delicious dairy products, especially yogurt. And all at moderate prices.
Also, you can get fresh beef and tuna every day, together with fresh local vegetables and fruits, including Asian herbs such as kefir lime, lemongrass, coriander, and more.
Location: At the south coast, in Vaimaanga.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? CITC Supermarket
Although this is the largest supermarket (chain) in the country, they are also putting in more and more effort around fresh products. e.g. fresh beef and lamb is getting better and better.
Otherwise, you will find the most extensive selection of frozen products and essential foods, including dairy products at CITC.
And, as it is a big store, most prices are lower than elsewhere.
However, fruits and vegetables are not so convincing.
Location: On the main street, between Avarua and the airport. Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, Saturday, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. See more details about CITC here.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? Jancey’s Bakery
One challenge when you buy food in Rarotonga is… bread. At least for me, coming from Germany, the country of delicious bread 😉
Finding a good selection of different types of bread is not easy.
But at Jancey’s Bakery, you can get yummy sourdough bread, ciabatta & baguette, whole grain bread rolls, and sandwiches.
And delicious pastries such as croissants and the island’s best dark chocolate donuts.
Location: In the small business area south of Muri, opposite the Te Manava Villas. Open daily from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm.
Where to Buy Food in Rarotonga? LBV Bakery
Iconic LBV – Le Bon Vivant – is not just a place to buy delicious bread, pastries, and fantastic sandwiches, but also to enjoy it with one of the best coffees on the island.
But, don’t be too late, LBV is a favorite on the islands, and it is selling out quickly.
Location: Situated in a beautiful colonial-style building in central Muri. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, Sunday 7:30 am to 2:00 pm.
We hope this article gives you a good overview of where to buy food in Rarotonga and makes it easier for you to shop for delicious groceries around the island. Which gives you more time for other things 😉
Apropos – if you are looking for stunning things to do in Rarotonga have a look at our 12 Insider Tips.
Enjoy your stay in Rarotonga!
Where to Get All Detailed Information About Rarotonga?
First of all, you’ll find more about Rarotonga, including a great photo gallery on our website.
But then we have tons of additional information for you on the insider tips in this post and each of the following topics in our Travel Guide of the Entire Cook Islands, including all contact details and geocodes of the described locations:
- How to get to Rarotonga
- Facts and Stats
- Best time to travel
- What to do in case of an emergency
- Tips where to stay, eat and drink
- Tips where to shop
- Everything about the infrastructure
- List of tour-, fishing-, surf- and dive operators, etc.
- Points of interest around Rarotonga
- Top Tips
Curious to find out more?
The travel guide covers the entire Cook Island, which means that you will get all of the above-detailed information for each of the 12 inhabited islands. So that you can discover and experience even more of this fantastic island nation.