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Cook Islands Holiday Tips for 2023

Published 18th Apr 2023

Whether you have been on a Cook Islands holiday before or not, travel in 2023 looks a little different to how we remember. There is one thing that hasn’t changed however, and that is our desire to have the best possible experience we can each and every time we travel!

Here at Spacifica Travel we can help by passing on our expert knowledge and giving you five tips to ensure your Cook Islands stay in 2023 is the trip of a lifetime.

Tip 1: Put ‘experience’ at the top of your list when selecting where to stay

The main island of Rarotonga is where most visitors will spend the majority of their stay. It is idyllic and peaceful while still offering the vibrant buzz and attractions of a tourist destination. When you close your eyes and picture your Cook Islands holiday, what do you see? Are you staying in the mountains or on the beach? Are you making friends over dinner or sipping cocktails in solitude? Whatever you dream can be reality in the Cook Islands, especially if you prioritise your experience when selecting where to stay.

Here are some tips for picking the best accommodation for your desires:

  • For the best views of sunrise, stay on the East side of the island.
  • For the best sunset views, pick accommodation on the West side of the island.
  • If you love water sports or lagoon swimming then Muri Beach is an ideal base for you.
  • If you’re drawn to snorkelling and marine life then consider accommodation on the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve or in Matavera, where the reef is closer to shore.
  • Do you want to have breakfast included? A resort might be your best fit!
  • Do you want privacy and a chance to cook at home? A private apartment or villa might be more your style!
  • Are you travelling with family or seeking an ‘adults only’ haven? If it’s the latter, check out our blog on adults only stays!

Remember, our team at Spacifica Travel can help create the experience you’re dreaming of. If you need some personal recommendations then contact our team on 1800 800 722 or send us an enquiry.

Tip 2: Explore Rarotonga’s dining options

There is nothing tiny about the food offerings in this little paradise! Cook Islands Tourism put it best when they said, The more you explore the Cook Islands, the more local authentic cuisine you’ll discover”.

Budget Bites

The supermarkets and convenience stores in the Cook Islands stock fresh meals daily, as well as local produce. Visiting Wigmore’s store on the southern side of Rarotonga can reap you fresh cream donuts, chicken curry and rice, and roti rolls.

You can also visit the Muri Night Markets (four nights a week at current – Tue, Wed, Thu and Sun) for some affordable local fare. BBQ plates cost around $22 for a huge serving of salad, rice, and three types of meat.

Our personal favourite? The Mooring Fish Café in the heart of Muri Beach serves up a F.O.B Burger (mahi mahi fresh off the boat) that will have you craving it every day! They are open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 3pm at the moment.

Mid Range

The Islander Hotel opposite the airport has a fantastic menu with huge servings, and is located across from the airport making it super convenient for a pre-flight meal. They also offer Island Nights here!

Trader Jacks is on the wharf in Avarua and offers waterfront dining with a variety of local and western dishes. It’s very popular with the locals and tourists alike.

If you’re looking for brunch options we can’t stop raving about the new kid on the block, Soul Café. Located just outside of town in Tupapa, this spot is fresh, funky, and serves up classic brunch food from home. Some even come with a local twist, like the Eggs Benedict with Rukau which gets an 11/10!

A little bit fancy

Dining at resort restaurants tends to offer the most high-quality, value for money dining experiences. They are a little more costly but are a special way to try new foods in stunning settings. Nautilus Resort in Muri is home to Nautilus Restaurant, and offers Polynesian architecture and a menu that highlights garden to plate dining. They use a lot of produce from their own on-site organic market garden too!

Little Polynesian Restaurant fuses European and Polynesian cuisines in a more casual poolside location with views over Titikaveka Lagoon.

As tourism increases in the Cook Islands the hospitality venues are looking for more staff to cater to the growing visitor population, so making a reservation in advance is definitely recommended. For more information on local dining, be sure to check out

Tip 3: Hire a car and turn the whole island into your resort

Rarotonga is 32km in circumference and only takes about 45 minutes to circumnavigate. This makes the island the perfect destination to hire a car and explore at your own pace! The roads are easy to navigate, and very safe at a maximum 60km speed limit.

You can catch the sunrise on one side of the island, stop in at the markets for breakfast, scoot around to a waterfall and lunch on the beach, and be on the other side of the island for some sunset cocktails and dinner!

There are a number of car hire companies on the island that offer airport or downtown pick-up locations. There are even some convertible vehicles you can rent! Ask our team for more information on adding a rental car to your Cook Islands Holiday Packages.

Tip 4: Prebook your ‘Must Do’ list!

We all have a list of things we ‘have to do’ when we are holidaying. These are the things that we would be super disappointed to go home without having seen, done, tasted, or experienced.

As travel kicks off once more and visitor numbers start to increase, we will see more demand for touring and dining options in the Cook Islands. During covid many of these businesses had to hibernate, or reduce their operations. In the short term this means that tours, restaurants and experiences aren’t operating as frequently as they once did. In the long term, it means that they may book out quite fast! The best way to ensure you’re more likely to tick off your Must Do list is by booking well in advance.

Tip 5: The trick to staying connected

Staying in touch with home is important while you’re travelling – but so is uploading your photos! In the Cook Islands staying connected isn’t as easy as we’re used to, but it’s definitely achievable.

You can purchase a visitor sim from the Vodafone store in the International Arrivals hall when you clear customs and security at Rarotonga airport, or from their store in town. A visitor sim gives you 300 texts, 30 mins of calls, and 5GB of data for $49*. The minutes and texts include Australian numbers too!

You can top up your account as needed (even from the Punanga Nui markets in town on Saturday morning) but we have a hot tip: there are plenty of WiFi Hotspots around the island which operate on WiFi data instead of standard phone data. This means that you can buy Vodafone Hotspot data that you can log in to and use when you’re at a hotspot location. This is cheaper than standard data and a great way to stretch your budget.

Make your Cook Islands Holiday in 2023 the trip of a lifetime

Our expert team know the South Pacific like the back of our hand, and having just returned from a trip to the Cook Islands we are in the very best position to give you hot tips for the year ahead.

If a Cook Islands holiday is on your 2023 calendar then be sure to prioritise your experience in your planning stages, explore the variety of dining options on offer, turn the entirety of Rarotonga into your own resort by hiring a car, booking your ‘not to be missed’ experiences before you arrive, and staying connected with a Vodafone Cook Islands Visitor Sim.

If you need further advice or a professional Cook Islands connoisseur to do the organising for you Spacifica Travel can be reached on 1800 800 722, via online enquiry here, or by emailing

*Prices and information correct at 31 March 2023

Blog by Kristie, photos courtesy of Cook Islands Tourism & David Kirkland Photography

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