The youngest of the 15 islands comprising the Cook Islands, Rarotonga is a tropical haven in the South Pacific with the perfect setting for relaxation'palm trees, white-sand beaches, thatched huts, a lagoon and the cascading Papua or Wigmore Waterfall. The warm crystal-clear waters are just right for snorkeling, swimming, surfing, sailing, kayaking and diving. Trekking into the richly forested landscape affords exploration of the exotic flora and fauna, some of which are native to the French Polynesian island.
The glittering waters of the Cook Islands offer a resplendent undersea world awaiting diving enthusiasts of all levels. The lagoon is perfect for novice divers, while deep gores of 100 to 13,312 feet are suitable for experienced adventure seekers. Guided tours from internationally recognized dive companies are the best way to explore the beautiful seascape. One company is fully staffed by registered Leadership personnel with affiliations with PADI International Resort Association (PIRA) and NAUI and SSI Associations. Free pick-up and drop-off at all accommodations within Rarotonga, training classes and overnight dives can be arranged. As of September 2009, dives range from $44 to $54 with discounts for multiple dives.
Another popular water activity on Roratonga is surfing. Skilled surfers will experience adrenaline-packed rides from short, fast breaks at Avana Harbor, the best surf spot found on the island's eastern coast, just outside the Muri Beach area. High tide is the safest time to surf. A quiet alternative is Club Raro at the Avana Harbor in Avarua. Surfers wanting to purchase supplies or learn about Rarotonga's surfing culture can head to Niki's Surf Shop, east of Avarua near Paradise Inn.
Numerous companies offer guided mountain trekking into the Papua Waterfall track, the Avana Valley track, the Turangi track, Raemaru Lookout, the Cross Island track, which passes through the Needle, and the Takitumu Conservation Area, a protected rainforest reserve. Hiking tours are a great learning opportunity for everyone, including children, to see exotic butterflies flitting about and indigenous birds flying or perched on ferns, banana trees or endemic plants. Aside from mosquitoes, hikers can explore the lush landscape without worrying about snakes, poisonous insects or wild animals. Guided tours come in varying levels of difficulty. As of September 2009, tours start at $47.
When planning your trip to Rarotonga, remember that it is between 64 to 82 degrees F from May to October (southern winter) and between 70 to 84 degrees F from November to April (summer). Rainy season is from January to early May. While severe weather isn't a normal occurrence, the El Nino weather pattern can affect local climate.
Use fins, flippers, old sneakers or rubber reef shoes when swimming or exploring the water to protect feet from sharp corals. Thong sandals are not recommended. Cuts must be attended to quickly to prevent infections.
Wear proper hiking shoes and socks since the trails can be quite challenging. Do not wear sandals, slippers or thongs. Spray on lots of mosquito repellent.