This is Why the stunning
in the Cook Islands
Attracts So Many Visitors

Experience The Heart of Polynesia

everything you need to know about magnificent Rarotonga in the Cook islands

Rarotonga is the buzzing and busy main island of the tropical paradise Cook Islands.

It in the middle of iconic Polynesia – the South Sea’s heart – with its breath-taking tropical landscapes and centuries old culture. And it’s off the beaten tracks from mass tourism.

Raro offers a lot of incredible experiences.

The lagoon is a dream with heaps of white sandy beaches and blue-turquoise waters. Beautiful to explore the waters in many different ways and chill out. 

In contrast, the rough volcanic mountainous inland with its lush vegetation, rivers, waterfalls, offers fantastic hiking trails. 

Accommodations of all kinds leaves one with many choices. Be it on the beach or inland up on a hill, whether you prefer a quiet place or one a bit more crowded, modern or traditional, cheap or luxury. choices are plenty.

Variety also applies to the restaurant, café, bar, and club scene. Enjoy food & drinks on the beach while sticking your feet in the sand. Or experience fine dining with outstanding local cuisine. 

The entertainment takes you from talented music makers to traditional culture shows and events. 

It is a place for young and old, adventurers and peace seekers. The people of Rarotonga are warm and welcoming.

Raro is also the starting point for discovering all of Cook Islands’ fabulous and untouched outer islands.

Here's a Free Handy Rarotonga Infographic For You

Our Rarotonga infographic contains essential information for you to plan your visit.

We have prepared detailed infographics for each one of the Cook Islands islands. Visit the pages of the islands for their respective infographics.

Click below to download your high-resolution infographic of Rarotonga.

Basic Info and Stats About Rarotonga in the Cook Islands


Geography & Size

Part of the Southern Island Group. With 67 kilometers²/ 26 miles², it is the largest of the Cook Islands. Circumference: 32 kilometers / 20 miles.


Getting There

Rarotonga is 3,000 kilometers/ 1,864 miles northeast of Auckland (flight time 4,5 hours), 7,550 kilometers/ 4,690 miles southwest Los Angeles (9,5 house flight time) or 1,150 kilometers/ 715 miles southwest of Papeete/ French Polynesia, with a flight time of 2,5 hours.



The official languages are English and Cook Island-Maori, also known as Rarotongan Maori. Maori dialects of the outer islands differ a bit from the Rarotonga Maori.



Rarotonga is a volcanic island. It raises about 4,500 meters/ 14,764 feet from the ocean’s floor. The highest peak over water is mount Te Manga, with 653 meters/ 2,142 feet.


Inhabitants & Tourist Numbers

The island has 13,007 inhabitants, according to the 2016 census.
A total of 17,434 Cook Island citizens live in the Cook Islands

Rarotonga Offers the Bare Essentials in Its Infrastructure



Rarotonga’s International Airport is located in the north of the island.

A short walk from the plane leads you to the small immigration hall with the immigration counters and luggage belts.

Outside, in a little arrival area, pick-up services of accommodations, family & friends are waiting for the passengers. Also, you can take a taxi or the famous island bus.



Rarotonga’s only public transport is the iconic bus. It takes you for a ride around the island - either clockwise or anti-clockwise. All around the island, it needs about 50 minutes.

A raft of taxi services are on offer.

Several vehicle hire operators have cars, scooters, and bicycles on offer for hire.



Inland, lagoon and ocean tours of all sorts is available on Raro. A variety of large and small tour operators offer tours and outings on land and water.

Rarotonga Needle



Accommodation ranges from very basic backpacker type through to super luxury hotels.


Shopping & dining

Rarotonga has a host of shops catering to many visitor's needs. However, luxury and technology goods may be hard to find.

Supply is not consistent meaning that many items may not be in stock at the time that you may need it.

Generally, goods are on the expensive side.



The currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). You can use the following means of payment Cash (NZD).
- Local checks of the banks ANZ, BSP and BCI.
- Local debit or credit cards of the banks ANZ, BSP and BCI.
There are several ATMs for the three locval banks – see below - around the island. Frome these you can withdraw money with a credit card or bank / Maestro card.



The Rarotonga hospital is located in Nikao, uphill, on the Sanatorium road. Since mid of 2020, it hosts inpatient services only.

The hospital’s emergency and outpatient services are situated at the Tupapa Clinic, East of Avarua, on the main road. Dental services are available there too.


Paradise Adventures You Gotta Experience When in Rarotonga

1 South Raro’s lonesome Dream Beach

Raro is a South Sea paradise. And most visitors are there to do one thing, laze on lonesome tropical beaches, overlooking the ocean, sipping a coconut, and have an occasional dip in the warm waters.

South Rarotonga has a beautiful long white sand beach with tiny bays and an incredible view over the lagoon. It stretches from the Avaavaroa Passage to the west, up to the Vaima Restaurant. And there are never many people around. Walk along that beach and find your special spot there, like the stunning Aramoana On the Beach.

2 Hiking on the Reef

During low tide, this is one of the most captivating experiences you can have on Rarotonga. Make your way from the beach to the reef and hike on it. You are on the edge of the mainland next to the majestic Pacific ocean - with a unique view towards gorgeous Rarotonga.

You’ll discover many marine life on and along the reef rocks and coral banks. Make sure that you wear sturdy shoes as the reef is sharp and can be slippery. The most fantastic place to hit the reef is at the western part of Avaavaroa Passage. You can walk there for kilometers/miles.

3 Snorkeling in the Avaavaroa and the Arorangi Passage

Marine life is raging here. Snorkeling in these two passages is extraordinary. You’ll meet schools of small and bigger fish, turtles, eagle rays, and reef sharks along your way. Start your journey at the lowest low tide and in the right weather conditions only!

Reef Walk Avaavaroa 4
highland paradise rarotonga

4 Spearfishing with the Locals

Spearfishing is national sport number one and a way of putting food on the table. It is common on the entire Cook Islands, for all ages, and with all types of weapons.

Join the locals to learn more about it and harpoon fish yourself. You can also ask the fishing tour operators at Avatiu Marina.

5 Explore the Highland Paradise area

The evening show with drums and dances is already a spectacular event at the Highland Paradise.

But take the opportunity to visit it by day too. Walk through the amazingly lush green garden filled with Maori cultural spots – especially along the gorgeous Maungaroa Valley track.

6 From Noon to Late Night at Trader Jacks

Trader Jacks Diner is made for a lazy day around the bar, overlooking Avarua harbor and its happenings. You will encounter business people, seniors, young families, and dressed-up guests coming for food & drinks.

At the same time, in the harbor, people meet for water sports, leisure, and competitions. And there is always great fun, be it with good friends or with a local music band.

Drinks on beach rarotonga

7 Dinner at the Restaurants OTB, Waterline, and Antipodes

When it comes to dinners, nothing beats these “Big Three” in terms of the atmosphere - plus superb food. Try them all.

At the “On the Beach” Restaurant, you have your feet in the sand.

While Waterline lifts you on their first-floor dining deck, overlooking the beach & ocean at sunset.

And Antipodes takes you up the hill and into a Mediterranean-Arabian style mix environment. Views from there overlooking Black Rock are just fabulous.

8 Fish & Chips at Sunset on Sunhaven Beach

Grab a portion of Fish & Chips from the Pacific Fish and Chip Shop and enjoy it while watching the sunset at nearby Sunhaven Beach.

Two indulgences combined: delicious food and one of the best sunset spots on Rarotonga. Even better with a bottle of good French champagne.

9 Explore the Backroads by Scooter or Bicycle

For a different side of Raro, explore the backroad. Take it easy, though, because potholes pave your way. With a scooter or bicycle, you have the right speed to look around and get an idea of where and how most Rarotongans live. Do the same in Avarua town – discover the hidden areas.

kayak rarotonga

10 Explore the Lagoon by Kayak

Launch your kayak at Black Rock and paddle down the west coast and further the south coast to Muri beach. Row leisurely and enjoy the scenery.

You always find a place to rest along the route, be it a lonesome beach or a restaurant or beach bar. Just make sure you have sun protection with you and enough drinking water.

11 Cross-Island Trek – Against the Current

Start your Island-crossing adventure in the morning hours at Papua Waterfall. It’s incredible to see the first sunrays touching the Papua river through the rainforest while you walk along. It is so peaceful and unspoiled.

When you arrive at The Needle – the highest point of the trail with its gorgeous outlook, most hikers already passed it. The good news is that by hike from this direction, you’ll walk the steepest part of the trail downhill instead of uphill.

PS: You can read the signposting of the path also if you walk in the opposite direction.

12 Get your Polynesian Tattoo

You have the choice between a handful of extraordinary tattoo artists on Raro - and you should make use of this fact.

Their work ranges from fine to bold, across all Polynesian countries’ tattoo styles. But they all have one in common: each artist creates a unique piece of art on your skin, reflecting your personality.

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Like what you've learnt about Rarotonga so far?

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