A Genuine Island Sanctuary

TripAdvisor. Auckland, New Zealand - Review from Feb 11, 2024

Sanctuary Rarotonga wasn't just a hotel, it was a portal to an underwater wonderland! Stepping onto the beach felt like entering a postcard – pristine sand, cerulean waters, and waves gently breaking on the distant reef, leaving the lagoon within a serene, crystal-clear embrace.

The snorkelling here was like swimming through a living kaleidoscope. I'm talking clouds of butterflyfish flitting like stained glass wings, and even a majestic moray eel peeked out from its coral castle. Every dive was a new adventure, with countless colourful surprises waiting to be discovered.

Speaking of adventures, the pool area was our own private oasis. Sheltered from the wind and sun's warm embrace, it offered the perfect spot to cool off between snorkelling escapades. And let's not forget the swim-up bar – our happy hour haven with delicious cocktails that quenched our thirst and matched the vibrant hues of the surrounding reef.

But Sanctuary's magic extended far beyond its stunning location. The resort's restaurant was a culinary gem. Fresh, flavourful dishes at reasonable prices – what more could a sun-kissed explorer ask for? And those island-inspired cocktails? Let's just say they were the perfect sunset companion.

The true heart of Sanctuary, though, was its incredible staff. Friendly, helpful, and always going above and beyond, they made us feel like cherished guests. Check-in and check-out were as smooth as the lagoon itself, and free parking and a nearby bus stop made exploring the island a breeze.

Kayaking and paddleboarding were included in our stay, adding an extra layer of excitement to our island adventure. We paddled across the glassy lagoon, feeling like true explorers navigating a turquoise sea. Plus, having snorkels, fins, and beach towels in the room meant we were always ready to dive into the underwater paradise whenever the urge struck.

Our room was a cozy haven, decorated with a charming island flair. The comfy bed was perfect for resting after a day of exploration, and the air conditioning was a godsend on those balmy Cook Islands nights.

Sanctuary Rarotonga wasn't just a vacation; it was an experience that left us yearning for more. Whether you're a snorkelling enthusiast, a cocktail connoisseur, or simply seeking island serenity, this place has something for everyone. It's a haven of friendly faces, crystal-clear waters, and unforgettable memories. We can't wait to return and write another chapter in our Sanctuary story!


TripAdvisor. Dunedin, New Zealand - Review from Mar 23, 2023

Absolute pure bliss holiday!!!

What can I say really… the moment we arrived just pure bliss!! The amazing most friendly staff made it extra special. Home now and so miss them all!! Everything you need is right here.. wake up boom the beach is yours AND NO KIDS!!! Best stay ever and the rooms were perfect and perfectly serviced every day!! We will be back!!

TripAdvisor Review from Mar 23, 2023

Wonderful Trip

Our stay at Sanctuary was wonderful. The service at the bar and for meals was fantastic. Meli and Akqu were the best their friendliness and helpfulness and overall awesome service made the entire trip. The beach and snorkelling out front is the best on the island. Highly recommended.

K. E., New Zealand (stayed at Sanctuary Rarotonga for 7 nights during February)

The jewel is Aroa Lagoon

I could nit pick like some of the other reviews but all of that pales to the jewel that is Aroa Lagoon.

The lovely crew from the activities hut provided snorkeling equipment and I think we managed go snorkel each day. We discovered new fish every day and found Giant Grouper, Clams, Butterfly fish, Giant surgeon fish (dark blue with green eyes), puffer fish, box fish, trumpet fish, bi-colour parrotfish, picasso trigger fish, blue star fish and others. We saw large schools of fish in the hundreds and traffic lanes of fish swimming in a continuous line that stopped us in our tracks. All in beautifully warm water. So bliss..

We also took a day trip to Aitutaki but we found a better variety of fish right outside our beachfront accommodation in Aroa Lagoon. We could literally open our sliding door and walk right down into the lagoon. Amazing.

Breakfast was nice. Not insects as a previous review said and the staff really try their hardest to make your stay great. There are ants everywhere in Cook Islands and coconuts. Breakfast was the same every day but saying that it was quite satisfying and the fish loved the pancakes when we tossed bits from the deck when eating breaky..

We actually took the bus almost everywhere. Quite an experience on the rattly old buses but you could buy a 10 trip for $30 to use on the clockwise and anti clockwise buses. Almost the price of a single taxi trip. The buses pull right into the lobby of (The Rarotongan) Lagoonarium.

The rooms were very clean and you could pop a card in your outside box if you did not want a service for the day. But the king sized beds were very comfy. Washing was a little expensive once you buy an $8 token for washing machine, another one for drier and $1 on washing powder, but we did not mind in comparison to the costs of the holiday.

So take the reviews with a grain of salt. We would not hesitate to stay there again but next time might spend some time in the sister resort in Aitutaki. We saw it on our day trip Vaka cruise around Aitutaki. It looked to be on a little island all by itself surrounded by the most beautiful coloured lagoon.

Snorkeling made the trip for us. It was fantastic.

Lisa B, New Zealand (stayed during March)

Wonderful stay!

Absolutely amazing stay at Sanctuary Rarotonga with sister resort The Rarotongan. What a great location! Best spot on the island in my eyes. Will be coming back next year with everyone!

Walking out of our room and doing the best snorkelling right on our beach was incredible. Beautiful food and drinks! The most lovely staff, they were very helpful. Can’t wait to come back!

michele m

A wonderful stay in paradise!

Loved our week-long break at the Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach. The room was clean and well-appointed with many small thoughtful touches to make our stay more comfortable. We found the staff all friendly and helpful. We enjoyed being able to use the facilities at The Rarotongan Resort as well, or to escape to our own quiet adults-only beach and pool if we chose to do so. The lagoon is amazing, and snorkeling was fabulous in the crystal clear water. There was plenty of beach gear available to use, and options for rainy days included table tennis, snooker, chess, a library of books. Loved it!

Laura, New Zealand

Beautiful for a kid-free holiday!

We stayed 4 nights at the Sanctuary and loved every minute. The resort is right on the best snorkeling beach on the island (the sea was warmer than the pool). The staff, the rooms, facilities, the view and the location were all perfect. We had a rental car and zipped around the island sightseeing and eating, but ate some delicious dishes at the resort too; especially the Ika Mata. The Rarotongan Resort next door is accessible to guests, which is useful when/if they run out of equipment, towels, etc., but we didn't visit often as everything we needed was at the Sanctuary. We saw a few other resorts around the island and were glad this is where we chose to stay. We'll 100% be back to Sanctuary and recommend to our friends and family!

The beachfront suites are beautiful - highly recommend.

Lainey, Australia (stayed at Sanctuary Rarotonga during March)

I'll Be Back!

Booked as a last minute and I just loved this place. Positives: 1. Right on the beach. 2. Snorkelling much better than Muri Lagoon (although much coral is dead in Cook Islands, fish life was abundant). 3. Complimentary paddle boards, kayaks, snorkelling gear, reef shoes. 4. Truly 'Adults Only' - compared to Muri Beach Club that has the same but the beach is a public beach frequented by all ages, this resort has its own private (but small) beach. 5. Food was good and priced similar to Australian mid range hotels. 6. Service was also good. 7. Entertainment was appreciated as was the Manager's drinks on Tuesday night. 8. Activities to suit many interests, although I did not participate. 9. Resort is well maintained - room may be a little 'dated' but was clean and comfortable. 10. Offer of skipping housekeeping and being credited with $X per day (which I did not find out about until well into my stay as housekeeping forgot to leave me the card that has to be filled out). This is an excellent option and first time I have seen this offered. 11. Lovely staff and very happy to help especially with booking tours and taxis. 12. Breakfast was included and was of excellent quality and quantity. 13. The resort was very quiet and therefore, I had great quality of sleep. Very relaxing. 14. You (may be able to) offset room costs to sister resort in Aitutaki - had I known, I probably would have done this for 1 night. 15. Toiletries supplied were locally made and were lovely. 16. Swim up bar is a nice touch. 17. Quick hot water and good water pressure. 18. Bed was a little on the hard side, but very comfortable as were the pillows. 19. Good tv stations. 20. Choice of air con and / or circulating fan. 21. Lovely balcony with beautiful ocean views. Negatives: 1. Is a bit isolated compared to say, Muri, so limited choice of where to eat within easy walking distance. 2. They missed my wake-up call on the morning of my Aitutaki tour. Thankfully I set my phone alarm as back up and there was an alarm clock in the room but I chose to turn it off (and other power using items as electricity is on the whole generated by diesel generators and is expensive). 3. Forgetting my card to cancel housekeeping - and then when I rang to cancel, they still did it for 2 more days, although I received my credits, it was a waste of their time and resources, so communication between staff could improve. 4. The sun loungers on the private beach were comfortable, but really could do with providing more shade in this area. On my second day, I migrated to The Rarotongan's beach for that very reason. 5. Massage services were expensive so I did not avail myself of them.

However, overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and would return in a heartbeat!

Devin, Australia

Loved the Cook Islands

Had a spectacular week during the New Year’s holiday. We stayed on the adult side (Sanctuary). We enjoyed the food, staff was very friendly and the location. Wow....we walked out of our room, on to the beach and the beautiful colours of the water. Did explore, but spent most of the time just chilling in the sun at the resort. It was total relaxation.

The Johnson's, New Zealand (stayed during October)


We had such a relaxing holiday at the Sanctuary.

Great beach, great accommodation, fantastic staff. peace and quiet. couldn't ask for more...oh....and blissful massages.

Thanks Sanctuary, we'll be back..

Audra, Canada (stayed at Sanctuary Rarotonga during February)

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

Loved our stay here.. food was fantastic.. our beach front room was clean and cosy.. blackout drapes were terrific.. would definitely stay again!! Beach is nicer towards The Rarotongan side of the resort.. overall would highly recommend

Darren (stayed at Sanctuary Rarotonga during February)

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

Great property. Amazing lagoon access and great amenities such as kayaks and paddle boards.

Lyn (stayed 14 nights during August)

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

Location, staff, service, food, cocktails - brilliant. I would go back again any time.

Verified traveler

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

We spent two nights at the Sanctuary and wish we could have stayed much longer! The staff were very welcoming and happy to help us with our requests. The adults-only, relaxed atmosphere was wonderful and the private beach had some of the best snorkeling we saw while on the island. We will definitely be back!

Kat, UK (stayed during February)

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

Beautiful resort, really friendly staff and good location! Amazing four day stay at this place and would definitely come again!

Margaret (stayed 11 nights with partner during January)

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

Everything about the Sanctuary was perfect....pure bliss!!!!

Daryl, New Zealand (stayed 9 nights during November)

5/5 Excellent. Liked: Cleanliness, staff & service, amenities, property conditions & facilities

Great location on marine reserve. Lovely beaches. Nice rooms with AC and fan. Friendly staff. Fabulous food. Comfy bed.


Johanna, New Zealand (stayed at Sanctuary Rarotonga as a solo traveller)

Amazing, loved the peacefulnessof being by myself in this beautiful hotel.

Liked · It was quiet, luxurious, and beautiful. You could use the next door hotel’s facilities (at The Rarotongan) but why would you need to with the best of everything there.... plus fabulous that there was no kids!

Isobel, New Zealand (stayed 9 nights in a Beachfront Suite with partner)

Superb. The location was idyllic and the staff fantastic. They made us welcome and service was excellent. We had a restful and enjoyable break and would go again.

It was worth paying a little bit extra for a beachfront suite as the view was straight out onto the beach, palm trees and the lagoon- beautiful!

Dodderi, New Zealand

Superb. The team were amazing and helpful. Everyone was willing to help us with what we needed. Probably the best place to stay if you love snorkeling and kayaking as you can just walk out of your rooms into the ocean. The spa treatments were really good and we overall had an amazing experience.

Robert, Denmark (stayed during March as a solo traveler)

Superb. Great location and very friendly staff - they are easily one of the best parts of staying here. Cosy rooms with everything you need.

Tracey, New Zealand (stayed as an older Family)

Superb. All of the staff were lovely and extremely helpful from the concierge to the cleaner. Nothing too much trouble and always willing to help.

The snorkeling was amazing and so great to be able to kayak, paddle board, play tennis, table tennis or pool. Lots to do. As a family consisting of Mum, Dad, 20yo and 17yo. We loved it.