Rarotonga, Capital Island of the Cook Islands

Our one-bedroom bungalow at Vaikoi was great.   The open air lanai was a cool place to sit any time of day.
The kitchenette came fully stocked - even some food staples were included to get us started.   This was the view from our back window.
Within 100 yds. of our bungalow were fruit trees with ripe starfruit, paw paws (papayas), bananas, limes,
breadfruit, coconuts and. . .
  mangos. We were invited to pick
as much of the fruit as we would like to eat.
Aro'a Beach was only a 2 minute walk. We snorkeled there with coral and clear, waist deep water. These guys taught us the art of catching octopus -
a skill I'm not sure we will ever need.
  The busses didn't run very often the first two days we were on the island, since it was still a holiday. We were lucky to catch rides with locals, Terry & Teau, who saw us waiting by the road and asked us to jump in their truck.
Many women were wearing fresh flower laurels in their hair that they had picked and woven themselves.   How many police stations and grocery stores can boast a beach like this across the street?
We were finally able to get our own transportation.
The last motorcycle left at the rental agency!
  Terry & Teau told us about a local favorite - Cafe Ariki. Paul's BBQ ribs with mushroom sauce and
my "Catch of the Day" (grilled Broadbill) were fantastic.
The Rarotongan Golf course had spectacular views of both the volcanic center of the island and the ocean.   We played with a couple, Ron & Karen, from Canada. On one of the tee boxes you could pick bananas
for a snack.
After golf, we sat in the shade with a cool breeze at Aquarius, reknowned for its gourmet pizzas.   The smoked chicken, cranberry sauce, cream cheese, mozarella and cheedar cheese pizza was excellent. (Sorry about only showing you half the pizza,
the other half was delicious!!)
Papua Wigmore's Waterfall was running fast since it had just rained. (We were on the motorcycle, but stopped under some huge palm trees and stayed dry.)   This is the entrance to a fantastic snorkel site just across the street from the Fruits of Rarotonga stand.
Muri Beach is a popular tourist lagoon with
white sand and clear water.
  It's hard to know whether to look to the center of the island with stunning volcanic mountains, or out to the sea.
At Ngatanglia Harbour ancient lava flows met the sea. Today the waves have eroded the flows and we saw fossils of coral in the lava rock.   We were driving by and saw a carved canoe in the yard, so we stopped. "Mike" was carving a large fruit bowl out of hibiscus wood. He has no shop and just sells each thing as he finishes it to people passing by.
This bowl will be sold for $175.00.
Being typical tourists we went to the Cultural Centre to attend an umu dinner (like a luau on the Cook Islands). The evening began with a talk about the history of the islands and an offering to the ancient gods on the marae (an old ceremonial meeting place).   The umu food is cooked underground. On the top of the plate is a shredded taro leaf cooked in coconut creme. That and the chicken and pork were very good.
The grey food at 7:00 on the plate is boiled taro.
Not our favorite.
We were two of the four Americans there. Most were New Zealanders, Canadians and other "Cookies" (people from the Cook Islands). The dances showed the changes made in costume, song and dance style before and after the missionaries and airport came.   Saturday is market day
and almost the whole island shows up.
Hannah sold fresh flower laurels her Auntie had made.   Paul admired the women in their pareu (sarongs).
OK, here's a test. What's being sold in the palm leaf bags?   It's poke taro - a dessert made of taro, coconut cream, arrow root starch and a little sugar. We tried it, but....
Dinner at the historic Tamarind House was lovely. We started with broiled scallops in a gratin cream sauce.
Our entrees of taro leaf & pumpkin lasagne and New Zealand lamb shank followed by passion fruit
creme brulee were excellent.
  After a wonderful church service (with island singing and the sermon spoken in Maori) that started at 5AM and ended after we left at 11:15; we met our friend Stuart from New Zealand for lunch and drinks at the Edgewater.

Where to stay:

Vaikoi Bungalows, on Aro'a Beach, Ara Tapu Road next to the Rarotongan Beach resort; www.vaikoi.com ; friendly owners Mata & Kathy Nooroa make you feel right at home and part of the island.

Where to eat:

Cafe Ariki, tel. 22772 -next to the Perfume Factory, inland road near Avarua - not touristy (you may be the only non-local), very fresh ingredients, inexpensive seafood, ribs; specialty is an incredible mushroom sauce

Aquarius, across from the airport - fabulous beach dining, gourmet pizzas, fresh seafood, sandwiches, salads

Tamarind House, just east of Avarua - higher end, fine dining on the beach, touristy, but quality food and great setting, reservations suggested