Where to Snorkel in Rarotonga + Snorkel Hire on Rarotonga
It couldn’t be easier: just paddle from the sandy beaches of Rarotonga and you’re amongst the fish! The Cook Islands’ most popular island is encircled by a lagoon – ideal for safe snorkelling but with some places better for snorkelling than others. We list the best spots where you can snorkel straight from shore in this list of the best places for snorkelling on Rarotonga! We also include some spots that you can reach with snorkelling tours, as well as where to hire snorkelling gear on Rarotonga.
5 Quick Tips for Snorkelling in Rarotonga
- Always snorkel with someone else
- Wear reef shoes and/or fins
- Don’t touch marine life
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen and/or wear a rash vest even on cloudy days
- Avoid snorkelling near passages; they have strong currents!
1. Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve
Just in front of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium and its sister resort Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach, the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve is a protected area. While you’re not allowed to touch any of the marine life you see here, it keeps the environment much more vibrant than most of the lagoon around Rarotonga – i.e. excellent snorkelling! You’ll find plenty of small reef fish close to shore, while further out are giant clams, starfish and more. Many of the nearby resorts, like Aro’a Beachside Inn and its Shipwreck Hut (see the 10 Best Bars on Rarotonga) benefit from the marine reserve too, so you can call in for a snorkel then get out just in time for happy hour!
Can you snorkel here if you’re not staying at the resort? Of course! What’s more, the resorts’ restaurants and spas are open to casual visitors, giving you more reasons to visit. Just note that the snorkel gear hire is usually for their guests.
Location: Southwest coast of Rarotonga, in front of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, Main Road (Ara Tapu), Aroa Beach.
2. Tikioki Marine Reserve (Fruits of Rarotonga)
Often referred to as the “Fruits of Rarotonga” snorkelling spot, Tikioki Marine Reserve is one of the best places to snorkel in Rarotonga. Park just opposite the Fruits of Rarotonga shop and wade out in waist-deep water where you’ll already be able to see the colourful swimming around your legs. There’s a lot of lagoon to take advantage of here, so you can swim out to where the depths get to around 2-3m (6.5-10ft) and see coral bommies with more magnificent displays of tropical fish, giant clams and moray eels.
Note that this is also the site that the lagoon cruises come to from Muri Beach.
Location: Opposite Fruits of Rarotonga, Main Road (Ara Tapu), Titikaveka.
3. Black Rock
At the northwestern side of Rarotonga, Black Rock usually offers calm conditions due to the prevailing southeasterly winds. The popular swimming and snorkelling spot offers an interesting seascape with black volcanic rock jutting out of the white sand. You’ll also find rock pools hiding all sorts of marine creatures. While you’re there, learn more about the spiritual significance of Black Rock on the interpretation panel or find out more in the 10 Best Historical Sites on Rarotonga.
Location: There’s a gravel car park on the roadside of the Main Road (Ara Tapu), Nikao.
4. Muri Lagoon
The Muri Lagoon is certainly a hotspot on the island with its main beach lined with resorts and villas. Snorkel from shore and you’ll mostly see sea cucumbers and the odd fish, but make use of any of the kayak hires along the beach and you’ll reach some much more interesting spots! Go for a paddle toward Motu Koromiri or Taakoka and there are plenty of spots to stop for a snorkel – you’ll see through the clear waters what looks good! If you’re lucky, you’ll cross paths with a sea turtle!
Location: Muri Beach, Main Road (Ara Tapu), anywhere on the lagoon.
5. The Beach at the Edgewater Resort & Spa
Although rarely mentioned as a top snorkelling spot on Rarotonga, the beach in front of the Edgewater Resort & Spa is another one of Rarotonga’s marine reserves. While the snorkelling might not be as spectacular as others on this list of places to snorkel in Rarotonga, there’s still plenty to see from its sandy shores. It’s best to time your swim with high tide, however, for a more comfortable swim.
Location: Edgewater Resort & Spa, Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi.
6. Shipwreck of Matai
Best done on a guided snorkelling tour, the Shipwreck of Matai is a large 100+-year-old wreck that has become part of the reef. You can snorkel out to the wreck from Trader Jacks at low tide only if you’re a strong swimmer and have fins and someone to go with you. Alternatively, the sea scooters with Ariki Adventures or the guidance of KiteSUP make the whole endeavour much easier. Find out more about these operators in the 6 Best Snorkelling Tours in Rarotonga.
Location: About 500m (1,600ft) from Trader Jacks, western end of Avarua.
7. Avaavaroa Passage (Warning: Don’t Snorkel There Without a Guide)
Finally, if you want to pretty much guarantee seeing turtles in Rarotonga, then the Avaavaroa Passage is the place to go. But wait! There are extremely strong currents here that have taken lives in the past, so this is not the place to go without experience of the area. Join one of the many turtle tours, as listed in the 10 Best Turtle Swimming Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands who have the safety precautions in place to enjoy a safer swim with sea turtles, rays and oodles of fish among the coral canyons!
Location: Vaimaanga, opposite the YWAM building.
Snorkel Hire on Rarotonga
It’s all well and good knowing the free snorkelling spots of Rarotonga, but if you haven’t got your own gear, what do you do? Luckily, there are plenty of places around the island that hire out snorkelling gear, while most beachfront resorts and accommodations provide them to guests for free.
Some of the snorkel rentals on Rarotonga include:
- Dive Rarotonga – Arorangi (near Tikioki Marine Reserve and Edgewater)
- Charlie’s Cafe – Titikaveka (near Tikioki Marine Reserve)
- Adventure Cook Islands Dive Centre – Aroa Beach
- Captain Tama’s Water Sports Hire – Muri Beach
- KiteSUP – Muri Beach
More About Snorkelling in Rarotonga
That’s it for our guide to the best places for snorkelling in Rarotonga, but if you need more watersports inspiration, make sure you check out our following guides:
- 10 Best Snorkelling Tours in the Cook Islands
- The Best Snorkelling in the Cook Islands: Top 10 Places to Snorkel
- The Best Snorkelling in Aitutaki: Top 10 Places to Snorkel
Finally, don’t miss a thing in Rarotonga with our 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.