Kia orana Rarotonga – 6 things a family needs to know

Rarotonga’s beauty is well renowned.  We had wanted to travel there for a number of years.  I still find it funny that the first time that we decided to make the trip was when we had our little addition – you that is Rakeiora.  Rarotonga family travel, here we go!

If you want to know more about us please check out our bio!  To give a bit of background this was our first trip as a family out of New Zealand and was a really big learning journey for us.

Travel dates (we stayed seven nights over 23 Jan – 24 Sep 2014).

Planning the trip

I think any big trip overseas needs a fair bit of planning when you have a family.  Our planning started almost a year from our travel dates and was mostly made up of us asking any of our friends about where they stayed.  We searched all the normal websites looking at reviews, and finally asked the opinion of our travel agent.  In the end we went with our friends recommendation (Pacific Resort Rarotonga), Thank you Cassie 😉  We hope that you can get some of the information that we wished we had if you are looking at heading to Raro.

At the time of our flight our son was just over one.  One thing looking back that we wished we had of done was booked a seat with the use of a bassinet.  Our son was too heavy at the time of our flight, but it wouldn’t have been wasted money as it guarantees your seat (this note is specific to Air New Zealand who we flew with for this flight).  The biggest reason I say this is, with a one year old you need a little bit of personal space, this guarantees that somewhat and you get a little bit of leg room.

What do you take?

Trying to shrink down the kitchen sink (let’s be honest once you have kids you pretty much move your house when you go somewhere) is difficult.  We spent hours going back and forth with what we needed to take. A lot of issues came from the amount of weight that we could carry, what the airline’s policy for infant luggage was – can we take a car seat? Do we need it?  Yes says Mama!  So many questions and Papa was still nervous that we weren’t going to be allowed to take something on the plane!

So here is what ended up being essential.  Jandals, sunglasses, packet food (food is super expensive in Rarotonga, will go into that later), insect repellent, car seat (by law at the time you didn’t need one in Raro, but we definitely used it), a pram or carrier, sunscreen, kids books and a few toys (there are no real toy stores but you’re not there for that anyway).  Currency is New Zealand Dollar too, so make sure you have some of that!

Just arrived, lucky we brought our car seat!

A few things we learnt during this trip was that when you fly with Air New Zealand you can take a car seat (which needs a plastic cover) and a pram for free.  YAY! Also despite Papa’s absolute soul crushing fear, you can take a bag for your infant!  Check your airlines policy though!

Where to stay

We stayed at Pacific Resort Rarotonga.  This place is awesome!  It seems a little bit OTT (over the top) but the fact that they even clean the seaweed off the beach at Pacific Resort makes a big difference for your trip.  Pacific Resort Rarotonga also clears a lot of the coral that is close to the shore meaning that you can feel safe when playing with your little ones.

For our room we choose a Garden view room, which was really quite private.  I don’t think I would like to go back and stay in anything less.  The resort has a kids club but this is more suited to older children, like most kids clubs.  We took advantage of being able to take out kayaks, snorkel equipment (for Papa), shovel and buckets, and beach shoes if you’re going to venture out a little further!

To be honest, without staying everywhere in Rarotonga our view of what is good is slightly skewed but one of the things we liked about this Resort is also its position.

Booking.com

Pacific Resort
One of the pools at Pacific Resort

Take food

Knowing a few Cook Islanders gave me insight into some of the problems that you can face with a small island and food.  What do I mean?  It’s pretty expensive.  With your little ones there are some basic things that are a real nice to have.  Things like snacks.  In Rarotonga these come at a price. If you don’t like travelling with food normally, it is a good idea to look at carrying a few things like muesli bars, crackers etc.  You will see a lot of the locals who are returning at the airport arriving with packages of food.  I did a lot of searching for what the regulations for food are and there doesn’t seem to be a list of what you can and can’t take.  The best advice we had before we left was that we couldn’t take fresh fruit and vegetables.  Everything else is ok!

Where to eat

We stayed in Muri Beach which as I said above was one of the great things about the position of our resort.  The Muri night market is an awesome place to get into the island vibe with food prepared by locals and local entertainers.  The market runs Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights from 5pm – at the time we stayed.

Muri night markets
Animals running free at the Muri night market, which Mr Rakeiora loved

There are also a number of Cafe’s and restaurants at Muri Beach.  We went to a tonne of them and didn’t have any massive problems.  There were some biting ants at one of the cafe’s play grounds.  It’s Rarotonga though so we kind of expected that sort of stuff.  Best advice is, Muri is pretty good for a young family.

One really big piece of advice for where to eat, go to the Mooring Fish Cafe!  It is great food, and good value.  It sits at the launching point for the Māori migration to New Zealand.  So there is history there too.

Mooring Fish Cafe
Mooring Fish Cafe – mmm namunamua (delicious)

What to do

Here is a few things that we would recommend:

Relax

Honestly you don’t go to the islands to do much else.  We spent so much time chilling next to the water enjoying time together.  I don’t regret a moment of it!  Our son would fall asleep under the shade and Mama would get a chance to read a book – oh bliss!

Avarua Markets

Avarua Markets is a great little spot with local designs, art, food, and a local playground.  Its’ a must see and only open on Saturdays.  It’s also a good place to pick up all of your souvenirs and if you are going to buy a ukulele its a great place to get one.  We decided late that we wanted one and never found one for the same quality or price.  We also picked up a great piece of Cook Island inspired art from a small gallery.  It inspired us to buy a piece of art for each trip we have done.

Kayak and explore an Island

Most resorts provide kayaks.  But even if they don’t I would recommend hiring one.  The experience of exploring an island as a family is awesome.  Life jackets also are provided with little ones sizes.  The depth of the water at our resort meant you could walk to the islands.  So it was pretty safe.  This gave Mama a chance to get out and explore the corals while Rakeiora explored with Papa.

Drive around the island

We hired a car for two days and drove around the island.  Most of the youth will be driving scooters.  Haha.  We really felt like we were exploring and our son loved it.  It takes less than hour, so it’s not much of your day, but it’s worth it!

Take in the culture

Doing a cultural tour or show can be a little harder than you think (be careful some won’t let you take children).  By taking in the culture I think it’s about immersing yourself in it.  Cook Islanders are really friendly people.  We felt really at home.  I think it’s also great to visit some of the historical sites.  Te Taunga Waka (The migration point) is right next to The Mooring Fish Cafe, and is a great place to visit.  To visit the location where our Māori people left to head to New Zealand, this was a great moment for us.  But I think most would find this interesting too.

We hope that this gave you some insight into family travel to this beautiful part of the world.  It’s definitely worth it and we will be heading back another day for sure.

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