The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa
The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa
Some say that until you’ve been to the Cook Islands, you have yet to truly experience the South Pacific. At the very centre of the Polynesian triangle, the Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scattered over some 2 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. The islands range from low coral atolls to the mountainous majesty of Rarotonga, the largest island of the group and home to the capital, Avarua.
With a flight time from Australia of around 6 hours, and only approximately 4 hours from New Zealand, this is one tropical paradise you should put on your wish list.
Rarotonga is the vibrant centre of the Cook Islands and its circular shape is dominated by high mountain peaks from which lush rain forests cascade to a palm-fringed shore. The island is only 32 kilometres in circumference and almost completely encircled by a reef, which harbours a lagoon of clear turquoise waters and many inviting white sand beaches.
Most popular mode of transport is to hire a moped. Even if you don’t have a motorcycle licence you can take a short course in how to ride a moped and ‘sit’ for your licence straight away. I highly recommend you do this – it is a total blast wandering around the ring-road at a very modest 30-40km on one of these little beauties. The feeling of freedom and fun is addictive!
The colours of paradise … your toes in the white sandy beach … meeting the friendly reef fish in the blue lagoon… swaying in a hammock in the cool green shade of a coconut palm… it’s all there at The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa – one of the Cook Island’s signature resorts, and our home for the week.
The Rarotongan’s lush tropical gardens are filled with hibiscus, heliconia, gardenia (tiare maori), ginger, alamanda, banana, and frangipani, all under the canopy of elegant coconut palms.
Framed by the backdrop of towering rainforest-clad mountains, and tracing the edge of Aroa Lagoon, The Rarotongan provides a peaceful haven for a very, very relaxing holiday. This is the view from the entrance.
Locally and independently-owned, The Rarotongan has a strong commitment to expressing the essence of the Cook Islands and celebrating their history in its design – showcasing the best art and culture that these unique and exotic islands have to offer.
Huge natural timbers, soaring dramatic ceilings, hand-tied artistic rope, thatched roofs, and weaved pandanus covered walls embrace the ancient building materials and techniques of their forebears, with all the modern amenities you would expect from a full-service four star resort.
The Rarotongan has everything you need for a relaxing and enjoyable holiday including a selection of restaurants for day or night, a huge range of complimentary activities, a gym, VIVO salon, Moko’s Kids Club and special kid’s activities programme where it’s all ‘fun for the young’ in a fully supervised atmosphere, a gift shop, fully equipped business centre, and even an ice-cream bar and small deli.
Our favourite restaurant was on the ‘adults-only’ side of the resort (sorry, no kids allows) where the restaurant sits right on the sand, but within a magical torch-lit ‘south-pacific’ space created by the resort to really get the romance flowing.
SpaPolynesia offers a wide range of spa treatments from aromatherapy massage, a variety of body wraps, relaxing facials, healing reflexology, manicures and pedicures, or a full pamper package
The Rarotongan is laid out on a kilometre-long stretch of famous Aroa Beach, where you’ll discover the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve, Rarotonga’s best snorkelling spot. Here, encircled by the protection of the natural coral reef, you can play with the rainbow-coloured reef fish to your heart’s content. A rare tropical treat.
You can choose as much privacy or fun and excitement as you want. Some areas of The Rarotongan’s beachfront– are very quiet and secluded – perfect for deep relaxation under the sun. Others are more for social engagement. There’s plenty of options!
In the evenings, you can choose to dine-in by ordering room service while other areas, such as around the Activities Hut, the Games Lounge, and TE VAKA Restaurant in the evening, are hubs for exciting diversions or entertainment.
Because The Rarotongan offers so much, you can easily ‘go with your mood’, like mixing and mingling with other resort guests over sunset cocktails or taking in their show which is very entertaining, or you can find a quiet location and watch the moon reflecting in the ocean, completely on your own.
Each day you will be offered a huge choice from the resort’s Activities Programme. We tried our hand at outrigger canoeing, kayaking, tennis, feeding the fish by hand, doing some self-guided snorkelling, island drumming and ukulele lessons.
Join the resort’s fish feeding and guided snorkelling tours. For something really special, book yourself on the night snorkelling tour – fantastic!
Because The Rarotongan is the only resort or accommodation on Aroa Beach there’s no jostling with a ‘passing parade’, just you, the sun, the sand and the sea. In fact, The Rarotongan is well away from ‘hotel mile’ on the eastern side of the island.
The Rarotongan Beach Resort is the guardian of the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve, declared by local traditional elders as a protected traditional marine reserve (raui) 8 years ago. Step out of your room and you are just a few steps away from a stunning snorkelling adventure. Be warned though – this is not the ‘coral-garden’ snorkelling experience you might get at say, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The lagoon was the food-basket for the locals for centuries and is slowly beginning the recovery process, after centuries of use. What you will find is a pristine and very safe environment. A cavalcade of colourful fish other marine creatures, and some pretty decent coral gardens. I believe that offshore reef locations would be more populated, however on this trip we didn’t make it.
Rarotonga has much to offer, and your stay should include some of the many tours that highlight the beauty of the island and fascinating culture. Our visit to the Cultural Village was an extremely interesting and entertaining window into how life in Rarotonga used to be.
We also highly recommend one of the 4WD Safari Tours which take you inland to the highest point of the island. The views are stunning and along the way you pass the gardens and plantations of the locals, including a local custom to give-way to all domestics pigs which just roam freely. If you want to experience nature first hand, consider visiting the Takitumu Conservation Area, or join Pa, a famous Rarotongan mainstay, for one of his Cross Island Treks.
An absolute highlight and just THE best fun is a Jungle Quad Bike Tour with the super-friendly team at Coconut Tours. Make no mistake, this isn’t some ‘soft-for-grannies’ run on a clunky quad bike on a nice easy track – there’s a real challenge to be had, while still being something that’s suitable for most people. It’s just a huge buzz.
Some other things of interest include the Island’s water system constructed by the US army at the end of World War II as a thank you to the Rarotongan people. Naturally filtered and reticulated the island’s endless water supply comes from the mountain springs, then filters down through a series of dams and a natural filtration system. Swimming anywhere ‘above’ the dam is strictly forbidden.
The Cook Islands are owned by the people – descendants of the original tribes – and uniquely, there is no such thing as ‘crown’ or ‘government’ land. There are no taxes or council fees, but the most visible evidence of this unique situation is the right of families to bury their dead privately on their own properties. A drive around the island reveals many ornate graves – some larger than the houses that occupy the same land!
There are Deep Sea Fishing tours to take you beyond the reef all the while admiring the distant views of the soaring, cloud-forested peaks of the island. Don’t miss a round at the Rarotonga Golf Club either!
Our favourite drinking haunt, also with outstanding food, was Trader Jack’s – the original site of the Island’s first trading post and an historical landmark today. Here we discovered Speight’s Old Dark Ale – a very very fine drop!
The island is stunningly beautiful, the lagoon is pristine, and the beaches unspoiled. But it is the genuine warmth of the people that will prove to be the highlight of your stay. Life in Rarotonga is what life was like in places like Hawaii or Tahiti 50 years ago. Rarotongans are some of the most approachable people on Earth, ready and willing to let you into their hearts and homes.
Slip off your watch, your shoes, your cares, and immerse yourself in paradise. You’ve arrived at the Cook Islands’ iconic Rarotonga!