Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands and a mountainous island of volcanic origin. The island covers an area of 67 sq km and has about 9,600 inhabitants. The only important center of the island is the capital Avarua, which is located in the center of the north coast of the island.
The highest mountain in Rarotonga is Mount Te Manga which reaches 658 meters. A mountain with a curious shape is the mountain called Te Rua Manga, which in English is known as “The Needle”. A pinnacle of rock that exceeds 400 meters above sea level, and which is visible from the road along the southern coast.
The whole interior of the island is mountainous, only along the coast there are narrow plains. The island is rich in greenery and tropical vegetation, coconut palms are very common.
The island is surrounded by a lagoon, which widens in the south-eastern part to form the Muri Lagoon, which is dotted with small sandy islets called “motu” (Motutapu, Oneroa, Koromiri and Taakoka).
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO VISIT IN RAROTONGA
The entire circuit of the island is 32 km long and can be easily accomplished by bicycle because the road runs along the coast and is almost completely flat. Doing this circuit by bicycle is very beautiful, it is a pleasure to pedal along this little busy road. You can admire beautiful white sandy beaches on one side and beautiful green mountains of tropical vegetation on the other side. The tour of the entire island by bicycle is done in about 2 hours, without practically encountering a climb.
The most beautiful beaches of Rarotonga are located along the south-eastern part of the island, in the Muri Lagoon. But small beaches of fine white sand are scattered along the southern and western coast of the island. On the west coast a beautiful beach is the one near the Black Rock. This is a black volcanic rock that seems to lie between the blue of the sea and the dazzling white of the beach.
In Avarua there is an interesting church, the Old Cook Islands Christian Church, built in 1853. Next to the church there are some old tombs in the annexed cemetery, including that of the American writer Robert Dean Frisbie. Another old church, the Arorangi Cook Islands Christian Church, is located along the west coast of the island in the village of Arorangi. This church was built in 1849. Other interesting churches are those of the villages of Matavera and Titikaveka, the latter dating back to 1841.
Just east of the capital Avarua, a few hundred meters after passing the Kii Kii Motel, a road inland quickly leads to the Marae Arai-Te-Tonga. This is one of the island’s most sacred Polynesian places of worship. Here you can see a rectangular platform of 3.5 meters by 2 meters, 20 centimeters high, where there is a basalt pillar, which was used to invest the rulers of the island.
One thing to do absolutely on Sunday is to participate in one of the Masses that take place in the churches of the island. Listening to Polynesian songs are one of the most fascinating experiences you can try.
Snorkeling is very popular in Rarotonga, the most suitable places to observe underwater life are in Muri Lagoon around the islet of Taakoka. Another place not far from the coast suitable for snorkeling is the area immediately east of the village of Titikaveka, called Tikioki-Fruits of Rarotonga. The western part of the island where Black Rock is located is also another place suitable for snorkeling.
Very beautiful is the trekking along the paths of the mountainous interior of Rarotonga. In particular the one that crosses the island passing near the characteristic mountain called Rua Manga or The Needle (413 m).
Between July and October, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) can be seen in the waters of the archipelago.
HOW TO VISIT RAROTONGA
Public Transport: A convenient bus service (Cook Island Passenger Service) runs along the main road of Rarotonga. Tickets cost NZ $ 2.50 per trip, or you can use the convenient day ticket for just NZ $ 10. Tickets can be bought on board from the driver, you can get on and off wherever you want. There are no established stops.
Car Rental: In the capital, Avarua, and at the airport there are several rental companies. In addition to cars, scooters and bicycles can be rented.
Driving: Driving in the Cook Islands is on the left, in order to drive a rental car you need to buy a local license (Cook Islands Drivers License). This is done by showing your national driver’s license and paying a NZ $ 10 fee. To use a motorbike you will also need a small driving test in addition to paying the fee of NZ $ 6.
The Tourist Information Office is located in the center of Avarua, near the ANZ Bank and is open from Monday to Friday from 8 to 16.