How to Plan a Family Trip to Rarotonga
When families look for an easy tropical getaway that every family member can’t help but love, they go to Rarotonga. At only 67km² (26 mi²), the island is simple to get around yet it’s jam-packed with experiences. Enjoy safe snorkelling within the sheltered lagoon that encircles the island, meet the island’s vibrant locals at markets or cultural experiences, and head inland for family-friendly walks, 4WD tours and more. The only downside might be that there’s perhaps too much choice when it comes to accommodation and things to do, but this travel guide to Rarotonga for families should help you narrow it down to the stuff that your family cares about.
Is Rarotonga Good For Kids?
Rarotonga is exceptional for kids! It’s one of the best places in the South Pacific to enjoy safe snorkelling in the lagoon. By being such a small island, everything is close so there’s no risk of long road trips. On top of that, there’s a huge number of family-friendly accommodations that are typically on the beach and come with complimentary kayaks for families to explore.
Top 10 Family Tours and Activities on Rarotonga
What does a family getaway to Rarotonga look like? Here’s a quick overview of just 10 things to do on Rarotonga with kids:
- Jump on a lagoon cruise with Captain Tama’s or Koka
- Be mesmerised at an island night at Te Vara Nui Village
- Hit the hottest snorkelling spots
- Check out the underwater world and a shipwreck on the Raro Reef Sub
- Have a cultural experience with Raro’s friendliest warrior, Tumutoa!
- Do a family-friendly island hike up Hospital Hill
- Have a swim at the Papua Waterfall
- Do a reef walk with Ariimoana
- See the Muri Lagoon light up on a night SUP tour with KiteSUP or Ariki Adventures
- Enjoy a thrill ride on Rongohiva Watersports’ banana boat.
We go into detail on all of those points and much more in the 30 Things to Do on Rarotonga with Kids. Otherwise, keep on reading for more inspiration…
How to Get to Rarotonga
Rarotonga lies in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands, 3,000 km (1,865 mi) from Auckland, 4,980 km (3,095 mi) from Sydney and 2,855 km (1,775 mi) from Hawaii. The main island of the Cook Islands is home to the country’s only international airport and receives regular flights from New Zealand and Australia, which are well connected to the rest of the world. Find out about airlines travelling to Rarotonga in Which Airlines Fly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Alternative ways to get to Rarotonga include day trips with cruise liners, as well as sailing via private yacht. Find out more about your arrival options in Getting Here: How to Get to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
How to Get Around Rarotonga
Rarotonga is well-connected with a coastal road network. The main road (Ara Tapu) is 32 km (20 mi) long taking approximately 45 minutes to drive around the entire island. Car rentals (the best choice for families), scooter rentals and bicycle rentals are readily available – just note that you’ll need to apply for a scooter license if your current driving license doesn’t already cover motorcycles. Alternatively, there is a frequent bus service travelling in both directions around Rarotonga, while taxis and airport transfers are also available.
Find out all you need to know about transport in our Rarotonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Rarotonga.
Family Activities on Rarotonga
What can families do together on Rarotonga? With a surrounding lagoon allowing for safe swimming and all sorts of wonderful marine life, needless to say, a lot of Rarotonga’s attractions are out on the water. Whether your kids love to swim or not, Rarotonga also presents a good balance of inland adventures and cultural experiences. We’ve detailed some of the highlights below, but be sure to check out the 30 Things to Do on Rarotonga with Kids for much more inspiration.
The Best Water Experience: Muri Lagoon Cruises
A fun day out for the whole family, the cruises on the Muri Lagoon are varied enough to seize even the shortest attention spans. Choose from either Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes or Koka Lagoon Cruises, both offering ample snorkelling time, a larger-than-life crew and a show on the same uninhabited “motu” (literally, just down the beach from each other). Our advice? Go with the one that gives you the best deal on the day or compare in the 10 Best Day Cruises in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
The Best Free Experience: Snorkelling
With plenty of safe swimming spots and hundreds of fish surrounding the coral bommies of Rarotonga, you’ll have trouble trying to get your kids (and yourselves) out of the water – trust us! Rarotonga has no lack of snorkelling spots to be enjoyed together, from the lively Aroa Marine Reserve to the famous “Fruits of Rarotonga” site. Find out more about the snorkelling hotspots in The Best Snorkelling in Rarotonga: Top 10 Places to Snorkel or compare tours in the 6 Best Snorkelling Tours in Rarotonga.
The Best Cultural Experience: Tumutoa Tours
A fun and interactive cultural experience that will be a Raro highlight for the whole family, Tumutoa Tours offers three awesome experiences for families. Meet Tumutoa, adorned in traditional Cook Islander attire and a character you will never forget, who will teach the family how to husk a coconut, climb a coconut tree and encourage you to try all sorts of weird and wonderful local fruits on the “Discovery Walking Tour”. Alternatively, spend the day preparing your own “umu”, a traditional underground oven feast, where you’ll prepare everything, even down to weaving your own plates, then enjoy your food with the entertainment of a string band and fire show at the end. Combo experiences are also available.
The Best Inland Experience: Cycling Tours
If you have kids who love riding bikes, then make sure that Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours is on your itinerary. They have a tow-behind buggy, child seat, trail-behind bikes and kids’ bikes, so any age category can enjoy a peddle along the coral backroads of Rarotonga. Their “Discover Bicycle Tour” is a good one for families, taking you at an easy pace with stops to taste fresh produce and listen to interesting stories about island life. The tour also includes lunch. Alternatively, check out their “Walk-about” tour with ice cream.
More Family-Friendly Activities on Rarotonga
Above is just a hint of the adventure you could be having as a family on Rarotonga. Family-friendly hikes, semi-submersible boat tours, banana boat tours, 4WD buggy tours and more await, as listed in the 30 Things to Do on Rarotonga with Kids. Additionally, check out the 50 Best Things to Do on Rarotonga should you have older kids that can do pretty much anything.
Family-Friendly Restaurants on Rarotonga
Although self-catering is a viable option on Rarotonga thanks to the array of accommodations with kitchen facilities, as well as the abundance of convenience stores, remember that this is your holiday too. Treat yourself to some of the family-friendly restaurants on Rarotonga and don’t miss one of its famed island nights!
With fierce dancing from the island’s warriors and energetic booty shaking from the island’s princesses, a cultural show on Rarotonga is a must-do for all ages. Also known as “island nights”, Raro’s cultural shows can be found in various resorts or at the historical site of Highland Paradise or the overwater venue of Te Vara Nui Village. All come complete with a buffet of traditional “umu kai”, as well as plenty of options for fussy eaters. Find the locations in the 7 Best Island Nights in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Family-Friendly Cafes and Restaurants
From food trucks to dine-in delights, Rarotonga has a breadth of options when it comes to dining with kids. One of the top family-friendly options includes Charlie’s Cafe in Titikaveka with its watersports equipment hire giving you plenty of reasons to stick around for the afternoon.
Wilson’s Beach Bar & Restaurant at the Castaway Resort, Arorangi, is another excellent option with toys for young children and one of the biggest menus in the South Pacific!
For an extended lunch, we have to recommend the Coconut Crab Cafe with its giant board games, ice cream parlour and the all-weather attraction, the Discover Marine Wildlife & Eco Centre.
Other honourable mentions include: Vaiana’s Bar & Bistro, Nautilus Resort Restaurant, Beluga Cafe, Vili’s Burger Joint and The Brasserie/Spaghetti House at the Edgewater Resort & Spa. Check out more recommendations in our 10 Best Cafes in Rarotonga and 10 Best Restaurants in Rarotonga.
The vibrant Punanga Nui Market along with the sights and sounds of a local gathering is a treat for all the senses. Kids can try an array of tropical fruit, smoothies and other treats at the food stalls, while pareu (sarongs) and island shirts make for fun souvenirs. Don’t forget to check out the food sheds (like Baby Pancakes) on the east side of the market, while there are also usually puppies to pet next to the SPCA shop.
Another market endeavour to try is the Muri Night Market on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. It’s the place for cheap eats when the island’s food trucks gather together for a whirlwind of tastes. You’ll be sorted for dinner and dessert at a fraction of the price that you’d pay in a restaurant. Learn more in the 5 Best Markets in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
See all of our dining recommendations and more in The Food Guide to Rarotonga: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Kids’ Clubs and Babysitting
Let the kids have their holiday while you do one of the more grown-up adventure or relaxation activities on Rarotonga by taking them to a kids’ club or using one of the island’s babysitting services.
Resort’s Kids’ Club
Available at the Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Edgewater Resort & Spa and The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, kids’ clubs involve fun cultural and marine activities. Kids typically come back with their homemade floral ei, with facts about the all-powerful coconut and stories of crab racing, traditional dancing, basket weaving and more. See The Best Kids’ Clubs in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for locations of all of Raro’s kids’ clubs.
Babysitting services are readily available on Rarotonga. If an accommodation or resort doesn’t offer babysitting services, chances are they’ll be able to outsource one of the island’s many babysitters. Therefore, it’s always worth asking about babysitting services with your chosen accommodation. Otherwise, here’s a quick list of just some of the accommodations that have babysitting on the menu:
More About Rarotonga for Families
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Rarotonga for families, but is by no means the end of our Raro advice! Check out the following guides for anything we might have missed:
- 40 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands with Kids
- 10 Best Beaches on Rarotonga
- The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki for Families
Finally, if there’s any part of your family vacation that you haven’t planned, you’re likely to find the right advice in The Complete Travel Guide to the Cook Islands for Families and 30 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids.