Lazy days in the Cook Islands

The first thing that hits you when you get off the plane and walk into the steamy entrance hall in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands, is the rich heady fragrance of frangipani and tiare flowers. After you have made your way through immigration and customs, where there is a local singer with his ukelele to welcome every flight, you are presented with floral leis. The heat, the fragrance and the friendliness sets the scene for the rest of your stay in the friendly Cooks.

Cook Islands

Cook Islands

The island itself is surrounded by a lagoon, only 32 kms all around, with a lush, dense, steamy volcanic interior. Unbelievably picturesque, it really was like being in the middle of a postcard – white sand, coconut palms, and crystal clear waters. We were staying on Muri Beach, which is itself fringed with four little islands that are close enough to walk to in low tide, or swim, or paddle to with the kayaks provided by the resort. Having dinner on the beach, with the sand between your toes, watching the beautiful sunset….it’s like a postcard.

Cook Islands

However despite the temptation to do absolutely nothing at all, there’s plenty to do on the tiny island.  Hiring a cute little Cabriolet is the perfect thing to get around the island, with the top down and one arm hanging over the door.  The speed limit is only 50kph, or 30kph in the main township, so everything was cruisy and slow – just like it should be on holiday. To drive in Rarotonga though you need to get a local licence. It’s not hard – just show your usual driver’s licence and pay a small fee – so in reality a revenue gathering exercise and a tourist souvenir we all go home with.

Cook Islands

Cook Islands

Don’t miss the Ika Mata, a local raw fish dish marinated in lemon or lime juice, and served with coconut cream and fresh vegetables.  Find a show with Cook Island dancers, they are amazing!  Accompanied by the local Island drumming they are an incredible sight. Imagine women swinging their their hips incredibly fast in time with the drums while keeping their shoulders as still as possible, smiling and looking incredibly graceful.

Cook Islands

Cook Islands

I would also recommend a tour in a glass bottom boat, which is followed by a bbq lunch on the island. It’s an easy afternoon and fun for all ages.  The snorkelling is lots of fun with beautiful coral and fish in deliciously warm waters. A highlight for me was seeing a sea turtle and a big blue starfish.

Cook Islands

If you feel like some more adventure, try a 4WD tour through the island with Coconut Tours . It is an opportunity to see the interior, but also to learn more about the cultural aspects of the Island. The guides are really knowledgable, and pretty funny with it, so it makes for an enjoyable tour.

Cook Islands

One thing I noticed on my time there was that nobody seemed to wear helmets on their motorbikes. I asked one of the locals, who told me that the Government actually tried to make that compulsory and made a law requiring that helmets be worn. However that upset the “mamas” who didn’t want to have to wear a helmet on their way to church, because their hair would be ruined and also they wouldn’t be able to wear a hat. So they protested at Parliament, and the law was changed so that it is only a requirement to wear a helmet if you are travelling at more than 40 kph. The power of the “mamas” in Raro!

Cook Islands

Saturday is also Market day, and it’s well worth the visit. It’s huge – with lots of fresh produce, plus cooked food, arts and crafts, black pearls, t-shirts, pareus (sarongs), coconut ukeleles……

Rarotonga is a fantastic, laid-back place to holiday. The small population of only 6,000 permanent locals make sure feel safe and secure, plus everybody is always so friendly. The food was delicious everywhere I went – with huge helpings. Probably not a bad thing holidays end so soon – after only a few days I could sense some bikini shrinkage!

Cook Islands

 

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