A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands
A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands

© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

The Complete Guide to Self-Catering and Buying Food and Drink in the Cook Islands

Travellers wanting to experience a slice of life in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands or perhaps wanting to opt for spending less on food can buy their own in the Cook Islands. Large supermarkets, small convenience stores, roadside food stalls, markets and more are available to tend to your grocery needs. Find out where you can shop for food, food tips and more in the guide to supermarket and food shopping in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands.

5 Tips for Food Shopping in the Cook Islands

  1. Make sure your accommodation has kitchen facilities if you want to self-cater in the Cook Islands
  2. Bargaining is not customary in the Cook Islands, so if prices are too high for you, try somewhere else
  3. Supermarkets on Rarotonga and Aitutaki accept Visa, MasterCard and New Zealand Dollars; grocery stores on the outer islands only accept cash
  4. Fruit is very seasonal in the Cook Islands; only fruit such as coconuts, bananas and pawpaw are available all year round
  5. Self-catering is much cheaper than eating out, but if you want to try some local food for a small price, check out The Top Cheap Eats on Rarotonga.

How Much Does Food Cost in the Cook Islands?

Food in supermarkets and grocery stores in the Cook Islands is around the same or a little more expensive than in New Zealand. These prices are a bit higher than in Australia and a lot higher than in places like the US and Europe. See common food prices in The Cost of Food in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Restaurant & Grocery Prices.

Can You Take Food to the Cook Islands?

Some food items can be taken to the Cook Islands, but certainly not fresh fruit, vegetables, etc. Take a look at Taking Food to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: What You Need to Know for our advice on the subject.

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Buying Food at Supermarkets on Rarotonga

Rarotonga is home to three large supermarkets (two owned by the same company), as well as a gourmet food supermarket. Supermarkets are well stocked with brands from New Zealand and Australia. While they sell fresh food, they don’t always have the best quality or prices. Be aware that for items like baked goods, it’s best to go early.

CITC Supermarket

The largest supermarket on Rarotonga, CITC Supermarket stocks fresh and frozen foods, dry goods, butchery meats, delicatessen lines, liquor, baby food, toiletries and a variety of other essential goods. The prices tend to be some of the best on the island, except for fresh food. There is a large car park outside and an ATM (although they still accept Visa and MasterCard at the counters).

Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu) between Avatiu Harbour and Rarotonga Airport, not far from Avarua town.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

CITC Foodland

A smaller but still pretty substantial supermarket, CITC Foodland is located in the town centre of Avarua. They have a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as delicatessen goods and other essentials. They also have a stall for ice cream cones, fresh fruit smoothies and meals to go.

Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu) town centre of Avarua between the Police Station and Island Craft.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

Wigmore’s Superstore

The largest supermarket at the southern end of Rarotonga, the thing to note about Wigmore’s Superstore is that it is open 24/7! The store stocks fresh and frozen foods, dry goods, butchery meats, delicatessen lines, liquor, toiletries and a variety of other essential goods. Their fresh food is a little better than CITC Supermarket, while they also have a decent health foods section. There are also local baked goods for sale, ice cream cones and a fuel station.

Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Vaimaanga.
Opening hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Prime Foods

For high-quality food, Prime Foods is your supermarket. They offer a selection of fresh and frozen meat, produce, dry goods, baked goods, non-local fish and Italian delicacies. As expected, prices are a little higher to match the quality.

Location: St Joseph’s Road, Avarua.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 8am to 5.30pm, Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 8am to 3pm.

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Buying Food at Convenience Stores on Rarotonga

Scattered along the main road of Rarotonga are various convenience stores. They have a small selection of most essentials, especially dry goods, while their stock of fresh food is usually local and whatever is in season. They may also have a couple of freezers. Most convenience stores are also resellers for the local phone network and where you can get WiFi vouchers – see How to Get Internet & WiFi in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

Convenience stores tend to be open Monday to Friday from 7am/8am to 6pm/7pm/8pm. Saturdays tend to have reduced hours. Convenience stores from the Super Brown chain are open 24/7.

Some convenience stores include:

  • Super Brown (Corner of Ara Tapu and Kiikii Road, Tupapa)
  • Super Brown (Corner of Ara Tapu and Tapatea Road, Nikao)
  • KAPS Matavera (Corner of Ara Tapu and Tamarua Road, Matavera)
  • Matavera Village Traders (Ara Tapu, Matavera)
  • Hartal Shop & Laundry (Ara Tapu, Tupapa)
  • Woo Arorangi (Ara Tapu, Arorangi)
  • Kavera Central (Ara Tapu, Kavera/Arorangi)
  • TEMs Store (Ara Tapu, Muri)

You can also find small gift shops selling a few holiday conveniences and snacks at The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium and Crown Beach Resort & Spa.

For more about the shops and services around Raro, check out the Information, Shops & Services on Rarotonga.

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Buying Food at Markets and Roadside Stalls on Rarotonga

If you don’t mind doing your food shopping a bit spontaneously, stopping at the roadside stalls for fresh fruit, vegetables or even fish and baked goods, provides you with some of the best quality and best-priced food on the island. Drive along the main road any morning (except Sundays) and you’ll likely see the odd stall on the roadside or marquee in someone’s garden. Don’t wait until the afternoon or else all the good stuff will be gone!

Punanga Nui Market

If you want to buy fresh produce, pop into the Punanga Nui Market even throughout the week and you’ll likely find locals selling produce at the permanent stalls set up there. Otherwise, Saturday morning is the best time to visit the Punanga Nui Market, where most of the island’s growers, bakers and smoothie-makers get together for a whirlwind of tastes. There are meals and ingredients to be purchased!

Learn more about the Punanga Nui Market in the 5 Best Markets in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands© DH - Cook Islands Tourism

Buying Food at Bakeries, Fishmongers and Liquor Stores on Rarotonga

When it comes to speciality foods and alcohol, there are a few more options on Rarotonga. First up, you won’t be caught out when it comes to bread and pastries, as there are two beautiful bakeries on the island.

Botanical Bakehouse

Located at the eastern end of Avarua, the Botanical Bakehouse sells freshly baked ciabatta, baguettes, croissants, pain au chocolat and more. They are also expanding into an eatery (if they haven’t already)!

Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), east end of Avarua near the big blue “Tuki’s Pareu” store.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

VMV Bakery

Found in various places around the island, VMV Bakery bakes up amazing sourdough bread, pastries, swirls and more. Find them at the Punanga Nui Market on a Saturday morning, The Coffee House in Matavera on a Sunday morning and on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Muri Outlet Store (yellow building with a gas station).

Ocean Fresh Seafood

Fresh fish is kind of a big deal in the Cook Islands, so if you want to cook up some of your own on the barbecue or cut up your own sashimi, head to Ocean Fresh Seafood in Avarua. The fishmonger sells a variety of deep-sea fish, like wahoo, yellow-fin tuna, mahimahi and more.

Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), just before Rarotonga Airport near Avarua town.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8am to 4.30pm, Saturday from 7am to 1.30pm, and Sunday from 6am to 10.30am. Note that sometimes they close spontaneously when the fishing boats are out.

Liquor Stores

If you require beer, wine or spirits to whip up your own cocktails, then the liquor stores tend to be a good option, usually selling for a better price than the supermarkets. Liquor stores include:

  • The Bond Liquor Store (Ara Tapu, Avarua)
  • CITC Liquor Centre (Ara Tapu, Avarua)

Note that there are also duty-free liquor stores at the arrivals area of Rarotonga International Airport and at the departures lounge. However, the prices aren’t necessarily cheaper than the liquor stores listed above. See The Guide to Duty-Free Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more information.

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Supermarkets and Food Shopping on Aitutaki

Moving onto Aitutaki, the island has a decent selection of convenience stores although no large supermarkets. Prices are only marginally more expensive than Rarotonga, so there’s not really much need to take up baggage space to bring food to the island.

While most grocery stores are well-stocked on Aitutaki, note that their supplies are usually quite limited, so you might find yourself visiting a couple of stores before you find what you want.

Heineken Store (Rirei’s)

Relatively large store on the main road in Amuri selling a limited range of fresh, frozen, chilled and dry food. Come in early for their freshly baked bread and local eggs. They also sell ice cream cones. Of course, they also have a good range of beer.

Location: Main road, Amuri near Aitutaki Budget Accommodation.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8pm.

Aquila Store

The colourful store on the main road in Amuri sells a good selection of basic dry food, as well as bread, fruit and vegetables. They also have a cheap (but good) takeaway, vehicle rentals – see The Best Car Rentals in Aitutaki and own the gas station across the road.

Location: Main road, Amuri.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 6.30am to 9pm.

Tina & Co.

A modern convenience store at the Tina & Co. mini-shopping centre down a short road off the main road in Amuri (they are well sign-posted), the Tina & Co. store has a limited range of essential dry, chilled and frozen foods. Notably, they are the only store on Aitutaki open 24/7.

Location: Just off the main road, Amuri.
Opening hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Maina Traders

Selling a little bit of just about everything, Maina Traders is a general store with a variety of dry, chilled and fresh food, as well as clothing, toiletries, pharmaceuticals, bicycles, hardware and just about anything they can get their hands on.

Location: Northern end of Arutanga.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8pm.

Baxter’s Waterworld

We, too, were disappointed not to find a waterpark with waterslides at “Baxter’s Waterworld” but if you’re hungry, it’s the perfect place. The convenience store has a range of local and imported produce, frozen goods, dry food, drinks, party ice and soft-serve ice cream.

Location: Cross-island road between Vaipae and Arutanga (take the turn north of MVA’s Tunu2unu which, incidentally, also owns Baxter’s Waterworld).
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 8am to 8pm and Friday to Saturday from 8am to 9pm.

Mango Store

This is another general store in Aitutaki that has a bit of everything, like hardware, household goods, clothes, jewellery, as well as food in the mix. Their takeaway is also famous for its cakes.

Location: Main road, Amuri.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 8am to 4pm.

Naibaa’s Store

The largest store on the east side of Aitutaki, Neibaa’s Store is notably open on a Sunday. They have basic dry, fresh and frozen food, as well as a takeaway.

Location: Northern end of Vaipae.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 7am to 8pm.

Spider Co Petrol Station

Although there are a few food goods, Spider Co Petrol Station is very bare in terms of grocery items.

Location: Ootu Peninsula, on the road running alongside the runway.
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday from 7am to 8pm, Thursday to Saturday from 7am to 9pm and Sunday from 12pm to 6pm.

For more details on the shops and services available in Aitutaki, check out the Information, Shops & Services on Aitutaki.

A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Food Shopping on the Outer Islands (Pa Enua)

As the other outer islands of the Cook Islands are a lot less populated and receive much fewer tourists, the grocery store and food shopping scene is extremely limited. The populated Southern Group islands have at least one grocery store with basic supplies, where you would be able to self-cater if needed. However, they probably won’t have what you need if you were looking for something very specific.

As for the Northern Group, there are not really “convenience stores” as such, more small stands selling food or the locals get their supplies from containers. Learn more about visiting the Northern Group by browsing the guides to each of the islands in The Complete Travel Guide to the Northern Cook Islands.

Remember that if you’re staying on one of the outer islands, it’s likely that you will be supplied food with your accommodation (of course, be sure to double-check this).

Supermarkets and Grocery Stores on Atiu

Some of the convenience stores on Atiu include:

  • Super Brown (Main Road, Tengatangi, open Monday to Saturday from 6am to 10pm)
  • Aire Mai Grocery Store (Main Road, Teenui, open Monday to Friday from 7am to 6.30pm)
  • Ezra Grocery Store (Main Road, Mapumai, open Monday to Friday from 7am to 1pm and 6pm to 8.30pm, and Saturday 7am to 7am and 6 to 8.30pm).

Learn more about grocery supplies in the Information, Shops & Services on Atiu.

Supermarkets and Grocery Stores on Mangaia

The convenience stores on Mangaia include:

  • Babe’s Store (Northern end of the sports field, Oneroa, open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5.30pm)
  • Akeke Trading (Te Makate Road, Oneroa, open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 8pm).

Market on Mangaia

The Friday Morning Market sells fresh local produce early morning, as well as hot and cold food. The market starts at 5.30am on Friday morning and usually ends around 8.30am. Find the market at the southern end of the sports field in Oneroa.

Learn more about the grocery supplies in the Information, Shops & Services on Mangaia.

Supermarkets and Grocery Stores on Mauke

The convenience stores on Mauke include:

  • Makatea General Store (main road between Kimiangatau and the inland villages, open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 4pm)
  • Kato’s General Store (main road in Ngatiarua/Areora, open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm)
  • Teoa Store (main road in Kimiangatau, open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 4pm).

Learn more about grocery supplies in the Information, Shops & Services on Mauke.

Supermarkets and Grocery Stores on Mitiaro

There is only one convenience store on Mitiaro, which is Pa’s Store in Mangarei. The bright pink store is easy to find just down the road heading east from the central CICC Church in Mangarei. Opening hours are from Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6pm.

Learn more about grocery supplies in the Information, Shops & Services on Mitiaro.

More About Supermarkets and Food Shopping in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

That’s it for our complete guide to supermarkets and food shopping in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more advice on food, check out the following guides:

Finally, be sure to check out our 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more advice about visiting the Cooks

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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