Koko Lagoon Cruises boat sailing in Muri Lagoon

35 Top Things to Do in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands

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The Cook Islands is a nation of 15 islands. Its 15 islands and atolls cover a sea area of 2.2 million square kilometers between America Samoa and French Polynesian and are located in the area generally known as the South Pacific. While the islands that make up the Cook Islands are spread out over a vast area of the South Pacific, a few islands are easily accessible to tourists via airplane. The most popular islands to visit are Rarotonga, Aitutaki, and Atiu, with Rarotonga as the most visited island. There are many activities to do in Rarotonga. I have put together an ultimate guide on some of the best things to do in Rarotonga.

Table of Contents

Must Do Activites in Rarotonga 

Rarotonga and the rest of the Cook Islands offer many activities to indulge in while visiting its islands. When trying to decide what to do in Rarotonga, you will find many must-dos in Rarotonga. The beautiful islands of the Cook Islands offer many activities to choose from. The turquoise water and pristine beaches are perfect for ocean activities, while its lush landscape and rainforest attract nature lovers and offer many hikes. The vibrant town of Avarua provides many shops and galleries to visit, as well as the popular Punanga Nui Market. 

Whether you want to walk around town and shop, jump in the ocean and snorkel in the lagoon surrounding the island of Rarotonga, or prefer to learn about the local culture of the Cook Islands, the activities in the Cook Islands are perfect for people of all ages and fitness levels; there truly is something for everyone.

Things to do in Avarua

Avarua is the largest and principal town in Rarotonga and the capital of the Cook Islands.  There are many things to do and places to visit in Avarua. There are many shops where you can purchase hand-crafted souvenirs and many restaurants where you can enjoy a bite to eat. As it is the main town, this is where you will find the post office, in case you would like to send a postcard to family, the main bus station, and the only cinema in Rarotonga.

Take in a Movie at the Empire Cinema in Avarua

You will find the Empire Cinema in Avarua, on Ava Tapu, the main highway in Rarotonga. The Empire Cinema offers one showing on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, two showings on Thursday through Sunday, and is closed on Monday. Visiting the cinema is a great way to spend Saturday and Sunday evenings when things slow down on the island. 

Visit the Police Station to Get Your Scooter License

You must visit the police station in Avarua if you intend to hire or rent a scooter in Rarotonga and need to get a license. A motorcycle license is required if you want to hire or rent a scooter in Rarotonga. If you do not have a motorcycle license from an approved country, you must pass a test to get a motorcycle license in Rarotonga. You can read our blog on the Top Things to Know When Planning Your Visit to the Cook Islands for information on the process for getting a license to ride a motor scooter.  

You will also find the local bank and several ATMs available for withdrawing currency in Avarua. Aside from the business side of Avarua, there are many fun activities to do in Avarua. 

Visit The Punanga Nui Market

There are two main outdoor markets in Rarotonga. The Punanga Nui Market is the largest in Rarotonga. The Punanga Nui Market is an open-air market located in the heart of Avarua. While you will see a few vendors at the Market throughout the week, the best day to visit the market is Saturday morning between 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM, as this is the primary and busiest day of the market. 

On Saturdays, many vendors sell locally grown produce, hand-crafted souvenirs, and many different types of food. You will also find tour companies offering excursions with staff available to assist you with questions about the excursions they offer. Having the tour companies present at the Punanga Nui Market makes it easy to compare excursion packages, ask questions, and book the week’s adventures. On Saturday, you will also be treated to a wonderful cultural performance on the marketplace stage showcasing the Polynesian dances of the region. The Punanga Nui Market is a great way to spend Saturday morning and should not be missed. 

Picture of the Punanga Nui Market sign in Avarua, Cook Islands
Punanga Nui Market sign in Avarua
Artisan items for sale at the Punanga Nui Market in Avarua Town, Rarotonga.

Places to Eat in Avarua

One can get hungry while visiting Avarua. Luckily, there are many places to grab a bite in town.  A few places stand out and are worth a visit. 

Trader Jacks

Trader Jacks is a popular oceanfront restaurant and bar in Avarua. The drinks are great, and the food is even better. Trader Jacks is one of the best places to eat in Rarotonga.  While dining at Trader Jacks you will have a fantastic view of the ocean and the possibility of seeing a whale breach in the distance during whale watching season. Trader Jacks has a diverse menu with many offerings. You will be delighted if you decide to visit Trader Jacks as Trader Jacks offers some of the best food in Rarotonga. 

Reefside Organic Coffee

Very close to the Punanga Nui Market is Reefside Organic Coffee. The Reefside Organic Coffee stand is a great place to stop, take a break, and have a great cup of coffee or an iced coffee drink. If it is a snack you are looking for, their toasty sandwiches make for a great snack. Toasty sandwiches are similar to American grilled cheese sandwiches but are slightly lighter and tastier.  

Kai Wood Fired Pizza

If Pizza is what you are craving, then Kai Wood Fired Pizza is where you should go to satisfy your craving.  Kai Wood Fired Pizza is a popular spot for pizza. Kai Wood Fired Pizza specializes in and offers several different types of wood-fired pizza, which are absolutely delicious. Pizza is available during the evening hours for dinner. During lunchtime, you will find a variety of salads and wraps on the menu. Kai Wood Fired Pizza does not have indoor seating. However, there are several outdoor tables available for eating. You will find Kai Wood Fired Pizza across the street from the Punanga Nui Market area. 

Spend Time Hiking Rarotonga

If you are an avid hiker, you can explore many hiking trails across Rarotonga. You will find various hikes around the island that require moderate to excellent fitness levels. 

The Cross Island Trek

The most popular hike in Rarotonga is the Cross Island Trek, which goes from the north end of the island to the south end. This hike takes you to Te Rua Manga, more commonly known as the Needle, which gives you amazing views of the island, looking out to the ocean, and then to Papua Waterfall, also known as Wigmore’s Waterfall, the only waterfall on the island. When hiking the Cross Island Trek, people should do the hike going from north to south rather than south to north. We are not sure why we were advised to hike the Cross Island Trek from north to south. Our best guess is that it concerned the steepness of parts of the hike.  

As we discovered, the Cross Island Hike is fairly steep at certain sections of the hike, especially as you get closer to the Needle. There are orange track markers posted along the trail. You will see them posted or wrapped around tree limbs as you make your way. You should follow the markers as there is no paved road or clear hiking trail as you make your way up to the Needle and down to Wigmore’s Waterfall. Keeping sight of the trail markers will assist you in finding your way back to civilization. 

Where to start the Cross Island Trek

The Cross Island Trek is a 4.7 mile hike through jungle and mountain tops. The Cross Island Trek takes you across the island of Rarotonga. The trail starts in Avarua on Uruau Road near a small parking lot and ends on Papua Road. Papua Road intersects with the main road, Ara Tapu, where you can catch the bus and return to Avarua.

The Cross Island Trek takes approximately half a day to complete. You should start your hike early and avoid the trail in rainy weather or if there has been heavy rainfall. For safety reasons, when hiking in Rarotonga, it is recommended that you let someone know where you are going and what time you plan to get back. You can do the Cross Island Trek on your own or go with a local guide familiar with the trail. Don’t forget to bring water, insect repellent, sunblock, and rain gear for your hike. 

Other Hiking Trails

If the Cross Island Trek is outside your plans, but you would still like to go hiking in Rarotonga, you can break up the Cross Island Trek into smaller hiking trails. Breaking up the trek would shorten the hikes to approximately 1.6 miles (3 km) or 3 miles, depending on the path you decide to take.

Papua Road to Wigmore’s Waterfall

You can start your hike on Papua Road and head towards the Wigmore’s Waterfall.  The length of this trek would be approximately 1.6 miles round trip. This trek is moderate and will end once you reach Wigmore’s Waterfall. Shortening your trek will allow you to take your time and leisurely hike to the waterfall without time constraints. You can enjoy a refreshing swim once you get to the waterfall. This is a short hike. However, bring water, insect repellent, sunblock, and rain gear for your hike. 

The Needle Hike – Te Rua Manga

You can hike to the Needle and then return the same way as you started. You can start the hike as usual on Uruau Road in Avarua and head towards the Needle. On this hike, you can decide how far to go. The hike becomes steep as you get closer to the Neede. Once the trek becomes steep, you can decide to turn around or to continue. The trek begins to steepen significantly at the end of the private road and continues to steepen as you get closer to the Needle. 

The length of this trek is about 2.5 miles (4km), depending on where you decide to turn around. This is a longer hike than the trek to Wigmore’s Waterfall. You should bring water, insect repellent, sunblock, and rain gear on this hike.

View of Te Rua Manga, a tall rocky pinnacle that is also known as the Needle in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Te Rua Manga, also known as the Needle

The Raemaru Mountain Track

The Raemaru Track is a moderate hike that is approximately 1.9 miles (3.1 km) round trip. You can reach the Raemaru Trailhead off of Ara Tapu, the main road, near the Discover Marine and Wildlife Center in Arorangi, located on the island’s west side. You can take Akaoa Road or Akaoa No. 2 Road to the end and look for the Raemaru Mountain Trek sign. Follow the next road, Vaitamatea Drive, to the end of the road where the trek begins. Park on the side of the road without blocking access, as this is a residential area.

The Raemaru Mountain Track is a mountain hike with a moderate elevation that takes you through the forest and ends at a mountain. You can continue the hike with a 50 ft (15 m) mountain climb. Ropes and bars along the climb are available to help you ascend the mountain. Orange trail markers mark the path along the hike to help you stay on the trail. There are QR codes you can scan throughout the hike, allowing you to have a self-guided tour where you learn more about the natural landscape and flora along the Raemaru Trek.

The Avana Walk

The Avana walk is an easy hike on a dirt path following the Avana stream. The trail is under 1 mile one way. The trail crosses the Avana stream a few times along the path, allowing you to take a refreshing break as you make your way along the hike.  

You will find the Avana Walk in Muri, located in the Eastern part of Rarotonga. The walk starts on Avana Drive just south of the Avana Stream bridge. 

The Hospital Walk

The Hospital Walk is a relatively easy hike that starts near Roratonga Hospital. Rarotonga Hospital is located in Nikao near Avarua on the northwest coast of Rarotonga. You can park your car on the hospital grounds and then make your way to the start of the hike. 

The Hospital Walk trek is 1.2 miles (2 km). The walk starts just past the car park, where you will find a dirt road that will wind through the forest. At the end of the trail, you will reach an overlook with a beautiful view of Nikao Beach.

You can turn Hospital Walk into a loop by continuing and following Pleasant Forest Walk to close the loop. This section of the loop does not have any trail markers and is overgrown, making it easy to veer off the trail.  I recommend sticking to an out-and-back trail on the Hospital Walk only.     

Backpack around the Island of Rarotonga

If you are looking for an easier trek, then consider backpacking Rarotonga. The road that circles the island of Rarotonga is 32 kilometers long or a little under 20 miles.  There are many places and beautiful beaches to explore on the island as you make your way around the island.  

Visit and Go For a Swim at Wigmore’s Waterfall

Wigmore’s Waterfall, also known as Papua Waterfall, is the Cook Islands’ only waterfall. The waterfall is located at the end of Papua Road on the south side of Rarotonga, near the old Sheraton complex. Instead of hiking to Wigmore’s Waterfall, you can drive to the waterfall and go for a swim. There is a small parking lot adjacent to the waterfall. During the dry season, the waterfall can slow to a trickle. However, when it rains in Rarotonga, the waterfall flows perfectly into the swimming hole below, making the waterhole a perfect place to go for a swim. 

View of Wigmore Waterfall, also known as Papua Waterfall, in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Take an Inland Tour on the Raro Safari Tour

Many activities on Rarotonga are ocean activities, but there is a land excursion we recommend taking – the Raro Safari Tour. The Raro Safari tour takes you around the inland portion of Rarotonga. During this tour, you will learn about the rich history of Rarotonga and its indigenous tribes. As your guide drives you around the island in a 4×4 jeep, you will learn many things about the Cook Islands. Your guide will point out various flora and produce grown on the island by locals, which you can purchase at the local outdoor markets or on the side of the road. Locally grown produce is also sold to hotels on the island for tourists to enjoy during meal times. 

On the Raro Safari Tour, you will also visit Wigmore’s Waterfall, the only waterfall on the island of Rarotonga, and other sites of historical significance. As you drive around Rarotonga, your guide will point out the areas of historical significance and stop at several of them, such as the Vaka Migration Site, where seven Vakas, also known as canoes, set off for New Zealand. You will also visit a Marae, a gathering place for one of the three tribes on the island. 

Spectacular views of Rarotonga on the Raro Safari Tour

On the tour, you will also have an exhilarating ride as you make your way to the lookout for an amazing view of Te Rua Manga. Te Rua Manga is also known as the Needle and is a large rocky pinnacle that can be seen throughout Rarotonga. The lookout is at a high elevation, giving you a breathtaking view of the ocean and the surrounding mountains on the island.

Raro Safari Tours offers pick-up and drop-off to and from your hotel. The Safari tour lasts approximately three hours and can be bumpy in a few areas, especially as you make your way up to the Needle lookout. The safari tour is an exciting and fun-filled tour that you should not miss. 

Watch Airplanes Arriving at the Airport in Rarotonga

Not too far from Avarua, on the main road of Ara Tapu near the airport, you will find a great place to watch and photograph planes arriving in Rarotonga. The airport runway ends near the main road, making this a great spot to capture the arrival of an aircraft. The concrete walls lining this part of the road are nicely painted and lend themselves to be photographed as well. The view of an aircraft’s arrival is similar to the view of those that arrive on Maho Beach in Sint Marteen. Since the runway ends at the side of the road, you get a close-up and spectacular view of the arriving aircraft. You will normally see people gathering shortly before a plane’s arrival, waiting with cameras in hand for the perfect shot. 

Air New Zealand aircraft arriving to the airport in Rarotonga. Picture taken on the beach at Black Rock Beach.
Air New Zealand aircraft arriving to the airport in Rarotonga. Picture taken on the beach at Black Rock Beach.

Visit Te Marae Morana Mural

The concrete walls along this part of the road have murals painted on both sides. The Rarotonga-based Mexican artist Gonzalo Aldana was the lead in painting the Marae Morana mural. The mural has hundreds of colorful characters, including fish, coral, birds, and traditional images dedicated to the country’s 15 islands. According to Aldana, “The mural is generally about the ocean, the diversity of the Pacific Ocean, and specific and unique features of the Cook Islands, such as legends and fish species that make each island unique”.

The mural is fascinating to see. It is a long mural with vibrant and beautiful colors. The characters on the seawall are so perfectly painted and incredible to see.

A view of the Marae Morana Mural painted of the Nikao seawall in Rarotonga.
A view of the Marae Morana Mural painted of the Nikao seawall in Rarotonga.
A view of the Marae Morana Mural painted of the Nikao seawall in Rarotonga.

Visit Marie Nui Gardens and Cafe

Marie Nui Gardens is a 7-acre botanical garden with tropical gardens, lily ponds, and incredible views of Rarotonga’s mountains. You will find the Marie Nui Gardens in Takitumu, on the south side of Rarotonga. After spending time walking around the beautiful gardens, you can relax and have a bite to eat at the cafe. The Cafe & Grill offers tropical island food with an Asian influence. The botanical garden is a great place to stroll through the tropical gardens. Then relax while enjoying a wonderful lunch. The gardens are open seven days a week, and the cafe is open Monday through Friday. Special events are held at the gardens, which can change their operating hours. 

Enjoy a Traditional Cultural Show

Are you looking for a cultural experience? You are in luck! There are several cultural shows available on Rarotonga. Cultural shows are a wonderful way to learn about the history and traditions of the Cook Islands through music, song, dance, and the wonderful food of the islands. Most cultural shows in Rarotonga include fire dancers, who put on an absolutely fantastic performance. Cultural shows are held in the evenings on Monday through Saturday at various locations on the island. Call and make reservations for the cultural shows, as they are popular and likely to sell out. Here are some of the places that offer cultural shows on Rarotonga.

Evening Cultural Show in Rarotonga
Evening cultural show Photo by Birgit Juel Martinsen

Island Night at the Crown Beach Resort & Spa

The Crown Beach Resort offers Island Night on Thursday night. The Island Night cultural show includes a Polynesian-style dinner buffet with a performance by the Akirata Cultural Dance Troupe. The Island Night cultural show at the Crown Beach Resort is on Thursday evenings. Making reservations for the show is recommended.

Island Night at the Edgewater Resort

The Edgewater Resort offers Island Night on Tuesday and Sunday evenings. Island Night at the Edgewater includes a delicious buffet dinner. The cultural show begins after dinner. You will find the Edgewater Resort on the west side of Rarotonga on Ara Tapu (the main road). It is one of the largest hotels on the island. If you ride the bus on Raro, you most likely have stopped at the Edgewater, as the hotel has a bus stop in front of the lobby. 

Island Night at the Islander Hotel

The Islander Hotel offers its cultural show on Saturday and Tuesday nights. The show includes a buffet-style dinner with the show after dinner. The Islander Hotel is located very close to Avarua, near the airport off Ara Tapu. The Islander Hotel is also known for its Hula Bar, a great place to dance the night away. 

Ka’are – Drums of our Forefathers at the Highland Paradise Cultural Center

The cultural show at the Highland Paradise Cultural Center is an award-winning cultural experience billed as the most authentic cultural experience in Rarotonga. The cultural show includes a spiritual journey with a welcome ceremony, a buffet-style feast with a traditional Umu (underground oven), and entertainment, which includes drumming and dancing. The Ka’are cultural show is held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights and includes round-trip transportation. If driving to the Highland Paradise Cultural Center, you will find the center in Arorangi on the west side of Rarotonga. 

Te Vara Nui Village

The cultural show at Te Vara Nui Village is one of Rarotonga’s most spectacular and unique shows.  The Island Night cultural show is held in an over-water venue set in a luscious rock waterfall garden. Some of Rarotonga’s finest dancers will entertain you as they tell the tale of “The Legend of Tongaiti” through dance. 

The Te Vara Nui Village show includes a delicious Island-Western fusion buffet dinner. The show is held on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings. Transfers to and from your hotel are optional. You will find Te Vara Nui Village in Muri, on the east side of Rarotonga. 

Tumutoa Umu Kai and Fire Show

Tumutoa Umu Kai and Fire Show is a unique, family-run, award-winning interactive cultural experience. You will meet Ngame and his wife Mania as they open their authentic Are Kuru (breadfruit hut) to you. You will learn how to cook in the traditional Umu style (underground oven). While the food is cooking in the umu, you will learn how to weave a traditional food basket and how to grate and squeeze coconut cream for ikamata, a raw marinated fish dish. Once the food in the umu is ready, you will enjoy a delicious umu feast, entertainment by a string band, followed by an amazing fire show.

Tumutoa Umu Kai and Fire Show is held on Monday and Thursday and is located on Ara Tapu (the main road) in Arorangi on the west side of Rarotonga.

Viana’s Bistro and Bar Fire Show

Viana’s is a great place to unwind, have a bite to eat, and drink a refreshing cocktail. After having a great meal at Viana’s, you can enjoy the Fire Dancers in the evening. The fire show at Viana’s is held on Thursday evening at 7 pm. One of the great things about the fire show at this venue is that entry to the show is free. While this isn’t a full cultural show, it does merit mentioning because the fire dancers at Viana’s Bistro and Bar put on an amazing show. Many of the cultural shows can get quite expensive, especially if you have a large family. The Fire Show at Viana’s is one of the best cheap things to do in Rarotonga, as it is free of charge. 

Viana’s Bistro is located in Nikao on the northwest coast of Rarotonga near the airport. 

This list of cultural shows is not exclusive, as other shows could be added or offered in Rarotonga. One important thing to keep in mind is that the cultural shows on Rarotonga are popular events. And, because of the popularity of the Island Nights cultural shows, we recommend making reservations ahead of time when planning your trip. The shows will fill up fast, and you risk not being able to attend if you do not make reservations in time.

Enjoy the Rarotonga Nightlife on a Party Bus Excursion

If you are interested in enjoying the nightlife in Rarotonga, one of the best ways is to hop on a Party Bus. Party Bus tours are available several nights a week and are one of the top fun things to do in Rarotonga. While there are different Party Bus operators, most include pickup from your hotel and your first drink of the night. The party bus will drop you off at various clubs and pubs in town. With some party bus tours, you can visit up to six venues, making this an easy and safe way to visit different nightclubs.  At the end of the night, the party bus will drop you off at your hotel. Joining a Party Bus tour is a great way to make new friends and have a great time dancing the night away while safely exploring nightclubs and pubs without worrying about drinking and driving. 

Go Whale Watching

Mid-June to October is whale watching season in the Cook Islands. During this time, you will see humpback whales around the island as they migrate north from Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. The humpback whales provide visitors with an incredible view as they are not too far offshore and can easily be seen breaching in the ocean. If you want to see the whales up close, then you can book and go on a whale-watching tour where you are more than likely to see whales breach and spout up close rather than from a distance.

Whale breeching off the coast of Rarotonga Cook Islands
Whale breaching in Rarotonga

Spend the Day at Muri Lagoon

One of the most popular areas of Rarotonga for tourists to visit is Muri Lagoon. Muri Lagoon is located in the eastern part of Rarotonga; because of its inlet shape, the water in Muri Lagoon is relatively calm. Muri Lagoon is one of the best swimming beaches in Rarotonga. It has white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters and is an excellent place for water sports. Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and snorkel gear are available to rent from local vendors near the beach. You can also sign up for kite surfing and windsurfing classes. If you want some “you” time, you can combine Stand-up paddle board classes with yoga instruction. This class includes SUP instruction, a short paddle to a secluded beach, and yoga instruction.   

Muri Lagoon is also very picturesque, allowing you to take incredible pictures of your visit. Muri Lagoon is also a great place to relax and observe the activity around you. While at Muri Beach, you will likely see kite surfers, windsurfers, people kayaking or snorkeling, people on stand-up paddleboards, and people enjoying the day. 

View of Muri Beach in Rarotonga Cook Islands

Enjoy a Lagoon Cruise at Muri Lagoon

At Muri Lagoon, you can enjoy a lagoon cruise that will take you to a local marine reserve where you can snorkel for about an hour. While snorkeling, you may get to see Charlie, the moray eel inhabiting the marine reserve’s reef. After snorkeling, you will visit Motu Koromiri, a local island, where you will have a fantastic BBQ and enjoy a cultural experience with a coconut tree climbing demonstration.  

There are two lagoon cruise companies to select from at Muri Lagoon: Koka Lagoon Cruises and Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruises. Both have a similar itinerary, the only glass bottom boat ride in Rarotaonga, and will entertain you as you sail to your snorkel site and Motu Koromiri. The boat trip is relatively short; you will reach your snorkel destination in about 15 minutes. You will enjoy snorkeling for approximately one hour. For non-snorkelers, this is a great time to enjoy the glass bottom boat as many colorful fish will be visible through the glass. After snorkeling, you will head to your BBQ on Motu Koromiri, about a 15-minute boat ride from the snorkel spot. The boat ride back to shore from Motu Koromiri takes about 5 minutes.  

Snorkeling with Koka Lagoon Cruises

We chose to sail and snorkel with Koka Lagoon Cruises during our trip. The boat ride to the marine reserve provided incredible views of the Muri Lagoon area with the lush green mountains of Rarotonga as a backdrop, turquoise waters, and the open ocean. The crew entertained us with an onboard ukulele sing-a-long, setting the tone for a fun-filled adventure. All snorkeling equipment was provided, as well as flotation tubes. 

After snorkeling at the marine reserve, we arrived at the motu and enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch. The delicious lunch consisted of salad, coleslaw, fruit, a curried papaya salad, rice, chicken, sausage, fish, grilled onions, and grilled bananas. Beverages provided at lunch were water and juice.

View of the excursion boat of Koka Lagoon Cruises

Following lunch, we enjoyed the coconut tree demonstration, which started with one of the crew members demonstrating how to climb a coconut tree. During the demonstration, we learned about the different coconuts found in Rarotonga, how all the parts of the coconut are used, how to grate a coconut, and how to extract coconut cream from the grated coconut. There was also a demonstration on how to tie a sarong for men and women. After the show, we were able to hang out on the island playing volleyball, swimming, taking pictures, or just relaxing on the beach. We chose to swim and then spent some time relaxing on the beach. It was the perfect way to spend the morning.   

Whether you take your cruise with Koka Lagoon Cruises or Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruises, you should not miss this popular excursion. 

Visit The Muri Night Market

Check out the Muri Night Market if you are in Muri on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday evening. Muri Night Market is an outdoor market where numerous food vendors gather to sell food. A large variety of cuisines are available to choose from, including local food, Thai food, bar-b-que, and different types of sweet offerings.  A few vendors also offer excursions, such as snorkeling with turtles and safari tours. You will also find vendors selling locally made art. 

Picture of the Muri Night Market sign in Muri Beach, Cook Islands
Muri Night Market Sign

The Muri Night Market starts at 5 p.m. and goes on until 9 pm, but it is best to get there when the market opens as it is a popular night market and gets pretty busy. Your favorite food can run out if you arrive late. The food sold by the different vendors ranges from seafood dishes local to the Cook Islands, Asian-style noodles, Indian dishes, burgers, BBQ plates, skewers, curries, smoothies, crepes, churros, and bubble waffles. There are so many different types of food to choose from that deciding what to eat can be challenging. 

If you go to the Muri Night Market, it is essential that you bring cash with you. Cash is the preferred payment method at the Night Market, and not all vendors accept credit cards. If you want to try food from multiple vendors, I suggest having the people in your group purchase something different. This way, everyone in your group will be able to try a little bit of everything. Luckily, portions are on the larger side. 

How to Get to the Muri Night Market

If you have rented a car during your stay in Rarotonga, you can drive to the night market. Parking is roadside on both sides of the street. Since the night market can get busy, you might need to park a little way down the street and walk towards the market grounds located off of Ara Tapu, the main road in Raro. 

You can also get to the Muri Night Market by bus if you have not rented a car or motor scooter. Taking the bus in Rarotonga is relatively easy. The night bus is available to take you to Muri Night Market most evenings that the night market is held. The only exception to this is Sundays. There is no night bus on Sunday. On Sunday, the last bus runs at 4 pm. If you visit Muri for the night market on Sunday, you will need to hire a taxi to return to your hotel. You can read our blog on the Top Things to Know When Planning Your Visit to the Cook Islands for more information about riding the bus in Rarotonga. 

Places to Eat in Muri

One can get hungry while visiting Muri Beach, especially with all the activities available in Muri. Luckily, there are many places to grab a bite in town.  A couple of places stand out and are worth a visit. 

The Mooring Fish Cafe

Right across from the Muri Night Market grounds off of Ara Tapu, you will find the Mooring Fish Cafe. The Mooring Fish Cafe serves fresh daily caught fish, uses the freshest locally sourced ingredients, and makes their own sauces and spice mixes. We found the Mooring Fish Cafe on a recommendation from a Cook Islander when looking for a place to eat on Sunday. We tried the fish and chips and the fish tacos, which were both delicious. You should try this cafe as The Mooring Fish Cafe is the ultimate Cook Island foodie experience.

Sails Restaurant at the Rarotonga Sailing Club

The Sails Restaurant has the perfect beachfront location for dining and enjoying a refreshing drink. The Sails Restaurant has an outside seating area that overlooks Muri Beach. They have an extensive menu with many items to choose from, and the food is delicious. The view is spectacular, and the peaceful ambiance of having dinner or a cocktail right off the beach can’t be beaten.  

Visit the Cook Islands Chocolate Factory in Muri

The Cook Islands Chocolate Factory is located on Vaii Tapere, just off Ara Tapu in Muri. When you visit the chocolate factory, you will tour cacao farms. During your tour, you will learn about the process of making chocolate, beginning from planting a seed, growing and harvesting the fruit, and then making the chocolate itself. The tour at the Chocolate Factory is very informative and well worth doing. The treat at the end of the tour is tasting some of the chocolate produced at the factory.

Spend Time Doing Water Sports

Spending time on an island calls for participating in the many available water sports. Rarotonga is a great place to spend time in the water, participating in your favorite water sport. There are many activities available for people of all ages and fitness levels. Whether you prefer a leisurely swim in the ocean, kayak, snorkel, or relaxing on the beach, there is something for everyone in the waters of Rarotonga.

Snorkeling in Rarotonga

A popular ocean activity to do in the Cook Islands is snorkeling. If you have your own snorkel equipment, you can snorkel on your own in the lagoons surrounding Rarotonga.  If you do not have your own snorkel gear, you can check with your hotel to see if they offer snorkel gear rentals. You can also purchase snorkel equipment in town if you would like. If you prefer to rent snorkel equipment, you can head down to Muri Beach, where you will find snorkel gear for hire from the local shops. 

If you decide to snorkel independently, pay attention to warning signs pointing out areas where you should not swim or snorkel. While there aren’t many of these areas, there are several around the island. These areas are deep passages in the lagoon surrounding Rarotonga with strong currents and rip tides that can take you toward the open ocean. Signs are clearly posted on the beach, letting you know you should not swim in these areas. The passages are also clearly marked on tourist maps, allowing you to identify them around Rarotonga easily. Tourist maps are readily available from local hotels.

You can also go on a snorkeling excursion with one of the numerous tour companies on the island.  Excursion companies offer trips to different snorkeling locations around Rarotonga. You will find tours to marine reserves, such as the one in Muri Lagoon. If you are a strong swimmer, you can go on a shipwreck snorkel. You can also snorkel with turtles in one of the passages. Whether you decide to snorkel on your own or on a tour, you will not be disappointed when snorkeling in Rarotonga.  

Snorkel with Turtles at the Avaavaroa Passage

While snorkeling the passages is risky, a snorkel tour in the Avaavaroa Passage is available. You will find the Avaavaroa Passage in the Takitumu district on the south side of Rarotonga. When snorkeling the passage, you will see abundant sea life like sting rays and many fish species. The passage is also a great place to see green sea turtles. You will more than likely see several turtles swimming in the passage. 

The Avaavaroa Passage is 25 meters (82 feet) deep in the center of the passage. The sides of the passage are about waist deep. Snorkel Cook Islands is one of the excursion companies that offer snorkeling tours to the Avaavaroa Passage. Snorkel Cook Islands is located on the beach near the Avaavaroa Passage. If you do not have your own snorkel equipment, it will be provided to you. Before your snorkel tour, you will be given a safety briefing as snorkeling this passage provides an element of risk since the current through the passage is similar to a rip tide. The tour company provides lifeguards to keep snorkelers safe, and there are areas where you can rest if necessary.

Snorkeling at Black Rock

Black Rock, also known as Tuoro in Maori, is a great area in North-West Rarotonga to go snorkeling. Black Rock is also a spiritual area, as Black Rock is believed to be the area where spirits of the dead leave Rarotonga and return to their ancient homeland. 

Tuoro (Black Rock) is located not too far from Avarua, off the main road, Ara Tapu. There is a parking lot with ample spots in front of the beach area, making this a convenient stop for snorkelers. Black Rock is a large sand beach with relatively calm water. This is one of the best swimming and snorkeling beaches in Rarotonga. 

The beach area at Black Rock is also a great place to see incoming planes as they make their way to the airport’s runway. The runway ends near the main road across the street from where the beach area begins at Black Rock. You will have a spectacular view of aircraft as they arrive and land at the airport. 

View of the large black rocks on Black Rock Beach in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Black Rock Beach

Scuba Diving

If you are an experienced scuba diver, there are various scuba diving excursions in Rarotonga and Aitutaki to choose from. The excursion companies are PADI-certified organizations. Certified divers have more diving options to choose from, as more advanced dive sites are available to experienced scuba divers. For those without scuba diving experience, dive companies offer PADI dive instruction, allowing you to get certified in Rarotonga. If you are a scuba diver or interested in scuba diving, consider scuba diving in the Cook Islands. Both Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the perfect islands for scuba diving. The clear turquoise water of the lagoons in Rarotonga and Aitutaki and the abundant sea life of the Cook Islands make for a fantastic scuba diving experience.

Kayaking and Stand-up Paddle Boarding

If you enjoy kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, there are multiple areas where you can rent kayaks and paddle boards. A popular place to kayak and paddle board is at Muri Lagoon. If you are staying at a hotel on Muri Beach, the hotel may offer their guests complimentary kayaks and paddle boards. If you are not staying at a hotel on Muri Beach, there are a couple of places where you can rent kayaks and paddle boards for an hour, two hours, or half and full days. One of the rental shops on Muri Beach, KiteSUP, offers a Fire on Water Night Paddle tour. This excursion includes LED-equipped paddle boards or kayaks. There are frequent stops and story telling of local legends. The tour concludes with a fire show on a nearby island.

Kayaks on the sand on Muri Beach

Kitesurfing and Windsurfing in Muri Lagoon

If you are up for a challenge, try kitesurfing or windsurfing in Rarotonga. The best place to kitesurf or windsurf is in Muri Lagoon. You do not need prior experience to try windsurfing or kitesurfing, as KiteSUP provides lessons for both. Lessons are offered multiple times daily. KiteSUP offers both private and beginner group lessons. If you have experience in either windsurfing or kitesurfing but do not have the equipment, then you can rent all the equipment you need from KiteSUP. 

Kite surfer in the air in Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga

Join a Fishing Charter in Rarotonga

If you are an avid angler or like fishing for fun, you can sign up for one of the many fishing charters available in Rarotonga. Many charters you can choose from offer half-day and full-day fishing options and will provide all the necessary equipment. Fishing in Rarotonga can be exhilarating as you can catch yellow-fin tuna, wahoo, marlin, or mahi-mahi during your fishing adventure. 

Take a Day Tour of Aitutaki from Rarotonga

Aitutaki is one of the 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands and the second most visited island. A very popular excursion is going on a day tour of Aitutaki from Rarotonga. The Aitutaki day tour is one of the least expensive ways to spend time on Aitutaki. When visiting the breathtaking island of Aitutaki, you will experience an unequal, tranquil way of life. You will see a beautifully stunning ocean with turquoise waters teaming with sea life. 

The day tour to Aitutaki leaves Rarotonga at eight in the morning and returns around 5:30 in the afternoon via Air Rarotonga. Pick-ups from local hotels begin around 7:00 am. The flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki is about 50 minutes long. Once in Aitutaki, you explore Aitutaki by land for about an hour. After the land tour, you board a catamaran for a day-long lagoon cruise around Aitutaki. While cruising around Aitutaki, you will snorkel in the lagoon surrounding Aitutaki, stop at several motu islets, and have a BBQ feast. The catamaran cruise around Aitutaki, including the various stops, takes approximately 6 hours.

Taking a day trip or spending a few days in Aitutaki should be part of your plans on your Cook Island adventure. Visiting Aitutaki is one of the best things to do in the Cook Islands. A visit to the Cook Islands is not complete without a visit to Aitutaki. 

The Cook Islands – A Beautiful Oasis You Will Never Forget

The Cook Islands are a magical place that you will never forget. Rarotonga will be your first stop when you arrive in the Cook Islands, as that is where the main airport is located. There are so many places to explore and activities to participate in. You will find many adventures waiting for you on this magical island. 

If you decide to venture to other islands, exploring the other islands that make up the Cook Islands would be fantastic. You will be able to see places that few people venture out to.  Whether you decide to stay in Rarotonga or include other islands during your visit to the Cook Islands, you will find something to do for everyone in your party, regardless of age and fitness level. Whatever you decide to do in the Cook Islands, you will surely enjoy your time in this beautiful oasis.

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