Rarotonga is a great pick for the ultimate family getaway or couple’s escape. Offering white sand beaches as far as the eye can see, an array of colourful marine life, and a rich Pacific culture it’s no wonder it’s so popular.
With the Cook Islands’ large increase in tourism in recent years (especially prior to COVID-19), many new Rarotonga resorts and hotels have been made available. As this is where you will be spending the majority of your time in the Cook Islands, it’ll pay to pick the right resort for you.
We’ve travelled extensively around Rarotonga, checking out and staying in amazing resorts all around the island. Choosing amongst them all is challenging so we’re going to make planning your trip easier by sharing our favourites!
Read on to find out our top picks!
Luxury Accommodation in Rarotonga
Staying in Rarotonga with a baller budget? Looking to experience the best the Cook Islands have to offer, sparing no expense? These are the absolute top 5-star resorts and luxury accommodation in Rarotonga. Although not quite at the standard of our favourite resorts in Bora Bora (they also don’t come with a $10k a night price tag), you can confidently pick any of these and you’re guaranteed a magical, relaxing and luxurious experience.
1. Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa
This 5-star accommodation includes large, open plan villas dotted along the beachfront.
Each villa individually offers a unique and secluded experience with their own fenced-in plunge pools and tropical gardens. If you can stretch your budget, the beachfront villas are worth the investment, offering uninterrupted views from the indoor and outdoor living areas out over the Muri Lagoon.
And the Muri Lagoon is seriously gorgeous. You’ll find better snorkelling beaches a short drive south, but for picturesque views, there’s no better spot than your own private villa at Te Manava.
If this isn’t already enough, you can expect incredible service as well as access to babysitters, spas and beauty packages, as well as gourmet dining at the resort restaurant.
- Private swimming pool
- Walking distance to great snorkelling beaches
- Picturesque lagoon views from living areas
- Babysitting, spa and beauty services
Location: Muri Beach
2. Pacific Resort Rarotonga
As well as offering babysitting services and a kids club, there’s a large outdoor swimming pool surrounded by tropical gardens. The surrounding greenery gives the resort a private feel, especially being right on the most popular beach in Rarotonga.
Treat yourself to a massage or other spa services or visit the restaurant for some enticing dining options.
The resort has a beautiful beachfront area teeming with palm trees reserved for wedding ceremonies. So, definitely check this place out if you’re interested in an island wedding.
Although we still class Pacific Resort as a luxury resort, it’s a little more affordable than some of the other options. It’s a fantastic option for travellers after something a bit nicer but without splashing out too much.
- Babysitting and kids club
- Spa services
- Beachfront dining and sun loungers
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Muri Beach location
- Convenient room service
Location: Muri, Ngatangiia
3. Nautilus Resort Rarotonga
Nautilus Resort offers privacy without feeling claustrophobic. Spacious open plan villas seamlessly create indoor-outdoor flow. Step out to your private pool and outdoor shower within your own tropical island oasis.
For complete privacy, garden are’s (this is a room) are the best choice. Choosing a beachfront are’ will give you a view of the motu (islets) of Muri’s lagoon.
There’s a great view of Muri Beach right from the main pool (which, by the way, is an infinity pool) where you can lounge and relax. Of course you’ll find a luxurious day spa if you’re looking to pamper yourself, and they also do wedding packages. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place in Rarotonga for a wedding, honeymoon or elopement. Nautilus resort Rarotonga is definitely the way to go.
Rarotonga’s most enjoyed beach is at your doorstep. Take your pick from the many water sports in Muri. This includes paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkelling and more.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, there is an array of beachfront bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from within a short distance from Nautilus Resort.
- Private plunge pool and outdoor shower
- Spacious villas
- Lavish ambiance
- Infinity pool
Location: Muri, Ngatangiia
4. Sea Change Villas
Each apartment at Sea Change Villas is equipped with its own private pool and patio area.
Our favourite part about the apartments at Sea Change Villas is the outdoor living areas. They offer complete privacy from neighbouring suites, whilst boasting commanding views out over the beach and the lagoon.
If you feel the need to venture out from your luxurious, 5-star accommodation to explore the island, then you can be confident you won’t need to go far. Sea Change Villas is located on the incredible Titikaveka Beach, just a short drive from Muri Lagoon.
This is our favourite beach and offers some of the best snorkelling on the island (make sure to borrow some snorkelling gear), whilst still being close enough to the beautiful Muri Lagoon for activities and eateries.
It doesn’t get much better than Sea Change Villas.
- Private pool offering lagoon views
- Large rooms with modern (by Rarotongan standards) furnishings
- Located on one of the best beaches on the island, if not the world
Location: Titikaveka Beach
Mid-range Resorts in Rarotonga
Not everyone can afford to live a life packed full of luxury. These mid-range resorts will suit most people, with a touch of luxury sprinkled in from time to time.
They’re all conveniently located and offer everything you’d expect from a resort in the Cook Islands.
5. The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Lagoonarium
Not only are prices reasonable, but this resort also boasts an array of activities for children of all ages – and not to worry, they haven’t forgotten about the parents either.
They’ve covered all bases and since the Rarotongan has been around for many years, it holds that real resort feel. Staff are incredibly friendly and go out of their way to make your stay enjoyable.
Perhaps their biggest advantage is the programs available for children. Moko’s Kids Club has cultural activities, movies, and craft sessions. To make things even better, there are 3 sessions daily so you’re bound to find a time to suit you and have some alone time.
There’s also a Banana Beach Playland Creche for the youngsters and a Teen Zone. There are so many great activities including scuba diving lessons, dodgeball, dancing lessons, and an air hockey competition to name a few.
They even have a pool with a waterslide, playground, games room, and tennis court.
The Rarotongan is located on Aro’a beach which is a beautiful beach and a great snorkelling spot – this will keep the kids occupied for hours. The great thing is you don’t have to go out far to see fish. This makes it great for the young ones and those not confident in the water.
If you aren’t travelling with kids, The Rarotongan is still a good option for accommodation in Rarotonga, but be prepared to be surrounded by families. Consider checking out Sanctuary Rarotonga which is attached to The Rarotongan with the same owners. It is one of the most popular adults only accommodation in Rarotonga.
- Creche, kids club, and teen club available
- Pools, playground, games room, and tennis court
- Large range of rooms available
- Amazing snorkelling
Location: Aro’a Beach, Arorangi
6. Muri Beach Resort
Many tours operate in Muri, including night time paddle boarding, snorkelling, and kayak tours. There are plenty of bars, souvenir shops, and places to eat. The night market in Muri also runs daily from 5pm. All of this is within a few minutes walk from Muri Beach Resort.
Wicker furniture, floral bedding, and woven flax bedhead add to the relaxing island atmosphere at Muri Beach Resort. Grab a tropical cocktail by the poolside and enjoy your holiday!
- Muri beach location
- Babysitting services
- Island resort feel
Location: Muri, Ngatangiia
7. Palm Grove Accommodation Rarotonga
Looking for somewhere you can completely relax, away from all the busy resorts? Palm Grove has less than 25 beach bungalows which makes for a relaxing, intimate getaway. The resort also features an on-site restaurant and bar so you’ve got all bases covered.
Palm Grove is located on a quiet, white sandy beach called Turoa. There’s also a freshwater pool and a children’s pool at the resort so you’re spoilt for choice of swimming spots.
- Away from the hustle and bustle of bigger Rarotonga resorts
- Quiet beach
- Onsite outdoor swimming pools, restaurants, and bars
- Free happy hour on Fridays 4.30-6.30pm
Location: Turoa beach, Takitumu
8. Castaway Resort
There’s something special about staying at Castaway Resort. It’s not fancy, but it’s also definitely not a backpackers. I think a great word to describe Castaway Resort would be wholesome. It really offers the full Rarotonga resort package, without having to splurge on a 5-star, beachfront villa.
Castaway Resort is located halfway up the sheltered western coast of the island, meaning it’s not conveniently located for snorkelling or dining. But the island is small, so this isn’t really an issue if you don’t mind driving or catching the bus.
Instead, the west coast of Rarotonga is known for its picturesque sunsets. When you really think about it, you head out of your accommodation for the day, so it’s nice to come home to a breathtaking sunset looking out over the lagoon and the out to sea.
The rooms at Castaway Resort are decent and extremely clean, and the service is friendly and attentive. They also have a shared pool in the middle of the resort which is awesome for a morning swim and a great way to keep the kids busy (since the beach is a bit rocky for swimming).
However, our favourite part about Castaway Resort is Wilson’s Beach Bar. An awesome beach bar that is quite literally on the beach with views looking out over the reef. It’s a perfect spot to grab a bite to eat, have a drink and enjoy watching the sunset. Actually, its probably the best spot on the entire island.
- Beachfront resort
- Cool beachfront bar with strong cocktails
- Best sunsets on the island
- Sun loungers on the beach
Location: Arorangi, West Coast of Rarotonga
Cheap Rarotonga Accommodation
Perhaps there’s no such thing as a cheap resort in Rarotonga, but these are some of the more affordable accommodation options that really stand out. You’ll get great value by choosing to book a stay at one of these resorts, but you may have to give up a few luxuries – like modern rooms or a great location.
The good news is, even if you book your Rarotonga accommodation in a less than ideal location, it’s still only a short drive or bus-ride to anywhere on the island – the place is tiny!
9. Edgewater Resort Rarotonga
If you have kids with you, and you’re on a budget, Edgewater Resort is the place for you. There’s plenty of things to entertain the kids while you relax on their private beach. That’s right, Edgewater Resort has a private strip of the beach exclusively for its guests!
This place is unique in the fact that every Tuesday and Saturday night there’s a cultural show and Polynesian feast. The performers can really dance! Immerse yourself in Cook Islands’ culture without having to leave the resort!
If you’re a big fan of Italian food (as am I), pay a visit to Spaghetti House next door. You won’t be disappointed.
Located in the Arorangi district near Crown Beach Resort & Spa and Black Rock beach, Edgewater resort is walking distance to a great place to snorkel, swim, and explore. Being on the west side of the island makes this resort a great place to watch the sunset, without being too far from both the capital town, Avarua, and the main beach, Muri.
- Coconut Kids Club
- Island night show and feast
- Private beach
Location: Private beach in Arorangi
10. Lagoon Breeze Rarotonga Villas
Lagoon Breeze Villas is located in Arorangi near Aroa beach, making it an amazing place for snorkelling, swimming, sunbathing, and watching the sunset with a cocktail. Plus, plenty of activities are available to keep the kids busy while you relax.
Chill out in the outdoor lounge then Go for a swim in the resort’s large swimming pool and toddlers can even enjoy the paddling pool. Barbeques are available for use, as well as water equipment such as kayaks and snorkels. Join their complimentary scuba lessons for beginners on Saturdays.
Enjoy Happy hour at the resort’s bar and a complimentary tropical breakfast each morning.
This family-oriented resort has large villas available and equipment to keep the kids entertained. Babysitting services are available if you want to duck out for a date and have some times to yourselves.
Just note this resort isn’t absolute beachfront but it is near one of the most picturesque beaches in Rarotonga, Aro’a is located just across the road. It takes less than a minute to get there.
Service is awesome and it’s great to be so close to everything, without being in the heart of Muri.
- Great family feel
- Toddler’s pool and playground equipment
- Babysitting services
- Large swimming pool
Location: Aro’a beach, Arorangi
11. Club Raro Resort
If you’re looking to spend a lot of time in the main town, this resort may suit you best. Club Raro is only a five-minute drive to Avarua township where you can eat and shop your heart out.
The resort itself has two pools; one main pool and a shallow pool for toddlers. Did I mention Club Raro is a resort with a swim up bar?
Make sure to consider the location before booking here, though. The beach is not at all suitable for swimming or snorkelling, but the bars, pools, and price point more than makes up for this. Just jump on the bus or drive 20 minutes to the good beaches any time you’re up for it.
- Five-minute drive to Avarua township
- Toddler’s pool as well as a swimming pool
- All rooms are decently priced
Location: Avarua town
12. Aroa Kainga Bungalows
Located in Aroa, this resort is conveniently near one of the best beaches and best snorkelling spots on the island – Aroa Marine Reserve. A great location means a lot when choosing budget accommodation, and Aroa Kainga Bungalows wins on this one.
On top of the great location, Aroa Kainga Bungalows boast clean and tidy rooms that are, quite frankly, a bit nicer than other rooms in this price range on the island.
The service and staff here are also super friendly, attentive and helpful making Aroa Kainga Bungalows an enjoyable experience overall.
- Incredible marine reserve and beach nearby
- Friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff
- Good value
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Best Places to Stay in Rarotonga
As relaxing and calm as Rarotonga is, it can be difficult to decide on the right area to stay.
We’ve outlined where to stay in Rarotonga as well as which kind of traveller they’re best suited for.
Avarua: Best Place to Stay for Budget Travellers, Foodies and Nightlife
Avarua Town is the capital of the Cook Islands. This is the major hub of Rarotonga which makes it a great place to stay. You’ll find everything here – numerous restaurants, bars and cafes, souvenir shops as well as Black Rock Beach close by in the northwest of the island.
For backpackers and budget travellers, there is a lot located here including the Sunday morning market. The distance around Avarua is walkable so you’ll save money not having to take the bus everywhere.
For foodies, all the major restaurants and cafes are located here. A crowd favourite is Trader Joe’s. Try their deep fried seafood, chips and a cold beer for lunch.
For night owls and party-goers, Avarua is where it’s at for nightlife. Bars and nightclubs are located here, so if you’re staying in this area it’s a short walk home.
Find great deals at Hula bar. They do $4 NZD drinks and have a restaurant attached if you get peckish. One morning it was pouring with rain and since many of the things to do in Rarotonga are outdoors, we were stuck with what to do. We headed to Hula Bar for a few drinks and some lunch which bought us time for the downpour to pass.
Visiting Cook’s Fudge Factory is an absolute must-do for all sweet-tooths out there. The rich and creamy fudge flavours are to die for. They’re also a great option to take home for friends and family.
Best Place to Stay in Avarua: Club Raro
Muri Accommodation: Best Rarotonga Accommodation for Families and Adventure Seekers
Muri is the perfect place for beach lovers and adventure seekers. Relax on the beach, take a dip, or take part in the many water sports Muri has on offer.
The abundance of things to do and see at Muri also makes it the perfect location for families. Not to mention, swimming, snorkelling and making sandcastles at the beach will keep the kids entertained for hours while parents can get some well-deserved relaxation in.
Due to the sought-after location, accommodation tends to be on the pricier side of things. Because of this, we’d recommend looking elsewhere if you’re a budget traveller. Muri does get very busy, so those wanting a relaxing beach holiday with as little crowds as possible may also want to consider other parts of the island.
Many of the full day tours leave Muri so you’ve got the perfect spot. We chose a day trip with Captain Tama’s. This was our favourite day on the island. An activity-filled day included snorkelling, swimming, tonnes of entertainment and a huge island feast.
Since we were brought out to a marine reserve for snorkelling, we were able to see many more varieties of fish. This was the best snorkelling experience we had on Rarotonga – coming from two people who snorkelled everyday on our nine day trip.
Best Place to Stay in Muri: Te Manava
Titikaveka and Aroa: Best Place to Stay for Couples or For Peace and Quiet
Titikaveka and Aroa are the most beautiful beaches on the main island. Even better, they’re less busy than Muri so you can fully relax without feeling surrounded by tourists.
This is in our opinion the best place to stay on the whole island. We love relaxing and snorkelling on an amazing beach without being bothered by crowds – this really adds to the island feel.
Snorkelling is one of the best activities in Rarotonga, and both locations are marine reserves (Tikioki Marine Reserve and Ar’a Marine Reserve), so snorkelling here is amazing to say the least. Even at knee-deep waters you’ll see fish darting around you.
There are many resorts around the area so you won’t have to go far for a good meal and a drink. Our recommendations for the area include Vaima Restaurant. Sit on the beach and enjoy a beautifully-cooked dinner. Shipwreck Bar is also a great place to visit. On the outskirts of Aro’a at southwestern part of the island, enjoy beachside cocktails and great pub-style food and nibbles.
Best Place to Stay in Titikaveka: Sea Change Villas
Arorangi: Best Place to Stay to Catch Amazing Sunsets
The sun sets on the west side of the island, making Arorangi the place to be during golden hour. Photographers, this is a great place for you.
This is actually the place we decided to stay when we visited Rarotonga. We like to go out in the morning and spend the whole day out doing various activities. After adventuring during the day, Arorangi is where we liked to spend most of our evenings to see the sunset.
We’d recommend grabbing a beverage at happy hour (3pm or 4pm til 6pm for many bars) then photographing the sunset by the beach. Head into one of the many beachside restaurants for dinner.
The only thing is the beaches around Arorangi are rocky so it isn’t recommended to swim here. This wasn’t at all a problem for us as we preferred to spend our days out and our evenings here. This may not be the place for you if you’re looking to spend your days at one of the many Rarotonga resorts and swimming at the beach.
Best Place to Stay in Arorangi: Castaway Resort
Arguably the most stunning spot in the Cook Islands – Aitutaki takes everything Rarotonga offers and brings it up to the next level, whilst adding on a touch of seclusion.
There isn’t a huge number of Aitutaki resorts or hotels available so it’s worth choosing wisely. It’s also a good idea to choose where to stay in Aitutaki and book early to ensure you don’t miss out.
The resorts on the island are mostly expensive and there isn’t really a bad place to stay on the island due to its small size. We’ve written a guide to the best Aitutaki accommodation and if you can stretch the budget then it’s well worth it.
Best Place to Stay on Aitutaki: Aitutaki Lagoon Private Resort
What to Look for When Choosing a Resort or Hotel in Rarotonga?
Many Rarotonga resorts will offer free hire of snorkelling gear such as snorkels and flippers. In our Rarotonga packing list, we recommend bringing your own, but sometimes that’s not convenient.
Some resorts also provide kayaks and paddleboards, and both kids and adult-sized bikes. Take advantage of this to save some money and entertain the kids. Ask if you can take your snorkels with you all day to try out some of the other snorkelling spots, or use the bikes as a means of transport to get around the island.
Hotel Airport Transfers
Your resort may also provide free airport transfers. This could also be compulsory if arriving late at night or early in the morning. The airport transfer staff show you to your rooms as many resorts’ receptions are not open 24/7. This is an incredibly efficient system and since we arrived at 2am, we were happy to get to our resort quickly and into bed!
If you are arriving during the day, the Rarotonga International Airport is a short drive or bus ride from every resort in Rarotonga so don’t worry too much.
Private Plunge Pool
If you have the budget to spare then booking a resort where the rooms come with their own private plunge pools is a great way to upgrade your holiday. Accommodation like Crown Beach Resort & Spa will allow you to relax in your own private swimming pool without having to share with others!
For most travellers, a private bathroom is a necessity. Every resort on this list includes an ensuite. If you are backpacking, there are a couple of backpackers on the island which have shared bathrooms.
Consider a Day Trip to Aitutaki
Being an iconic location for weddings and honeymoons, Aitutaki has also been known as Honeymoon Island. You can see why this island has proven popular; it has undoubtedly some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This, unfortunately, calls for inflated prices and limited family accommodation available. Often, resorts do not allow children altogether, or many rooms only cater for two people.
Instead of forking out hundreds for flights and accommodation on Aitutaki, consider booking a day trip over there. The snorkelling tours are a lot of fun. They usually begin with snorkelling around the island, followed by a huge buffet lunch and entertainment. They’re reasonably priced too at just over $100 for adults and $50 for children. Often, tours do not charge for under fives.
Rarotonga Accommodation Deals & Packages
Although hard to find, deals certainly do exist. The first place we look is always booking.com. Very rarely will we find a better deal than what we can book through booking.com. We also usually check out the resort’s website and consider booking direct.
We’ve never found booking direct to be cheaper, but occasionally they’ll throw in some extras which can sweeten the deal.
Unfortunately, deals websites tend to leave out Rarotonga. Checking out Grabaseat for cheap flights is usually a good idea, and it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at Grabone and Groupon incase there is a Rarotonga holiday package on there.
Rarotonga Holiday Homes & AirBnB
Holiday homes and AirBnBs are often the best accommodation option for families or groups. Solo travelers and couples will usually get a better place if they go for a resort or hotel in Rarotonga.
When choosing an AirBnB in Rarotonga, make sure to choose a place with plenty of great reviews (and also don’t forget to read them). Rarotonga isn’t really an AirBnB place so you won’t find a lot of options with enough reviews, but there are certainly a few great options available so it doesn’t hurt to take a look.
It’s also a great idea to choose a superhost for peace of mind.
Is Rarotonga Expensive?
Rarotonga is an expensive destination where you can expect to pay higher than average prices for food, accommodation and transport. It is possible to holiday in the Cook Islands on a budget by staying in some of the cheaper accommodation options outlined above.
Things to Do in Rarotonga
There are plenty of amazing things to do in Rarotonga. The best Rarotonga activities all revolve around the water so it’s a good idea to go snorkelling, sip cocktails and lounge around the beach whilst soaking up all the sun. Fortunately a lot of these activities are free and great for all kinds of travellers.
Other top attractions in Rarotonga include hiking up The Needle and heading on a Raro Buggy Tour or Lagoon Cruise.
The best resorts in Rarotonga depend on your budget and preferences. Te Manava is our top pick for those looking for an unforgettable trip.
Rarotonga is home to a handful of lavish, luxury hotels. Te Manava and Sea Change Villas are great choices, both showcasing the best 5-star accommodation in the Cook Islands with amazing resort facilities
The best part of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands to stay is along the south or west coast. The south is perfect for adventure travellers and families, whilst the west has stunning sunsets and better snorkelling, popular for couple and romantic escapes.
Food can be expensive in Rarotonga as almost all of their food is imported from New Zealand. Budget travellers can consider bringing some snacks in their luggage, whilst other travellers can expect slightly above-average prices for groceries and dining.