We awoke around 4pm. The clouds were gone, the rain was gone. In their place was a baking hot sun. Just what I wanted. We investigated our accommodation a little more thoroughly; discovering that the Club Raro Resort was situated right on a coral beach, with a set of old concrete stairs leading from the pool deck to the coral, in a fairly nonchalant manner. Next to these stairs, a thatched roof circular bar stood between the pool and the also-thatched seating that overlooked the beach, the water, the water breaking on the reef, the horizon.
Quite hungry by this point, we ate at the bar. I had a quite large chicken burger – it was good. I’m rather fond of letting it be known when I really like food, so when I say “good” I mean that it wasn’t good enough to expand on that word. Suffice it to say, that if you want to stay at Club Raro, you will be able to eat reasonably well for reasonably cheap without expending too much mental energy. This is the vibe of the resort in general – they present very good value without overdoing anything unnecessarily, a philosophy that I like in equal measure to lavish luxury for it’s own sake. Overall, I recommend staying at Club Raro. I liked it. It’s charming. It’s definitely a resort that runs on island time (which I’m sure you’ll get an understanding of over the course of this series). If I’m starting to convince you of a trip to the Cook Islands, which I hope that I am, you can book the Club Raro resort here.
As I’ve mentioned before, Rarotonga is an oval with a circumference of 32km. So, that afternoon we mounted the scooter and circumnavigated Rarotonga as the sun was setting. It was this trip that got us acquainted with the ever present smell of burning coconut husks; smouldering mounds of them are in most peoples backyards. It’s a beautiful smell. Apparently, it repels mosquitoes too. That smell, the late afternoon sun’s warm glow, the dense jungle covered mountain on our right, Jess clutching onto me, and the wind in our faces. All ingredients for powerful memories. We stopped numerous times along the way, wherever we thought seemed particularly magical. First stop was Muri Beach. The nice side of town, apparently. Sure, there were a handful of 5-star resorts here that were incredible, but the rest of the island was definitely not much worse in comparison. Muri Beach has a lagoon in front of it before the reef meets the ocean, and in the lagoon are three Motus – small islets. We’ll return here, eventually, but for now it makes for an impressive natural picture. We stopped at a yacht club that seemed to be hosting a party, which I thought was pretty cool. There were quite a few New Zealander expats, as well as all the super friendly locals. If you have a bit of extra cash to drop on accommodation, I’d recommend staying on this side of the island, at the Pacific Resort.
After this brief interlude, we continued on further around the island as the sun was also setting. This stretch of coastline seemed to be deserted, with single story besa-block houses punctuating the landscape between the multiple churches. Across from one such church we parked our scooter under the shade of a grove of coconut palms, hoping not to get knocked out by a falling Nu (coconut). Past the grove was a long stretch of silent, white beach. The only sound was the crash of the waves on the distant reef, the water flat from there to the shore. The only presence was a black dog relaxing thirty metres away, who didn’t seem too interested in us at all. Here we stayed for some time until the sun had almost set, taking photos, swimming, sitting, being present in the tranquility. The only reason we left as the sun was setting was to prevent it from escaping our view behind the mountain – we were a quarter-island away from the perfect view. We took off again on our by now beloved scooter and made the quarter island trip in around 20 minutes or so, at a pace that could only be described as island-speed.
The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa was our chosen destination for sunset-viewing. We weren’t disappointed. The resort itself was sprawling, gargantuan, and somewhat American. We watched the sunset from the beach, replete with squads of beach chairs and umbrellas for the guests. Sunset in Rarotonga sure is spectacular. We dined at the buffet that night, which cost us about $30 NZD each. To tell the truth, we weren’t that impressed. I won’t go into too much detail, but the selection and quality of food was not at the same standard as the rest of the resort. We did stay after dinner however, for a traditional island dance show, complete with requisite fire-twirling, which I hear isn’t actually Cook Islander at all, but has spread throughout the Pacific as a tourist attraction. A pretty cool show all the same, if you ask me. A long story short; The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa seems like a great quality family-oriented resort. I probably wouldn’t stay there, but if you have a few kids and need a place to park them while you do more interesting things, this is probably the place to stay.
We finished off the night with a ride under the milky way back to the resort, to complete our circumnavigation of the island of Rarotonga. We took it slow, took it easy. Maybe it was the warmth of the air, maybe it was the glow of the stars, maybe it was the island breeze as we crawled back averaging 30km/h; but this particular ride felt magical. There were silhouettes of palm trees swaying in the wind next to the breakwater as we rode past the single airport runway that we had flown into the day before; there was no one else on the road. Just Jess, I and our little scooter. If there’s one thing I recommend to would be island-hoppers, it’s riding a scooter under the stars. We slept soundly that night. The next day, we would check out of the Club Raro Resort, and board a 12 seater plane to the incredible island of Aitutaki.