Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Seen from above, the island of Rarotonga is an oceanic artwork. It's delicately framed by a picture-perfect lagoon with white-sand beaches, embellished around the edges by palm trees and topped off by a high centre of volcanic mountains cloaked in rainforest. All the things you want in a South Pacific paradise are here.
No matter where you roam during your Rarotonga holiday, from the lively market of Avarua to the laid-back beach cafés of Muri Beach, you'll find welcoming people, a living culture that embraces past and present, and natural scenery that's off-the-scale beautiful.
About our flights to Rarotonga
Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands, a group of islands and atolls in the South Pacific. We fly to Rarotonga non-stop from Auckland. Connections across our domestic network make it easy to access flights to Rarotonga from anywhere in New Zealand.
The scheduled Auckland to Rarotonga flight time is just under four hours. The flight crosses the international dateline, so when you're planning a trip to Rarotonga remember you'll arrive the day before you depart. On the return Rarotonga to Auckland flights, you'll arrive the day after you depart Rarotonga.
Culture is everywhere in Rarotonga, not just in the spectacular dance and drumming shows that happen several times a week at the numerous resorts, but also in the daily routines of island life.
On our Rarotonga flights you have a choice of fare types - seat, seat+bag, theworks, worksdeluxe, Premium Economy and Business Premier™. All seats include an on-demand seatback entertainment system.
If you're interested in cheap flights to Rarotonga from Auckland, we run regular special offers. You can sign up for alerts to receive early notice of deals to Rarotonga. You can also sign up to receive regular email updates about airfares, packages, competitions and exclusive offers.
Assembling Rarotonga holiday packages is easy on this website. During the flight booking process, you'll have the option of adding a rental vehicle. After you've completed payment, we'll offer you the chance to book accommodation.
Rarotonga Airport is five minutes from Avarua, the island's main town, and about 20 minutes from Muri Beach. International visitors (over 16 years) can drive in the Cook Islands for up to six months using their full overseas licence. Driving is on the left.
Where to go and what to see in Rarotonga
Rarotonga is almost circular and it has a road that runs right around the perimeter, making it easy to find wherever you're going. Public transport buses drive the circuit clockwise and anticlockwise, or you can hire a car, scooter or push bike to get around. It takes about 45 minutes complete a circuit of the island.
North from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands group is Aitutaki, which is a 50-minute domestic flight away. Famous for its luxury resorts and extraordinarily beautiful lagoon, Aitutaki can be an add-on to your Rarotonga holiday. It's also easy to go straight to Aitutaki - when you're booking with Air New Zealand, select 'Cook Is (Aitutaki)' and we'll book you all the way. There will be a few hours between the two flights, so you can check out Avarua while you're waiting.
Tropical adventures around the island
When you're not relaxing, basking or generally living the tropical dream, you can be adventuring around or over the island. Local tourism operators have the equipment and know-how to help you discover Rarotonga in more depth.
Hiking in the rugged interior of Rarotonga can be a self-guided expedition (just follow the tracks and signs), or you can get a famous local called Pa to guide you. Pa knows the local flora and fauna inside out, so you'll learn while you're exploring. Four-wheel drive tours are another way to venture into the highlands. You can drive a buggy yourself or go on safari with a local driver. The views of the forested mountains, fringing reef and ocean are mind-blowing from up high.
While primarily a form of transport, scootering can be an activity in itself during your Rarotonga holiday. Scooters are part of island life and a gloriously breezy way to tour the island - just check your travel insurance first, to make sure you're covered. More about outdoor adventures in Rarotonga.
Things to do in, on and under the water
Rarotonga's accommodation, mostly resorts and rentable holiday homes, is concentrated along the western and southern shores of the island. This is also where the outer reef creates tranquil conditions for off-the-beach swimming and snorkelling. Even if you snorkel the same area every day, you'll always see new things - there's a good amount of live coral and a huge diversity of fish species. If you really love to snorkel, bring a fish identification book with you. Keep an eye out for butterflyfish, parrotfish, tangs, puffers, boxfish and the glorious emperor angelfish. Premier spots for snorkelling include The Fruits of Raro at Tikioki Beach, Titikaveka Beach, Aroa Beach Marine Reserve and Blackrock. Make sure you avoid passages where the water connects to the outer reef - currents can be strong in these areas.
For scuba divers, and those who want to learn how, there are several dive operators on the island. They'll take you beyond the lagoon to locations known for beautiful coral and interesting encounters. For inexperienced divers there's Albertos, with coral bommies and hundreds of colourful fish; The Caves, which involves a swim-through to a maze of marine caves; and Mataora Wreck, once a Tongan cargo vessel and now home to hundreds of reef species. Advanced divers can look forward to meeting whitetip sharks at Jade Reef and cruising through the Maritime Reefer, a fishing vessel that's been turning itself into a thriving reef since it was sunk in 1981.
At Muri Beach stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking have really taken off. The lagoon is calm and unspeakably beautiful, plus there are little islands to visit not far offshore. A special highlight is a guided night-time paddling tour - the operators put lights under the boards and kayaks, enabling you to see marine animals going about their business. Other fun things to do on the water include speed boating, banana boat rides, fishing trips and whale watching (July to October). More about water activities in Rarotonga.
A warm culture that invites you in
Culture is everywhere in Rarotonga - not just in the spectacular dance and drumming shows that happen several times a week at resorts and villages, but also in the daily activities of island life. You'll see it in the local food, carefully-planted taro gardens, colourful pareu (sarongs), traditional tattoos and the charming custom of wearing a flower behind one ear to attract romance.
As you're exploring the island by scooter or car, local life will find you. Pause at Wigmores Store in Vaimaanga for freshly-made cakes and snacks, including lip-smackingly delicious panipop (sweet coconut buns). Visit the Punanga Nui Market in Avarua to try iconic Raro eats, such as ika mata (marinated fish), drinking coconuts and poke (a sweet dish made with bananas and tapioca). And be sure to discover how the best restaurants in Rarotonga put their own spin on local cuisine culture, making the most of taro, pawpaw, pineapple, coconut, breadfruit and local fish.
There are a couple of specific attractions on the island for discovering traditional Rarotongan culture - Highland Paradise cultural centre in Arorangi and Te Vara Nui Village in Muri. Touring these cultural villages is a focused way to find out about the history, traditional medicines, ancient navigational techniques, arts and crafts, food, and performance arts of the Cook Islands. More about Cook Islands culture.
Extend your holiday to Aitutaki
Aitutaki is one of the Pacific's legendary places. Back in the 1950s, when Air New Zealand was called TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited), we used to fly Solent aircraft on the Coral Route. One of our touchdowns was Aitutaki's lagoon, which many say is the most beautiful lagoon in the world. We don't offer non-stop flights to Aitutaki anymore, but we offer codeshare flights with Air Rarotonga. Simply select 'Cook Is (Aitutaki)' during the booking process.
In Aitutaki you can enjoy a superb level of luxury at five-star resorts that make the most of the island's scenic advantages. You'll also find more affordable Aitutaki accommodation styles, including budget hotels, motels, lodges and cottages.
Lazing around is the number one thing to do on Aitutaki, but other activities include snorkelling, visiting One Foot Island, boat cruises on the magnificent lagoon, whale watching and charter fishing expeditions.
Best time to visit Rarotonga
There's no such thing as a right or wrong time to visit Rarotonga. The average daily high temperature only varies about three degrees - the difference between 28°C in January and 25°C in July. While it does rain a little more between November to April, typical Rarotonga weather delivers an average of eight sunshine hours a day.
How much will it cost
Rarotonga uses New Zealand currency, so organising money is easy. Many Rarotonga accommodation providers offer package deals that include meal plans and activities, which can work out to be great value for money. If you're self-catering, there's a supermarket in Avarua and a general store in Vaimaanga. Expect to pay New Zealand prices or even less at restaurants and cafés.
|Flight route||Flight times*||Stops**||Book|
|Auckland (AKL) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)||3h 45m||Non-stop|
|Wellington (WLG) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)||6h 20m||via Auckland|
|Christchurch (CHC) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)||6h 35m||via Auckland|
|Queenstown (ZQN) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)||8h 10m||via Auckland|
|Auckland (AKL) to Aitutaki, Cook Islands (AIT)||6h 5m||via Rarotonga|
Cheap flights to Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Auckland (AKL) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)
Wellington (WLG) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)
Christchurch (CHC) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)
Queenstown (ZQN) to Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RAR)
Auckland (AKL) to Aitutaki, Cook Islands (AIT)
*Flight times are based on the fastest route available.
**Indirect flights may also be available for this route.