I thought I would start off this blog right and share my most recent travels. Rarotonga, Cook Islands in the South Pacific! A real hidden, under promoted piece of paradise. I only was made aware of these tiny islands through Costco Travel (I highly recommend getting a membership if not just for the travel perks!). After doing a quick google search I was amazed at how beautiful this destination was! And one fourth the price of Bora Bora.
So off we set for our HONEYMOON! Belated, as I wedded my beloved pain in the ass back in September. (Just kidding, love you hubs!) But regardless, we were so excited to go on a REAL trip together. As soon as we landed I was blown away just by the sunrise (and the humidity). Per our package through Costco, we were picked up by a van and a very friendly man who escorted everyone arriving to their resort destinations.
From there we took a sunrise ride along the only road that circles the entire island, Ara Tapu, and were delivered to the entrance of the beautiful Rarotonga Beach Bungalows.
We were greeted by Papa Tom and Lucky the proprietor and his assistant. We were then guided a short walk to our private bungalow on the sand. (My first thoughts, holy cow maybe we got dropped off at the wrong resort because there’s no way what we paid covers THIS!) But in fact it did! A gorgeous private bungalow on the south side of the island with only 4 neighboring bungalows in the village of Titikaveka.
The bungalow was beyond both my husband and I’s expectations. The photos online had not done it justice. Papa Tom had built the small private resort 15 years ago and it looked at most 3 years old due to his continued care and attention to detail. We were given the bungalow “Eke” which means octopus in Tongan. With a huge deck, large living room space and kitchen space as well as a giant bedroom and an INDOOR/OUTDOOR shower! It was like showering in a greenhouse!
We were mere steps from the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Much of the snorkeling we did was right outside our bungalow. And the sea life is amazing there. But I’ll get to that…
Things to know when you are planning a trip to the Cook Islands:
Rarotonga is the largest of the 14 islands with a population a little under 15,000. There is one main road I mentioned earlier that wraps the entire island, Ara Tapu. If you are traveling from America like we were, there is only one flight a week in and one flight a week out on Air New Zealand that only comes from Los Angeles International Airport. So therefore, if you are from Montana you will have to first fly to LA then to Raro. Convert your money at LAX! Raro is slow island living so it will be hard to convert your money once you arrive. The Cook Islands take either the New Zealand currency or their own but primarily NZ. I’d strongly suggest carrying cash as well, most places take cards however if you don’t have an international bank account like through Charles Schwab, then you may be charged for every swipe and foreign ATM charges.
For those like me, I rely on internet connection. I do not like to feel disconnected from my world even when I’m halfway around it. So naturally, my husband and I activated the Passport travel option through AT&T like I had on my backpacking trip through Central America. Unfortunately, Rarotonga is not known for their wifi services. Their primary wifi provider is BlueSky which is the best bang for your buck. We paid $30 for 3.5 GB and barely went through the first by the time we left and we were posting, believe me! However, you have to find hotspots. Not every resort or location offers it. The other internet provider is Zenbu. Zenbu is incredibly expensive at $10NZ for 100MB which one photo post on Instagram & one like will eat up. So either be prepared to be offline most times OR purchase the BlueSky gigs and check the list of locations its offered. Moana Sands next door to the bungalows had wifi and the manager was sweet enough to allow us to hang in his beautiful lobby and check our emails, make our facetime calls home and post our photos to instagram.
Not a bad view whilst surfing the gram!
Snorkeling! My lawd, I love snorkeling! Especially given the island of Rarotonga has a reef running the entire perimeter of the island. What does that mean? NO SHARKS! I am deathly afraid of sharks so I was happy to hear multiple locals promise me I would not run into one. So, I was brave and we snorkeled with no specific direction for hours with our GoPro and taking in all the beautiful varieties of fish and sea life. The starfish were my favorite! But I think the most memorable moment was watching 2 beautiful eagle rays swim right in front of us. (Though I even surprised myself that I wasn’t actually scared when I saw them).
The clearest quality my Gopro would pick up that day since it was windy and the waters were a bit more choppy.
Next thing to remember, bring bug spray! Strong bug spray! I never saw one mosquito but there is something referred to as ”no-see-ems” in the tropics. I was eaten alive and constantly itchy. So if you have “sweet meat” like I apparently do, pack your bug spray and don’t leave home without being covered in it! My husband never got one bite….
Rent a scooter! They will say things are a short walk, but let’s be real, for most coming from the U.S. we don’t walk anywhere so long walks that are told you to you in kilometers which I still have no idea the conversion, wasn’t something I thought I was up for. So, we rented a scooter. So much fun! The longer amount of time you rent it, the cheaper it is. They enforce the helmet law when renting but you will rarely see anybody wearing them. We wore ours just in case. And remember LEFT SIDE! Cars in Raro are right hand drive and they drive on the left side of the road.
Make sure to visit the Maire Nui Gardens where a beautiful little restaurant called the Hidden Spirt Cafe sits amongst the lush botanical gardens. We visited the island during their summer, so there were less flowers in bloom but I heard during spring the nearly 7 miles of trails are covered in flowers! Nonetheless, we still found the place magical and beautiful especially since I always find complete peace when I am in nature.
Definitely make a stop at a place called Charlies over near Titikaveka village. Their panini’s are amazing, nice salty “chips” and delicious fresh smoothies! And the view wasn’t half bad either.
Be sure to visit Avarua to get in some souvenir shopping! Rarotonga is known for their black pearl trade and have multiple things available for purchase with pearls in them. We received a complimentary one with our bungalow that I’m still trying to decide what to do with. Muri Beach has a great little street market Tuesdays through Thursdays with outdoor vendors where tourists and locals all come together to listen to music and grab some dinner and ice cream. We visited twice and grabbed another great fresh smoothie!
What I think I loved most about Raro, was the treatment of their animals. I had a heart breaking experience in Panama and was happy to see how happy the dogs of Raro are! Every dog has a collar but roams freely throughout the island, even stopping to take dips in the ocean to cool off. We had a couple of visitors stop by the bungalow just to say hi and went on their way. There are no major predators in Raro so you will see plenty of goats and chickens everywhere you go. And of course, I found the Esther Honey Foundation on one of our rides where we were able to visit and love on some rescue puppies, kittens and even a baby piglet! I won’t lie, it was the highlight of our trip for me. We even went back to take a couple of the adoptables to the beach the next day.
We had a total of 6 full days there, and I’ve missed it every day since we got home about 2 weeks ago! There is nothing like waking up to the sound of the ocean, breeze coming through your tropical bungalow and the only plans you have that day is to explore. I am thankful to have had such a lovely, relaxing and fun time with my new freshy hubby. We met some great people, ate some amazing food and saw a part of the world we hadn’t gotten to experience. I could go on forever, but we’ll leave it at that and I will leave you with a few more photos and the hopes that you too, will make a trip to Rarotonga someday and see it for yourself!
See ya later my free spirits,
Left my heart in Raro. Next stops, Mount Rainier and Iceland!