It's no secret that the Cook Islands are high on Catriona's list of favourite holiday spots. It's just so easy to slip into the island way of life, settle into the resort pool or on a beach and not stray more than a couple of hundred metres from your hotel room.
Well, Catriona decided to change her ways and have a bit of a look around Rarotonga and discover some of the island's landmarks.
Tangaroa 4×4 Tours
This is a great way to go visit places you would probably never find on your own and experience some of Rarotonga's lesser-known attractions. Safari tours will get you out and into it, mix it up with locals and learn something of their culture all in the comfort of modern four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Te Rua Manga is a needle-shaped rock in the centre of the island. Once Rarotonga was one mountain and when a volcanic eruption occurred, everything else imploded and left the needle.
You will see across to the Muri Lagoon and see gaps in the reef. They are natural passages, and through each one is a river running to the mountain. You won't believe the views from Hospital Hill, and you will see the point where seven canoes left on their journey to Aotearoa in around the year 1250. Their destination is now known as New Zealand.
Inexpensive and comfortable accommodation with beachfront access and lagoon views is available at Aquarius. It was opened just three years ago by a Scottish couple who visited the islands and fell in love with them. They still say they pinch themselves every morning when they look at their surroundings.
Built on the site of an old laundry shed, guests can stay in one of 11 ocean-view rooms or in the dormitory. Rooms have two king beds, ensuites, ceiling fans, air-conditioning and spectacular views. Dormitories have 12 sets of bunks in private cubicles with storage facilities, overhead lamps, air-conditioning, lockers and three bathrooms.
Coral Club Bar & Grille serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks overlooking the pool. Diners enjoy fine food and beverages, magical sunsets and whales splashing around between July and October.
This is a fantastic way to meet locals, learn something of their customs and traditions and enjoy home-cooked food. Tourists visit three homes and enjoy a dinner course in each one. One look at lush gardens growing coconuts, passionfruit, mangoes and papaya assure you dessert will be worth waiting for. Taro and coffee beans are also grown.
Guests are collected at their accommodation and taken to the first home for sparkling wine and an entrée of Ika Mata, a delicacy of local marinated fish. At the second home, the main course could be barbecued fish or chicken served with taro leaf and coconut cream salad and possibly served al fresco with fabulous views. If guests prefer, more "western" style meals can be arranged, but why not give local cuisine a try?
Dessert at the third home may be a cake or pudding, often made from banana, fruit salad and ice-cream and locally grown coffee. All in all, you are assured of a relaxed wine-and-dine experience with local musicians providing entertainment. All the things we hear about friendly and generous islanders are true!
They also offer private group evening tours for groups of 15 or more on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Private group lunch tours are available on Saturdays.
Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
Tangaroa 4×4 three-and-a-half-hour tours cost around $56 for adults and $24 for children. They include a traditional lunch, and operate from Monday to Friday at 9am and Sunday at noon.
Aquarius Rarotonga ocean view rooms start at around $124 a double a night. Tropical breakfast and transfers are included. Dormitory rooms start at about $25 per person.
Rarotongan Progressive Dinne Tours cost around $68 per person adults only. They take between four and five hours, starting at 5pm. They include pick-up, a garden tour, an entree, sparkling wine, a main, assorted desserts, coffee, tea, music and a black pearl lecture. They operate on Monday and Thursday nights.
Air New Zealand's direct weekly service from Sydney to Rarotonga is $380 one-way, with 23kg bag, meal and in-flight entertainment included. For great fares from other cities via Auckland log on to www.airnewzealand.com.au.
Prices correct at August 20, 2011.
For further information
Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
Tangaroa 4×4 Tours
Ph: +682 22 200
PO Box 722
Ph: +682 21 003
Fax: +682 21 005
Cook Island Tours
Ph: +682 20 635
Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
Visas are not required for tourists visiting for up to 31 days. Visas for business visits can be issued on arrival. Passports must be valid for the duration of the stay.
Current is 240V/50Hz AC. The same three-pin plugs as used in Australia.
GMT -10 hours.
The New Zealand dollar.
It is recommended travellers to Cook Islands see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, log on to www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.