Approaching Rarotonga from the air, a splash of emerald comes into focus. Pick out the sunny highlights and deep shadows of the sheer volcanic hills, coated in thick jungle. Watch as the frothy turquoise fringe becomes waves crashing over a coral reef into the clear, sheltered lagoon. Then, here and there, spy exclusive resorts and local villages, where thriving culture just waits to be discovered. By the time you touch down in the Cook Islands, you’ll be in holiday mode and raring to explore – or simply relax at your small, boutique hotel.
A tangled interior and powder-fine beaches, peppered with friendly communities and luxury hideaways.
Things to do
With just one main road circling all 32km of the shore, you’ll have the whole of Rarotonga at your feet. Stop in Avarua, the tiny Cook Islands capital, to learn the history of the island and its people at the Sir Geoffrey Henry National Cultural Centre. Rarotongans keep their culture alive with many traditional celebrations and performances. Get a taste of these with a village tour or an island night to experience everything from local handicrafts to fire dancing.
Take to the hills to see Rarotonga’s timeless, wild beauty. The cross-island trek is a must for hikers, with twisting jungle trails and soaring views from volcanic peaks to enjoy. Just make sure people know where you’re going, or take a local guide. You can even walk with a medicine man and learn about local medicinal plants along the way. As you go, look out for wildlife, including the bright reed warbler and chattering kingfisher.
Edged with palm trees, white sand and a sapphire lagoon, Rarotonga is the stuff that desert island dreams are made of. Some boutique resorts even come with private stretches of shore, complete with luxury hammocks, loungers and bar service.
Slip on a snorkel to explore the Rarotonga coral reef, home to a dazzling display of marine life, from graceful angelfish to secretive moray eels.
Top tip from SLH