Location: Cook Islands, South Pacific
Dates: 3rd – 10th November
Reason for visiting: Holiday
Base: Backpackers International
I arrived into Rarotonga around 1am so my day didn’t begin till around 9.30am when I took the local bus to the weekly Saturday Punanga Nui Market. Catching the bus is quite an enjoyable experience although you do need to remember they run on island time! They are normally scheduled to be hourly, one in each direction; clockwise and anti-clockwise and a ticket roughly costs $5 for a single, $8 for a return and $30 for a 10 trip ticket. As the island is so small, you can tell the driver a resort or location you need to get to and 9/10 they will know exactly where you’re wanting to go.
The Punanga Nui Market is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. With an array of fresh food stalls selling fresh fruit, local dishes and coconuts you’re never far from finding what you want! They also have clothing and souvenir stalls all of which are hand-made by the locals running that stall. You need to ensure you have plenty of small notes for this as many locals don’t have change and none accept Eftpos.
Once I had finished at the market, I jumped back on the bus continuing in the anti-clockwise direction which gave me a great scenic tour of the whole island and allow me to familiarise myself with where everything is and what there is to do.
Once I was back at the hostel, I headed across to the beach across the road and spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun before watching the sunset.
Sunday’s are always quiet days on any Pacific Island as it’s Church. I had planned on heading to a local church that morning however as the sun was shining and I was tired from travelling, I decided to head to Aroa Beach (located on the South West side of the island).
Rarotonga is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef which you can easily access by wandering off the beach and into the ocean. Near to Aroa Beach, there is a local dive and snorkel shop nearby so I popped inside and rented some snorkel gear for a few hours so I could explore the reef.
The water is crystal clear so you can see in detail all of the coral and wildlife living on the reef and before you know it you’ve spent two hours exploring and been wowed on several occasions by what you’ve seen.
Whilst at Aroa, I headed to one of the local resorts for lunch and enjoyed fish and chips and a cocktail on a deck area over the water which was simply stunning before I headed back to the beach for a nap in the sun.
That evening, there were several new arrivals at the hostel so I spent the evening meeting new people and coming up with plans for the next few days to explore Rarotonga.
The day started with a planned hike on the Cross Island Trail so with a few others, we hitch hiked into the town (with one lovely couple giving us a bottle of wine and vodka as they were flying home later and couldn’t take it with them) and regrouped at the town police station. By the time we had regrouped, it was around 12.30pm and the sun had come out in all of it’s glory and it was here where me and two others decided hiking wasn’t the best decision of the day.
Instead, we explored town and all of the shops and restaurants it had to offer before popping into the supermarket to stock up on some food for the next few days. We then managed to hitchhike back with two different people. One, a local on the island who said this was the first time in her time on the island that she had seen hitchhikers and then with a Kiwi who was over as a volunteer vet helping locals with their livestock.
The day finished with relaxing on the beach, eating food and enjoying drinks together.
November is the start of the wet season over and boy did it make itself known. During the night, the rain had began and when I woke the rain as still pouring and it did so until the following morning.
There’s not a lot of “indoor” activities on the island as it is an outdoors island so we spent the day in the hostel and decided to start a puzzle. Little did we know that this puzzle would become entertainment for the whole hostel as it took us over 3 days to complete. Who’d have thought a puzzle and rain would have brought together over 20 backpackers?
Now the rain had finally cleared off, one of the girls from my hostel, Hannah, and I went and hired a bike for the day and explored the island. It’s approximately 32km around Rarotonga ring road but I definitely say it feels like a lot more!
The first stop on our trip was to head into the main town for some snacks and to wander round the souvenir shops however on route, I decided to stop off a tattoo studio I had been recommended to see what work they did.
An hour later and I walking out with my sixth tattoo and this is something I had been considering getting for a long time. Twix my Rarotonga Turtle was born and sits on my left ankle as a reminder of my family and that eventually we always return home, even if it’s just once in their lifetime.
After we finished our shopping in town we continued on around the island for the biggest stretch of the ride without any stops. We arrived at Muri Beach around 2 hours after we left town where we met up with some of the other girls staying out our hostel and enjoyed some freshly cooked local food at the Muri night markets. Some of the girls we met had also been biking so we all headed back with pains in our behinds longing for a comfy seat and a beer.
Today was a socialising day with the girls from my accommodation and some random Australian guys one of the girls had met on her adventures on Rarotonga. The day started with us heading to Coco Put for some crazy golf and drinks (it’s always 5pm somewhere in the world). This was my first experience on the scooter as there was 7 of us so I hopped on the back of my friend’s scooter whilst the other’s jumped in the Aussie’s car.
Next it was time to head to Palace Burger. This was recommended to me by a friend at work and you have two options of burger: an insanely good burger for around $5NZD or the same burger “wet”. This simply meant the burger was drenched in sauce and super messy. Definitely a recommendation of mine when visiting Rarotonga.
We then spent the afternoon on the beach enjoying some beers and sharing stories from our travels across the world before we then headed to the one place I had been desperate to visit: Wilson’s Bar.
Wilson’s Bar is located at the Castaway Resort which gets it name from the hit Tom Hanks film, Castaway. I grew up watching this film regularly with my Dad so I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity for a bit of film geek. Here we enjoyed some of their signature cocktails before a night stroll back along the beach. Sadly this night stroll turned into a bit of a disaster as I kicked a rock, broke my toe and then lost my glasses on the beach. I mean, it makes for a great travel story but it didn’t half hurt!
The sun was back in all it’s glory so the girls and I set off and spent the day at Aroa Beach. We simply relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the scenery making the most of island time.
Once back at the hostel, we continued with our puzzle and I also made sure I was packed and ready for my flight back to Auckland whilst everyone got ready for their evening on the party bus.
Around an hour before the party bus pick-up, I got a notification to advise me that my flight had been delayed 11 hours! I tried desperately to figure out how I could get myself onto the party bus but sadly this is one of the things I missed out on (although it’s just another reason to head back to this paradise). As the airline sorted my accommodation, I got one night of luxury staying in one of the island’s top rated resorts, The Edgewater Resort and Spa. It was a beautiful way to finish the trip with an unexpected additional night in a gorgeous resort with breakfast on the beach.
All in all, this is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world and is a perfect way to turn off and relax. One thing I wish I had budgeted for was a trip to Aitutaki. This is one of the smaller islands of the Cook Islands boasting even better views with even less people and the opportunity to get yourself a stamp in your passport in the shape of a foot print. Make sure you give yourself the time and money to visit the haven, for me though, it’s a great excuse to go back!