Months ago I made a spontaneous purchase from Air New Zealand and presented it as a gift to my husband for Christmas. A trip to Raratonga. He looked excited but also followed it up with, “Where is that?”
Where is it? The South Pacific. Remote Oceania. You know Fiji, Somoa, & American Samoa? Their neighbor to the south is the Cook Islands, and its main island, Rarotonga. Now independent from New Zealand, they still use New Zealand currency and are a popular vacation spot for Kiwis and Australians.
For us, it’s a ten hour flight from LA and I was really looking forward to being away from everything. I decided to even take a social media vacation along with my vacation. Turns out I didn’t need a planned social media break, because internet on Raratonga is priced by the MB. So we saved our purchased MB for messages to our kids, no photos, those average about 2.5 MB. Have you ever thought about your every day data use? So many MB.
So what did we do? Sleep. We stayed at an eco retreat with only 6 individual above ground tents or structures. It was tucked away from the main road and the main tourist attractions. The only sound we often heard were birds, roosters, and the rain. The first night we slept from 8:30 pm until 6:30. It’s winter in Raratonga, so the nights are longer than at home. We also took naps whenever we felt like it.
I finished 3 books on the island. It would have been four, but it turned out that one book I bought was missing 32 pages in the middle. I borrowed a book from the small library at our retreat. We didn’t have a radio or a t.v. So books were the extent of my media consumption. The island has two radio stations and we occasionally heard them when in a taxi. We were oblivious to news. If we had really wanted too, we could have looked for it, but we needed a respite.
We also walked and hiked and rode the bus around the island. There is a bus that runs clockwise around the island every hour and one that runs counterclockwise every hour. So if you miss it, it’s a long wait. The bus costs 5 NZ unless you buy the 10 ride punch card for 30 NZ. If you’re lucky, you will get on the bus with the driver who wears a microphone and sings the whole way.
We did a hike across the island that many people said was a good hike. It was a good hike, but it was also a strenuous and challenging hike. Steep, slippery slopes, across rocks and streams, through narrow passages where you had to climb over and under tree trunks, and down steep ridges with ropes. It took about 4 hours to do it, but we came out of the other side caked with mud, sweaty, but pretty satisfied with ourselves. The view from the top of the hike, by the Needle, was worth it.
We attended the Highland Paradise show. It’s one of the main shows on the island, the reports have some too. Josie, at our retreat, recommended it to us and said it was culturally authentic. It started with a presentation of the history and culture of Raratonga and then moved forward showing the changes over the years through music and dance. We had a dinner and answered the most popular question from anyone who wasn’t American, So why is Donald Trump popular? I still don’t have an answer for that question. Sometimes they talked so fast, we couldn’t understand their New Zealand accents!
Most of the time I was lazy. And it was great. But along with the hike, we did kayak and ride bikes. So I guess we weren’t completely lazy. Everything was green and lush. Everywhere you looked was green with banana trees, coconut trees, and Pawpaw trees. People were friendly and will offer you assistance if you are walking along the road away from popular tourist areas.
Air New Zealand: the island subsidizes air New Zealand flights from the US because they are actively trying to grow tourism. Which means we got a good deal.
In the Matavera area, off from the main tourist areas. They focus on sustainable tourism including Eco friendly soaps and toilet paper in the bathroom, and above ground structures to limit the impact of the environment.
New Zealand dollars, we usually got 1.35-1.40 for each US dollar.
Good to know
Renting a car or scooter is popular on the island. You do need a drivers license for the island, which is like 20 NZ and can be done quickly. Some scooter places were just 13 NZ a day.
Water should be filtered at your resort or bottled, ask about it.
The island is protected by a barrier that creates the calm lagoon. Muri Lagoon is very popular for water activities, but the best snorkeling is in Fruits of Raratonga. Protecting the beauty of the Cook Islands is important for tourists to consider, so don’t step on coral, it is alive. Wear reef shoes and avoid getting close to breaks in the barrier, where the ocean current can pull you out.