Living Like A Local In Rarotonga: You’ll Never Be So Chilled In Your Life

Our writer eschews the resort buffet line and screaming kids for a totally different island escape

Rarotonga is so relaxing

Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands group in the South Pacific, is one of the most relaxing, beautiful, Instagram-friendly islands you will ever come across.

From the inner-island mountain range to the outer-island scattered with holiday homes and low-lying resorts all backed up against some of the clearest water I have ever seen.

What sets Rarotonga apart from any other tropical island is the lazy easiness of getting around, and how fast you relax into becoming a local.

no one is in a rush in rarotonga

We decided to rent a house, on what we believe to be the best stretch of beach on the island, Titikaveka. Holiday houses come in all forms. From very simple to extreme luxury (as do the resorts).

Iro’s Beach House is three steps from the sand and a lazy 10 to the water. It’s modern yet simple, with everything you need, but the scene-stealer here is the view.

There are no tourists lined up on deck chairs here, no screaming kids demanding drinks, just the beautiful sounds of locals laughing and a few dogs barking as they drive into the sea to fish. It’s a sight to behold.

Everything we need is close by. Across the road is a fruit stand with everything from bananas, coconuts, passionfruit, watermelon and even the most stunning sarongs – because really, that’s all you need.

Relax in Rarotonga

If you are after something a little more substantial, a short walk down the road are some of the best fish and chips on the island, sold from a retro caravan – fresh fish caught that day.  Further down the road is the tourist village hub of Muri, where you’ll find cafes that serve some of the best slices I’ve had, great coffee and some very good restaurants serving the freshest of foods.

A standout (and we tried not to indulge too much) was Vili’s burger bar in Muri. The fish burger was as large as me and tasted sensational. Well worth the wait!

If you have a hire car, head into town and right opposite the airport is Café Jireh. Try their chicken pies, custard squares and I can’t forget the apple turnovers. Craig and Debra Graham, below, who own the café, are two Kiwis who up and left the corporate world for a slice of paradise. They are always up for a chat and great hosts.

Cafe Jireh in Rarotonga

You can do as much, or as little as you like in paradise. It’s a true getaway and nothing feels better than arriving at your very own holiday house.

My advice is get out and meet the locals, visit the many roadside stalls, pop into The Esther Honey Foundation and donate dog and cat food (the local supermarket sells it). Esther Honey is a shelter for animals and offers the island’s only vet service, in fact the only one in the entire Cook Islands. It is also self-funded, so needs all the help it can get.

For those of you that like to be pampered, there are many spas dotted around the island. Try Te Manava or Rumours of Romance. Both offer an array of treatments that’ll have you relaxed in five seconds flat.

If you want to get around via your own steam, we recommend trying RIDE, which delivers bikes right to your door. A great service, with good bikes and it’s an excellent way to see Rarotonga.

We came back from our 10-night holiday feeling like we’d been away for ages. We made new friends, caught up with family, and are already planning a return.


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