Visitors Guide B

Banks/Banking Hours

Banking facilities are available for all international arrivals. There are Westpac and ANZ Banks on Rarotonga. Westpac is next to Island Craft in the main road in the centre of town and opens 9:00am to 3:00pm weekdays and 9:00am till midday on Saturdays. The ANZ is next to the Visitor Information Centre in town and opens 9:00am till 3:00pm Mon to Thurs and till 4:00pm Friday. There is an ATM at the ANZ and Westpac. Westpac represents American Express.

Beaches

Because a reef surrounds both Rarotonga and Aitutaki there are no beach waves like you find in Australia and New Zealand (you can surf the reef in most areas, if you’re experienced). There may be coral on some of the beaches (the upside to this is, the snorkelling will probably be good offshore). The reef keeps any passing sharks out of the lagoon. You can find white sandy beaches anywhere on Rarotonga and the finest snorkelling is just off the white sands along Takitumu and near Ta’akoka islet at Muri Beach. Visitors to Aitutaki will undoubtedly take a lagoon cruise and enjoy a walk on some of the finest beaches in the South Pacific here.

Beer

There is a wide variety of imported beers and those with a sense of adventure should sample the home brew. Cooks Lager is produced in a back room at the Bond Liquor Store in Avarua (Rarotonga) and the brewmaster will show you around if you arrive close to 2:00pm on a weekday other than Friday and ask nicely. It’s opposite Punanga Nui Markets. Matutu is the latest local beer to make its name on the rock and you will find it in cafes, restaurants and resorts.

Bicycles

Rarotonga and Aitutaki, around the coast, have good flat roads that make cycling easy. There are plenty of places to hire bikes and it can make for a rewarding day out. Take water with you and take your time. No licence is required to ride a bicycle (unlike scooters, for which a local driving licence is mandatory).

Birdwatching

I believe they are called ‘twitchers’, which seems a contradiction for a hobby that requires stealth and patience. The most common bird you will sight is the imported little pillager, the mynah, which denudes fruit trees and drives native birds into the mountains. The Takitumu Conservation Area is home to the very rare kakerori, which was once near extinction. The other native forest birds include kingfishers, pigeons, swiftlets, starlings, the long-tailed cuckoo and the Rarotongan flycatcher. There are a number of seabirds (several types of noddy, tern and booby). On Aitutaki you may be lucky to spot a kuramo’o or Blue Lorikeet, with its white bib and orange legs and beak. A few shops along the main street of Avarua sell attractive posters showing all winged species present in the Cook Islands.

Bishops Cruises

Bishops is one of the more reliable tour operators on Aitutaki – they have friendly informative guides and will give you value for money whether it be a lagoon cruise to One Foot Island or a Friday night pub crawl.

Black Pearls

Not only can you get black pearls, you can also get gold, purple, green and silver tinged saltwater pearls, which vary in quality and price. You will find them in the jewellery stores in Avarua Bergman & Sons, Moana Gems, at the markets or by asking a local who will undoubtedly have a friend or relative who can help you out. Cook Islands pearl prices are far less expensive than in French Polynesia.

Bligh, William

Bligh and his Bounty crew ‘discovered’ Aitutaki on their way back to England in 1789, just 17 days before the famous mutiny. A bit of trivia – the mutineers gave the Rarotongans seeds to plant their first orange trees and later, Bligh pulled into Adventure Bay on Bruny Island in Tasmania and planted Australia’s first apple tree. The fruit they were actually after was breadfruit from Tahiti, to import to the Caribbean to feed the slaves there. But Bligh tried to set a record in sailing by trying to go west around South America. He got stalled for a couple of weeks, turned back to the east and went the long way around Africa. When he finally got to Tahiti, the breadfruit had gone into its dormant season, so they had to wait two months in this glorious part of the world. I think I would have gone with the jumping ship option, too. On a recent trip to The Cook Islands I found myself seated next to a young lady who was an 11th generation descendent of Fletcher Christian and, naturally enough, she had no kind words to say about Captain Bligh.

Blue Nun Café

This is rustic little café on the harbour in Arutanga on Aitutaki. It’s named after a bird, not a cold lady with a habit. The food is inexpensive and they have island dancing on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8:30pm, which can be enjoyed for the price of the buffet or a beer.

Botanical Gardens

The Maire Nui Gardens (opposite the Little Polynesian at Titikaveka) is worth a visit. Hinano Macquarie has done wonders here on a small budget – the café sells good value and tasty breakfasts and lunch to help fund the gardens and the homemade cheesecake gets rave reviews. There is a delightful garden setting for weddings, surrounded by a stream with access via a wooden bridge. Highland Paradise is a private botanical gardens that opens weekdays and has historic sites scattered through the vegetation.

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