Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

It has been awhile since I blogged, but I couldn’t think of a better reason to put finger to keyboard than to tell you all about our recent Cook Island adventure!  This island paradise, in the South Pacific, is made up of 15 different yet equally beautiful islands. Rarotonga is the island where our little family recently chose to enjoy a blissful 7-night stay.

Our family of four headed over with currently Ari almost four years old and Chloe nearly two and half.  Our friends were getting married on the Island, so we decided to make a holiday of it with a big, beautiful bunch of friends, many of whom have children similar ages to ours.  It was a hoot for all ages to put it short! I was really surprised at how many people travelled to the Cook Islands with children, I guess it goes to show what a family friendly place it is.

Getting there 
Travelling there wasn’t quite as direct as you might think, but still very simple and enjoyable.  From Brisbane we flew to Auckland and then onto Rarotonga.  On our return we had a five and half hour stopover, which was the perfect opportunity to clear customs and explore nearby Butterfly Creek.  Our landing into Rarotonga was one of the most beautiful I have seen, because the runway it practically sitting on the ocean.

Accommodation
Once we arrived we headed straight for our accommodation at Pacific Resort Rarotonga, via convenient transfers they had arranged.  Check in was organised and swift, which was just what we needed for an 11pm arrival. Pacific Resort Rarotonga is perfectly positioned on 5.5 acres of beautiful beachfront right on Muri Beach and lagoon.  The water is the most incredible mix of colours I have ever seen… sapphire, turquoise, aqua with a crystal-like shine, but all so clear at the same time.  The hotel has a boutique feel with only 64 rooms, suites and villas each decorated to a tasteful island feel.  The room we chose was a Premium Family Room (open plan layout,) it had plenty of space, privacy and was a few steps from the stunning hotel swimming pool.  A delicious complimentary breakfast was enjoyed in the hotel’s waterside restaurant, as well as fun activities like kid’s club and water sports (the kayaking across the lagoon is a must!)
Getting around
We found that the best way to get around the island was to hire a car.  Even though there is a bus stop located conveniently close to the resort, we have always enjoyed the flexibility of being able to adventure wherever and whenever we please.  Car hire is very well priced, and the driving couldn’t be easier, with only one road that goes around the island and a max speed limit of 50km an hour.

What we did
Just like island life this holiday was joyously slow paced and relaxing.  Normally when we are on vacation we find ourselves up and about at 8am, but Rarotonga seemed to calm all of us.  Most days we slept in until 10am and had a slow breakfast then hopped in our car and explored.  Here’s some of our favourite places and things to do, as well as some more that I have researched for you!

Restaurant Recommendations

Charlie’s Cafe and Beach Hire – This place was really cheap and the sashimi was amazing.
The Mooring Fish Café – I loved the fish tacos.
The Rickshaw Rarotonga – The best Vietnamese with big portions.
Sandals Restaurant – Conveniently located within Pacific Resort Rarotonga.
Barefoot Bar – Also within the hotel and situated right on the beach. The perfect spot for happy hour!
Muri Night markets – An ecofriendly open-air market located next door to the resort.  Try the garlic and mushroom prawns.

Beaches

Black Rock Beach – Locals have a belief that human spirits depart from this part of the coastline.  At one end of the beach you can find large basalt rocks which make for a stunning photo opportunity.
Muri Beach – The pristine white sandy beach, the bluest ocean, with water sports and scenic boat tours.
Aroa Beach – A perfect spot for snorkelling, where you can expect to see large schools of butterfly fish, sea bream and moray eels.
Tikikaveka – On the south coast of Rarotonga, I am told this is a surfing hot spot.
Nikao Beach – A safe and sheltered beach great for families and soaking up some sun.
Papua (Wilmores) Waterfall – A waterfall and swimming hole located off of the main road with a $5 entry fee.

Cultural experiences and tours

Te Vara Nui – We enjoyed the most incredible dinner and night show, and only steps from our hotel.  Rarotonga’s finest dancers and musicians perform to ‘The Legend of Tongaiti’ by flaming torchlight on floating and fixed stages in a waterfall garden.  A huge buffet dinner was included with a mix of western and local dishes.  This was definately a highlight of our trip.
Captain Tamas Lagoon Cruise – Unfortunately ours was cancelled due to bad weather but this is something I really wanted to do… An afternoon spent on Muri Lagoon, snorkelling from a private glass bottom boat followed by a late BBQ fish lunch… I’m drooling as I write this!
Punanga Nui Cultural Market – Open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm, Saturday is the main market day with all the stalls, shops and huts occupied with vendors, with the bonus of a live show on stage.
Sunday Church Service – Something we couldn’t do as we were not there on a full Sunday, but I have heard that attending a Sunday church service is a phenomenal experience.

Advice for families travelling to the Cook Islands
1. Check out my blog post Surviving Airports and Planes
2. This is a pram friendly island.  At the ages that Ari and Chloe are we decided to just take a carrier and made the right choice not to bring the pram.  However, lots of our friends with younger babies really benefited from bringing theirs.
3. Everyone speaks English, which makes life so easy when travelling with children.
4. Definately hire a car and car seats.
5. I found some things in the Cook Islands to be quite expensive so do your research on where to eat and what supermarkets to shop in etc.
6. Tap water in the Cook Islands is untreated, so drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled beforehand.
7. Pack reef shows for children.  Something that I didn’t do and wish I did!  Some of the coral can be quite sharp, even the sand on the beach which is full of tiny pieces of coral.
8. There is a huge variety of food for children to eat and you will find something for even the fussiest eaters. Fish and coconut are the staples of the island.
9. Pack your mozzie repellent.
10. We noticed that one of the schools allowed children to go and play in the school playground which I thought was sweet.
11. If you like fish food try the Ika Mata… trust me!

 

*Disclaimer: At times this website contains posts where items and experiences have been sponsored, gifted or blog posts have been paid for in return for advertisement/promotion.  Where this applies it will be clearly stated at the bottom of the blog post. Natalie Sullivan and www.thissweetlofeofmine.blog only endorses brands/items that her family uses, loves and highly recommends. To read the full disclaimer see  here.  

(Thank you to Pacific Resort Rarotonga for sponsoring a portion of our stay.) (Thank you to Pacific Resort Rarotonga for sponsoring a portion of our stay.)