The Luxury Guide to Rarotonga© Craig Owen - Cook Islands Tourism
The Luxury Guide to Rarotonga

The Luxury Guide to Rarotonga

© Craig Owen – Cook Islands Tourism

How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Rarotonga

Endless stretches of white sand, turquoise lagoon waters and lush jungles climbing the volcanic peaks; Rarotonga certainly looks the part of a luxury getaway in the South Pacific. With an emphasis on casual holidays, however, finding the more “special” experiences comes with a little more challenge… But they do exist. Among the rows of resorts lining the beaches are luxurious villas and hidden gems you’ll be thankful to discover if seeking a “treat yourself” getaway. Discover the most lavish accommodations, the most indulgent experiences, and the finest eateries in this complete luxury guide to Rarotonga.

Top 5 Luxury Activities on Rarotonga

If all you need is an overview of what a luxury getaway to Rarotonga looks like, here are some of the tours and activities you could be experiencing:

  1. Unwind at Rarotonga’s spas
  2. Be treated to a private dinner on the beach
  3. Get some retail therapy (and shop for black pearls)
  4. Have an elevated snorkelling experience on a private tour with Snorkel Cook Islands or Charlotte Piho Photography Tours
  5. Explore the historical sites and hidden gems on a private island tour with Raro Tours or Cook Islands Tours

… And the list goes on in the 8 Best Luxury Experiences on Rarotonga, or simply continue reading…

The Luxury Guide to Rarotonga© Zhang Da Qiang - Cook Islands Tourism

How to Get to Rarotonga

Rarotonga lies in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands, 3,000km (1,865 miles) from Auckland, 4,980km (3,095 miles) from Sydney and 2,855km (1,775 miles) from Hawaii. Rarotonga is home to the Cook Islands’ 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 32km (20 miles) long taking approximately 45 minutes to drive around the entire island. Car rentals, 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 are taxis and airport transfers available.

Find out all you need to know about transport in our Rarotonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Rarotonga.

The Luxury Guide to Rarotonga© Charlotte Piho -

Luxury Tours and Activities on Rarotonga

While the menu of luxury experiences doesn’t extend too far from simply staying in luxury resorts and villas on the island, Rarotonga offers a few extra experiences that are a cut above the rest when it comes to luxury.

Rarotonga’s Spas

When it comes to luxury, it’s hard to ignore the allure of Rarotonga’s spas. A selection of resorts specialises in spa treatments, from the Vichy Showers of the Waterfall Spa at Rumours Luxury Villas to the indulgent array of couples’ treatments at Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa. There are far too many options to list here, so take a look at the 10 Best Spas in Rarotonga.

Private Snorkelling Tours

Sure, anyone can go snorkelling off the beaches of Rarotonga but not everyone knows where the best spots are, nor is it always safe without a guide. Cue guided snorkelling tours; not only do they take you to the most exclusive eco-systems but they come as private tours for a more intimate experience.

Snorkel Cook Islands offers a three-hour private tour with VIP transfers to their private beach, high-quality snorkelling equipment, and concludes with a banquet of refreshments. Learn more about the tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, experience a private turtle swimming tour with Charlotte Piho Photography Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).

Private Island Tour

Soon after you arrive on Rarotonga, we recommend you not only become more familiar with the island but get as much out of the sights as possible with a private guided tour. Raro Tours offers a scenic island tour exclusive to you and your group with a drive down the ancient Ara Metua inland road, visiting historical maraes, the Mairie Nui Tropical Gardens, a shell-carving studio and spa product producer and many more hidden gems that many tourists miss. Alternatively, Cook Islands Tours offers private orientation tours of the island, as well as historic walking tours of Avarua.


Many are surprised to find that such a tiny island in the South Pacific offers so many shopping opportunities. Rarotonga and the Cook Islands specialise in many unique crafts, with a highlight being black pearls – only grown in two countries in the South Pacific.

While there are shops scattered across the islands, the main retail hubs are Avarua and the Punanga Nui Market (open Saturdays). See shop recommendations in The Guide to Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands + The Best Places to Shop.

Other Things to Do on Rarotonga

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to experience Rarotonga that might not necessarily fall under the “luxury” category but are still well worth pursuing. Fishing, kitesurfing, scuba diving, golfing, snorkelling and more are on the agenda. Learn more about each experience Rarotonga is famous for in the 50 Best Things to Do on Rarotonga.

The Luxury Guide to Rarotonga© Craig Owen - Cook Islands Tourism

Luxury Dining on Rarotonga

Turn tastebud satisfaction into an elevated experience with fine dining or a private dinner on the beach. Rarotonga offers a small but delightful selection of upscale restaurants, as well as private dining experiences.

Fine Dining on Rarotonga

When it comes to fine dining on Rarotonga, most will point you in the direction of Antipodes perched on the hillside of Black Rock. The Mediterranean-inspired villa with three levels of dining area basks in wonderful views and sunsets. Of course, the food matches the ambience right down to the extensive wine list.

For casual fine dining at a more affordable price, don’t miss On The Beach (OTB) in Arorangi. Fronting the Manuia Beach Resort, this feet-in-the-sand experience is renowned for its three-course menus and five-course menus on a Friday. Everything course is carefully prepared by a different dedicated chef and run by veteran chef, Phillip Nordt, who’s famous on the island for his TV cooking show.

And for more of a Polynesian twist, head to the Nautilus Restaurant of the Nautilus Resort. Enjoy fine dining inside or a more relaxed alfresco experience on the patio overlooking the resort’s lagoon pool and the Muri Lagoon. They specialise in garden-to-plate dining with Polynesian signature dishes and European fusion food.

Private Dining

A must for couples celebrating a special occasion or simply to elevate the romance, there are a number of private dining experiences available on Rarotonga. The adults-only Crown Beach Resort & Spa offers private dining under a gorgeous decorated gazebo on the beach.

You can also ask about private dining at On The Beach (OTB)Sanctuary Rarotonga on the BeachThe Rarotongan Resort & LagoonariumPacific Resort Rarotonga and more.

With dining areas typically decorated with torches and tropical flowers, and, of course, fine dining cuisine, this experience of dining with your toes in the sand while watching the sunset is a luxury experience on Rarotonga to remember.

For more fine dining options, check out the 5 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

Island Platters

For something a little more unique, we suggest a gourmet platter delivered to you with Island Platters. Whether you want an extra special breakfast on your villa’s deck or a romantic picnic on the beach, Island Platters can curate a stunningly presented and tasty platter right in front of you using fresh local ingredients. See more unique food endeavours in the 10 Best Foodie Experiences on Rarotonga.

More Dining Experiences

Of course, that’s just the cream of the diverse dining scene of Rarotonga, so be sure to explore the variety of eateries the island has to offer in The Food Guide to Aitutaki: Places to Eat & Food Tours.

More About Luxury on Rarotonga

That’s it for our complete luxury guide to Rarotonga but by no means is the end of the advice we can offer to help you plan the perfect trip. Check out other guides from the Cook Islands’ largest travel guide:

Finally, you might also be interested in The Complete Luxury Guide to the Cook Islands in case there’s anything you’re missing in your vacation plan.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

Was this article useful?