The Complete Guide to Taking the Bus on Rarotonga
Getting around Rarotonga couldn’t be easier! A regular public bus service runs around the island every day except Sundays, tootling along the main road, Ara Tapu, and taking only 50 minutes to travel around the entire island. Sounds convenient, right? In this guide, we go over everything you need to know about taking the bus on Rarotonga, including bus routes, fares, timetables and more!
For more ways to get around the island, don’t forget to check the 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Rarotonga.
5 Reasons to Take the Bus in Rarotonga
- It’s cheap! Taking the bus is easily the cheapest way to travel around Rarotonga.
- It’s too easy to use! Taking only one route around the island (just in opposite directions), where the bus goes is easy to understand for first-time visitors.
- It’s scenic! With an elevated view of the main road following the coast of Rarotonga, the buses allow you to get the best views on this journey.
- It’s frequent! With a bus going every hour on the hour in one direction and on the half-hour in the other direction, you usually don’t have to wait too long for a bus.
- It’s a local experience! Tourists and locals alike ride the bus, so you’ll meet different people while the drivers are usually very friendly too.
Rarotonga Bus Routes: Where to Catch the Bus on Rarotonga
First things first, the only island in the Cook Islands where you can catch a bus is the largest island, Rarotonga. The next thing you need to know is that the bus only travels and picks up passengers along the “main road” of Rarotonga; the coastal circular road known as “Ara Tapu“. There are two buses running in opposite directions on this road: the Clockwise bus and the Anticlockwise bus.
The Clockwise and Anticlockwise Buses
Making it pretty simple for first-time visitors to Rarotonga, there is only one Clockwise bus and one Anticlockwise bus running at a time. The Clockwise bus travels in a clockwise direction around Rarotonga’s main road, while the Anticlockwise bus travels in the opposite direction on the main road (anticlockwise) – just in case it wasn’t 100% obvious! The Clockwise bus has slightly longer operating hours than the Anticlockwise bus; more on that in the “Rarotonga Bus Timetable” section below.
How do you know which bus is which? There are nice big clear signs for “Clockwise” or “Anticlockwise” at the front of the bus above the windscreen.
Which Direction to Take the Bus?
Well, a bit of knowledge on which direction gets you to your destination the fastest is handy. Your destination could be 10 minutes one way and 50 minutes the other! If you haven’t got access to a map, ask the bus driver if this is the quickest bus to your destination. Even if it isn’t, at least it will cost the same fare; you’ll just be taking the scenic route…
Where to Catch the Bus on Rarotonga: Bus Stops and Waving Down the Driver
There are around 50 “official” bus stops along Rarotonga’s main road. There are typically little shelters with a bench to sit on and sometimes a bus timetable on display. You can find bus stops at all of Rarotonga’s villages, as well as in front of many resorts and restaurants scattered around the island, so it’s convenient for tourists too!
It’s important to note, however, that you don’t have to be at a bus stop to catch a bus on Rarotonga! You can catch the bus from anywhere along the main road, as long as the bus driver can pull over safely on the side of the road. Just wave down the bus as you see it approaching.
Where is Cook’s Corner?
Cook’s Corner is the main bus station of Rarotonga, located in the main town, Avarua. It’s just off the main road down Tutakimoa Road. Note that there is no ATM at Cook’s Corner (but there are some down the main road at the Bank of the South Pacific). The bus station does, however, have a small cafe and shopping centre.
Bus Fares on Rarotonga
So how much does the bus cost on Rarotonga? The Rarotonga bus fares are as follows:
- Adult One-Way – NZ$5, Child One-Way – NZ$3
- Adult Return – NZ$8, Child Return – NZ$4
- Adult 10-Ride Concession – NZ$35, Child 10-Ride Concession – NZ$25
- All Day Pass (Hop-on hop-off – expire midnight of purchase) – NZ$20
- Round Island Trip – NZ$10
- Children under three years old travel free!
Notes About the Bus Fares
A few things to note about the bus fares on Rarotonga is that a one-way ticket is for a journey from Point A to Point B without circling the entire island. Child fares are for ages 3 to 12 years old. One ride on the “10-Ride Concession” can be a full circle of the island.
How to Purchase Bus Tickets on Rarotonga
How do you pay for the bus on Rarotonga? Bus tickets can only be purchased in cash from the bus driver. The local currency is New Zealand Dollars.
Learn about the location of ATMs in Information, Shops & Services on Rarotonga and find out where you can exchange currency in The Best Place to Exchange Money in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Rarotonga Bus Timetable
On the 32 km (20 mi) road, the buses on Rarotonga take approximately 50 minutes to make the entire journey around the island. Although there are bus timetables, the bus may be running late or even sometimes a little early. It’s best to be at the bus stop about 10 minutes before the scheduled pick-up.
Clockwise Bus Timetable
The Clockwise bus departs Cook’s Corner in Avarua on the hour every hour from 7 am to 10 pm, Monday to Saturday. There is no Sunday Clockwise bus.
- LOCATION – MINS PAST THE HOUR
- Cook’s Corner – 00
- Club Raro Resort – 04
- Avana Condos – 12
- Pacific Resort – 15
- Maire Nui Gardens/Little Polynesia – 20
- Palm Grove Motel – 25
- The Rarotongan Beach Resort/Sanctuary on the Beach – 30
- Edgewater Resort & Spa – 40
- Rarotonga International & Domestic Airport/RSA – 46
- Cook’s Corner – 50.
Anticlockwise Bus Timetable
The Anticlockwise bus departs Cook’s Corner in Avarua on the half-hour every hour from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday and from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm on Saturdays. There is no Sunday Anticlockwise bus.
- LOCATION – MINS PAST THE HOUR
- Cook’s Corner – 30
- Rarotonga International & Domestic Airport/RSA – 35
- Edgewater Resort & Spa – 40
- The Rarotongan Beach Resort/Sanctuary on the Beach – 50
- Palm Grove Motel – 54
- Maire Nui Gardens/Little Polynesia – 0
- Pacific Resort – 5
- Avana Condos – 9
- Club Raro Resort – 15
- Cook’s Corner – 30.
Tracking Buses in Rarotonga Using the Mobile App
Did you know you can track buses in Rarotonga using an app? Well, you can in theory. All you need is a good internet connection (see How to Get Internet & WiFi in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands) and either an Apple or Android device.
The Rarotonga buses use the Transportme Passenger app available on Google Play and Apple App Store. Once you have downloaded the app, logged in with your Apple ID or Google Account, and given the app access to use your location, select “Cook’s Island Bus Passenger Transport Ltd” from the list of operators. You can select the “Anticlockwise” or “Clockwise” route.
Have a Backup
However, due to the Transportme Passenger app presenting some bugs at times, combined with the fact that internet and data aren’t exactly cheap in the Cook Islands, we don’t recommend that travellers solely rely on the app to track the bus. It’s best to wait at the bus stops on time.
Rarotonga Bus Etiquette
Like travelling anywhere new, there are customs to bear in mind when taking the bus on Rarotonga. A few bus etiquette tips include:
- To stop the bus from the roadside, simply stick out your hand and wave to the bus driver to stop
- Let the driver know where you are going when you board the bus; they usually remember to stop when they get there
- If you see your stop coming up, however, make your way to the front of the bus as a gentle reminder for the driver to stop
- Try to have the correct change when boarding the bus (i.e. don’t be “that guy” who pays for his NZ$5 fare with a NZ$50 note!)
- Wear dry clothing on the bus; the driver may refuse you if you’re still soaking from your swim
- Wear respectable clothing knowing that you’re sharing the bus with locals
- Eating, drinking and smoking on the bus are prohibited.
For more customs to respect while visiting the Cook Islands, check out Cook Islander Etiquette: Rarotonga & Cook Islands Customs & Traditions.
Other Bus Services on Rarotonga for Travellers
What are the other ways for visitors to take the bus on Rarotonga? There are shared airport transfers by bus and a limited selection of bus tours on the island.
Rarotonga Airport Buses
Offering shared airport transfers on buses, companies like Raro Tours and Cook Islands Tours provide door-to-door airport transfers. Find out more about airport bus transfers and alternatives in the 10 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Bus Tours on Rarotonga
A small selection of bus companies on Rarotonga also offers sightseeing bus tours around the island – ideal if you want an orientation of the island if this is your first time visiting or if you’re only on Rarotonga for the day off the cruise ship, for example. Find out more about bus tours in the 5 Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Bus Tours.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Bus Transport on Rarotonga
If you haven’t had your question about bus transport on Rarotonga answered yet, you might find it here!
Is there a bus service available on Rarotonga?
Yes, Rarotonga offers a reliable and efficient bus service that operates around the island. This service is a convenient option for both tourists and locals, providing a great way to explore the scenic beauty of Rarotonga without the need for a personal vehicle.
How much does the bus fare in Rarotonga cost?
The bus fare in Rarotonga is reasonably priced, offering an affordable means of transportation. For instance, it is NZ$5 for an adult one-way fare. Prices vary based on the distance travelled and whether you’re purchasing a single ride or a day pass – see the price list in the “Bus Fares on Rarotonga” above.
What are the alternatives for getting around Rarotonga without a car?
Apart from the bus, other popular modes of transport in Rarotonga include bicycles, scooters and motorbikes, all of which can be rented easily. Walking is also a pleasant option, especially for those staying near the main areas and beaches.
Does the Rarotonga bus service operate to and from the airport?
Yes, the bus service in Rarotonga includes routes that cover the airport, making it convenient for travellers to commute to and from their flights. It’s a cost-effective alternative to taxis and rental cars.
Are there different routes for the bus service in Rarotonga?
Rarotonga’s bus service typically operates on two main routes – clockwise and anticlockwise around the island. This simplifies the travel process, ensuring that you can reach your destination from any point on the island with ease.
What are the operating hours of the Rarotonga bus service?
The operating hours of the bus service in Rarotonga vary, but generally, buses run from early morning to late evening. The Clockwise bus operates from 7 am to 10 pm, Monday to Saturday, while the Anticlockwise bus operates from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday and from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm on Saturdays.
Can you purchase a weekly pass for the bus in Rarotonga?
Instead of a weekly pass, tourists and locals can buy a 10-ride pass which can be a cost-effective option. These passes offer unlimited travel and are ideal for tourists exploring the island over several days.
More About Buses and Getting Around Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete guide to taking the bus in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, including bus fares, timetables and more. For more ways to get around the Cook Islands, check out the following guides:
- The Complete Guide to Public Transportation in the Cook Islands
- Rarotonga Travel Times & Distances: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Rarotonga?
- 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, see all of the ways to get around in our Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.