Where To Stay In Rarotonga: An Insider’s Guide

Rarotonga has a very special place in my heart and I spent six beautiful months here during 2021. It’s the largest of the Cook Islands, but still a small island, and you can drive around it under thirty minutes. Still, it has everything you could want in a Pacific Island getaway – great food, immaculate beaches, smiling people, and some of the most lush and colourful nature you’ll see in your life.

Still, where you stay on the island can make quite a difference to the type of holiday you will have, so it’s important to pick the right spot. In this guide, I’ll break down where to stay in Rarotonga in each of the main areas. They all have their own pros and cons, but by the end of this guide you’ll know exactly where you should be heading to get your perfect island experience.

In This Guide:

Map of Rarotonga

As you can see, even on such a small island, there are still distinct areas. Town sits on the northern side of the island, and the southern side is Muri, which is where things are mostly tourist focused. The eastern and western wings are slightly more quiet, but still lots to do and see there as well!

You should note there is one main road that encircles the whole island, so it’s not difficult to find your way around. Even if you’re staying on the south of the island, you can be in the north in about fifteen to twenty minutes.

Let’s break down each area:


Arorangi is located on the west side of the island and is home to several nice resorts and restaurants, but at a much lower density than the south of the island.

Many locals live here, so you’ll see lots of local homes intermixed between the resorts and even along the beach.

Personally, I think Arorangi is the nicest area to stay on the island because it’s close to town, not too busy, and still has a nice selection of resorts and restaurants to choose from. It is also where the sun sets, and the sunsets on Rarotonga are flippin’ breathtaking!

Where to stay in Arorangi

For the backpacker:

Stay at Rarotonga Backpackers. This is only one of two backpacker hostels I know on the island, and it’s the better one. It’s a tight operation run by a solid team and is right on one of the best spots right on Arorangi Beach – possibly the best place on the entire island to watch the sunset. If you’re not interested in dorms, they have beach bungalows and private rooms too. They also have a pool, kitchen, and a great selection of restaurants within walking distance to keep your stomach happy. For a backpackers it’s not exactly “cheap”, but won’t break your bank. Check the latest rates here.

For the budget traveller:

Stay at Vaiakura. These are privately run holiday homes and their studio apartment is very affordable, especially considering it has one of the best sunset locations on the entire island. There are also kayaks, beach furniture, barbecue facilities and sun loungers for use. Very reasonable price for Rarotonga. Check the latest rates here.

For the luxury seeker:

Stay at Manuia. The resort is small and tasteful and the rooms are standalone bungalows which are all beautifully furnished and have everything you would expect from a top island resort. It’s located on a beautiful stretch of beach, and has (arguably) the best restaurant in Arorangi – during events like Christmas and Easter, the place is always packed full of people coming to enjoy the buffet. Get the best rates here.

Insider tip: If you’re up for it, head to the Roadhouse Bar during the week for the most local Karaoke ever! It’s a dive bar right opposite the Edgewater Resort. The karaoke days always change – but you’ll know when it’s on – you’ll hear it! Pretty good for late-night food too.


Nikao is the adjacent neighbourhood to Arorangi, a little bit closer to town and right by the airport.

It’s also home to the famous Black Rock and Nikao Social Centre.

Nikao is great because it still has great beaches and restaurants/bars within walking distance, but is also very central and a short five-minute drive to town, depending on where you’re staying exactly.

The beaches in Nikao are also beautiful – you often find locals fishing here, and it’s one of the best places to spot whales!

Where to stay in Nikao

For the budget traveller:

Stay at the Cooks Oasis. The studios are very affordable for the location and self-contained. There is beach equipment such as snorkels and kayaks available for guests and it’s right on a beautiful yellow sand beach just a few minutes walk from Black Rock. You’re also positioned just west enough that you’ll still catch beautiful sunsets here. Check the latest rates here.

For the luxury seeker:

Serenity Villas would be my pick for Nikao. All units are fully equipped with kitchen, flat screen TV, work area, dishwasher, plus a beautiful terrace to enjoy the sunsets. Black Rock is 200 metres walk down the beach (about five minutes) and there are free bikes available for you to get yourself around. There’s also a restaurant on site for those days you don’t want to cook, plus some great eating and drinking spots within a short walk. Check the latest rates here.

Insider tip: Vaiana’s regularly has beach parties with some pretty good DJs – they’re not always well advertised but keep an eye on their Facebook page.

Town (Avarua)

There aren’t many places to stay in town, mostly because most people don’t choose to stay here. There’s no beach, and there also isn’t that much to do in town.

There’s restaurants and bars, two big supermarkets, and other than that it’s mostly just souvenir shops, banks and so on.

For most visitors to Raro, it makes more sense to stay by the beach and simply catch the bus or drive into town when you need to. However, if you prefer to be right in the town centre, there are a few options.

Where to stay in Avarua:

For the budget traveller:

The Central Motel is very basic, affordable and bang in the middle of town, right next to immigration and the NZ High Commission. It has everything you would expect from a simple motel, plus a spa pool and outdoor garden. Check the latest rates here.

For the luxury seeker:

Ocean Spray Villas is right on the edge of town, near the museums. It’s a three-bedroom house right on the beach and within walking distance to the centre of town (about six or seven minutes). The beach here is great and not too busy, as there are no other resorts around. The house is fully equipped with everything you could want from a top-end holiday home – full kitchen, laundry, TV with satellite, beach furniture etc. Perfect for a family holiday. Check latest rates here.

Insider tip: If you’re after a late night feed, head to Raro Fried Chicken just beside Trader Jack’s. It’s open 24/7.


Matavera is an unloved part of Rarotonga, because truthfully there isn’t much there. Not many restaurants, resorts, in fact when you drive through Matavera one thing you’ll probably notice is how green and undeveloped it is.

However, there are still some nice places to stay here, and if you’re after something a bit more secluded you might like this spot.

Also, “secluded” on Rarotonga is a relative term; the island is so small that even here, you’re still only a ten-minute drive from the centre of town.

In case you’re wondering, the above photo is from Sukha Yoga, right in the heart of Matavera!

Where to stay in Matavera

For the budget traveller:

Stay at Tropical Sands. These villas are not well known but are owned and managed by a couple of local artists and offer quality accommodation at a reasonable price. The villas are self contained and you’re a short walk from the beach. Free bike rental too. Check the latest rates here.

For the luxury seeker:

Stay at Ikurangi. This eco retreat is true island living and the type of place where you can simply kick your feet up and enjoy. The “outdoor” bathrooms are wonderful and the free breakfast is different each day. There is a private chef onsite if you feel like making a request, and an onsite pool which you can enjoy in the privacy of this boutique resort. Snorkelling gear and bikes are also available for guests. A truly charming place and worth every penny. Check the latest rates here.

Insider tip: There’s a “secret” bakery that all the locals know about. It’s about fifty metres down the road from the KAPS in Matavera (it’s called Cook Islands Coffee on Google Maps). Head there on Sunday morning for the best croissants you’ve ever had. You won’t miss it – there’s always a line. Go early! They’ll be sold out by 8 or 9 am.


Muri is the tourist centre of Rarotonga and most of the popular resorts are here.

There’s also the highest concentration of restaurants and bars, car rental companies, convenience stores, and everything else you would expect in a high tourist area. The Muri market is also here which can be a nice place to go for dinner if you want to get out of the resort for a night.

The beaches in Muri can get a little crowded in high season, but they’re still beautiful and there’s a reason Muri is popular year-round. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation, but here’s a few choices.

Where to stay in Muri

For the budget traveller:

Stay at Muri Motu Outlook. This collection of small houses on the beach features free bikes, a private garden and outdoor swimming pool. From the balcony you get a beautiful view of the lagoon, and it’s a short walk to the centre of Muri. One of the better deals for accommodation in Muri, especially for the quality you get. Check the latest rates here.

For the luxury seeker:

Muri Beach Club is my favourite spot down here. I think it has the best pool on the island. However, my top pick for someone without a strict budget would be Nautilus Resort. Nautilus arguably has the best restaurant on the island and one of the few places you can experience fine-dining style dishes. My friends and I used to head there regularly just for the food. They also have excellent facilities – one of the better pools of the major resorts, and the rooms are top-notch as well. It’s also a little on the edge of Muri, away from the bustle. Get the best rates here.

Insider tip: Rima’s Bakery sells pretty good pies and cheap jam donuts that are always a treat. Their curries aren’t bad either! Something different to eat if you’ve been in your resort all week. Not far from Nautilus.


Titikaveka is the bougie area of Rarotonga where you’ll find the most expensive accommodations.

It’s also home to Wigmore’s, the “luxury” supermarket on the island where you’ll find all your organics, gluten frees and imported butters and cheeses from New Zealand and elsewhere, as well as the popular Wigmore’s waterfall.

There’s not much else to do in Titikaveka except lounge in your expensive hotel and enjoy the beach, but what’s wrong with that!

Where to stay in Titikaveka

For the budget traveller:

Raina Holiday Homes are the most affordable accommodation in Titikaveka. Located right opposite Titikaveka Beach, each room comes with a private kitchenette and bathroom. A rooftop terrace is perfect for you to enjoy lagoon and mountain views during sunrise and sunset. A short drive from Wigmore’s and Muri Beach. Check the latest rates here.

For the luxury traveller:

Sea Change Villas is your spot. Secluded, luxurious, right on the tip of the Titikaveka lagoon. Each villa has its own private pool, private white sand beach and equipped with bicycles, paddle boards, kayaks and snorkelling gear. It’s also a little distance from the rest of the Titikaveka resorts, giving you that extra exclusivity. Spend your day snorkelling and paddling right in front of your villa. Fully equipped and furnished with everything you could want. Get the best rates here.

Insider tip: YWAM is a great second hand store if you forgot to bring a hat, a jacket, sunglasses or any other miscellaneous thing. Tikioki Beach is also the best place on the island for snorkelling!

How To Get Around In Rarotonga

Raro is a small island but it is very handy to have your own transport. You have a few options:

Take the bus

From: Cook Islands Bus.

The bus on Rarotonga is actually pretty good, and since the island is basically just one big main road that runs in a loop, the bus route is as simple as it gets.

There are two buses – the Clockwise and the Anti-Clockwise. It will be clearly shown on the front of the bus.

Usually, the bus comes every hour, and stops at all major points of interest. You can also just tell the bus driver where you want to go, and he’ll drop you the closest place to it. It’s very chilled and relaxed and you can simply wave the bus down wherever you are, and asked to be dropped off wherever you want. You can read more about the schedule here.

The bus is $5 for an adult fare, or $3 for a child fare, or you can buy a 10-pass card for $30 per adult or $19 per child. You can more details about their fares here.

Rent a scooter

Renting a scooter is easy and there are countless scooter rental places on the island.

However, you do need a motorcycle license, otherwise you will need to go and get a scooter license from the Police Station.

There you will do a quick driving test (it’s very easy, you basically just drive to the end of the alley and come back!) and they will give you a tourist license.

Even the locals mostly use scooters to get around, so it’s very common. However, accidents are also common so drive slowly, avoid driving late at night, and always wear a helmet! (unlike my stupid self in the photo above).

Rent a car

This is my preferred way to get around Raro, and I always rent a car every time I go (I usually rent from Jarret and Go Rentals).

Renting a car is great for 2 reasons – it’s much safer, and also it rains a lot on Raro, which makes scootering not much fun.

There are many car rental companies so you really have your pick – depending on the season and the car you want, you can expect to pay around $30-$50 per day.

Again – since there’s really only one main road, driving on Raro is a breeze and a lot of fun. It also means you’ll be able to explore all the little corners of the island, so I highly recommend it.


Taxis exist, but they are expensive and not very common. If you plan on using the bus, or want to rent/hire after you land, you might need an initial ride to your accommodation. I’d suggest asking your accommodation to help you arrange it. However, there should be an airport taxi if you want one.

How To Get Internet In Rarotonga

Internet is actually pretty good for a small Pacific island, however, it’s not cheap.

When you come out of the airport, there should be a Vodafone shop on your right. The shop is usually open for all expected landings, so it should be open when you arrive.

Here you can buy yourself a sim card, which is the best way to stay connected. Usually I spend about $50 NZD per week on internet when I’m in Rarotonga, and I work online and use quite a lot of data.

Each week Vodafone sends out specials for data, like 20GB for $20, so if you keep an eye out for those, you can stay connected without spending a ridiculous amount.

There are also Vodafone wifi spots around the island, and you can buy a wifi pass that will allow you to connect whenever you’re in one. Most hotels are usually situated at or near one. However, in my opinion buying data isn’t that much more expensive and much easier and more convenient.

Food In Rarotonga

There are several big supermarkets, and you can pretty much anything you would find in New Zealand.

CITC Supermarket is the biggest one, which is on the edge of town and similar to a Pak N Save, there is also Prime Foods nearby which is great for getting fresh and frozen meats, and Foodland in the centre of town. There is also Wigmores which is in Titikaveka on the west side of the island, and that’s a more “Whole Foods” style supermarket with lots of organics/gluten-free type things.

Milk selection at Wigmores

Between those four supermarkets, you can find pretty much everything you need, even for special dietary requirements. Don’t go overboard bringing crates of food with you! Support the local businesses and buy your groceries on the island 🙂

Cheese selections at CITC

Rarotonga is like a second home to me so if you have any questions, leave them below. I’ll do my best!


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