Everything You Need to Know About Transport on Rarotonga
Isolated in the South Pacific Ocean some 3,000km (1,864 miles) from New Zealand and 5,000km (3,107 miles) from Australia, Rarotonga takes a little getting to unless, you know, you come from those countries. Nevertheless, once you’ve crossed the Pacific and experienced that breathtaking moment when you land with the jagged volcanic mountains on one side and the azure lagoon on the other, the compact island is easy to get around. Do what the locals do and ride a scooter or enjoy the novelty of taking the local bus service around the island! We go through all of your transportation options in this Rarotonga transport guide, which includes how to get to and around Rarotonga.
Before we begin, don’t forget to organise your accommodation and activities with ease using The Complete Travel Guide to Rarotonga and Where to Stay on Rarotonga: The BEST Rarotonga Accommodations.
1. Rarotonga by Flight – How to Get to Rarotonga
Most travellers get to Rarotonga by international flight. The majority of international flights depart from Auckland, New Zealand, taking around four hours. Flights are also available from Sydney, Australia, Honolulu, Hawaii and Papeete, French Polynesia. Rarotonga’s (and the Cook Islands’) only international airport is located in Nikao, right next to the nation’s capital, Avarua. Find out more about which airlines fly to the Cook Islands, as well as how to get a good deal in Which Airlines Fly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands? and How to Book a Cheap Flight to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Note that on arrival, you will be asked questions concerning biosecurity and, the one that trips many travellers, “Where are you staying?” Find out more about the arrival formalities in our guide, Arriving in Rarotonga: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.
Note that Rarotonga Airport has connecting domestic flights to other islands in the Cook Islands, such as Aitutaki. Find out more on the subject in Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights.
2. Scooter Rental – How to Get Around Rarotonga
A popular way to navigate the island of Rarotonga is by hiring a scooter. There are plenty of scooter rentals on Rarotonga, but note that a local scooter license is required to legally drive one around the island (only if your current license doesn’t cover motorcycles). Scooter licenses can be obtained from the Avarua Police Station and there are costs and a practical test involved – find out more in How to Get a Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Scooter License. Plus, learn more about hiring a scooter in our guide, Scooter Hire in Rarotonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
3. Car Rental – How to Get Around Rarotonga
Although less “Rarotongan” than a scooter, car rental on Rarotonga is still a viable way to get around and comes with the added benefit of not requiring a local driving license or getting soaked when there’s a tropical downpour. You have a decent selection of car rental companies on the island, which we compare in The Best Car Rentals in Rarotonga. We also recommend that you become familiar with the local road rules, which we outline in How to Drive in the Cook Islands + 10 Road Rules You Need to Know.
4. Public Bus – How to Get Around Rarotonga
The cheapest way to get around Rarotonga is by taking the bus. Rarotonga has a regular bus service with buses travelling both clockwise and anticlockwise, picking up passengers anywhere along the Main Road (Ara Tapu) – you just need to wave them down. Buses operate every hour from 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday. Have cash available. All of this is detailed further in our guide, Taking the Bus in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Bus Fares, Routes & More.
5. Taxi – How to Get Around Rarotonga
There are a few taxi services on Rarotonga. They don’t work like your typical city taxi, i.e. they can’t be hailed down nor do they have taxi stands other than at the airport. You need to book them prior to travel by either calling them or getting your accommodation’s concierge service to call them on your behalf. Fares are either per kilometre or at a flat rate, so you can ask for fares before your journey. Learn more about getting a taxi on Rarotonga in our guide, Taxis in the Cook Islands: Taxi Fares, How to Use & More.
6. E-Bike and Bicycle Rental – How to Get Around Rarotonga
Another cheap way to get around Rarotonga (other than using your own two feet) is by hiring a bicycle or an e-bike. Cycling around the entire island of Rarotonga is only a viable option for the fittest, considering the outer road is approximately 32km (20 miles). Plus, that sun can be pretty brutal when cycling! However, bicycles can be a good way to cycle to nearby towns or attractions from your accommodation, as well as for fun by following the 5 Best Bike Trails in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. Some accommodations provide bicycles for free, while bicycles and e-bikes are also hired out from adventure sports and vehicle rental companies. Find out more about where to rent a bike in Cycle the Cook Islands: Where to Rent Bikes & E-Bikes.
7. Guided Tours – How to Get Around Rarotonga
Another way of getting around Rarotonga to see the sights is with a guided tour that includes transport. Tours with Raro Tours, Cook Islands Tours, Tik-ebikes & Tours and Raro Safari Tours offer sightseeing tours around Rarotonga, transporting you in minibuses, safari Jeeps or an electric tuk-tuk. Find out more about your guided options in the 10 Best Sightseeing Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands and the 10 Best Tours in Rarotonga.
8. Airport and Accommodation Transfers – How to Get Around Rarotonga
Before you go book a taxi or get a car rental delivered to the airport, perhaps before you’re ready to use it, bear in mind that your accommodation might offer return airport transfers. Many resorts and even holiday homes offer an airport meet-and-greet with the eis (neck garlands) at the ready! Alternatively, airport transfer services are available with Cook Islands Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Raro Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Compare all of your options in the 8 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
9. Rarotonga by Cruise Ship – How to Get to Rarotonga
For a quick visit to Rarotonga, the island is on the itinerary of several South Pacific cruises. Cruise passengers typically enter Rarotonga on zodiac boats through the lagoon’s main passage, arriving in the town of Avarua. From there, passengers spend the day on lagoon cruises, island tours and more, as listed in the 10 Best Shore Excursions in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. Find out which cruises visit Rarotonga in the 7 Best Cruises That Go to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
10. Rarotonga by Yacht – How to Get to Rarotonga
With the exception of the cyclone season (November to March), Rarotonga is a port of entry for yachties. The Ports Authority is located at the Avatiu Harbour on the north side of the island. Find out more about visiting Rarotonga via yacht and the protocols involved in our Sailing Guide to the Cook Islands: Tips for Yachting in the Cook Islands.
More About Rarotonga Transport and Getting Around Rarotonga
That’s it for our guide to Rarotonga transport with the ways to get around Rarotonga, as well as how to get to Rarotonga. If you have more questions about travelling around Rarotonga, check out the following guides:
- Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands
- 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- Rarotonga Travel Times & Distances: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Rarotonga?
Finally, see where your transport can take you with our itineraries: The Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Itineraries for 2 Week, The Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Itineraries for 10 Days, The Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Itineraries for 1 Week, The Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Itineraries for 5 Days and The Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Itineraries for a Weekend.