Images: Rarotonga, Cook Islands

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.

sunset on rarotonga cook islands

Pink and white flower lei

Sign pointing to different countries

Fire dancer

Looking up into the tree leaves

The Needle rock on Rarotonga Cook Islands

Graves in Rarotonga Cook Islands

Opening a coconut with teeth

Cook Islands dancers

Shells on the beach

8 Responses to “Images: Rarotonga, Cook Islands”

  1. Shannon O'Donnell

    Just love that shot of the flowers – the lighting just makes the shot so peaceful I wish I was sitting there in one of the chairs. Beautiful photos!

    • JoAnna

      Thanks, Shannon! I wish I could embed smell in my blog posts; those flowers smelled so nice!

  2. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy

    Is it sad that my interest in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands is largely due to Survivor being shot there? Your pics make it look like a great place… thanks for showing me the other side!

    • JoAnna

      Actually, Scott, most people are familiar with the Cook Islands because of Survivor, and that’s not a bad thing. The show brought a lot of publicity to the country, and everyone we met who had anything to do with the show said the contestants and entire crew were very respectful, clean and kind. I actually have never seen that particular Survivor season and am planning on getting my hands on it because I’d love to see how the Cook Islands are portrayed.

    • JoAnna

      It’s funny, Matt, because I really try to avoid the use of the word paradise, and yet, it’s really the only word that I can think of to describe this place. It was so serene and beautiful. A truly spectacular destination.

  3. Lola

    Sounds like such an amazing time and Ross’ video was sweet!
    Seems like my kind-of-place. Fell deeply for Fiji when I was there for 3 weeks with Eco-Challenge many, many years ago. Must have been a Pacific Islander in another life 🙂

    • JoAnna

      It was absolutely amazing, Lola. You definitely need to scoot on down there.

      I’m actually quite intrigued about Fiji now. I get the feeling that they might be similar but that Fiji is possibly a bit busier and more touristy. Would love to compare the two for myself.


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