What a Pleasant Surprise: Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Interestingly enough, the only reason I initially went to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, was because I was headed to Tahiti and Bora Bora for a dream vacation and I found a cheaper flight to Tahiti by flying via Rarotonga on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles.
So, I am sad to say that the trip to Rarotonga was more of an after thought than really wanting to visit the Cook Islands specifically. But I was definitely excited to go there. The crazy thing is that I pretty much ended up loving the Cook Islands more than I loved Tahiti! I am not sure if it is because I had such high expectations of Bora Bora and Tahiti and low expectations of the Cook Islands, or if it is truly because I just loved it better without all the considerations. I think and hope the truth is the latter.
Arrival at the Rarotonga airport in Avarua
The airport in Avarua was tiny. They had two passport control people working, but our flight was the only one there, so it didn’t take very long to get through, even though it was a big plane. The customs was equally easy and even faster. We were nervous about bringing in organic cashews as snacks, because you are not supposed to bring any food according to the customs form you fill out. I wanted to keep the snacks and not tell the customs people, but my husband told them anyway! Luckily they were not after the cashews and allowed us to keep them. If you are wondering, which cashews I like, it’s these ones (on Amazon).
First we stayed at the Muri Beachcomber, on Muri Beach. I have written a review of the Muri Beachcomber here. I loved my stay there.
Later on the trip we stayed at the Aroa Beachside Inn. The staff there was friendly – but there was no air conditioner, and it was really hot. So, I preferred the Muri Beachcomber.
Taking the bus in Rarotonga
The bus is super easy to take in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Because it is a small island, there is really just one main road that goes around the island. The bus goes on that road to both directions. The bus comes once per hour on average to each direction. If you miss the bus you were supposed to take and don’t want to wait an hour, take the bus going to the other direction, and you will get to your destination quicker than waiting another hour. Either direction you take the bus, you will end up going around the entire island if you don’t get off anywhere. The bus was inexpensive, and it was even cheaper when you bought a ten trip pass. You just need to remember to bring the pass each time, and the bus driver punches a hole in it.
I wrote about The Best Places to Eat in Rarotonga here.
While on the Cook Islands, we also visited Aitutaki (more of which here), which I LOVED. I especially loved going to three tiny islands by boat near Aitutaki: Akaiami (my favorite!), Moturakau and Tapuaetai also called One Foot Island. I definitely recommend going to these smaller islands. They have a totally different feel than Rarotonga. These are especially for people who are looking to relax and take it slow on the vacation.