Islands
Polynesian Resource Center

Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Polynesian Art and Culture

Beginners Guide to Polynesia – Rarotonga and the Southern Cook Islands

 

My abiding memory of Cook Islanders which many visits has never altered, is of a happy, friendly bunch of lotus eaters in Paradise. There are 13,000 odd Cook Islanders Islands that make up the Southern Cooks but the Cooks actually extend 1500 kilometres to the small islands to the north. It is impossible not to like Cook Islanders they are so warm and friendly. They are relaxed people and enjoy life; Samoans whom I also like very much can be a little serious, whereas you get the feeling with Cook Islanders would not know what the word serious meant. In is a very endearing trait. This attitude is best seen by going round Rarotonga on the bus for a day. There are two ways to do this; clockwise or anti clockwise. It doesn't matter which because on Rarotonga time means nothing and the bus turns up either way you wish to travel eventually. The outer road is 32 kilometres around and every bit of it is interesting and educational on the subject of Rarotonga if you know it. Many visitors prefer a 100cc step through motorbike or moped to the bus. If it rains you get wet but who cares as it is usually warm and on the otherside of the island it may not be raining and you soon dry off. My own preference is a hire car as I prefer getting wet when I decide not at the whim of Nature. Life on Rarotonga is relaxed and adventure addicts should stay away or go to New Zealand instead and jump off bridges with a rubber bands attached to their legs, which means in Rarotonga will be even less likely to met these people which greatly increases the appeal of the place.The tourists are mainly New Zealanders and Australians though the Germans are beginning to discover the place and can be identified as the crocodile skinned brown objects lying unmoving on the beach for hour after hour. At night the bars are full of young drunken Aussies and Kiwis being loud but mainly not very offensive. If anything the Kiwis and the Aussies keep the place affordable and keep the European and American rich trash away, a double bonus for everyone. Food on the island is generally good and if you love seafood very very good. There a tours if you like that sort of thing which I do not. There are 'Island Nights' at the big resorts which are truly awful. Well, lets qualify that. The food is awful, the local island Lothario who is the MC, is gold chain wearing, put your hand up if you are from America awful, but when the drums start up and the local girls sashay onto the stage the result is not awful but rather wonderful because these are very attractive human beings and the best dancers in the Pacific.

 

Your image tag goes here. A better bet is to go to Rarotonga during the inter island dance coh many visits has never altered, is of a happy, friendly bunch of lotus eaters in Paradise. There are 13,000 odd Cook Islanders Islands that make up the Southern Cooks but the Cooks actually extend 1500 kilometres to the small islands to the north. It is impossible not to like Cook Islanders they are so warm and friendly.

A better bet is to go to Rarotonga during the inter island dance competitions which is stupendous and doubly interesting because you are seeing the very best of the best dancers in Polynesian in the company of the best educated and informed audience in the Pacific. Cook Islanders love dance and love music as befits pleasure seeking hedonists. Both genders are handsome and dancing shows both sexes off to perfection. The men are manly and the girls varying degrees of stunning and both are Nature's children attractive. Cook Islanders are also sports mad as are most Polynesians. When there find yourself a good cafe preferably on the otherside of the island from the one you are staying at as an excuse to drive around the island another twice a day. When there read the twice a week published local rag which is full of wonderful articles about two thirteen year olds who pinched their dad's moped and fell off at the first bend and skinned their knees. This is a great antidote to the crap we would be reading had we stayed home and makes the view out to the lagoon and the coffee all the better. At noon go to the Fishing Club at Avana Lagoon for lunch and eat Mahi Mahi sandwiches and take your own beer because they have no liquor licence or have a fruit smoothie and die happy. In three days you will know all the staff by name, within a week you will be telling them you are leaving but you will see them again next year. Its that sort of a place.

 

On our third trip being spoilt by the quality of the free diving on Lolamanu in Samoa we were getting disappointed with snorkelling in Rarotonga when one of the locals gave us the heads up to try the bit of lagoon opposite Fruits of Rarotonga on the east of the Island. Go there but stop at the local mini-market and buy a loaf of sandwich cut bread first. Just walk out up to your crotch and flick a little bread on the waters and within five minutes you will have a thousand fishy friends. All without getting you hair wet. But watch your fingers some of your new pals are big and a bit aggressive.

 

Avarua is the main town, no let me rewrite that; Avarua is the only town. It has one roundabout and one predestian crossing, which leads me to my favourite memory of Rarotonga. We had returned the car in the afternoon and were due to fly out at 1.00am so we took the bus to town having booked into Trader Jacks for our favourite meal; the Seafood Platter a $70.00 debauch of smoked eel, mahi mahi, crayfish, shrimp and squid etc. Having washed it down with a good bottle of Marlborough Sav Blanc we were feeling no pain and wandered back to the bus depot to catch the last bus. As we approached the only pedestrian crossing there was a sudden squeal of tyres from a car behind us rounding the roundabout and a matching squawk from in front of us and we were suddenly the sole witnesses to the local cops trying to run down very agitated red cockrell haring across the pedestrian crossing. It summed up all that is wonderful about Rarotonga in about two seconds; Paradise.

 

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