Overview

Rarotonga is the vibrant centre of the Cook Islands and is where government resides. Circular and only 32 km in circumference, it is dominated by high mountain peaks which rise to 653 metres from which lush rain forests cascade and provide a dramatic backdrop to a palm-fringed shore. The island is almost completely encircled by a reef, which harbours a lagoon of clear turquoise waters and many inviting white sand beaches. Beyond the reef, the indigo blue of the ocean provides a vivid contrast and a bountiful supply of fish.

There are two main roads on Rarotonga - you can circle the island on the Ara Tapu sealed road, through the villages and past the beaches; or you can take the older inland road, Te Ara o Toi, which winds through fields of taro, pawpaw, bananas and local farmlands. The motor scooter is a popular, fun way to see the sights, however bikes, cars and jeeps are also available from local rental agencies. The "Island Bus" offers a convenient low cost method of transport, operating regular schedules around the island (in both directions). It will pick you up and set you down anywhere on request.

Avarua is the main town on the island and the commercial centre of the Cook Islands. During business hours, it has a friendly, bustling atmosphere together with a good selection of shops, banks, cafes and visitor facilities. Avatiu Harbour, a short walk west of central Avarua on the north coast of Rarotonga has a constant stream of activity with private yachts calling in from all parts of the globe, fishing boats diving charters, inter-island freighting and many cruise liners frequenting the port.

Rarotonga's beautiful lagoon is sheltered by the reef that encircles the island. The lagoon offers a host of activities from wind and kite surfing, sailing, snorkelling and glass bottom boat tours. The open sea beyond the reef has great game fishing and diving. All international flights arrive at Rarotonga Airport situated 4 kilometres from Avarua township. Their are many activities to be enjoyed in Rarotonga on both sea and land from treks into the mountains to historic walks, there truly is something for eveyone and every age.

Culture

The beauty and charm of our islands is matched only by the friendliness of our people. Here among your island friends, you will find the hospitality warm and spontaneous, the music and dancing exuberant, the mood relaxed.

The Cook Islands culture is shaped by the arrival of Polynesians that took place around 800 AD. This was part of what was believed to have been the last great wave of Polynesian migration from Asia that began in 1500 BC.

Of equal importance has been the contact with European culture, particularly the British and the influence of missionaries spreading the Christian message.

Christianity plays an important role in our lives and Sunday is a day for celebration, prayer, families and singing. There are several denominations who welcome your attendance at church services on
Saturdays or Sundays. An uplifting highlight of your visit will be the joyous sound of a Sunday choir.

The total population of our islands is approximately 19,000. Some 2000 people live on the Northern Group islands and about 5000 on 5 Southern Group islands. The rest live on Rarotonga. Many of our people live overseas, including close to 50,000 in New Zealand.

Cook Islanders share a genuine care for others and as we have chosen to retain and preserve much of our old ways, our cherished culture lives on. This is openly expressed with song, dance and an easy pace of life, uncomplicated by the turmoil of the outside world. We invite you to share this unique lifestyle whilst you are our guest.

Climate

Warmth and sunshine can be enjoyed all year round in the Cook Islands. Rarotonga has temperatures of between 64F (18°C) and 82F (28°C) in the southern winter (May to October) and between 70F (21°C) and 84F (30°C) in the summer (November to April). The wet season is normally January to early May. Severe weather is seldom experienced.