A trip to beautiful Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands is the perfect tonic. Avoid budget blow outs with these cheap things to do while there.

The Cook Islands are a collection of 15 islands scattered over about 2 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. Rarotonga is located in the southern group of the Cook Islands and is the largest Island. It is a place where the fast pace of big city life can be forgotten: time to take it easy. Here are some things to do without spending a fortune.

It is important to note that the Cook Islands use New Zealand currency so all prices quoted are in New Zealand dollars and apply at time of writing. Use the currency converter to determine costs in other countries.

Travel Tips When in Rarotonga

There are just two main roads on Rarotonga. The most travelled road is the outer road which circles the island, covering just 32 km. The inner road is called the Ara Metua road. It was built in the 11th century and provided access to the inland plantations. Travelling the inner road will give the tourist insights into local life whereas the outer road is more frequented by tourists but gives spectacular views of the lagoons and the reef. Driving is on the left side of the road with a speed limit of 50 kph, reducing to 30 km per hour in built up areas.

Use a Bus for Holiday Travel

Get to know Rarotonga by catching a bus around the island. There are two bus routes that travel the main outer road. One bus runs clockwise and the other runs anti-clockwise and they run every hour. A ten trip bus pass costs $25 NZD and works out cheaper than the single ride price of $4 NZD. Buy the pass on the bus.

Cycle Around Rarotonga

Once familiar with the surroundings the energetic can hire a bicycle. The cheapest option found was in Arorangi, just along from the Edgewater Resort at a place called Carworks. A bicycle could be hired for a daily cost of $10 NZ.D A bond of $50 NZD is required. Although the road is mainly flat it is best to choose a bike with gears. Check that the bicycle is working well and the wheels spin freely to make the ride as easy as possible. Even at a snail’s pace of 10 km per hour (6 miles an hour) it will only take 3 hours riding to circle the island. Like most businesses in Rarotonga the bike hire is open from 8 am to 4 pm Mon to Friday, half a day on Saturday, and closed on Sunday.

Travel the Cook Island Way on Scooters

Many people hire motor scooters when in Rarotonga and this is another good option. They can be hired for $20 NZD a day but bear in mind that an extra $20 NZD is needed to get a local licence. For those who do not have a current overseas motor scooter licence all that is required is to do a short practical test at police headquarters. This test will cost $5 NZD. And passengers should heed the warning about burns from the hot exhaust pipe. Helmets are optional on the island for both motor scooters and bicycles but they are not required by law.

Four Cheap Things to Do in Rarotonga

The blue waters of the lagoon are the perfect place to see beautiful fish. Many hotels in Rarotonga allow free use of snorkeling gear to guests. Otherwise snorkeling gear can be hired for a small fee from a number of these hotels or from diving companies located in Muri beach and in Arorangi. Take a disposable underwater camera to record the wonderful underwater sights. If staying at a hotel that has fish feeding times, make use of this opportunity to see some colorful fish. The beaches with the most prolific fish life are those which are marine reserves, called ra’ui. It may be only necessary to go knee-deep to see the fish.

For those who are interested in tropical plant life the Maire Nui gardens in Titikaveka are worth a visit. There is the added attraction of a delightful cafe although the food here can be expensive for those wanting a cheap holiday. A walk around the garden costs $4 NZD and the gardens stretch all the way to the inner road. They make their own herbal tea at the garden cafe which cost $3.50 NZD a pot. The coconut vanilla tea was very refreshing.

The Punanga Nui markets in the main town of Avarua are a bustling place on Saturday mornings. The market runs from 7am to 12 noon. It is a great place to stock up on local fresh produce such as pawpaw, bananas, coconut and a variety of local greens. Try one of the fresh drinking coconuts which hold a surprising volume of coconut milk. Drinking a coconut through a straw gives a truly island experience. There are also many locally made crafts for sale. Some of the crafts to be found are ukuleles, palm hats, Tivaevae (a local type of applique). Some of the handmade products are not cheap but a lot of hours have gone into making such beautiful pieces. Those on a restricted budget can still admire the products and there are plenty of small, good value souvenirs to buy.

Sunday is a special day in this religious country and it is a good opportunity to hear the wonderful singing voices of the local people by going to a church service. There are several churches located throughout the island and some Rarotonga hotels provide transport to their local church. The locals are happy to allow tourists to be a part of their worship but wear clothes that cover and are not revealing in any way. No short skirts or shorts.

Holiday travel in Rarotonga need not be a huge expense, with bus passes, bicycles and scooters being the best option for cheap holiday travel. Enjoy the markets, see the colorful fish, the clever crafts and unusual plants and enjoy being part of this laid back lifestyle. A holiday in the Cook Islands does not need to involve a lot of expense. It is a chance to unwind and relax.


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