Rarotonga has been attracting more and more tourists each year, especially being the first Pacific Island that has just opened up for tourists flying quarantine-free from New Zealand.
Rarotonga is the largest island in the Cook Islands, but a rather small island to get around by car. Travelling to Rarotonga is a little different from travelling to developed tropical islands like Hawaii or Fiji. Therefore, we compiled a list of essential travel information in this post. Know these before you go will set your expectations, and help you plan a stress-free vacation with your family.
We broke down the entire Rarotonga series into 4 parts: Things To Do, Accommodation, Where To Eat, and Essential Travel Information below, such as the best time to go, airport transfers, the best area to stay, getting around and everything in-between!
At the bottom of the post, we have included links to other related posts and your FREE downloadable Pocket Travel Guide. This guide comes in PDF & JPG, it’s compact and has a minimalist design in bullet points specifically created for travelling parents.
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Series: Rarotonga Cook Islands Family Travel Guide
Best Time To Go
Rarotonga, like many tropical pacific islands, is warm all year around. The best times to go is from May to October, there’s less rain during these months. It is also the tourism peak season and the most vibrant part of the year. In saying that, our family went during the April Easter holidays this year, and quite honestly, it rained 3 out of 5 days while we were there.
NZ$ is the standard currency in the Cook Islands. Most major resorts and restaurants take credit cards. We recommend taking out some cash before you leave, for pure convenience.
Our suggested daily budget is about $100pp per day.
There are 3 major airlines that fly to Rarotonga: Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar. We recommend either Air New Zealand or Virgin Australia for their reliable flight times and excellent customer service.
Flight times unfortunately are usually late at night or in the middle of the night, so consider booking an extra night at your hotel depending on your flight times. We’ll talk more about this in Hotels & Resorts section.
Rarotonga doesn’t really have taxis lining up outside the airport, so the easiest way is to book with your hotel or resort.
However, if your hotel doesn’t offer this service, you can book an airport transfer with Raro Tours, adult tickets are from $25, and child tickets are from $14. You can opt in to receive a flower ‘ei’ on arrival, but from our experience, everybody received a flower necklace and a bottle of water regardless.
The best area on the island for pristine crystal clear waters that you see on Instagram is near Muri Beach and Muri Lagoon (around the 4 o’clock position on Google map.) Book your accommodations with that in mind.
However, there are other areas on the island that are absolutely stunning as well, such as Aroa beach for snorkelling, and Black Rock Chimneys. We’ll talk more in detail in this post Top Things To Do in Rarotonga.
Bluesky is the only internet provider on Rarotonga as of now. The price guide is around $49 for a visitor sim with 3GB of data, 30 minutes of calls and 300 texts. You can find a Bluesky outlet at the airport.
You can also purchase prepaid vouchers from convenient stores, and login to their hotspots to use the wifi, costs are slightly more expensive than a visitor sim.
Ara Tapu is Rarotonga’s main road along the coast. They drive on the left side of the road, and the maximum speed is 50km/hr. The distance of the whole island is only 32km, so you can get around the island by car in about 45 minutes.
1. Hire A Local
This may sound new to you, but we actually came across a local who was willing to be our chauffeur for a flat rate or negotiate the price per trip. The reason why I put this first, is we found that this was the best way to get around the island with a 2yo toddler. It is cheaper than hiring a car (all the cars were fully booked out for us during Easter anyway), and it is more reliable and flexible than a bus. The other perk is you get to talk to a local, learn about their way of living, get some tips and suggestions on where to go, what to do, or simply have a laugh while adjusting to island time.
Feel free to drop me a message if you’re travelling to Rarotonga, I’ll pass on the contact details of Mili, who would be more than happy to take care of your family, drive you round and round the island, and chat to you like an old friend!
2. By Car
For anyone travelling with a family, we would strongly recommend hiring a car, at least for the days that you plan to get out of your resort and explore the island. If you’re travelling during public holidays, and tourism peak season, book in advance as they get booked out fast.
A baby seat is not really required in Rarotonga, but the maximum speed is 50km/hr, and don’t forget to bring your full license from your country of origin.
If you plan to get around the island on a scooter, make sure you bring your motorbike/scooter license from your own country. Alternatively, you can get a license on the island. There’re 2 tests to pass, one with the rental company, who will issue you a temporary license, which you would then need to take to the Police Station in Avarua to take the second test. It is a great option to explore the inland and farmlands on a scooter, but the main road is narrow and busy during peak traffic times, for this reason, we would not recommend scooters as the main transportation around the island, especially with young children.
Did you know, you can hire ebikes in Rarotonga! This is a super fun way to explore the island without breaking a sweat. You can hire them from Tik-Etours
5. Circle Island Buses
The buses can be flagged anywhere along their route either clockwise or anticlockwise. You can get a bus timetable from the resort, but from our experience, the wait was not fun at all.
Circle island buses don’t run anticlockwise and at night on Sundays. So we would recommend hiring a car or ebikes to get around on Sundays.
The prices are $5 one way or $16 for a hop on hop off day pass.
6. On Foot?
Honestly, if you’re travelling with family, we only recommend walking when your resort is smack bang in the middle of your destination, like within 10 minutes walk. The main road is quite narrow, and there are no clear pedestrian paths. Chances are you’ll be going to restaurants, night markets or shows in the evenings, and there’s not a lot of street lights around.
We did it for a few days in Muri, our bungalow looked central enough on Google map, but it’s a 10-minute walk to Muri hub. It wasn’t very fun carrying a 13kg toddler back and forth because she was scared of the dogs following us, yeah not so much the cars and scooters, but dogs!
- Pacific Cars – Our recommendation for the best value. They don’t have a website, but the owner is super nice and helpful. They’re located in the heart of Muri, right opposite La Casita Restaurant.
- Polynesian Hire 6 locations
- Island Car & Bike Hire 3 locations.
- Go Cook Islands
- Avis Muri outside of Pacific Resort Rarotonga
- Raro Cars
Although you see the advertised prices everywhere, bear in mind there’s insurance, petrol, baby seat fee if you want one, and admin fees on top. (Yes we were taken by surprise that some of these companies charged an admin fee without telling us, even though they advertise ‘no hidden fees’ on their site.)
Adventure Hire also hire scooters, bicycles (child seats are also available), kayaks, snorkel and diving gear.
Included in this travel guide
- Essential information about travelling to Rarotonga
- Top things to do
- Family-friendly accommodation & resorts
- Restaurants & cafés
- Packing list
- Getting around
- Bucket list
- Blank page for notes
Effortless Planning Starts Here
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