Slow travel guide to Rarotonga – a Pacific island paradise

Palm trees blowing in the wind by the lagoon at Muri, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Rarotonga is the major island of around 17 that make up the Cook Islands in the South Pacific ocean.

It’s an idyllic paradise of sunshine, palm trees and beautiful beaches – a place that sums up the spirit of Coconut Lands! In all my years of travel and visiting incredible places, I can say hand on heart that my trip here was my best and most memorable holiday ever. This was largely due to the amazing resort we stayed at, of which more later, but the island itself is beautiful too.

Where to stay

Rarotonga has options to suit all budgets, from top-end luxury to family friendly resorts and camp sites. There are no high-rises, which adds to the appeal of the island. We decided to treat ourselves to a little luxury, and stayed at the truly amazing Rumours of Romance villas. Admittedly the prices are eye-watering, but we got a deal by booking direct. We have never regretted it because it was such an outstanding experience which we still talk about, and probably will do for the rest of our lives!

Rumours of Romance – or heaven on earth

Exterior swimming pool at Rumours of Romance villas, Muri, Rarotonga

We were taken to the hotel by private transfer after a late night arrival. Our driver welcomed us with garlands of fresh flowers. After the short journey we were led through a gate, beyond which there was a gorgeous pool set in tropical gardens with waterfalls. What beautiful grounds, we thought.

Rarotonga - Rumours of Romance villa interior

It was only when we were then led through the front door of our villa that we realised that they were not the grounds at all – they were our own garden and pool!

The pool narrowed into a tiny stream that ran right through the inside of the villa! To get to our bedroom we had to cross a little bridge. It was like being in some kind of heaven, with the garden of Eden outside.

When we woke up next morning, we realised that the other side of our villa looked out directly over a deserted beach. Two canoes were parked at the back door.

Rarotonga is a coral island, and offshore we could tell that there was a high reef. The sight of waves crashing into the reef was mesmerising. We loved to sit there watching the waves, and especially, to hear them at night.

Things to do

The island is well known for its water sports, with scuba diving and snorkelling being particularly popular. There are also lots of boat trips, cultural events and tours to suit all tastes. But we were so taken with our incredible accommodation that we did little other than relax and enjoy it.

Breakfast was provided for us to cook for ourselves each morning. Occasionally we would wander to the nearest local shop to pick up supplies and steaks to barbecue for dinner. We also visited nearby Muri which has a lovely beach and lagoon (see top picture), and we went to a few restaurants recommended on Tripadvisor. The food was quite good but we most enjoyed the delicious, succulent steaks that we cooked ourselves.

Our own beach was so beautiful that we felt little inclination to go anywhere else! My husband did go on a quad bike tour of the lush, mountainous interior of the island, visiting a marae (meeting house) and some agribusinesses, which he enjoyed very much.

Muri beach Rarotonga


Many of us who live in the southern hemisphere go to the Cook Islands for winter sun, as we did on this occasion. Although mostly sunny, we did experience some rain and overcast days. One thing we do remember was the wind, which blew constantly the whole time we were there. Locals told us that this was quite unusual. As we live in Wellington – a famously windy city – it didn’t bother us too much. We quite liked hearing the rustling fronds on our villa roof!

Inland Rarotonga, Pacific Islands - greenery and palm trees

Tropical cyclones do strike the islands from time to time. 2005 was a particularly bad year, when five of them hit, costing the islands over $30 million. Cyclone Pat caused massive damage to Aitutaki island in 2010, costing another $9.5 million.

Climate change is an ongoing concern in the islands, with coastal erosion and rising sea levels posing a real threat. The government is constantly urging the international community to take note and help, while encouraging the islanders to become more ecologically aware.

How to get there

Auckland, New Zealand, is the international gateway for reaching the Cook Islands by air. Flights only take around 4 hours, but cross back over the international date line, so you arrive in Rarotonga the day before you left Auckland! This means that you have to be really careful with your hotel booking: make sure you give the correct arrival date, or you could find yourself without a room on your first night.

Air Rarotonga operates local flights to other islands such as Aitutaki. We didn’t get around to doing this, but I’m told that Aitutaki and its lagoon are one of the ‘must see before you die’ incredible sights of the world – so we’ll definitely do that one day.

If you are interested in the Pacific Islands, you might enjoy my post about Vanuatu.

© Coconut Lands. Not to be reproduced without permission.

If you enjoyed this post please Pin or share!

Similar Posts


  1. It’s on our list to visit but it is so much easier for us to visit Asia. I loved reading about Rarotonga though and may have to combine it with our next visit to New Zealand 🙂

    1. Yes, a bit of a detour for you folks in Western Australia! Hope you get there one day. Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *