The Lonely Planet's 12 incredible experiences in the Cook Islands


Saturday Market Day

Saturday is market day at the Punanga Nui Market, which is located beside Rarotonga Wharf in Avarua town. 

The Punanga Nui Market is open from 6am to about 11.30am on Saturdays, but as it usually starts to wind down around 11am we recommend you get there early! The vibrant Marketplace offers a wide range of fresh local produce, fresh fruit smoothies, traditional cooked foods, kebabs, pastries, fresh baked artisan breads, waffles, coffee, drinking coconuts (called 'nu'), black pearl jewellery, art, carvings, handicrafts, T-shirts, music and pareus. Dancers and bands often perform live which adds to the great island atmosphere. 

It’s a wonderfully enjoyable, colourful island market atmosphere, and well worth a visit. You can catch the Cook’s Island Bus to Avarua town from the Lobby next door at The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa.

Sunday Church Services

Each Sunday Rarotonga’s beautiful, historic white coral and limestone churches fill with the soaring songs of worship of their congregations. Visitors are most welcome to attend Sunday services, but please observe appropriate modest attire of shirts and long trousers for men, and longer-length skirts or dresses for women, preferably with short or long sleeves. 

A bus from The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa's Lobby leaves at 9.30am Sunday for the Cook Islands Christian Church and St Mary’s Catholic Church, both in Arorangi. A church donation will be much appreciated. 

At the conclusion of the service you may well find yourself invited by the Pastor to enjoy island fruits and light refreshments in the nearby meeting hall with the congregation. A lovely, authentic way to mix and mingle with local Cook Islanders!


Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands, and the main township on Rarotonga is Avarua. Avarua offers such essential services as the Post Office, banks (ANZ, Westpac, Western Union and the Bank of the Cook Islands (BCI), pharmacies, the Police Station, supermarkets, Punanga Nui Market for local produce and crafts, a department store, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. There are several ATM machines located around town for your convenience.

On Rarotonga, business hours are Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm, and Saturday from around 8am until 12noon. Please note that banks close at 3pm on weekdays. Westpac is the only bank that opens on Saturday mornings from 9am to 12noon for teller services only. 

Supermarkets are open to 4pm on Saturdays, small local grocery stores keep longer hours, usually from around 7am to approximately 9pm, the Six/Eleven stores around the island are open 6am to 11pm daily, and Wigmore’s Superstore is open 24/7 in Vaimaanga, which is 3.6km from the Resort.

Almost all facilities are closed on Sundays for religious observance, or operate on restricted hours; however, the Treasure Chest, Raro Style Gift Shop and Wine Box and Island Deli at The Rarotongan are open throughout the weekend.

The Needle Hike

This tall, rocky pinnacle can be spotted from several locations on the island and is a favourite challenge for those who enjoy a good climb. Challenge yourself to a climb up Te Rua Manga (The Needle), a tall rock formation jutting from a large hill. Easily visible from many spots on the island, this needle-like rock offers unbeatable views of the surrounding area. Make this trek on a well-marked walking trail to the base of the spire. Skill adventurers can choose to continue climbing up the spire, but rock-climbing equipment is needed and highly recommended. Take plenty of water, sunscreen, and mosquito repellant, and be mindful of slippery paths, especially after heavy rainfall. Put Te Rua Manga (The Needle) at the forefront of your travel plans.

Wigmore's Waterfall 

Wigmore’s Waterfall (also known as Papua in the Cook Island’s Maori tongue [or Papua Waterfall]) is the lone waterfall attraction that we’re aware of throughout the Cook Islands. Reachable by hiking trail or four-wheel vehicle, Rarotonga's only fall is also known as Papua Waterfall, because water from the Papua stream spills down the cliff into a beautiful swimming hole.

Rarotonga has two main events that attract visitors from around the world; Vaka Eiva outrigger canoe race and the Round Raro Road Race. Videos from past events below provide a good overview of these.  With COVID-19 the event schedule has been disrupted but as soon as the updated information for these events is available we will post it to our website. Please feel free to email us for further information as many of our guests enjoy participating in these events.