The Best Things to Do on Rarotonga for Foodies
For the traveller who prefers to experience a new place and a culture through its cuisine, Rarotonga certainly provides. Far from the typical “holiday hotspot” with unimaginative tourist food, Rarotonga incorporates authentic Cook Island flavours into its tours and activities. From elaborate dinners like gourmet platters on the beach to more hands-on experiences like preparing your own traditional “umu”, the food tours and activities here are vast and varied. See for yourself with this list of the best foodie experiences on Rarotonga.
While you’re here, don’t forget to open The Food Guide to Rarotonga: Places to Eat & Food Tours – it’s pretty darn handy for foodies.
1. Join the Locals for a Progressive Dinner Tour
A must-do for foodies on Rarotonga, the Progressive Dinner Tour removes the barrier between “tourist” and “local” for an evening of authentic cuisine. Join Cook Islands Tours as they transport you across the island for a three-course dinner with each course in a different local home. It’s your opportunity to sample the real flavours of Rarotonga and experience the generous hospitality of its locals.
Location: Transfers are included from anywhere on Rarotonga.
2. Watch a Cultural Show Complete with an “Umu” Buffet
The energetic dancing from the island’s warriors and princesses is only part of the experience of a cultural show, otherwise known as an “island night”. The other part is devouring plate after plate of all kinds of traditional Cook Islands dishes from the buffet prepared in an “umu”, i.e. a Polynesian underground oven. Rarotonga’s cultural shows can be found in various resorts, at the historical site of Highland Paradise or the overwater venue of Te Vara Nui Village. See the 8 Best Island Nights in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands to compare your options.
Location: See the link above for locations.
3. Prepare Your Own Umu with Tumutoa Tours
Get a more hands-on foodie experience by preparing your own “umu” with Tumutoa Tours. Led by the characterful Tumutoa himself, adorned in traditional Cook Island warrior attire, he will guide you every step of the way to show you how to prepare an umu using traditional methods. After husking and grating your own coconut, the men with wrap the meat in banana leaves while the women will prepare the vegetables and weave baskets. When the food is in the umu, enjoy an evening of storytelling, music and the climax of a Cook Islands fire show right in time to try your afternoon’s labours!
Walking tours discovering medicinal plants, fruit and vegetables are also available, as well as a combination of walking tours and umu feasts. Tours are also suitable for families, as listed in the 30 Things to Do on Rarotonga with Kids.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (well signposted off the main road).
4. Experience the Punanga Nui Market
The vibrant Punanga Nui Market atmosphere along with the sights, sounds and tastes of a local gathering is a treat for all the senses. Try an array of tropical fruit, smoothies and other street eats at the food stalls, while pareu (sarongs), island shirts and black pearls are on sale in abundance. Don’t forget to check out the food stalls (like Baby Pancakes and The Waffle Shack) at the sheds on the east side of the market. Note that the Punanga Nui Market is only open Saturdays. Find out more in the 5 Best Markets in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), west end of Avarua.
5. Make Some “Fruitful” Discoveries on an Inland Walk with Ariimoana
As well as fascinating eco-tours that get you exploring the reef, Ariimoana has you joining a local family, Kura, Jacapo and their daughter Mahi, to discover the inland wonders of their village, Vaimaanga. Kura will take you on a guided hike inland with a big emphasis on finding tropical fruit and giving you an authentic insight into island life. To top it all off, the hike leads to a rewarding viewpoint with breathtaking lagoon and island vistas.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Vaimaanga.
6. Hit All of the Hottest Cocktail Spots with Tik-ebikes & Tours
Hop on an environmentally-friendly electric tuk-tuk and let your guide transport you and your mates to the hottest cocktail spots and happy hour specials around Rarotonga! Designed for groups of a minimum of four, this is the ultimate foodie (or drinkie?) tour for hen parties or adult groups looking for a unique way to spend an evening on the island. Your guide can give you tips on what to order so you don’t miss the best cocktails on the island! See more fun things to do for adult groups in the 10 Adults-Only Activities on Rarotonga.
Location: Transfers are included from anywhere on Rarotonga.
7. Have a Romantic Private Dinner on the Beach
A must for couples celebrating a special occasion or “just ’cause”, private dining experiences are a speciality of the resorts on Rarotonga. The adults-only Crown Beach Resort & Spa offers private dining under a gorgeous decorated gazebo on the beach. You can also ask about private dining at On The Beach (OTB), Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach, The Rarotongan Resort & Lagoonarium, Pacific Resort Rarotonga and more. Dining areas are typically decorated with torches and tropical flowers, and, of course, complete with fine dining cuisine. Check out more endearing activities in the 16 Most Romantic Things to Do on Rarotonga.
Location: Crown Beach Resort & Spa, On The Beach (OTB) at Manuia Beach Resort, Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach and The Rarotongan Resort & Lagoonarium – all on Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi. Pacific Resort Rarotonga – Main Road (Ara Tapu), Muri.
8. Indulge in a Gourmet Island Platter… Anywhere on the Island!
Segwaying from “dining on the beach”, an alternative way to dine on the beach – or dine pretty much anywhere, for that matter – is with Island Platters. Get a gourmet platter delivered to you, whether you want an extra special breakfast on your villa’s deck or a romantic picnic on the beach. Island Platters can curate a stunningly presented and tasty platter right in front of you using fresh local ingredients. For more “treat yourself” endeavours, check out the 8 Best Luxury Experiences on Rarotonga.
Location: Anywhere – platters are delivered to you.
9. Do a Tasting or a Tour at Rarotonga Brewery
Brewed right here on Rarotonga, Cook Islands Lager is the signature brew of the Rarotonga Brewery. Just across the road from the airport, the brewery is open Monday to Saturday for free beer tastings and from Monday to Friday for brewery tours. Enjoy a casual affair with a local brewer showing you how they make the good stuff and show you brews they’re currently working on.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Nikao.
10. Have the Ultimate Street Food Experience at the Muri Night Market
Another market meander to try is the Muri Night Market on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings from 5pm. It’s the place for cheap eats when the island’s food trucks gather together for a whirlwind of tastes. You’ll be sorted for dinner and dessert, as well as get to mingle with the locals and other travellers at this buzzing event. Again, more information about the market and more is detailed in the 5 Best Markets in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Muri.
11. Join an Umu Cooking Class with Umu Experience
Another amazing option for cooking your own traditional Cook Islands food, Umu Experience provides morning umu cooking classes from Monday to Saturday at their cultural centre. The crew also put on a stellar umu experience and dinner show on Monday and Thursday nights complete with island-style performances and a platter of “umu kai” for your table!
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), between Tapae and Tupapa.
12. Treat the Tastebuds at Rarotonga’s Cafes, Food Trucks and Restaurants
We’ll conclude this list of the top foodie experiences on Rarotonga with, indeed, the most obvious experience but an experience nonetheless! You can’t call yourself a foodie and not sample the surprisingly vibrant dining scene that Rarotonga has to offer. Whatever your vibe and whatever your budget, Raro has the cafes, food trucks and fine dining restaurants to suit. The list to too extensive to go through here, but you can check out recommendations in The Food Guide to Rarotonga: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Location: See the links above for locations.
More Foodie Experiences on Rarotonga
That’s it for our official list of the best foodie experiences on Rarotonga, but you will find more foodie highlights among the following guides:
- 10 Best Bars in Rarotonga
- The Ultimate Guide to Rarotonga Nightlife
- 5 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Food Guide to the Cook Islands: Places to Eat, Food Tours & Best Resorts for Food.