We found ourselves traveling to the beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands in late November/ early December of 2014. Never heard of Rarotonga before? Neither had we! Bora Bora is honestly one of my ultimate travel dreams. But, priced the way it is, and with us having the budget we do, Bora Bora is unfortunately a pipe dream for us. So, we did a bit of research. And one of the places we discovered was Rarotonga. Having never heard of it, we did a bit of research, and then just decided what the hell, lets go for it!
Living in Australia, we had to take two flights to get there. But they were short flights lol. So we had the approx 2hr flight to Auckland, and then the approx 4hr flight from Auckland to Rarotonga. (I will get slightly off topic here for a minute, just for the lols at the memory; so we booked a straight flight with Auckland being a stopover. We had allowed ourselves, I think, about 2hrs between, thinking that would give us enough time without being too long. Our flight leaving Sydney was delayed. By half an hour. And then because it was delayed we then had to taxi on the runway for half an hour before we could depart the plane at Auckland because we had thrown off the schedule. So, we then had to run from one side of the airport to the other. But wait, theres more. My partner has not been pulled aside for random drug testing, I’m going to say for 10% of our flights. I’m not even kidding! So, of course, we then get pulled up for “random drug testing”. Almost in tears, we explain to them what is happening, and they call down to the boarding lounge to explain so we didn’t miss our flight! Not the most relaxing start to our holiday, but looking back it does honestly make me laugh now).
Because Rarotonga is such a small island (if you drove around the coast I think from memory its around 32-35kms around!), we couldn’t fly straight from Sydney, as their airport is quite small. And they also only run flights every second day.
We stayed at Club Raro. I think they have done renovations since we were there, but it was still nice when we stayed there. They had a pool, which we honestly didn’t use at all as you were also staying directly on the beach, so we chose the ocean over the pool (we intended on getting as much snorkelling in as we could, and we can swim in a pool anytime!). The beach had stairs leading down to it. The beach itself was mostly made up of old, washed up coral and rocks etc not much sand. The water was beautiful though! We booked one of the beach/ocean facing rooms, and this was the view from right outside our door:
This is a panoramic shot, so the banister looks a little warped haha but you get the idea! Beautiful, blissful. A bit back from the banister there is tables and chairs under thatched roofs (which you can see in the top right corner of the picture) and we had our dinner at these tables maybe half the nights we stayed there. The other half we ate either at a different food place, or in the dining room. Not to downer, but I will now mention one thing we had issues with with dinner at night, and this is not just at club raro but everywhere on the island; mosquitos! So bad! You will need aeroguard, I am telling you!
I’ll do a quick little blurb on the hotel, so I can then get back to the island. The room was simple but nice. The bed was huge and comfortable. Plumbing worked perfectly. They had a laundry that you could use. Tennis courts, swimming pool, and you could rent snorkel and towels from their entertainment counter. They also ran classes you could take (like intro to scuba diving etc). They also had plenty of pamphlets you could use to see island activities, rental car companies, and a phone you could use to book activities (or they would do it for you at the front desk too). Food was pretty good, but menu a little limited, which is why we sometimes ventured out for meals, in saying that we were there for 2 weeks. Staff were pretty good too, there was only one lady who was borderline rude, but otherwise they were all pretty welcoming and helpful.
We snorkelled most places around the island we could reach, and obviously weather dependent. One of the places we went was the beach infront of Fruits of Rarotonga store. From memory it was a café/general store. Another thing that makes me laugh looking back. This was I think my second trip overseas, and I had never really been snorkelling before, but I was excited to do it. So, we walk out in the water until we were maybe waist deep. We then decided we were far enough out, put our masks on, and put our faces under. And I honestly almost had a heart attack! We were surrounded! By GIANT fish! They were all white, and massive. Not long or anything, pretty circular really haha but everywhere!
You could reached out and touched them! So after my initial 10 second freakout my rational brain kicks in; they weren’t going to hurt us haha if they wanted to do that they would have already! There were heaps of those huge white fish, but not heaps of other types. So we enjoyed our swim there and then moved on. We did return there a few times, but it had rained overnight a few times which had then caused the water to cloud, and we didn’t want to swim anywhere we couldn’t see.
Another day we went to this beautiful long stretch kinda near the airport, but going to other way to Club Raro, and before we had gotten in we could see splashing a bit further down. So we were looking at it trying to figure out what it was. And then we realised. There were a few reef sharks going after fish! Was totally fascinating to watch, but we decided maybe to not get in that part of the water at that particular time lol. But we did go back there. The water was beautiful to swim in, but the fish in there were limited, or at least what we saw was.
We went on a few different island activities, and none of them disappointed. We did a semi sub, which was good as they took you out a bit further and you could see the marine life that you couldn’t see in the lagoons. We went on a tour of the island, and they drove you around explaining life on the island and their landmarks, we went up one of the mountains in the middle too and looked at all the farming and ate a fresh coconut (which I hadn’t had before, it was delicious!) and the view at the top was beautiful.
Now, to the island scandal lol. The abandoned Sheraton Resort. There is plenty info available if you google Sheraton Rarotonga, but long story short a hotel was started there by Sheraton that never got completed due to mafia (!) siphoning of funds! A few other companies have tried since, and all failed for misc reasons, rumour is the land is cursed and thats why the project keeps failing. We, as many tourists have, went in and had a sticky beak. When Sheraton abandoned the project it was like 90% done, which is sad. It has since deteriorated, been vandalised and looted. But you can still see the vision that was started. It was really interesting, but kind of creepy too haha. There is now apparently troubled youths living there, under supervision, with the arrangement that they maintain the grounds. Which is good, as it gives these kids a home, and gives them something constructive to focus on. Rumours are someone else is sniffing around to purchase and complete the site, but its a big job so whether it goes through who knows.
There is plenty of natural beauty to see in Rarotonga, and the people on the whole are very welcoming people. We definitely want to go back one day. Its a good relaxing holiday; you can just get away from the hustle and bustle and relax. We ended up hiring a car, and I would recommend hiring some form of transport whilst you are there, whether it is a car or a bike/scooter. The island isn’t large, as I said, but it is good to be able to go where you want to when you want to, especially if you want to go exploring or swimming. They do have a bus on the island, which we did catch, which was $5, which wasn’t bad, but with the two of us to catch it in and out of town it wasn’t much more to hire a car for the day.