Visitors Guide E

Eagle Rays

Digital CameraThey don’t have sting rays in the waters in the Cooks, they have eagle rays, which are not at all dangerous.  They are tame, graceful and gorgeous.

If you are snorkelling or diving and come across rays, don’t chase or touch them, just sit back and enjoy their beauty.  When divers are our on the reef, they often like to follow along to see what’s happening.  The one in the photo, taken by Sascha from The Dive Centre, goes by the name of Broken Tail.

Eagle rays can give birth to up to six little ones and can grow up to 9 metres in length.

Eating Out

Restaurant dining should be on every visitors list. The size of Rarotonga makes dining out easy and those willing to get outside the resorts will be rewarded. Below is an overview of some dining options – and you can check out reviews on Trip Advisor.

Club Bana (at the traffic circle, Avarua)

Open air snack bar that occupies a third on the verandah area of the Banana Court Building Breakfast is until 11am, but espresso, ice cream, milkshakes, and cocktails are served all day. Sandwiches and burgers are made to order for lunch. The Ika Mata (marinated raw fish) gets good reviews. A lovely spot to sit and watch the passing parade.

Cafe Salsa (CITC Centre, Avarua)

A stylish little storefront cafe that opens for breakfast and lunch.  They can even whip up an affogato (iced coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). Contemporary Pacific Rim cuisine and home to Raro’s only wood-fired pizza oven.

The Cafe (East of the traffic circle, Avarua)

Also classy with an outdoors ambience serving up excellent coffee and Panini-type snacks. Located in the courtyard of The Beachcomber Pearl Market & Art Gallery.

Trader Jack’s Bar & Grill (Waterfront, Avarua)

Legend.  That pretty much sums up Jack Cooper, a Kiwi who carries with him a brand and an aura.  This is a great location with harbour and reef views through the floor-to-ceiling windows.  Jack owns a fair slice of the fish processing plant so he gets first call on the catch of the day… dare I say, best seafood on Raro.  Last time I was there I think Jack was partial to a vodka lime and soda.  It was lunch time and it sounds damn refreshing for the tropics, doesn’t it?

Whatever! Bar & Grill (at traffic circle, Avarua)

This is an upstairs deck/bar where patrons can enjoy a BBQ at picnic tables with umbrellas.  Good view, good bar and part of the pub-crawl circuit on Friday and Saturday nights.

Tamarind House Restaurant & Bar (1.5km east of the traffic circle, Avarua)

Upmarket dining and arguably the best on Raro.  Sue Curruthers, who founded the famed Flame Tree restaurant at Muri Beach renovated this 1920s seaside home and made it THE place to dine. Great food and great views as most tables are on the veranda or covered patio out front.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is highly recommended for honeymooners who would like something special away from their resort.  Best ring to book on 26 487.

Deli-licous Internet Cafe (Muri Beach)

An inexpensive coffee shop in in front of Vara’s Beach House that serves pastries, sandwiches, and other snacks while you check your e-mail.

Sails Restaurant (Muri Beach)

Part of the Rarotonga Sailing Club, this nautically themed restaurant (décor and fish meals) offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, and “island fries” — sweet potato, taro, and banana. The steaks (New Zealand) are also good.  A nice place to chill with the local yachties.

Aqua Restaurant (Muri Beach)

At the Muri Beach Resort it has a well-priced brunch menu and a good selection of main courses on the dinner menu including a seafood platter for two.

Vaima Polynesian Bar & Restaurant (South Coast)

This bamboo-clad beachside restaurant has heaps of character. There are blackboard specials and they knock up a mean curry.  Take a table facing the beach and lap up ‘island time’.

Saltwater Cafe (South Coast)

This nice little café is at the half-way spot around the island from Avarua.  Open for lunch weekdays and dinner some nights for snacks, meals or just a coffee.

Maire Nui Gardens & Café (Titikaveta)

This is Hinano MacQuarie’s delightful cafe in a lovely botanical garden setting – fresh fruits, salads, home-made muffins, smoothies and yummy desserts.

Paw Paw Patch Restaurant & Bar (Titikaveka)

Not open for lunch, but has been serving up good meals for a couple of decades to my knowledge so must be doing something right.  There’s indoor and outdoor seating and an open kitchen (which I always find welcoming). The beachside Sunday night BBQ is one of the best on the island (happy hour from 6-7pm).

Windjammer Restaurant (West Coast)

Along with Tamarind House, this has long been the other upmarket dining favourite and, at the time of writing, was undergoing a total renovation and name change. Located at the top of Crown Beach Resort.

And, on Aitutaki

Cafe Tupuna

One of my favourite dining experiences on the planet – great food, great décor, great atmosphere… sand under the feet, swaying palms, balmy breezes, ambling cats, island time… you will see why Tupuna made this her home.  A must for dinner if you are on the island for longer than one night (your resort will probably entice you if just an overnight sojourn) – your resort will arrange transfers.

Samade on the Beach

The name comes from owners, Sam and Adrianne.  On Ootu Beach, a 5-minute walk from the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, this lagoonside restaurant has a white-sand floor under a tin roof lined with coconut mats.  They serve breakfast all day and rent kayaks and other toys.  Nothing fancy, good fish ‘n’ chips and an island time atmosphere.  Tuesday sees Aitutaki’s most authentic island night (must be good to get me up and dancing), and the Sunday-afternoon barbecue attracts locals and tourists.

Tipping is contrary to Polynesian customs. Basically, a tip is considered getting money for nothing and the person receiving will feel as though he/she then owes you. In the Cooks ‘maetaki mata’ (thank you) will be enough.

Edgewater Resort

Edgewater is the largest resort on Rarotonga facing the sunset about 10 minutes from Avarua. It has all the facilities and activities that you would expect in a large resort (swimming pool, tennis, restaurants, bars, themed nights etc). An added plus – it’s close to restaurants like The Spaghetti House, Hopsings and Windjammer.

Electricity

You’ll find some three pronged plugs (same as in Australia and New Zealand), mainly on air-conditioners and power tools. Others are two-prong so, if you require power, invest in an adapter. Some resorts have 110V for electric shavers.

Embassies

Apart from the New Zealand High Commission there are no real ’embassies’ as such for other countries and most visitors would be seeking one because they have lost a passport. If this happens, head to the Government Office Building behind the Post Office and seek out The Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Emergency

The hospital on Rarotonga is open 24 hours a day and the number for an ambulance is 998.

Entry Requirements

No visa is required for a stay of up to 31 days which is granted on entry but visitors must have a return or ongoing ticket. You can extend this by applying at the Immigration office in the Government Office Building behind the Post Office (phone 29 347). The maximum extension is six months and you’ll need proof of funds to get an extension. Officially you are supposed to have a hotel reservation for your first night on Rarotonga, and the minimum most hotels will book is two nights (some even have four night minimums). In practice, if you write the name of a hotel on your entry card, the Immigration Officer probably won’t question your ‘honesty’. Representatives of the backpacker places meet all flights and their dormitories are never full. However, if you want medium to top end accommodation, you should book ahead as the best resorts are often full.

Exchange Rates

The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar. This is my favourite currency conversion site – www.xe.com

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