Destinations

5 reasons to love Rarotonga

Travel Editor Sarah-Kate Lynch sends her sister Anna to explore her favourite island.

Taking teenagers on holiday is a gamble, but we increased our chances of success by taking a straw poll first – and Rarotonga came out a clear winner.

1. Relax

There’s something about Rarotonga – it’s impossible to feel uptight here. I work full-time and, ask anyone, I’m not generally one to lie about. There’s always sooo much to do! My husband Ken and two sons, Angus, 19, and Hugo, 16, are the opposite – those dudes are experts in lazing around and within minutes of arriving at the stunning Te Vakaroa Villas at beautiful Muri Beach, I was right there with them. The lapping ocean, the warm breeze, the duty-free vodka … There was no need to transition from harassed working mum to holiday mode – the switch was instantaneous.

2. Read

Some families are action addicts – we’re definitely not. All four of us, however, are avid readers, especially when on holiday. I freaked everybody out by spending three days with my nose stuck inside Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, then spent another day breaking into loud, intermittent sobs. Such a beautiful book but so unbelievably sad! Fortunately, the accommodating folk at our villa kept a well-stocked library of much lighter holiday fare, so I was able to detox from the literary trauma.

3. Self-cater

There are differing schools of thought on this – some believe it keeps money out of the local coffers, while others think it’s too much like hard work. The truth is, we don’t want to eat out every night – it’s expensive and I actually enjoy cooking when I’m not working. You can take pretty much anything into Raro, barring fresh fruit and vegetables.

Vacuum-packed meats and dairy products easily survive the four-hour flight in a chilly bag. For extra bits and bobs, Wigmore’s Superstore is well stocked with all the goodies you’d normally find in your local deli. I was happy as a clam cooking in our self-catering villa, while Ken and the boys read their books, snorkelled or soaked in the pool, and the nights we did eat out, it felt like a real treat.

4. Hire a car

Rarotonga is small but perfectly formed. It has two incredibly efficient buses named Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise, but for the ultimate freedom to go wherever, whenever, I suggest you hire a car for approximately $50 a day. Yes, scooters are great, but the boys weren’t allowed to hire them and, anyway, I had grocery shopping to do. Ken really likes to get amongst the local culture wherever we go, so he was constantly popping in and out, even when no-one could be bothered joining him. I did say I would accompany him to church on Sunday morning “if I was awake”. Sadly, I wasn’t, but he went anyway and came home visibly moved by the experience.

5. Check in early on your way home

Leaving Rarotonga to return to a bitter New Zealand winter is hard, but you can alleviate the pain by making sure your trip home is as comfortable as possible. We bought skinflint Jetstar tickets for the trip over but splashed out with The Works on Air New Zealand on the way back. If you check in your bags with time to spare, we suggest you walk across the road from the airport and take a last whiff of Rarotonga sea air. The Hula Bar at the Islander Hotel serves a very good pizza and provides smooth sounds at the poolside bar, which overlooks the ocean. This final pit stop almost made the parting bearable.

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