Time travelling: A return to Rarotonga

Brett Attkinson
Photography By
Cook Islands Tourism

Six years after I was last on Rarotonga, and exactly 750 days since I last boarded an international flight, it's a slightly unfamiliar thrill to touchdown at Avarua airport in the lee of the island's forested and mountainous interior. 

But less than four hours after leaving Auckland, Rarotonga's sounds, sights and aromas all kick back into place, and I'm again wondering why other airports don't offer a musical welcome for visitors. 

In the arrivals’ hall, Cook Islands musician Papatua Papatua is blending sweet Polynesian melodies with loping ukulele rhythms and by the time a garlanded 'ei of frangipani flowers is draped around my neck, it feels like I've never been away.

Rarotonga is a destination I know well, and while it would be easy to relax by the lagoon or pool, after more than two years exclusively experiencing New Zealand, I'm keen to start exploring and find out what's the latest. I'm staying at Muri Lagoon Villas, a lagoon-side self-catering option on the island’s southeast coast, and the 13km drive via Avarua – definitely one of the world's most laid-back capitals – reveals a mix of the familiar and the new. An island-style pulled pork wrap at the new Kai Guy food truck eases into a frosty Cook Islands lager on the deck at Trader Jack's – still the best spot to see Rarotonga's waka ama crews heading out for an after-work paddle – while late afternoon rush-hour traffic down the east coast consists mainly of scooter-riding locals and a ute carrying a canine trio also wearing 'eis. Lucky dogs. READ MORE...