Cook Islands: Rarotonga

A list of the top 10 things to do in the Cook Islands from one of the most stunning beaches we’ve ever seen to the best hike in the South Pacific.


1. Muri Beach: This has to be one of the best beaches we’ve ever seen. Breathtakingly pure water laps the coastline set to an imposing mountainous backdrop. Islands of lush greenery dot the landscape, luring you to their shores. It is quite simply divine.

There is a string of hotels lining the beach which gives it a slightly touristy feel but, no matter, they don’t come close to negating Muri’s beauty. To get there, simply hop on a bus and ask the driver to drop you off at Muri Beach.

2. Cross Island Walk: This is probably the best hike in the South Pacific. Hikers are awarded with stunning views in exchange for relatively little effort. Parts of the hike are steep and you have to be relatively fit but, compared with other hikes we’ve done in the Pacific, it was a piece of pie with greater rewards. It starts about 30 minutes in from the outer island road and takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half to reach the top.

3. Snorkelling at Titikaveka Beach: We won’t bombard you with an array of adjectives. Instead, we’ll say that this is just as beautiful as Muri Beach above. The snorkelling is great here but the swimming isn’t ideal due to its rocky landscape and coral.

4. Punanga Cultural Market: Said to the the pulse of Raro, Punanga Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings. Locals sell organic fruits and vegetabls, herbs and fresh flowers as well as the customary handicraft gifts and fabrics. It’s a great place to stop for brunch and try some local delicacies.

5. Aroa Marine Reserve:  This reserve is home to a rich array of marine life. In fact, at times you may feel you’re swimming through fish instead of water. The shallow clear waters are protected by an outlying reef and there are no boats or fishing allowed, allowing the marine life to thrive.

6. Diving: There is a wide range of options open to divers in Raro from reef dives for rookies to cave dives for experts. Either way, diving is one of the best things to do in the Cook Islands. Dive Rarotonga operate in over 35 dives sites – just tell them what you’re interested in and they’ll find a dive to best suit you.

7. Te Manga: Okay, we’re being a bit cheeky putting this on here as we didn’t actually do the hike to Raro’s tallest point – we couldn’t find it! We searched for an hour before giving up. Tourist offices will tell you the trail is closed or overgrown but we hear that it is passable. If you are a fit and experienced climber, follow these instructions from blogger Daniel Clearwater. (And drop us a line to tell us how it was!)

8. Cook Island Christian ChurchThis is a beautiful white stucco church that is so well maintained, it looks like an architect’s model. The Sunday service starts at 10am and offers a chance to meet some locals, listen to beautifully sung hymns and – if you’re lucky – indulge in some refreshments after the service.

9. Maire Nui Botanical Gardens: Located on the south side of the island, these gardens offer a lovely place to stop for an afternoon drink and snack. At seven acres, they’re not exactly Kew Gardens of England but worth a visit nonetheless for their lush lily ponds and spectacular mountain views. (Plus, it probably won’t be grey and dank like it is in England!)

10. Aitutaki island: If you have the time to spare, we recommend making a trip to the island of Aitutaki. A 45-minute flight from Raro, Aitutaki is slower and less commercial than its big sister – and, if possible, even more beautiful. Just Google its name to see what we mean.

Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga is a comprehensive guide to the Cook Islands, ideal for those who want to explore the top things to do in the Cook Islands as well as take the road less travelled.

Lead image: Dreamstime