The Cook Islands - Tropical and welcoming this cluster of Polynesian islands are just waiting for guests, a mere 6ish hours from Sydney! They have become my happy place! I’ve just returned from my second stay and am definitely planning a third visit . . .
My first visit was last year with a group of old school friends and included many activities and laughs but this time I wanted to have a bit of time to tune out the busyness and enter that relaxation zone we all dream about.
Island time. It’s a place and space to zone out if that’s what you are looking for and this time I certainly was!
Depending on the season (hot wet or hot dry), showers may come and go, sunshine and humidity, but really with water that inviting it matters not at all.
This stay was at The Moana Sands Beach Hotel where the staff could not be more helpful friendly and accommodating; from our early check in to late departure, restaurant booking and arranging transport, advice on activities, spare beach towels, friendly waves and chit chat!
Our ground floor studio room was the perfect vantage point and access to clean white sands and lapping warm lagoon waters and reef. The small outdoor balcony area was the place to sit back with a G&T or good book and enjoy the breeze clattering through palm fronds and background murmur of waves against the out reef splashing a white lace decoration along the horizon where the aqua seas of the inner reef meet a cornflour blue sky. Its quite the drug - warning you may not actually read much but be lulled into a hypnotic state of daydreaming . . .
Fluffy coastal clouds drift by not captured by the inner rainforested mountains - the jagged lines appearing intermittently to tease and delight.
These are mountainous inland areas and rainforest tracks both challenging and interesting for the terrain and flora. I’d recommend going with a guide or tour for both safety, local knowledge and advice.
Last visit I went on the cross island hike with Pa’s Treks a local legend, which I highly recommend, it can be quite slippery and tough and I was grateful for my hiking shoes.
Do visit the Saturday Punanga Nui markets for the food and cultural exposure. Local produce, art and clothing available as well as the artfully decorated huts.
A predominantly christian community after missionary contact, Sunday’s remain a time for social, spiritual and self reflection. Don’t expect to do anything on a Sunday; shops and most services are well and truly down, unless you’ve pre booked a tour or other activity - so heads up, organise that if you don't want the down time.
Otherwise, take this day for a total time out . Take in a Sunday church service and let the amazing singing lift your soul!
Wander the side roads. Traffic, if one calls it that, almost non existent and speed is limited to 50 km/hr - if you have hired a bike or car I recommend it’s done weekdays in preparation and if you need a licence even Saturdays hours at the police station for this limited to before lunch and may be busy.
The local Bus service is very convenient running hourly either clockwise or anticlockwise stopping both at designated stops or even elsewhere when waved down (some drivers more obliging than others!). We got a 10 coupon ticket.
You will notice many free ranging chickens and dogs about. They amble and play, not fearful or annoying just being part of island life. On occasion the pups may accompany you as you stroll the beach, have a swim or wander the back roads and again wander off when they choose to.
Living fences blend the lines of property and public space along the road. I am fascinated by the plant variety and colour, it seems every stick placed into the soil just sprouts and grows!
Ancestors are respectfully honoured in their whitewashed grave-markers often within individual private family property. Respect for family and community can be felt in all aspects of life here.
Adventure into the waters to experience those aquamarine waters and beautiful creatures! Snorkel, paddle, swim or just wallow in the safe inner lagoon. Our resort had inclusive use of all the gear and even reef shoes.
Take a Lagoon cruise either with Captain Toma or Koka lagoon cruises (which we did last time) - I can assure you the full days music, singing and lunch will keep you well entertained with plenty of opportunity for swim snorkel also!
Swim with the Turtles!!! Now this is a definite must do!!! You may see turtles just as you snorkel your own slice of lagoon, however its pretty much guaranteed if you join one of the experienced tour operators whose safety and care taking you into the channel areas is much appreciated and worth the cost! The channels can be quite dangerous and may catch even the experienced unawares. Mixing of warm upper waters with strong cold undercurrents can lead to disaster for the inexperienced in these conditions. We joined Snorkel Cook Islands
Our hotel manager also recommended Ariki Adventures. Both these operators have staff with professional life guarding expertise.
For the enthusiastic, Rarotonga also offers cycling and we participated in Story Tellers Eco Bike Tour - and enjoyed tasting many of the fruits growing along the way and lunch with swim at the end!
Now if you aren’t exhausted from these many daytime offerings there are also evening tours and activities such as the Cultural Over Water Light and Dance Spectaculars and the Cocktail Tuk Tuk Tours - we did these last trip both enjoyable! Another I would definitely recommend is the Progressive Dinner which takes you to different family homes for each course allowing time for local hospitality, conversation and enjoyment of produce and family recipes - yummo!!
An outer island experience is one not to be passed up. You could do a few nights stay or just a day trip to Aitutaki - its utterly glorious and a real bucket list treat! Again we did the day tour last time and though expensive didn’t regret it. Each outer island offers its own unique variation and I must admit my next trip will incorporate a few nights elsewhere again. Visit the Cook Islands Travel Website and check them all out - most require an over night stay as do not have daily flight services. Also check out the local flight centre Jetsave for package deals...
Most resorts have either a cafe or restaurant but there are many and varied around the island. Some only do lunch and many have days or nights off in shoulder season so check first. Some may even offer pick up and drop off options. A favourite of ours is definitely Viama where we dined both visits loving the on the beach sand in our feet sunset vibe. In general the food in Rare is not exotic so don’t expect south east asian spiciness, rather plainer island style or western bistro/cafe mix.
Wow, I am rabbiting on here and could no doubt continue but I am exhausting myself with all these options!
Really, as I said at the start, this trip was mostly about R&R (because we had participated in many activities our first visit).
A good book - though my eyelids dipped and fluttered and often I surrendered to the temptation to have that afternoon nap too strong! Lots of snorkelling and playing with the fish, and becoming more experienced with my Axisgo underwater housing for my iPhone!
Water logged and happy we returned home feeling that the 7 days was just enough and knowing that the proximity and ease of integrating to their Polynesia ambiance is too easy! We will be back sooner than later .
Paradise found . . .
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