Top Spots to Visit in Rarotonga

The top destinations you must visit on your next stop in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

STAY AT:

Nautilus Resort

Nautilus Resort is the resort you go to for that 'extra-special treatment'. Be welcomed with a signature bottle of Nautilus Brut and fruit platter for your stay. In the evening, treats are served just in time for a post-dinner cocktail. Enjoy them in your canopy bed or next to your private plunge pool, set in front of the lagoon, while the sun sets. 

The open-plan ares (traditional houses) are perfect for a relaxing stay while ensuring you're within reach of one another. Once you're done relaxing, opt for an adventurous excursion with complimentary use of snorkel gear, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and more. Nautilus' restaurant allows diners to customise meals to their own tastes and size preferences: crustacean bisque, ika mata and their to-die-for rukau & feta agnolotti are all quality and delicious dishes to try. If you're after a liquid treat, bartender Davide can whip you up a cocktail from their extensive list or customise a Rarotongan special just for you. 

Breakfast is no less, with choices from lime and coconut pancakes to three-egg omelettes and homemade coconut custard with fresh figs. Regardless of when you rise, your morning must start here. After eating your weight in coconut custard and pastries, lay by the infinity pool or work off breakfast with the famous Cross Island Walk. It will certainly get your heart rate up and leave your legs feeling like jelly. Luckily, Nautilus' onsite spa has a plethora of treatments, we recommend the Indoceane body ritual for anyone in need of the extra TLC factor. Relax and indulge with a full body scrub, a nourishing Thalgo body wrap that finishes with a soothing massage. Heaven looks like this.

Te Vakaroa Villas

From Muri Rd, Te Vakaroa Villas doesn't look like much. It is down the end of a small gravel driveway and you'll be craning your neck to get a glimpse of the lagoon. Once you have arrived, however, if the entrance to the property that boasts a jungle waterfall doesn't blow you away at first sight, the room will. The modern-meets-traditional interior of these boutique villas had us in zen mode before we'd even set eyes on the beach. The canopy bed looked divine, as did the plush cane-backed sofas dotted throughout the villa. 

It's not until your pull back the french door blinds and step into the courtyard that you appreciate the true beauty of Te Vakaaroa. The lagoon is the front yard, alongside a beautifully tiled infinity pool and jacuzzi. The lagoon is 23 steps, exactly, from our courtyard and gated exclusively for Te Vakaroa guests. Next door, Captain Tama's boat cruises (a must-do), act as our personal island-time alarm, the island drums letting us know it's approximately 11am. Te Vakaroa is an adults-only resort, so blissfully free of the shrieks of young children. A portable speaker in each villa provides the sounds you'd rather hear, poolside, bedside or down on the beach. Each villa is tucked away and private, while still easily accessible to the lagoon and the pool. A delicious and simple continental breakfast, including exotic fruits, yoghurt and fresh baked goods from LBV deli, is delivered to our villa daily.

Tip: Nestle into the poolside cabana and enjoy your breakfast with a view of the lagoon. Afterwards, opt for a dip into the pool to cool off, or relax in the jacuzzi. 

DISCOVER:

Local markets: Visit the Muri Night Market for a delicious insight into the many Rarotongan dishes. The market runs three nights a week. Locals suggest waiting till Thursday as it's the most popular night, with food options, cultural dancing, music and plenty of ambience. Try a chunky monkey coconut smoothie served in a coconut and a raw fish dish from the D'Cuisine stall. Punanga Nui Markets: From island crafts, black pearls, sarongs and delicious cuisine, these morning markets are the perfect way to ease yourself into Saturday. With Pacific music entertainment and as many fresh coconuts as you can get your hands on, it's easy to get lost and spend most of your morning here. Arrive from 6am, or if you prefer to remain on island time, drive into town and pay it a visit before midday.

A view: It may seem out of the ordinary, but scootering up to Rarotonga's hospital will provide you with Instagram-worthy photos to make everyone back home jealous. With a foreground of a palm-tree canopy leading out to the lagoon and beyond, to the Pacific Ocean - you'll want to sit back and soak it up. Therefore, it's best to pack a picnic and your towels to set yourself for the afternoon.

Coffee: If you're a coffee drinker try LBV, a few steps up the road from Te Vakaroa Villas and Nautilus Resort. It offers barista-made coffee from the Cook Islands' own Coffee Company. Be sure to try the chocolate banana croissants if you're after something sweet.

Ika Mata: At Bite Time, for $10 you can feast on fresh yellowfin tuna mixed with a creamy sauce and fresh garden greens, with a side of rice to give it some substance. If you're feeling extra peckish, for $12 you can add tuna sashimi as a combo. And trust me, it is worth adding that sashimi. 

Sashimi salad: If you're after quality and willing to pay for it, The Kiwi owned and operated The Mooring Fish Cafe is one not to miss. These are some of the best sandwiches you'll find on the island. The fish are caught off the reef and brought straight into the kitchen. It doesn't really get fresher than that. Opt for the garlic prawns doused in avocado and lush greens, or a classic of seared tuna, mahi or chicken.

Coconuts: If the smiley locals nestled in their seats roadside isn't enough for you to pull over, then the sight of hanging bananas, coconuts and breadfruit will. Te Puna Market is a must-do. Grab one on the go and two for later in the evening. If you were smart enough to grab a bottle of Appleton's Rum from duty-free then you've got yourself your own happy hour right in your villa.

A fish sandwich: Charlie's is where you go to get a hearty meal. Despite the sandwiches being larger than your head, you get to enjoy the best view of the lagoon from the family-owned and operated abode.

An experience: If you're after a true cultural experience then the cliff-top Highland Paradise Cultural Show is the place to visit. The night begins with a marae tour, an insight into umu cooking followed with a true Rarotongan feast - taro and Ika Mata included. MC, Taniera prides himself on his ability to wear eight different shirts throughout the night, as he guides the audience through the different cultural dances, traditional costumes and historic moments of Rarotonga.

Snorkelling & Kayaking: Te Vakaroa Villas and Nautilus Resort both provide snorkelling gear so there is really no excuse to miss out on what the lagoon has to offer. Nautilus caters to all water bunnies with an "aqua room" boasting kayaks, paddle boards as well as offering specialised diving classes. Kayak or snorkel out to Taakoka Island, nestled is right in front of Nautilus resort. Discover the underwater life surrounding the island, then adventure on land for the afternoon.

Kia Manuia! x

Tessa Stockdale