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Eat your way around Rarotonga

Published 7th Aug 2018

When it comes to planning the ultimate escape, Cook Islands holidays undoubtedly make it to the top of many travel wish lists. Known for their captivating beauty and tranquil ambiance, these Pacific jewels offer a paradise for those looking to unwind. While many are drawn by affordable Cook Islands holiday packages and irresistible Aitutaki resort deals, the islands offer a wealth of experiences that go beyond sun, sand, and sea.

One aspect that sets a Cook Islands holiday apart is the rich culinary landscape waiting to be explored, particularly in Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands. If you're contemplating Cook Islands travel or have already booked your ticket, the gastronomic scene in Rarotonga is a journey in itself that you won’t want to miss. From traditional Polynesian fare to contemporary fusions, the island offers a multitude of flavours, making it a gastronomic haven for food lovers.

In an era where travel experiences are seeking to be as authentic as possible, Cook Island holidays present the ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture — and what better way to do so than through food? As you map out your itinerary for Cook Island travel, be sure to carve out time to indulge in the diverse culinary offerings of Rarotonga. Whether you're a die-hard foodie or someone who simply enjoys a good meal, the island's culinary scene is bound to be a highlight of your trip.

So, buckle up and get ready to eat your way around Rarotonga. In this comprehensive guide, we'll share insider tips and must-visit eateries that will take your Cook Islands holiday to the next level. From morning brews to midnight snacks, consider this your gastronomic roadmap to a fulfilling Cook Islands travel adventure.

Our Top 10 Food Picks For Your Holiday to Rarotonga!

The Cook Islands are home to fantastic fresh produce, so it’s no surprise that food is a very prominent part of every Cook Islands holiday. Restaurants and cafés use locally caught seafood, tropical fruit and island vegetables, but they also have the luxury of importing anything that isn’t able to be grown locally from New Zealand.

1.       Local Delicacies at Te Vara Nui Cultural Show.

No holiday is complete with tasting local favourites! Here are a few must-try local dishes:

•          Rukau: which is mashed taro leaves cooked with onion and coconut milk, its looks a little unappetising, but it tastes delicious!
•          Ika Mata: this is Cook Islands Raw fish which is marinated in lemon juice and served in coconut cream
•          Poke: This is a sweet banana dish, which is often purple in colour. It is traditionally eaten instead of bread or potatoes, but is often eaten as a dessert due to its sweetness and pudding-like texture.
•          Nu: the young green drinking coconut. You could try your hand at collecting and husking your own, but is much easier to buy Nu from a local stall, the markets or the supermarket! Tip: Put a few Nu in the fridge - Cold Nu is the perfect thirst quencher on a hot Cook Island summer day!

2.       Fresh Fish Sandwiches from Mooring’s Café

This little café is actually a shipping container that has been converted into a kitchen. Located right on the water, fresh fish is literally caught in the morning and taken straight off the boat and into the kitchen. Moorings is famous for its amazing fish sandwiches, and at under NZ$15 these huge sandwiches will keep you going all day!

3.       Pastries from LBV Bakery & Café in Muri

Specialising in freshly made pastries, this is the perfect place to grab a quick breakfast or takeaway a sweet treat to enjoy later in the day! They also have proper sit-down options, great coffee & lots of lunch options.

4.       A Burger from Palace

Palace is a local legacy, located near town in Avarua; you can’t miss trying a ‘wet cheese’ or the MONSTER ‘Palace’ burger on your next Cook Islands adventure. Not for the health nut, these huge burgers are perfect after a big day of activities and at only NZ$15 for the biggest item on the menu – you are sure to leave satisfied and with plenty of money left over.    

5.       Fine Dining at Tamarind House

This gorgeous Restaurant & Bar is located in Avarua District about 5 minutes from the airport. Offering stunning lagoon views and a selection sumptuous fine dining options, at a very reasonable price. Perfect for a romantic dinner for two! They also offer buffet options & cater for weddings and events.

6.       Vaiana’s Bar & Bistro for a drink at sunset

Located 5 minutes from the Airport, this little beach bar has tables right on the sand & is perfect for a casual meal or a drink while the sun is setting. Vaiana’s offers a selection of options such as fish & chips, burgers and fish sandwiches. This little gem is also family friendly with a playground for children and the water right in front if the kids want to take a swim while they wait for their meal.

7.       Saturday at Punanga Nui Market

Located in Avarua town, these markets have plenty of local options to choose from, as well as breakfast, BBQ food and amazing fresh juices for the more health conscious traveller. You can also buy trinkets and other goods while you eat your way across the different stalls.

Tip: Arrive early to beat the crowds & the heat!

8.       Beluga Café for lunch

Located between Lagoon Breeze Villas and Manuia Beach Resort, this café is one of the best spots on the island for lunch. They do amazing coffee, have fresh sandwiches and salads and also offer fabulous catch of the day dishes. To top it off, Beluga serves ice cold local beer on tap!

9.       Five course Seafood Meal at OTB (On the Beach) Manuia Beach Resort

The OTB restaurant at Manuia Beach resort is definitely a meal not to be missed! Located on the white sand with picture perfect lagoon views and a sand floor, this is luxe casual at its finest. Every Friday night, the resort offers an incredible 5-course Seafood meal; you can also order al-la-carte.

Tip: Make sure to book in advance!

10.     Last Meal at the Islander Hotel’s famous Hula Bar

Located across the road from the Airport, this is the perfect spot for your last supper! Check in for your flight and head across the road for a delectable seafood platter or maybe just a one last tropical cocktail before you have to go back to reality!


If you would like more information about the Cook Islands or would like to discuss other South Pacific destinations, please get in touch with our team of specialist travel consultants on 1800 800 722 or check our packages here.

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