Everything You Need to Know About Surfing in Rarotonga
The underdog of reef surfing in the South Pacific, Rarotonga is an up-and-coming surf destination. The short and powerful tubes are what many advanced wave-riders seek out on the main island of the Cook Islands, offering epic challenges for both stand-up surfers and bodyboarders. There is not much of an established surf scene outside of Rarotonga just yet, apart from the truly adventurous waves on the far-flung island of Takutea. But the Cook Islands’ main island will have everything you need, from surf guides to surfboard hire. Plan everything you need for an awesome surf getaway with this ultimate guide to surfing in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
5 Tips for Surfing in the Cook Islands
Before we jump into the guide, here are just a few quick tips and things you need to know about surfing in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
- Surfing in the Cook Islands is suitable for intermediate to advanced surfers only – you need to at least be able to comfortably pull into a barrel wave
- Shortboards are the best type of surfboards for Rarotonga’s fast shallow tubes
- Reef shoes, wetsuits and/or rashies are essential for protection from the coral and sea urchins when accessing the surf breaks
- Visit from November to March for the best surf conditions
- There are strong rip currents at the passages of Rarotonga, which incidentally, are also some of the best surf spots. Only go out if you know what you’re doing, you’re with a guide and/or see other surfers already out.
When to Surf: The Best Seasons for Surfing in Rarotonga
Rarotonga’s summer season, from November to March, is often agreed to be the best season for surfing in Rarotonga. The northern swells combined with prevailing southeasterly tradewinds create the perfect conditions for most of Rarotonga’s surf breaks. Winter, between April and September, has more consistent waves but the change in prevailing tradewinds to northwesterly often ruins some of the waves.
Go into much more detail on the Cook Islands’ surf seasons in The Best Time to Surf in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Where to Surf: Surf Breaks on Rarotonga (and the Outer Islands)
Most of the Cook Islands’ established surf breaks are on Rarotonga with breaks found on all coasts of the island. Some of the most favourable surf breaks are on the northwest side, particularly around Black Rock (Socials), as well as the passages of the southern end of the island, including Rutaki Passage and Avaavaroa Passage. Check out all of the best surf spots in 9 Best Places to Surf in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands or continue reading for the best breaks split by level.
The Best Surf Breaks for Intermediates
As we have touched on, there are no good surf breaks on Rarotonga for beginners, but if you don’t quite consider yourself advanced, the best surf breaks include the Matai Shipwreck opposite Trader Jacks in Avarua and Rutaki Passage on the south coast.
The Best Breaks for Bodyboarding
With some of the waves being quite narrow for stand-up surfing, bodyboarding is a preferred style of surfing for many. There are some awesome breaks for bodyboarding on the north coast, particularly around the Club Raro Resort and KiiKii Inn in Tupapa.
The Best Surf Breaks for Advanced Surfers
Surfers with a lot of skill and experience behind them will dig surf breaks such as Avaavaroa Passage on the south coast (the turtles love it too), while Socials in front of the Nikao Social Centre is the most popular surf break in Rarotonga.
Surfing at Takutea Island
The final frontier of surfing in the Cook Islands, the uninhabited island of Takutea offers two epic waves for advanced riders. Only a handful of surf expeditions have made it here with one break off the west corner and the other break over the shelving reef projecting 200m (656ft) off the southeast corner of the island. 400m (1,300ft) rides are possible for the expert surfer. Find out more about the island in The Complete Travel Guide to Takutea.
Surf Tours, Surfboard Hire and Surf Shops on Rarotonga
Rarotonga is well kitted up to provide an easy surf holiday in the Cook Islands, including surf guides, surfboard hire and stores to stock up on any other supplies you may need.
Surf and Bodyboard Tours
You have a couple of options when it comes to surf guides on Rarotonga. Go Local Cook Islands offers excursions to Rarotonga’s reef and point breaks for up to four hours with all the gear included. Their local knowledge of the surf conditions will ensure you’re not wasting time and energy, while they’ll also guarantee you a spot in the line up on the surf amongst the locals.
If you’re looking for an upscale “surf camp” experience, get in touch with Eric and Ira from Rainbow Villas who can offer a wealth of advice to surfers and even arrange guided surf and bodyboarding experiences.
Surf Shops on Rarotonga
Need gear? There are a few surf shops on Rarotonga that supply it all, including Dive, Surf & Sport in Avarua town centre, CITC Island Surf at the western end of Avarua, and CITC City Surf at the eastern end of Avarua. For awesome apparel and custom spray-painted hats, check out Ollie’s Surf Gear at the Punanga Nui Market (open all week except Sunday). Learn more about Rarotonga’s shopping scene in The Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Rarotonga.
Surf Hire on Rarotonga
Where can you hire surfboards on Rarotonga? Adventure Cook Islands, based in Arorangi near The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, hires out a range of watersports gear. Surfboards, bodyboards, reef shoes and wetsuits are available to hire.
Where to Stay: The Best Accommodation for Surfing in Rarotonga
While Rarotonga might not have any “surf resorts” as such, there are a few accommodations that are perfectly positioned for surfing or bodyboarding when the mood strikes (and the conditions are right). There’s also accommodation run by surf guides who can arrange awesome days out on the water.
Sure, these two luxury villas on the hills of Nikao nestled in a permaculture garden offer a stunning place to stay for solo travellers, couples and groups of up to six, but the reason any surfer will want to stay at Rainbow Villas is to take advantage of the knowledge and expertise your hosts have about surfing in Rarotonga. Learn more about the villas in 20 Best Villas on Rarotonga.
Edgewater Resort & Spa
The largest resort in Rarotonga has a prime position in front of its own consistent surf break. There are many accommodation options at the Edgewater Resort & Spa but you’ll want to get one of the beachfront rooms where you’ll walk straight onto the sand. The resort has a ton of facilities, including a spa, restaurant, activities hut, kids’ club and much more. More details about the resort can be found in 20 Best Resorts on Rarotonga.
Club Raro Resort
One of the cheapest resorts on Rarotonga, Club Raro Resort offers cheap-but-cheerful rooms with options to be on the beachfront. Just outside of the resort is a surf break/bodyboarding hotspot at high tide. As for facilities, the resort has a pool with a pool bar and a restaurant. Learn more about the resort in 10 Best Budget Accommodations on Rarotonga.
KiiKii Inn & Suites
A worthy option for budget travellers, Kiikii Inn & Suites sits on the beachfront nearby Club Raro Resort but with its own awesome bodyboarding waves just in front of the accommodation. The self-catering accommodation features in our 10 Best Motels in the Cook Islands.
More About Surfing in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our ultimate guide to surfing in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more epic watersports, check out our other guides:
- Windsurfing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: The Top 10 Places to Windsurf
- Kitesurfing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: The Top 10 Places to Kitesurf
- SUP in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: 5 Best Places for Stand-Up Paddleboarding