If you make the trip to the Cook Islands, your international flight will land on Rarotonga, the country’s most popular—and populated—island. At only 32 kilometers in circumference with two roads that circle the island (the outer coastal road and the inner, more residential road that passes by local farms), it is easy to navigate your way around Rarotonga. A bus system offers regular service, but let’s face it … when you’re on island time, chances are you want to go at your own pace, which is why motor scooter rentals are particularly popular.
It is on Rarotonga that you’ll find a wide array of accommodation choices (though no high-rise or chain hotels exist here), cultural activities, hiking excursions and the weekly market. In an attempt to avoid calling anything paradise, I’m forced to simply say that Rarotonga is in stark contrast to many places that I’ve been. People are relaxed and friendly, stores close at noon on Saturday and don’t even open on Sunday, cyclists and runners are given space on the road, community members gather for soccer games in the afternoon, people swing lazily in the hammocks strung between the palm trees and there are no traffic lights—IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.
I spent a few days on Rarotonga during my trip to the Cook Islands. Though these are some of my favorite photographs, keep in mind that, as I shot these, I could hear water crashing on the distant reef, smell fresh air void of car exhaust and feel soft sand between my toes as I strolled along the edge of the turquoise water.