Summer travel ideas: top tips for a vacation in Rarotonga

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The Mooring Fish Cafe is an old favorite in Rarotonga. Sundays are BYO of alcohol, with entertainment by a live string group. Photo / Stéphanie Holmes

From January 14, the bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will resume, meaning Kiwis can visit Rarotonga and Aitutaki, without the need for quarantine or home isolation at either end. (You will need to be fully vaccinated, be over 12, and have a negative Covid test before traveling). If you fancy a getaway to the Cook Islands, here are some ideas on what to do and where to eat in Rarotonga.


White sand beaches and languid blue lagoons are just a few of the reasons the Cook Islands have been crowned by Lonely Planet as the # 1 country to visit in 2022. And when it comes to you to please, you are spoiled for choice in the Cooks.

In Rarotonga, soak up the scenery from a decadent suite at Rumors Luxury Villas & Spa, or take in some of the best lagoon views of Muri Beach from an elegant, family-friendly style The Nautilus Resort.

For a unique adventure, you will not forget the feeling of sliding under the surface of the ocean with a jet ski. These James Bond-esque motorized gadgets help you move around the water, allowing you to swim less and make more sightseeing. Test them by reserving your place on a Sea Turtle Scooter Safari with Ariki Tours.



The beachfront restaurant at Manuia Resort. Choose from a daily special three-course tasting menu for $ 39.95, or a three-course à la carte tasting menu for $ 49.95. Dip your toes in the sand as you dine and be sure to enjoy one of the German-style desserts.

The Mooring Fish Café

An unpretentious but still green place, popular with locals and visitors alike. Order one of the sandwiches, burgers, salads, or seafood specialties from the shipping container window, then sit on a picnic table or on the grass and watch the lagoon while you wait.

Little Polynesian

Savor fine dining at this luxury adults-only resort. The ika mata (version of the Cook Islands ceviche) is exceptional and the wine list is extensive. Try Nōku Chardonnay, a wine from Gisborne blended specifically for Little Poly to suit the tropical climate of the islands.

The flying turtle

Another sea container cafe, this one at the base of Ariki Adventures. Manager / Chef Jules is vegan, so you’ll find a great range of plant-based options for the non-meat-eaters in your life. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is always a great atmosphere.


This cafe wouldn’t seem out of place if you found it halfway down Ponsonby Rd. Fresh local fish feature prominently on the menu, interestingly prepared like tandoori fish tacos served with tangy coleslaw, peanuts, crispy noodles, tzatziki and avocado.

House of Tamarin

An old favorite, this restaurant has been open since 2004 in a colonial-style beachfront building that dates back to 1904. The fish curry is well worth your time, as is the local vanilla-based crème brûlée.

This is an edited version of stories that first appeared in NZ Herald Travel on August 10 and December 12, 2021. For more great vacation ideas, visit

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