Traveling to Rarotonga: 10 things to know

Traveling to Rarotonga: 10 things to know

Rarotonga is a gorgeous South Pacific island part of the larger collection of Cook Islands (commonly referred to as the Cooks).

Since Rarotonga (commonly referred to as Raro) is so far from the US, we don’t hear a lot from people who have traveled there or anything about its culture or history. Needless to say, there were many things I was not expecting when I traveled to my first tiny remote island. So, here are some things to know about Rarotonga if you are also considering a trip and don’t know a lot about this area.

Note: If you’re interested in what activities enjoy when you get here, check out my other post about my favorite things to do in Rarotonga!

Jungle in rarotonga

0. There is a lot of strong history on the island

Consider this a pre/bonus thing to know in this list of things to know, because technically, this is true everywhere. But I think it’s especially important to call out here since back in colonialism days, the native people here had their culture taken away. So over the years, a lot of it was lost or forgotten.

Many young people I met talked about trying to fill in the gaps with their own spin. And a lot of important historical sites now have information so you can learn about them. Like that picturesque black rock area above? Historical spiritual place.

1. There’s no free Wi-Fi anywhere

Okay now back to things that millenials care about. How do you get Wi-Fi in Rarotonga? You can buy Blue Sky, which has hotspots throughout the island or in your hotel/resort. However, this can be expensive as it’s based on the data you use- for example, it was $30 for 1500 megabytes when I was there. Even with turning off all background apps to save data, this was only a couple of hours of social media for me.

2. No one is on their phones

Coming from Seattle, this was a huge and noticable difference. While waiting in line, or sitting on the bus, or even laying on the beach, you always see someone on their phone back home, but not in Raro. I learned to start putting my phone away to fit in better and try talking to the people around me instead.

3. Everyone is friendly and will greet you with a kia orana

Greet them back! Note that this is different from kia ora, which is used in New Zealand. This is because the Cook Islands have their own version of Maori. Also one random but less impactful fact is that they call papaya pawpaw!

4. Instagram didn’t lie to you about how gorgeous it is

Unless you look at highly edited desaturated pictures, Rarotonga looks exactly like the perfect island destination you see in pictures. Try to make sure you go when a couple of days are sunny for extra beauty.

5. The island is mostly surrounded by a lagoon

Other island beaches I’ve been to (really just Hawaii) have waves that come up to the shore. Rarotonga is different because many parts are actually surrounded by a lagoon. This means that the water from the beaches is calm, and you can walk out pretty far without knowing how to swim.

6. There are stray animals everywhere

Especially chickens, dogs, and cats. Technically the US customs form does not want you to touch them, which is why I added this here, but they are adorable and friendly! Some of the dogs are territorial with others, but they are nice to humans.

Stray dog in Rarotonga

7. Island time is real

Whether you’re going on a tour or trying to rent something, people may work on island time, meaning that things will start or people will appear later than the set time. Just go with the flow and don’t feel like you need to rush places either.

8. Food and alcohol is close in price as big cities

People told me that it was really expensive here.

Taking a taxi out of the airport is definitely expensive, considering that the island is not big (and forgetting that they are a small country importing gas and cars). We paid $40 to go 2 miles! And as stated above, the WiFi is expensive (and also as stated above, people don’t really use it).

But what I found is that the food and alcohol is the same price as being in a major big city. For example, a butter chicken curry could be $12 and a beer could be $3.50.

9. They use the New Zealand Dollar in addition to the Cook Island Dollar

So as tourists, you may get two types of currency souvenirs. And Cook Island money has a gigantic penis on it. Sorry if it’s a cultural thing and I just offended. Please let me know. But it goes down to his knees.

10. They have their own versions of Polynesian food

I used to think that Polynesian food didn’t vary much between the islands- but that is wrong. Learn about the local food and then check them out at the local markets!

And that concludes my list of things to know about Rarotonga? Have you been before? What other things would you add? Let me know in the comments!

things to know about rarotonga pinterest image


Traveler. Foodie. Student debt haver. I love finding the best things to do and eat when traveling, and sharing them with everyone else who likes experiencing local culture or exploring the outdoors too! You can read more about me in my about page.


  1. BaZoooooot24
    June 21, 2018 / 12:36 pm

    This place sounds amazing! Thanks for all the cool tips and tricks to have a great time here ?.

    Can’t wait for your next post!

    • Angelica
      July 6, 2018 / 2:47 pm

      No problem, thanks for always supporting my posts ?

  2. Sarah
    July 1, 2018 / 4:00 am

    Wow, this looks beautiful. Been on my bucket list for a while but was worried about expenses, so pleased to discover food and alcohol not so bad in price. I can avoid wifi for a while, not sure my partner could though lol. Thanks for posting this.

    • Angelica
      July 1, 2018 / 3:53 pm

      No problem! Haha yes the wifi was hard for me too, but once I adjusted to being away from it, I forgot about the addiction! Hopefully they just need time too ?

  3. July 1, 2018 / 7:10 am

    I hve never heard of this before nor about Cook Islands, since it’s not a really a popular tourist destination for Asians. But this is so interesting especially if you want a retreat from all social media and gadgets, I would want to go here!

    • Angelica
      July 6, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      I could see that! Honestly I didn’t know about it either coming from the US, I just found a flight deal which was too good to pass up. It seems like it was popular for Australians and New Zealanders though!

  4. July 1, 2018 / 1:48 pm

    So beautiful! I haven’t heard of this island before and it sounds amazing for a relaxing off-grid vacation!

  5. July 1, 2018 / 10:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, I’ve seen so many beautiful photos of cook islands on social media. I wish I can also visit this place one day. The water is crystal clear and very clean. I would love to try their food too.

    • Angelica
      July 6, 2018 / 2:48 pm

      Seriously! I’ve never been somewhere with more beautiful water than in the Cooks ?

  6. July 2, 2018 / 10:06 am

    Had never heard of this place up until now! The fact that it’s away from all the hustle and bustle makes us wanna visit it soon!

    • Angelica
      July 6, 2018 / 2:50 pm

      It’s so relaxing being away from it all!

  7. John
    July 2, 2018 / 7:08 pm

    The no WiFi is amazing. There are some places that need to have no WiFi so you can properly appreciate it.

    • Angelica
      July 6, 2018 / 2:49 pm

      Yes, it took me a while to realize that, but it’s really eye opening once you do experience it!

  8. October 4, 2018 / 7:51 pm

    The Cook Islands sound like a piece of heaven right here on earth! I love the idea of island time and folks not addicted to their phones 24/7!

  9. October 10, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    It looks beautiful there! No WiFi scares me, but we had terrible service when we were in Jamaica and it was really a true vacation! I could’ve never looked at my phone again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Things to do & Eat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to For more disclosure information, read our full disclosure policy.

%d bloggers like this: