Walks and Hikes in the Cook Islands with Guides
The Cook Islands, and especially Rarotonga, are packed with super scenic walking trails meandering the rugged interiors of the island. The walking trails are the ultimate inland adventure but are not quite as easy to follow as say, some of the hikes in New Zealand. What’s more, there are all sorts of amazing flora, fauna and historical sites that are easy to miss without a local pointing them out. With that in mind, Rarotonga’s local hiking guides are at the ready to show you their little piece of paradise! Whether you’re looking for a mountain hike or a simple stroll in town, there are guided walks to suit all. Discover them in this list of the best guided walks in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
Note that for any of the guided walks mentioned below, it’s a good idea to take your own water, sturdy walking shoes, a camera and insect repellent. Food and refreshments are typically included in the walks.
1. Arore Mountain Adventures
An excellent short hike and the only way to access this awesome mountain peak, Arore Mountain Adventures takes you on a stunning mountain trek on the back hills of Muri. Experience the natural beauty of the inland forests of Rarotonga and look out for wildlife on this hike that can be done either in the daytime or at sunrise. Your guide, Luther, will share stories of how he established the hiking trail himself, as well as point out interesting flora and fauna along the way. The walk lasts approximately 1h30mins. Headlamps are provided for the sunrise walk.
Location: Tours depart from the Muri Meeting House, Muri eastern side of Rarotonga. Transfers are available for a fee.
2. Maunga Tours
Don’t just do the famous Cross-Island Track; get more out of the journey with hands-on nature experiences provided by Maunga Tours. The legacy of Pa’s Cross Island Trek, Pa’s nephew, Bruce, takes you for a 3-4-hour hike including to the summit of Te Rua Manga, a.k.a “The Needle“. You’ll be shown all sorts of unique flora and fauna that are otherwise easy to miss if you were hiking on your own. The hike ends at the Papua Waterfall where you can wash off your hard work. A tropical lunch with fresh fruit is also included.
Location: Transfers are included, Rarotonga.
3. Storytellers Eco Cycle & Walking Tours
While Storytellers Eco Cycle & Walking Tours might be more known for their cycling tours, don’t rule out their guided walks on Rarotonga. These guided walks are less about hiking in the mountains and more about immersing in the culture and stories of Rarotonga. Their “Afternoon Stroll” is a tour of the Tupapa side of Avarua, going through the history and sights of the area and concluding with a drink at a local bar. Alternatively, the “Walk About” tour is their morning tour that is more catered to what your interests are, whether it’s husking a coconut, trying tamarind straight from the pod or something else. The tour also includes a refreshing ice cream. Both tours last approximately 1h30mins. Learn more about Storytellers and book your walking tour on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: Transfers are included, Rarotonga.
4. Tumutoa Tours
Tumutoa Tours offers a couple of walking tours with a focus on plant life and culture. Their “Discovery Walking Tour” is an excellent option where you’ll join the friendly island warrior, Tumutoa, for a two-hour tour walking the bush and gardens of Rarotonga to try local fruit and vegetables, learn about medicinal plants, try coconut tree climbing and husking and listen to local legends. For those who are looking for more of an adventure, try the “Legends of Raemaru” tour which takes your discovery walk up the Raemaru mountain! This latter guided walk lasts approximately 3h30mins.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (well signposted off the main road), west side of Rarotonga.
5. Cook Islands Tours
One of the guided walk offerings from Cook Islands Tours is the “Avarua Historical Walking Tour“. This 1h30mins guided walk takes you around the capital of the Cook Islands to get a real insight into some of the country’s oldest buildings, as well as see pre-missionary historical sites that are otherwise easy to miss. The tour also allows you to meet some of the elders and locals to learn more about traditions. Light refreshments in the form of local tropical fruit are included. Learn more about the tour and book tickets on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from Trader Jacks, Main Road (Ara Tapu), Avarua, north side of Rarotonga.
Walk on either the reef or the mountains of Vaimaanga on Rarotonga with Ariimoana. Run by a local family, Kura, Jacapo and their daughter Mahi, Ariimoana offers two authentic local hiking experiences, their “Inland Discoveries Walk” and their “Reef Walkabout“. Discover marine creatures that you’d otherwise miss and absorb a wealth of knowledge about Rarotonga and its marine life on their reef tour (perfect for families, as listed in the 40 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands with Kids) or head to the hills to discover local edible plants and fruit to try along the way.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Vaimaanga, south side of Rarotonga.
7. Adventure Cook Islands
Adventure Cook Islands offers an alternative way to tackle the Raemaru Track on a guided experience where you’ll learn much more about the local legends, flora and fauna and even go off-track to lesser-visited areas. Their “Raemaru Mountain Trek” is a 3-4-hour experience where you’ll visit the ancient village of Puaikura and learn more about the tribe that once lived in these mountains. A highlight of the trip is climbing the 15m (50ft) rockface at the mountain’s peak assisted with steel bars and ropes.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Aroa Beach on the southwestern side of Rarotonga. They are nearby The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Lagoonarium.
8. Go Local Cook Islands
Finally, join the local boys from Go Local Cook Islands for one of their guided bush walks. Stroll among the valleys of Rarotonga that not many tourists get to experience while learning about the local plants and their medicinal uses, as well as the wildlife seen, cultural aspects and the history of the Cook Islands. The trek lasts approximately 1h30mins to 2 hours.
Location: Find their beach setup at the Avaavaroa Passage, Vaimaanga, available Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm. They are also at the Punanga Nui Market on Saturday and at the Muri Night Market on a Sunday.
[BONUS] Guided Hikes in the Outer Islands (Pa Enua)
In the outer islands of the Cook Islands, particularly the islands of Mangaia, Atiu, Mitiaro and Mauke, guided hikes are just about the only way to get to some of their natural attractions, such as caves and giant banyan trees. These guided hikes are usually organised through your chosen accommodation, as the tourism industry on these islands is incredibly small. Nevertheless, you can learn more about the attractions visited through guided hikes in our “Things to Do” articles:
- 15 Best Things to Do on Mangaia
- 20 Best Things to Do on Atiu
- 15 Best Things to Do on Mitiaro
- 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke
More About Guided Walks in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Now that you know about the best guided walks in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, check out similar experiences in the articles below:
- 10 Best Eco Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Walks & Hikes in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Nature & Wildlife Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, plan the rest of your Cook Islands’ bucket list with our epic 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.