Many of our guests at Breakers finish their NZ holiday with a few days at the Cook Islands. I like to call this the holiday at the end of the holiday – time to slow down and relax before heading back home and back to the reality of everyday life.
Well we thought it was time to check out this Island paradise and see what all the fuss was about so we headed to Rarotonga for a few nights R and D (it was!).
The Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands in the heart of the Pacific Ocean with Rarotonga being the largest and the main island. I say largest – it is still small at 32kms in circumference and surrounded by a crystal clear lagoon that meets the reef and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. There is an inner ring road with off-shoots leading to dense green jungle and magnificent towering jagged mountains.
We arrive during their winter – same as us in NZ but crossing the date line and going back one day. Both our countries may be on winter hours but that is about where the similarities stop. It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon when we arrive and a balmy 28 degrees. Yep, definitely different to home where we left a frost and -3 degrees…….
There are numerous accommodation options available to suit all budgets from resorts to backpackers and plenty of rental accommdotion. As we are quite independent we chose to rent a house. Well it was a bungalow actually – beachfront, fully self-contained and just one other detached bungalow beside us so very private. We chose the west side of the island, right on the beach and affording wonderful views and sunsets. Sounding somewhat familiar!
My guests when asking where we are going for our holiday would laugh when I said Rarotonga. “You do realise you live on a beach” they’d say. Well yes but I won’t have lawns to mow, windows to clean or any of those other things that are associated with living and owning a beachfront property – I have important R & D to do you know.
There were a few fundamental differences obviously, besides the air temperature, but the water temperature also – actually just the water full stop. Being a lagoon it was pretty much safe to swim in the entire time, crystal clear and warm – did I mention oh so warm. We swam (well for one of us it may have been more floated – same thing) each morning and again each evening – lovely way to start and finish the day.
It’s more than that though – more than not having household chores to do as we still did our dishes, made our bed, swept our unit from the sand – I know aren’t we good :-) No they call this island time and it really is. You immediately just feel more relaxed – even those household chores were relaxing.
With the island only being 32 kms in circumference it is pretty easy to get around with lovely restaurants/cafes dotted along the roadside and waterfront. There is a public bus transport system but we choose to hire a scooter – probably the most common choice of transport for visitors and locals alike.
The roads are perfect for the scooter, not much traffic and everything is so easy to find. Makes parking a breeze too! The seat lifts revealing a lockable compartment so great for doing a bit of shopping which lets face it is an integral part of any holiday – even if you just need new sunnies.
You can make your visit to Rarotonga as relaxing or busy as you like. There are plenty of activities – snorkeling, diving, kite surfing, paddleboard – yep lots of water sport activities. Also lagoon tours, cultural tours, 4WD tours – something for everyone.
For us it was more about relaxing. Hanging on the beach, people watching and just generally enjoying our surroundings. We took lots of walks too – along the beaches and around the villages. There is so much colour in both the people we met and the buildings and architecture.
Of course any trip away for us wouldn’t be complete with getting on a bicycle so we hired a bike for a couple of afternoons and did some exploring. It was a great way to see the island and the countryside. We biked the entire circumference of the island on our first afternoon outing and for our next outing explored some of the inner ring road and the roads leading off it.
It was a great way to get a better insight to island living and there is nothing quite like the path less traveled. One thing we would definitely do next time is take our hiking boots as there are some great hiking trails but they take you deep into the jungle and up into the mountains so decent footwear is paramount.
Considering the size of the island Rarotonga has some wonderful eateries. We would usually have our main meal at lunch time to make the most of the sea views offered from many of the cafes/restaurants. There are supermarkets and little roadside stores so you can easily get some supplies if you wish to be semi-self sufficient. On the occasions we did eat out for dinner the meals were sublime! Fantastic service, great ambience and fresh delicious food.
A couple of must dos when visiting Rarotonga is the market on Saturday – filled with colour, music, festivities and of course treasures to buy.
The other – a church service on Sunday. Visitors are welcomed with open arms and it is a wonderful cultural experience with singing that has to be heard to be believed.
This is island living at island time on a little island paradise – it is all about relaxing and going with the flow. For us we’d call it perfect and I for one can’t wait to go back again.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth – West Coast of the Southern Alps of New Zealand.