The Mooring Fish Cafe is an old favourite in Rarotonga. Sundays are BYO alcohol, with entertainment from a live string band. Photo / Stephanie Holmes
From January 14, the bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will resume, meaning Kiwis can visit Rarotonga and Aitutaki, with no need for quarantine or home isolation at either end. (You will need to be fully vaccinated, over the age of 12, and have a negative Covid test before travel). If you’re longing for a Cook Islands getaway, here are some ideas for what to do and where to eat in Rarotonga.
WHAT TO DO
White sandy beaches and languid blue lagoons are just some of the reasons why the Cook Islands was crowned by Lonely Planet as the No 1 country to visit in 2022. And when it comes to treating yourself, you’re spoilt for choice in the Cooks.
In Rarotonga, soak up the scenery from a decadent suite at Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa, or take in some of the best views of Muri Beach lagoon from stylish and family-friendly Nautilus Resort.
For a unique adventure, you won’t forget the feeling of gliding around below the ocean surface with a sea scooter. These James Bond-esque, hand-held motorised gadgets help pull you through the water, so you can do less swimming and more sightseeing. Test them out by booking your spot on a Turtle Sea Scooter Safari with Ariki Tours.
WHERE TO EAT
The beachfront restaurant of Manuia Resort. Choose from a daily special three-course degustation menu for $39.95, or an a la carte menu three-course degustation for $49.95. Scurry your toes into the sand while you dine and make sure you enjoy one of the German-style desserts.
The Mooring Fish Cafe
An unassuming yet evergreen spot, popular with locals and visitors alike. Order one of the sandwiches, burgers, salads or seafood specials at the shipping-container window, then sit on a picnic table or on the grass and look out at the lagoon while you wait. themooringfishcaferaro.com
Enjoy fine dining at this luxury adults-only resort. The ika mata (Cook Islands’ version of ceviche) is exceptional, and the wine list is extensive. Try the Nōku chardonnay, a Gisborne wine blended specifically for Little Poly to suit the tropical island climate. littlepolynesian.com
The Flying Turtle
Another shipping container cafe, this one at the base of Ariki Adventures. Manager/head chef Jules is vegan so you’ll find an excellent range of plant-based options for the non-meat eaters in your life. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s always a great vibe. arikiadventures.com/eat
This cafe wouldn’t seem out of place if you found it halfway down Ponsonby Rd. Fresh local fish features heavily on the menu, prepared in interesting ways, like the tandoori fish tacos served with zesty slaw, peanuts, crispy noodles, tzatziki and avocado.
An old favourite, this restaurant has been in operation since 2004 in an ocean-front Colonial-style building that dates back to 1904. The fish curry is well worth your time, as is the creme brulee made with local vanilla.
This is an edited version of stories that first appeared in NZ Herald Travel on August 10 and December 12 2021. For more great holiday ideas, go to nzherald.co.nz/travel