What are the Towns and Villages in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands with the Highest Populations?
Before we get into this list of the biggest towns and villages in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, there are a few things you need to know. First, this list is a ranking of the towns and villages by population; not land area. Second, the vast majority of the Cook Islands population lives on Rarotonga, so all of the largest towns/villages are on Rarotonga (except for a little bonus at the end of this list). Third, Rarotonga isn’t technically split into “towns” and “villages”. It is, instead, split into five main districts and then divided into sub-districts that are tribal lands known as “tapere”. Outside of Rarotonga, settlements on the other Cook Islands are known as villages.
Now that we have housekeeping out of the way, let’s get into the largest towns and villages (or districts) in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands!
1. Avarua – The Largest Town in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Avarua is the largest town in the Cook Islands. It is the administrative capital of the Cook Islands, located on the island of Rarotonga. The district is home to some of the country’s oldest remaining buildings, the nation’s only international airport and the main port of the Cook Islands. The town is split into 19 sub-districts known as “tapere”. Avarua has a population of around 4,900. Find out more about Avarua and what to do there in our 10 Best Things to Do in Avarua.
Sprawling all the way down the west coast of Rarotonga, Arorangi is the Cook Islands’ second-largest town. It is split into nine tapere (sub-districts). Arorangi has a thriving tourism industry with a wealth of resorts and accommodations lining the beach, as well as cafes and attractions along the main road (Ara Tapu). The population of the Arorangi district is approximately 2,600.
3. Titikaveka and Vaimaanga (Takitumu)
The settlements sprawling along the southern coast of Rarotonga are collectively known as Takitumu where the sub-districts (tapere) of Titikaveka and Vaimaanga are easier to distinguish than other tapere across Rarotonga. The district is home to the Takitimu Conservation Area, an important habitat for the kakerori bird, as well as as its beaches although some lead out to some of the most dangerous passages on the lagoon. You’ll also find the Cook Island’s only waterfall, Papua Waterfall, and the derelict site of the old Sheraton Resort. The population of the Takitumu district is around 1,200.
The smallest district by land size on Rarotonga is Matavera, but it’s still well populated with around 960 people. Matavera is located on the northeastern side of Rarotonga and is split into just five tapere. It could be described as the more “sleepy” side of Rarotonga, with a few convenience stores and a cafe but not much tourist accommodation.
The least populated district on Rarotonga yet the fifth most populated “town” in the Cook Islands, Ngatangiia is made up of 10 tapere. The district is known for its tourist hotspot, Muri Beach, which lines the only part of the lagoon with “motu” (islets). There are plenty of resorts, restaurants and cafes here, while the Muri Lagoon is also a hub for watersports and lagoon cruises. The population of Ngatangiia is around 780.
[Bonus] Vaipae – Largest Village in Aitutaki
But wait, there’s more! We didn’t want to wrap up this list of the biggest towns and villages in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands without mentioning an actual village from one of the outer islands (or what the locals call “pa enua”). The largest village outside of Rarotonga is Vaipae in Aitutaki. Vaipae is located on the eastern side of Aitutaki’s main island. The village is also locally known as “Hollywood” after US troops, after the war, would bring Hollywood movies and projectors to the village for them to play movies on the sports field. The nickname has stuck ever since. The population of Vaipae is approximately 400.
More About the Largest Towns and Villages in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Now that you know the largest towns and villages in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, learn more about the geography of the Cook Islands with the following guides:
- The 5 Largest Islands in the Cook Islands
- What are the 15 Islands in the Cook Islands?
- The 13 Less-Travelled Islands of the Cook Islands