First published on 11 Mar 2013. Updated on 13 Mar 2013.
In the heart of the South Pacific, Rarotonga is a destination many quickly fall in love with. That could be because its clear waters make it one of the best diving and snorkelling spots on the planet. It might be the sun-drenched, palm tree-lined golden sandy beaches. Or it could be because of the great quality food and drinks in hospitable bars and restaurants that don’t rip you off. And it’s definitely because Cook Islanders really get what hospitality is all about.
All of this is what you’ll find at Pacific Resort Rarotonga, where one minute you will be snorkelling crystal-clear waters off the beach in front of your room and the next you’ll be drinking top-shelf wine and eating fresh local seafood. The tropically inspired rooms here are designed in a South Pacific style and comfortably relaxing for the short time you’ll spend in them.
After you check in, grab some fins and a mask and explore the Muri Lagoon that fronts the resort. Book in for a snorkelling cruise on Moana Roa Lagoon Cruises’ glass bottom boat – you’ll be whisked out to near the edge of the reef and soon swimming with fish and gazing at a large concentration of coral. The resort also offers sailboat hire and, when the winds are up, kitesurfing reigns supreme.
Grab a late afternoon cocktail or a local Matutu craft brew at Barefoot Bar, right on the beach, while the best meal on the property is to be had at Sandals Restaurant. Make sure you book in for the Polynesian dance show on Friday nights and here you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the top-notch list of New Zealand wines, particularly Hawke’s Bay chardonnay and Central Otago pinot noir. Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Muri Beach, Cook Islands. +682 20 427.
Out of the resort, head to lunch at Trader Jack’s for Maimai sliders and shrimp gumbo garnished with uninterrupted views of the ocean. Here, it’s about good food and drinks in a playful South Pacific yacht-club setting and it’s reasonably priced (dishes from NZ$5.50, draught beer from NZ$4.50, bottles of wine from NZ$28.50). Ara Tapu, Avarua District, Cook Islands. +682 27 464.
On Saturdays, the Punanga Nui Cultural Markets in town offer local produce, clothing, homewares and Rarotongan gifts, as well as the sought-after South Pacific pearls – something also available at a number of shops in town, including the Beachcomber Pearl Market. Don’t be surprised if you don’t do any shopping at all and end up having a lazy day on the beach – that’s the best way to enjoy this South Pacific gem.
Air New Zealand flies direct from Sydney to Rarotonga once a week using two-class Boeing 767-300 aircraft fitted with on-demand entertainment in every seat. Daily flights are also offered via Auckland. For stopover ideas, visit www.au.timeout.com/sydney.