Being surrounded by water, it’s no surprise snorkeling is an extremely popular activity around Rarotonga or “Raro,” as the locals call it. What is surprising is that trekking is an extremely popular activity as well. Read on to find out the best places for both, as well as, tips on how to make an incredible experience even more spectacular.
Raro (Cook Islands) is a world famous snorkeling spot, and for good reason. Calm, shallow waters and smooth, sandy ocean floors are just the beginning. Marine sanctuaries ensure an incredibly diverse array of colorful fish including trevally, wrasse, butterfly fish, angel fish, moray eels and many, many more. There are also upwards of 70 different species of coral found both in sheets and in towers.
Because Raro is reef-protected, nearly the entire island is surrounded by ideal conditions for snorkeling. However, each part of the island offers a different, unique experience.
The North Side
This part of the island is conveniently located near the Rarotonga International Airport, and offers shopping and dining options, in addition to, rental bungalows.
Tip: While the lagoon here offers good snorkeling, visitors need to be careful not to venture too far east. The lagoon becomes narrow, causing rough waters.
The East Side
The eastern section of Raro is much more amenable to snorkeling and exploration. Here is where you can find Muri lagoon, one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Raro for snorkeling and swimming. The water is clear and shallow, and the bottom of the lagoon is sandy and smooth. Some of the best hotels in Rarotonga are located in this area.
Tip: Visit during a full moon to witness a breathtaking moonrise. Views from in front of the Pacific Resort are an ideal spot to enjoy the magic of the lagoon while it’s bathed in moonlight.
The South Side
Regarded as one of the best spots in Raro for snorkeling, the south side has coral heads and towers along with sandy bottoms. While this area tends to attract a lot of visitors, it’s never truly crowded.
Tip: Have a smoothie at Fruits of Rarotonga and the staff may offer to watch your belongings while you swim.
The West Side
A marine sanctuary is located here, making for some outstanding snorkeling due to the variety of fish and aquatic life. Second in popularity only to the south side of the island, the west side is also known for its outstanding accommodation.
Tip: This part of the island is sheltered from the wind resulting in warmer temperatures and an abundance of mosquitos. Be sure to take appropriate precautions.
If hiking is more your thing or if you simply need to feel dry land under your feet, Rarotonga has some incredible hiking trails. In fact, Raro is known as having the best hiking of all the Cook Islands. Some of the must-see trails include:
The Cross Island Track
This is the most popular trail on the island, which passes by Te Rua Manga (the Needle), an impressive rocky outcrop. The trail also passes by Papua Waterfall (Wigmore’s Waterfall) and through Raro’s rainforest.
Tip: This trek is not for the faint of fitness heart. Be sure you are in reasonably good physical condition and are wearing appropriate footwear.
A shorter, less demanding track than the Cross Island, the Raemaru is a jungle walk leading to stunning views of the island. This is a great warm-up for longer treks, as well as, a great way to take in some of Raro’s amazing, panoramic views.
Tip: Even on shorter tracks, it’s still a good idea to wear proper shoes and dry socks. Trails can be muddy and slippery, especially during the rainy season.
Avana Stream Walk
For a more relaxed walk, follow the road near the Avana stream.
Tip: The track does cross the stream several times, so be prepared to wade across in places.
Whether you prefer to explore on land or under water, your trip to Rarotonga will offer the best of both. Just be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and mosquito repellant – and your insatiable sense of adventure.
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