Rarotonga is the most popular of the Cook Islands and the place where I spent all of my time on my
recent sojourn to the South Pacific. It’s the most developed of the islands, and caters the most to
tourists, but don’t let this turn you off. “Developed” is a relative term. The island has
just enough modern conveniences to make life comfortable for visitors (air conditioning, potable water, ATMs), but not
enough to prevent them from enjoying the unspoiled treasures of a remote, tropical island.
Only 8,200 people inhabit this small island which takes just one hour to drive entirely around—indeed, a
public bus does so every hour on the hour (I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor driver who just motored
around in one big circle all day long).
One of the reasons Rarotonga appealed to me was that in addition to its miles of beautiful beaches, the island is
also blessed with a thick, jungle interior. My last tropical vacation, to Turks and Caicos, was a little
disappointing because the island had only beaches to offer. The landscape of Turks and Caicos was flat,
desert-like, and boring! Rarotonga, however, is much more like the now famous island of Oahu, recently
popularized by the TV series Lost. Large mountains rise from its center and are covered with rich foliage that
creeps down to the beaches. A challenging, yet rewarding cross-island trek leads the adventurous
through this thick, mysterious jungle and across the middle of the island. Don’t do as my girlfriend and I
did, however, and attempt the trek from the south side (despite warnings not to do so).
For those seeking less machete-inclined activities, Rarotonga also offers the regular slew of tourist attractions
ranging from scuba diving, horse riding, scooter rental, deep sea fishing and, of course, sun-bathing. The only
real disappointment we ran across on the island was a few days of intermittent rain. Nonetheless, the weather
stayed in the 80s during the downpours (and people didn’t even bother getting out of the water) so it was just a
mild setback in paradise.