Advice on Finding and Choosing Cheap Budget Accommodation in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands
Sometimes the biggest hurdle that stands between you and the tropical backpacking adventure of your dreams is accommodation. It’s true that most accommodations on Rarotonga are pricey resorts, but those who know where to look will find the ever-elusive cheap accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. In this guide to finding and choosing the best cheap accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, we not only show you what types of accommodations are cheap but what to expect from them.
Before we begin, make sure you open up your backpacker bible: The Complete Backpacking Guide to the Cook Islands on a Budget.
5 Things You Need to Know About Cheap Accommodation in the Cook Islands
- Cheap accommodations are hard to find in the Cook Islands and aren’t always listed on booking websites – see our Budget Accommodation listings for all of your options
- Note that some accommodations in Rarotonga require you to stay for a minimum of three nights
- Don’t expect free or affordable WiFi at any budget accommodation in the Cook Islands – you’re best to source it yourself with a local SIM card
- Travel in the off-season if you want to stay at a “resort” style accommodation for a cheaper rate – see the 10 Reasons to Travel in the Low Season in the Cook Islands for more information
- Cheap accommodations on the lesser-visited outer islands, like Mitiaro and the Northern Group have all meals included!
Types (and Cost) of Budget Accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Cheap accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is not that easy to find with a quick “Google”. It takes a little bit of work to find them, which, luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you…
There are a couple of backpacker hostels on Rarotonga that come complete with dorm rooms, as well as private rooms with communal bathrooms, kitchens and a garden/beach. The typical cost of dorm rooms in Rarotonga is between NZ$20 and 30 per bed per night. Private rooms are around NZ$50-$100.
See all of Rarotonga’s backpacker stays in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Guesthouses typically consist of private guest rooms with shared facilities like a kitchen and bathroom. While there is the odd guesthouse on Rarotonga and two on Aitutaki, guesthouses are just about the only accommodation you’ll find on the outer islands of Mitiaro, Pukapuka and Penrhyn. The plus side of these outer-island guesthouses is that all meals are included in their reasonable fees of NZ$100-$150 per night.
Check out the Cook Islands’ guesthouses in the 10 Best Guesthouses in the Cook Islands. Note that there are also a couple of homestays on Mitiaro that are similar to guesthouses. You can learn more about them in The Best Homestays in the Cook Islands.
Yes, motels are a thing in Rarotonga and Aitutaki and are basically just cheaper versions of resorts with facilities like a spa pool or swimming pool. You may or may not get self-catering facilities in your room. Rates range from NZ$125 to $180 per room per night.
See the 10 Best Motels in the Cook Islands for more details on facilities.
Budget Apartments, Bungalows and Resorts
The final category of cheap accommodation in Rarotonga and Aitutaki should just be “miscellaneous”, as they come in a variety of forms: apartments, beach bungalows, garden bungalows and even one resort on Rarotonga can be classed as “budget”. Rates for these budget accommodations can be anywhere between NZ$90-$180 per night.
It’s best to go to the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Cook Islands to start learning about these different styles of cheap stays in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Location, How to Get There and What is Nearby?
A major consideration for travellers on a budget is the location. Being within walking distance of shops, services and attractions is a surefire way to save money throughout your trip, while staying outside of Rarotonga has associated airfares.
Where is the Budget Accommodation Located and How Do You Get There?
Needless to say, staying on Rarotonga will save you big bucks on airfares, as travelling to the outer islands of Aitutaki and beyond is certainly not cheap. Check out airfare costs in Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights. On the plus side, all of the accommodations on the outer islands are pretty cheap so at least you can typically afford to stay for longer.
Because cheap accommodation is so limited in the Cook Islands, it doesn’t really matter where on the islands you stay. Getting around is quick and cheap thanks to the bus service on Rarotonga, for example, while accommodations with bikes and/or car or scooter rentals included might be worth paying a little extra for an easy way to get around.
You may, however, want to stay at some of the cheap accommodations close to Avarua – the main town of Rarotonga – for easy access to cheap restaurants, supermarkets and shops. Alternatively, there are cheap accommodations on the beaches of Rarotonga, which may be more appealing.
What’s Included in Your Stay?
Any savvy budget traveller or backpacker knows that choosing good budget accommodation isn’t just about finding the cheapest. Good value is often in the facilities and services included in your stay. Of course, everyone’s needs are different so take a look at the lists below to get an idea of what is typically included and what extra facilities to look out for or inquire about.
Typical Budget Accommodation Inclusions
- Kitchen facilities with stovetop, microwave, fridge, cooking pots, crockery and utensils, toaster and kettle
- Shared bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet
- Insect screened windows or a mosquito net
- Gardens or beaches with lounging spaces like hammocks and day beds
- Hot water
- Car or scooter parking.
Additional Services and Inclusions
- Additional kitchen facilities, such as an oven, tea and coffee, toastie grill, rice cooker, etc.
- Ensuite shower and toilet
- WiFi (additional fee)
- Bicycle hire – see the 10 Accommodations in Rarotonga &; the Cook Islands with Bike Hire
- Car or scooter rental – see the 6 Accommodations in the Cook Islands with Car or Scooter Hire
- Airport transfers (either paid or included)
- Watersports hire (usually included if available)
- Meals (for a fee or included if on a remote outer island)
- Air conditioning
- Outside deck or verandah
- Washing machine.
More Tips for Finding and Choosing Cheap Accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide on how to find (and choose) the best cheap accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for you! Need more money-saving advice? Check out these other guides:
- Rarotonga & Cook Islands Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to the Cook Islands Cost?
- 20 Tips to Save Money in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Plus, find anything you might have missed in The Complete Backpacking Guide to the Cook Islands on a Budget.