September 30, 2022

Strewn around the South Pacific like a handful of pearls tossed onto a gemstone-blue blanket, the Prepare dinner Islands are the whole lot you would hope to search out in Polynesia. 

Whilst this tiny island country is legendary for its white sand and transparent lagoons, there may be extra to the Prepare dinner Islands than pristine seashores (despite the fact that those are nice too, unfold over 15 scatted islands). From digging into native historical past to witnessing the spectacle of Aitutakian fire-dancing, listed here are the highest issues to do within the Prepare dinner Islands.

Guides playing ukuleles aboard a glass bottom boat in Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Ukelele song is the unofficial soundtrack of a travel to the Prepare dinner Islands © Chester Voyage / Alamy

Uncover native historical past on the Prepare dinner Islands Library and Museum

The primary trace of the treasures within the Prepare dinner Islands Library and Museum on Rarotonga comes from the outside of the construction – embellished with a brilliant mural that celebrates the traditions and historical past of the Prepare dinner Islands. Inside of, vacationers can be told concerning the historical past and tradition of those far off islands, from the primary agreement via Pacific Islanders to the coming of Eu explorers and the declaration of self-government in 1965.

Run via native volunteers, the museum has an enchanting vary of reveals together with Polynesian cookware, musical tools and carved guns. Native pictures and artwork hold at the partitions, giving colour and heat to the shows. Some of the highlights is a gorgeous tivaivai, a conventional Prepare dinner Islands cover, which hangs from the ceiling, its squares appearing a canoe crossing the waves. The museum is very easily situated in Avarua, and is open Monday to Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings.

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Store like a neighborhood on the Punanga Nui Marketplace

To get a style of native lifestyles, seek advice from the Punanga Nui Marketplace in Avarua on Saturday mornings. {The marketplace} is in most cases bustling with locals and sightseers, and it could possibly really feel like the entire of Rarotonga has pop out to browse. Arrive early for the hottest native fruit and greens, then wander the stalls on the lookout for native foodstuffs, beverages, clothes and souvenirs – it is a good spot to pick out up native artwork and wooden carvings at cheap costs.

Some other spotlight of marketplace day is looking at the cultural performances at the primary level. Native youngsters carry out Polynesian dances and songs from 10am, giving guests a glimpse of the colour and vibrancy of Prepare dinner Island tradition. No travel to Rarotonga could be entire with out a wander throughout the market, so ensure that your travel features a Saturday travel to Avarua.

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Discover Aitutaki’s lagoon

Aitutaki, the second one biggest island within the Prepare dinner Islands, is lower than an hour’s flight from Rarotonga, and it is hailed as having one of the gorgeous lagoons on the planet. Stretching out from white sandy seashores, this turquoise stretch of water is dotted with tiny motu (islets). Spending an afternoon cruising via its surprising waters and walking alongside the sugar sands of uninhabited islands is likely one of the best possible issues to do within the Prepare dinner Islands.

An ordinary lagoon excursion comes to visiting a number of the motu at the lagoon, snorkeling with tropical fish and playing a fish fry lunch, in most cases on postcard-perfect Tapuaeta’i (One Foot Island). Within the lagoon, you’ll see turtles and massive clams and snorkel over the smash of the shipment freighter Alexander, which ran aground within the Thirties. Together with the impressive surroundings, a freshly stuck fish lunch is a spotlight of the travel. Exploring Aitutaki lagoon on a sunny day looks like floating into paradise.

Palm trees and a hammock on Aitutaki, Cook Islands
An excellent image of tropical lifestyles on Aitutaki © Peter Adams / Getty Photographs

Pass bonefishing in Aitutaki

Virtually invisible at the sand residences underneath the lagoon, Aitutaki’s silvery bonefish are reportedly the biggest on the planet. Referred to as kiokio in Prepare dinner Island Māori, grownup bonefish continuously succeed in weights of 10lb or extra. They are extremely jumpy once they challenge onto the residences and catching one is a problem for even probably the most skilled fisher.

If you need to take a look at your good fortune, head out onto the pristine lagoon with a neighborhood fishing information. Finding out native pointers and tips is very important should you hope to catch any such elusive bonefish. Placing out with a neighborhood fisher for the day could also be an effective way to listen to extra about lifestyles at the island and spot gorgeous Aitutaki from the water.  

Attend a carrier on the Prepare dinner Island Christian Church

Sunday mornings in finding the vast majority of Prepare dinner Islanders at church and becoming a member of a neighborhood carrier is an engaging revel in. The Prepare dinner Island Christian Church is a small, whitewashed construction from the 1850s and the native congregation could be very welcoming of holiday makers. The custom of Christianity at the islands dates again to the coming of British missionaries in 1821.

The Sunday carrier is in Māori and generally comprises a variety of sung hymns, giving the lawsuits a festive surroundings. Keep for refreshments after the carrier and feature a talk to locals concerning the church and the area people. Make sure that you get dressed conservatively for the church carrier, and be expecting the congregation to be of their colourful Sunday best possible.

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Views over Rarotonga from the Needle, with green ridges dropping to the sea
Perspectives over Rarotonga from the Needle, the top level of the Move Islands Stroll © wallix / Shutterstock

Hike to the bottom of the Needle

For an island exercise, and to look one of the vital best possible mountain surroundings on Rarotonga, hike the four-hour Move Island Trek. The path starts in the back of town of Avarua and the monitor meanders via lush rainforest, with shady timber offering a welcome respite from the tropical sunshine.

The path continues to the bottom of 413m (1,455ft) Te Rua Manga – aka The Needle – a looming volcanic rock within the middle of the island. That is the best level at the trek and lookouts praise hikers with panoramic perspectives around the island. End the hike with a swim and picnic at non violent Papua (Wigmore’s) Waterfall.

Enjoy an Island Evening

A way of pleasure and anticipation permeates the air prior to the beginning of an Island Evening – a Prepare dinner Islands ceremonial dinner. Performers are visual in shadows, with painted faces and colourful costumes, and scrumptious smells mingle with the odor of tropical plants. Over the following couple of hours, visitors are handled to dances and songs, native song and a ceremonial dinner which contains an umu, the place meals is cooked in an underground oven.

Attending an Island Evening isn’t just a gorgeous night out, it additionally gives a glimpse of the tradition and traditions that existed at the islands prior to the coming of Europeans. Whilst many lodges and hotels have spectacular displays, the Highland Paradise Cultural Centre on Rarotonga is famend for its Island Evening performances. Should you’re fortunate sufficient to revel in an Island Evening in Aitutaki, you’ll be handled to the custom of Aitutakian fire-dancing, which is likely one of the maximum spectacular spectacles within the Prepare dinner Islands.

A Cook Islands musician beats out a rhythm on a traditional pate (slit drum)
A Prepare dinner Islands musician beats out a rhythm on a conventional pate (slit drum) © Rafael Ben-Ari/Getty Photographs

Uncover pre-Christian Aitutaki at Punarei Cultural Village

For curious vacationers who need to know extra about lifestyles within the Prepare dinner Islands in pre-colonial occasions, a seek advice from to the Punarei Cultural Village is a should. Right here, you’ll uncover the traditional myths, legends and traditions of Aitutaki – together with the tales advised prior to the coming of English missionaries to the island within the nineteenth Century.

A excursion across the village showcases conventional lifestyles at the island, and you’ll be able to give you the option to cook dinner in a buried umu oven, comprised of leaves and conventional fabrics. You’ll be able to additionally know about indigenous artwork bureaucracy in Aitutaki and spot what a neighborhood village would have gave the impression of prior to the coming of Eu explorers.

Wonder on the volcanic rocks at Black Rock Seashore

At the northwest coast of Rarotonga, placing black rock formations upward push from the ocean on the as it should be named Black Rock Seashore. Contrasting with the white sand, the volcanic rocks are a placing sight – in pre-Christian occasions, native folks believed this was once the place souls started the adventure to the afterlife. It’s a in particular gorgeous position to observe the sundown, with the black rocks silhouetted towards the red and yellow sky. Black Rock could also be a good looking, calm position to swim and snorkel on a windy day, because it’s situated at the sheltered facet of the island.

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School of fish in the lagoon of Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Tropical fish throng the waters off Rarotonga and different islands © Dirk Freder / Getty Photographs

Pass snorkeling within the End result of Rarotonga

Some of the joys of visiting the Prepare dinner Islands is swimming with the islands’ considerable tropical fish. There are a number of gorgeous marine reserves alongside the coast of Rarotonga, all stuffed with brilliant coral and interesting marine lifestyles, and Tikioki – aka, the End result of Rarotonga – is a certain favourite.

This can be a glorious position to snorkel, with huge coral reefs, fairly deep water and darting faculties of tropical fish in rainbow colours. Should you’re touring with youngsters, a shallower snorkeling spot is Aro’a Marine Reserve within the southwest of Rarotonga.

Take a walk throughout the Maire Nui Gardens

Together with the seashores, one of the unique issues concerning the Prepare dinner Islands is the abundance of lovely tropical plants. When guests arrive within the nation, they’re incessantly given an ‘ei – like a Hawaiian lei garland – comprised of tropical blossoms as a gesture of welcome. To have a better take a look at Prepare dinner Island flowers, head to the Maire Nui Gardens at Ara Tapu on Rarotonga.

Guests can wander round seven acres of superb tropical gardens, dotted with non violent lily ponds, and recognize the outstanding mountain perspectives. Strolling throughout the gardens is a perfectly serene revel in and a really perfect distinction to the bustle of task in Rarotonga’s hotels. When you’re running up an urge for food, head to the park café, nearly hidden within the foliage.

Know about native marine lifestyles on the Prepare dinner Islands Marine and Flora and fauna Eco Centre

When you’ve got a wet day when you’re in Rarotonga, or simply desire a day clear of the seaside with youngsters in tow, head to the Prepare dinner Islands Marine and Flora and fauna Eco Centre at Arorangi. Right here you’ll be able to in finding various colourful reveals which exhibit Rarotonga’s numerous ecology.

Within the aquarium, you’ll get an up-close view of lagoon sea lifestyles, together with stonefish, clams and crabs. The are living coral and native bugs are at all times well liked by children, as is the aviary for rehabilitating injured birds. After you’ve had a glance across the reveals, snatch an ice cream on the on-site ice cream parlor.

The Prepare dinner Islands are on our 2022 Highest in Commute listing. For extra tales from one of the vital international’s most enjoyable locations click on right here.

Protection suggestions and restrictions throughout an endemic can alternate abruptly. Lonely Planet recommends that vacationers at all times take a look at with native government for up-to-date steerage prior to touring throughout Covid-19.