Rarotonga is a round-ish island with the airport at the main town of Avarua. Muri is a 15-minute drive away, clockwise (at 50km/h), and is a self-contained stretch of places to eat, stay and things to do. You could easily get a transfer and stay here without a car. The lagoon on this part of the island is a playground for any holidaymaker interested in snorkelling, taking a cruise, fishing, kayaking or wanting to learn how to kiteboard, paddleboard or even scuba dive.
Less than an hour after our plane hit the tarmac, we were in our seaside bungalow at Muri’s lovely new Nautilus Resort (above). Despite the ocean lapping almost literally at my feet, I found myself gravitating towards our private plunge pool. I also gravitated to the fresh-caught mahimahi in the restaurant at night-time and to the still-warm banana muffins at breakfast. With its big bungalows, infinity pool, water toys and welcoming staff, this place is holiday bliss. Don’t forget to grab a kayak and circumnavigate the little coral island in front of the resort.
If you’re keen on something a little more self-catering, the tasteful Te Vakaroa Villas are the bomb. There are only six of them – the bigger ones are perfect for two couples (no kids under 12) – and they share a beachside swimming and spa pool. You can sit on the shaded verandah and gaze out at the lagoon through the coconut palms or wander out on the main road and forage for food. There’s a fully equipped kitchen, though, so if you stock up at the Saturday market in Avarua, you could very happily just stay put for your whole holiday. There’s even a full laundry, perfect for the clean freaks among us. (I’m not one of them, but the Ginger is.)
The fish salad and sammies at The Mooring are world-famous – lunch at this cheerful harbour-side container is a must. Take cash and remember it’s closed on Saturdays. Sails, next to Te Vakaroa, right on the beach, has the perfect casual sailing-club vibe and, on the main road, LBV café is a favourite with the locals. I can see why – it’s worth it just for the pastries and I can vouch for the ginger crunch. There are several shops and different options for fish and chips or burgers, and the Pacific Resort has a great casual restaurant right on the sand, not that we could ever get in there.
Even the Ginger’s snoring, sadly louder than the gentle trickle of the indoor waterfall, could not kill my buzz during our couples massage at Rumours Waterfall Spa. The glass of bubbly as we relaxed afterwards certainly helped too. A definitely more lively thrill, even for him, was the Over-Water Night Show at Te Vara Nui cultural village. This dance and drum-based Polynesian show is a class act, as is the island buffet that goes with it. The brainchild of former performer Vara and her gorgeous daughter Moana, this is a must-see in Muri. Comfy beds, yummy food, watersports, culture and a back rub? Take me back right now!