I don’t like going “its my favourite”, or “the best”. I guess I’m just indecicive. I justify it by the assumption one day it might be bettered. However I’ve been to Rarotonga twice. Its exceptionally good, and believe me I’ve seen a lot of places referred to as "Paradise".
I love Rarotonga. I'ts far cheaper than French Polynesia, the locals tourists and New Zealanders are universally friendly, helpful and a pleasure to meet. The Island has a coastal strip with a mountainous rain forest interior. A walk accross the island is a must as is hirering a scooter ($20 NZ a day). Busses are easy too, providing you can understand the routes, clockwise and anti-clockwise!
Rarotonga is civilised, but not too much (no helmets), its developed enough to make you feel comfortable, but not spoiled. I love Rarotonga, i know I said that allready,.The character of the Island just instantly appeals. The bus routes, the silly driving licence scam, its just fun.
The rock needle is a must, on the cross Island walk.
The only place to put a Yacht is Avatiu harbour. The "Pacific Crossing Guide" describles it as crowed, I dissagree. Both times I've visitied its contained 2 yachts. The entrance is narrow but straight forward. The are 2 transit posts, easilly disernable by their blue lights by night and their orange triangles by day. Keep them lined up and watch for the cross current.
Again the Pacific Crossing Guide says call Radio Rarotonga on VHF16 as early as possible. This has changed, call the Avatiu Harbour master instead. Though no reponce will be got at weekends. Radio Rarotonga still listens on 16, and its manned at 7am on a Saturday and therefore probably 24 7.
We arived at dawn on a Saturday, and were unable to raise the Harbour master. However we anchored stern to, facing out to sea and every one seemed happy. The harbour master will aparrenty bring you a ladder, to help up the dock, which is a nice touch. The ladder will instantly attract a hoard of local kids who'll speand the day leaping into the harbour and running screaming up the ladder. I think being a kid in Rarotona is probably fun. Porbably worth positioning it away from your boat. However we just shinned up the dock. Bombing and bellyflops are popular, so don't leave stuff in your dinghy that you don't mind getting splashed.
There's no dinghy dock, so its ladders or shinning up the wall.
"Jackal" the right hand yacht marks the position of the water tap.
The White hut behind the left hand yacht is the Burger Bar
There is a good supermarket, its roast chickens for $8NZ are recomended. Its a 5 minute walk into town, don't buy booze in the supermarket. The Bond store s nearer the harbour and cheaper. Its open till 7pm, like everything on Rarotonga, its cheerful friendly and helpful. A wide choise of beer wine and spirits are available at far cheaper prices than French Poynesia.
Down a gravel track just of the dock is the gas bottling plant, which will probalby fill anyhting, we filled camping Gaz and Gaz de Thahiti bottles + another types in 99.
Aproximatly the middle of the east west section of dock is a tap, hidden under a tire. We're drinking from this no problem. On the dock side is a Burger Hut. At the back is a hose that can be used. All the local kids shower in it after they're harbour jumping activities. All the streams on the Island are not to be swum in as they're the water supply. I drank from the tap, the stream and have never felt better. See the photo above, the righ hand yacht is us, and is close to the tap.
The'res a petrol station, across the road from the dock, it would probaly be the work of a minute to find a pickup to give your gerry cans a lift. For the super yacht owners and 1936 Sweedish Shrimp trawler owners, in 1999 a friendly chat over a beer with the harbour master resutled in the arrival of a fuel truck to fill Örnens 4000l tanks.
The harbour masters office is on the Dock, health(quarentine) will visit your boat and charge you £20NZ. The Harbour master will charge you for using the harbour now. There is also an exit tax of $35NZ. I didn't deal with any officials bar the heath this time. However on my previous visit they were all frinedly and helpful. They're not open on saturday or sunday. We just waited till monday and nobody complained. Well the did say "why didn't you check in on Saturday?" we replied "You were closed" whcih seem obvious to us and was accepted by them.
Harbour master should be on VHF 16.
To drive or scooter in Rarotonga you need a Cook Islands Driving Licence cost $10NZ. If you've lost your normal licence, you can take the Cook Islands test for $5, or get bike entitlment by taking the once round the block bike test for $5NZ. Its impossible to fail. It also makes a loverly suvaneer. Everyone I spoke to was planning ways to wrangle bike entitlment on when they got home or avoid speeding tickets. The Police station is the poshest building on the Island. It issues a lot of licences. The police have divecified into merchadiisng. I've got a natty Cook Islands Police cap "Respect my authority!"