A Cook Islands Guide for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here we go again; another trip another dietary minefield! Luckily, the island that most visit in the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, is not only prepared for more sustainable/ethical diets, it’s actually a delight for both vegetarians and vegans! While there aren’t “exclusively” vegan restaurants on the island, there are some creative and crowd-pleasing vegan meals on the menus that complete a memorable island getaway. Things get a little trickier the further out from Rarotonga you go, particularly on Aitutaki and the outer islands, but we’re here to make dining sustainably a little easier with this complete guide to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for vegans and vegetarians.
If you’ve got a little gluten-free going on too, check out The Gluten-Free Guide to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
10 Best Restaurants for Vegans in the Cook Islands
Before we jump into our complete Cook Islands guide for vegans and vegetarians, here are some of our favourites restaurants in the Cook Islands for vegan food:
- Beluga Cafe (Arorangi, Rarotonga)
- Kai & Co. (Avarua, Rarotonga)
- Nautilus Restaurant (Muri, Rarotonga)
- Avatea Cafe (Tautu, Aitutaki)
- Flying Turtle Cafe (Arorangi)
- Captain Andy’s Beach Bar & Grill (Aroa Beach, Rarotonga)
- Bluewater Grill (Aroa Beach, Rarotonga)
- La Casita (Muri, Rarotonga)
- The Rickshaw (Muri, Rarotonga)
- Tamarind House (Avarua, Rarotonga)
Find out more about these restaurants in the guide below, as well as in The Best Places to Eat on Rarotonga: 10 Best Restaurants and The Best Places to Eat on Aitutaki: 10 Best Restaurants on Aitutaki.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Rarotonga
As the most developed of the Cook Islands, combining island-living with a Westernised culture, Rarotonga offers plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians! While there aren’t any vegan/vegetarian-exclusive restaurants, there are creative vegan options on the menus of many cafes and restaurants. You’ll even enjoy the traditional dishes of the Cook Islands where dairy staples are naturally replaced with coconut milk and fruit!
Top 5 Restaurants on Rarotonga for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here are our top picks of the best restaurants on Rarotonga for both vegans and vegetarians.
1. Beluga Cafe
(Arorangi) – While the team are happy to curate vegan alternatives to dishes across the menu, their “vegan plate” is to die for with chickpea fritters, season produce, hummus and more tempting finger food.
2. Kai & Co.
(Avarua) – Delicious vegan smoothie bowls and falafel/sweet potato patty vegan burgers and wraps are on the menu!
3. Nautilus Restaurant
(Muri) – While the choice for vegans/vegetarians isn’t extensive, their vegan option is usually quite creative (and mouthwatering) like vegetable and tofu timbale or green Thai curry. There are sometimes vegan desserts on the menu – like vegan chocolate mousse, but not always – check first.
4. Flying Turtle Cafe
(Arorangi) – This hole-in-the-wall container cafe at the Ariki Adventures base offers all items on the menu as “plant-based” with adding meat as only an optional extra. Build your own sandwiches, wraps and enjoy vegan granola bowls and almond milk smoothies.
5 & 6. Captain Andy’s Beach Bar & Grill and Bluewater Grill
(Aroa Beach) – We are coupling these two restaurants together as they are owned by the same resort company (The Rarotongan and Sanctuary on the Beach) and essentially have the same menus, just the latter is an adults-only restaurant. They have both a generous vegetarian and a separate vegan menu ranging from vegan pizza to vegan ice cream and beyond!
- La Casita (Muri) – Mexican restaurant with vegan options
- The Rickshaw (Muri) – Asian dishes with vegan options
- Tamarind House (Avarua) – Fine dining with vegan options
- The Falafel Shack (Arorangi) – Food stand with vegan wraps
- Kikau Hut (Arorangi) – Vegetarian options with vegan modifications on request
- Rarotonga Sailing Club (Muri) – Really good vegetarian lasagne
- The Kai Guy (Avarua) – Amazing vegetarian tacos
- Kai Pizza (Avarua) – Three delightful vegetarian pizzas.
Self-Catering as a Vegan or Vegetarian on Rarotonga
Finding vegan ingredients on Rarotonga is easy thanks to the well-stocked supermarkets and grocery stores scattered along the main road (Ara Tapu). For your biggest selection, head to the CITC Supermarket in Avarua or Wigmore’s Superstore in Vaimaanga, both with an organic/dietary-specific section typically stocked with imports from New Zealand and Australia. Items like almond/soy milk, rice, nuts and vegan snacks are all available.
While fresh local fruit and vegetables are available in supermarkets, it’s typically better and a little cheaper to pick up fresh produce from roadside stalls and markets like the Punanga Nui Market (Avarua) on a Saturday morning.
There are also small convenience stores on Rarotonga, which offer the basics but usually not the variety of vegan options you’ll find at the larger stores. We go into more detail about what to expect from grocery stores and supermarkets in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
All you need with your vegan or vegetarian ingredients is a place to cook them! Check out the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations on Rarotonga for our top picks. Better yet, combine your sustainable eating habits with sustainable accommodation, as listed in the 10 Best Eco Resorts in the Cook Islands.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Aitutaki
Once you leave Rarotonga, the dining options get extremely limited – not so much for vegetarians but certainly for vegans. Below, we’ve listed some of our favourite restaurants with vegan options, as well as where you can get supplies for self-catering.
Top 4 Restaurants in Aitutaki for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here are our top picks of the best restaurants in Aitutaki for both vegans and vegetarians. Note that #4 is just for vegetarians.
1. Avatea Cafe
(Tautu) – This contemporary cafe serves up an awesome vegan smoothie bowl, as well as your choice of bagels and toasties.
2. Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill
(Ootu Beach) – The restaurant of the Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort offers vegan dishes such as Thai noodle salad, “rukau” (taro leaves) flatbread, island-style stir-fry and more. Menus change daily though, so double-check with the resort that there will be decent vegan options on the day you choose to dine.
3. Blue Lagoon Restaurant & Bar
(Ootu Beach) – Sample vegan and/or vegetarian dishes include salad nicoise, pasta pomedore, vegetable curry, antipasto and fettuccine with sautéed vegetables.
4. Rapae Bay Restaurant
(Amuri) – Not great for vegans but the restaurant of the Pacific Resort Aitutaki has an extensive list of vegetarian dishes and desserts. Their head chef is known for catering well to the dietary requirements of the resort’s guests, however, so inquire with the resort if you’re planning on staying there.
Self-Catering as a Vegan or Vegetarian in Aitutaki
While there is a generous number of small grocery stores in Aitutaki, the variety of vegan “luxuries” is nowhere near as extensive as on Rarotonga. You can still find items like almond milk, tinned vegetables like chickpeas, and vegan snacks like rice crackers in Aitutaki’s grocery stores; you might just have to look in a few stores until you find what you’re looking for. Staples such as rice, flour and tinned goods are readily available.
Learn more about Aitutaki’s supermarkets in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. As for where to stay for making your own meals, check out the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations on Aitutaki.
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to the Outer Islands (Pa Enuas)
Once you leave the tourist hotspots of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, you leave the restaurant scene behind too. The outer islands of the Cook Islands, locally known as the “Pa Enuas”, are where locals prefer to cook for themselves and their families/community. The hosts at the accommodations take this approach too, with almost all accommodations in the outer Cook Islands offering meals. With this in mind, it’s best to let your host know your dietary requirements before booking to allow your hosts a chance to prepare and see whether or not they can cater for you.
Don’t worry, in most instances, hosts are happy to cater to vegan diets as their own diets tend to be not all that different from veganism (with the exception of seafood). Traditional meals are typically made with vegetables and fruit grown on the island along with coconut cream. As some meals are shared with other guests, there will likely still be meat and fish served at the table.
Start learning more about what’s available on the outer islands in our information guides:
More About Food in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete Cook Islands guide for vegans and vegetarians including the best restaurants for vegans and vegetarians. For more about food, check out the following guides:
- Traditional Rarotongan Food: 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands
- 10 Drinks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands You HAVE to Try!
- The Food Guide to the Cook Islands: Places to Eat, Food Tours & Best Resorts for Food
Finally, plan a trip around the Cook Islands with food in mind using the following itineraries: Rarotonga Food Itinerary: 3 Days, Rarotonga Food Itinerary: 5 Days, Cook Islands Food Itinerary: 7 Days, Cook Islands Food Itinerary: 10 Days and Cook Islands Food Itinerary: 14 Days.