Adventures and Explorations in Digital Advertising and Life.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands by Way of Auckland, NZ

Rarotonga, Cook Islands by Way of Auckland, NZ

Rarotonga, Cook Islands by Way of Auckland, NZ

Several years ago, while waiting in the checkout line at a grocery store, I saw a magazine with “Places to Go Before You Die” Theme. On the cover was a photo of a gorgeous island landscape. Steep, tropical mountains rising out of teal blue water. I opened the first page to see where the photograph was taken- Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

I’d heard a little about the Cook Islands while living in New Zealand, but never really seen what they looked like or even where they were, except for a vague understanding that they were somewhere in the South Pacific. After seeing that magazine cover, I was sold. I promised myself I’d go to the Cook Islands someday.

This past spring, Jen and I decided to go to Rarotonga this August and see it for ourselves. For a trip like this or even a much bigger trip, commitment is buying the plane ticket. There is only one flight a week that goes from North America to the Cook Islands. The flight leaves LAX on Sunday night, lands Monday morning, and then returns on Saturday night. We wanted more than 5 nights in Rarotonga, so we decided on an alternative itinerary.

We’d fly out from Denver Friday night via LA, land in Auckland Sunday morning, then have a Sunday evening flight that would land in Rarotonga on Saturday evening. On the way back, we’d fly direct to LA from Rarotonga on the next Saturday night and continue back to Denver on Sunday afternoon. Total distance one direction was 9,239 miles on the way out and 5,532 miles on the way back.

ozaWDn0.gif

Our itinerary left us with a free day in Auckland. We decided that we might as well go bungy jumping from the Auckland Bay Bridge and see the views of the city from the Sky Tower.

After a quick shower at the airport (showers are free, but towels are $10), we took a bus downtown to the Viaduct where we got picked up to go bungy jumping.

The viaduct area of Auckland-

IMG_20130810_161217_211.JPG

Jen geared up to bungy-

IMG_0328.JPG

IMG_0345.JPG

Auckland from the Bay Bridge

IMG_0351.JPG

The Sky Tower-

IMG_20130810_165139_433.JPG

Auckland from the Sky Tower

IMG_0359.JPG

IMG_20130810_174124_244.JPG

IMG_20130810_184552.JPG

After our short visit in downtown Auckland, we took a bus back to the airport to catch our flight to Rarotonga.

We arrived sometime around 10 pm in Rarotonga and headed to the villa that we had rented at Makayla Palms on Titikavaka Beach. Our villa was beautiful, and came equipped with a full kitchen, BBQ grill, kayaks, scooter and an empty beach next alongside a lagoon, which proved to have the best snorkeling that Jen or I had ever experienced.

We spent the next 7 days exploring the island- snorkeling every day, scootering around, etc.

We cooked most of our own meals, but did find a couple great restaurants. Our hosts recommended a meat importer by the airport called Prime Foods (who supplies the restaurants with meat) to get meat from. Meat there was surprisingly very reasonably priced. We got chicken breast, beef ribeyes and some ground beef to make food for the week and had a supply of duty free wine that we brought over from Auckland, which saved us a lot of money.

Home cooked meals-

IMG_0362.JPG

IMG_20130811_201311.JPG

IMG_20130812_173244.JPG

IMG_0425.JPG

Our favorite place to buy food, LBV-

IMG_20130815_144702_375.JPG

Which comes complete with dog companions to keep you company while you eat-

IMG_20130815_144927_029.JPG

Scootering-

IMG_20130815_152615_991.JPG

IMG_20130815_153140_917.JPG

Up high overlooking the island-

IMG_20130815_165255_721.JPG

Snorkeling-

IMG_20130815_195249_040.JPG

Our little corner of paradise-

IMG_0754.JPG

IMG_0757.JPG

Hermit crab-

IMG_0765.JPG

Only 100,000 people visit the entire country of the Cook Islands each year. While no area was crowded by any means, our villa was located in a particularly empty part of Rarotonga. There was literally no one on the beach-

IMG_0768.JPG

IMG_0771.JPG

…Except for these dogs, who kinda roamed around on their own and came by to say hi between their fishing excursions-

IMG_0798.JPG

IMG_0799.JPG

Fishing-

IMG_0801.JPG

Interior roads look like this-

IMG_0811.JPG

IMG_0640.JPG

Interior island views-

IMG_20130817_173137_782.JPG

We found a place called Black Rock on the NW corner of the island that we visited repeatedly for sunset views-

IMG_0369.JPG

IMG_0380.JPG

IMG_0391.JPG

IMG_0395.JPG

There was an beautiful garden across from our villa-

IMG_0429.JPG

IMG_0434.JPG

IMG_0456.JPG

IMG_0471.JPG

IMG_0474.JPG

IMG_0483.JPG

IMG_0506.JPG

We attended a couple cultural shows.

Jen learning to chop coconuts-

IMG_0415.JPG

A Moari holy site, where human sacrifices once took place-

IMG_0536.JPG

IMG_0548.JPG

Moari dancing-

IMG_0566.JPG

Other than that, we just spent our time checking out the island, kayaking and snorkeling.

Black Rock during the day-

IMG_0627.JPG

Titikaveka Lagoon. Our villa is in the trees-

IMG_0666.JPG

IMG_0731.JPG

IMG_0790.JPG

Titikaveka Lagoon Panorama

RarotongaPanorama.jpg

Here’s a link to the full size image.

Sunset on the lagoon-

IMG_0687.JPG

Since there was no one around, we had to take some self timer shots-

IMG_0862.JPG

IMG_0907.JPG

IMG_0923.JPG

tBdx70K.gif

I expected the week to fly by, but since we were at a slower pace of life, it didn’t seem too fast. We made it the entire week without connecting to the internet.

On our last night, we went back to Black Rock to watch the sunset-

IMG_0987.JPG

IMG_1011.JPG

IMG_1025.JPG

IMG_1032.JPG

IMG_1034.JPG

We didn’t see the sun again until we were in LA the next day.

Jake Numanga, who has been welcoming and saying goodbye to everyone who goes through the Rarotonga Airport for 20+ years-

IMG_1040.JPG

The trip was pretty incredible. I couldn’t have expected it to go any better- there wasn’t a single hang up the entire time.

Our villa at Makayla Palms was awesome, and our hosts John and Rachel were amazing. They have done an incredible job building their villas and took care of everything we needed as well as providing us with fresh fruit and home baked treats.

Rarotonga felt like a mix of Hawaii, Fiji and the Virgin Islands, but slightly cooler temps. The water was a bit cooler than Hawaii, so we were glad to have wetsuit tops for extended snorkeling excursions. Air temps during the day never got above 75 degrees, but there was often a nice trade wind breeze.

The snorkeling was the best I’d ever experienced. The diversity of life right off the beach blew me away. I have some GoPro footage that I need to sort through, but there were more fish, and more species of fish than I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. The coral reef was equally impressive.

Rarotonga has a bit colonial feeling still- people seem to be proud of their Moari and/or British heritage. Everyone we came across was very friendly and laid back, making the island a perfect place to unplug, unwind and relax.

Perhaps most importantly was the reminder of how fun international travel is and how a dream can come to fruition by taking simple steps- commitment IS buying the plane ticket. Take that first step, and everything else seems to fall into place.

Leave a Reply