With its jagged peaks and deep valleys, fertile slopes of red earth and sparkling aquamarine lagoon, Rartonga comes pretty close to the classic image of paradise.

Raratonga was one of the last of the Cook Islands to be visited by European ships, but since its discovery it has always been a favorite of sailors and merchants. Many old South Sea hands consider it the most beautiful island in the Pacific.

Countless travellers’ tales, books, plays and films have created a vision of an archetype of heaven in the South Seas — massed coconut palms, jungle-clad peaks, the boom of combers smashing on the reef, the crimson flamboyant trees and the beat of the drum dance. Amazingly enough it is all true. Casual chats with overseas visitors will often confirm their surprise that such a place exists.

One feature remarked on by most visitors but almost unnoticed by Rarotongans is the number of tiny wild chickens which wander without hindrance wherever they choose. These fowl are too scrawny or quick to make serious contributions to cooking pots. Every morning before dawn and often in the middle of the night a chorus of cockerels starts up, with each rooster trying to outdo the other in staking their claims to territory and harems.

Maybe the only bad side of Rarotonga is, as a picture on the right shows, the many stone beaches which are not quite accessible. But, it also has many beautiful sand beaches which are very accessible and very beautiful!

Once there:
The island is a rather small one, circumventing 32km, so it is easy to get around by bike or a motorcycle, both are readily available in main tourist areas. A nice way to start the discovery is to head towards East from Avarua.

Try Tamarind House for their splendid breakfast (coconut pancakes with banana; French toast with syrup and bacon, good lattes,..).

A good snorkeling spot is about 15km down the road by a little juice bar called Fruits of Raro. They will guard your bag for free, but be aware – you might be tempted to try one of the delicious fruit smoothies that they prepare to charge yourself up for snorkeling!

The waterfall at the South point of the island, that is from where the drinking water comes from, is way too over-rated. If you have extra time, you can hike/drive up to see it.

The Waterfront restaurant on the West of the island offers the best sun-set views and by far the best dinners with superb ambiance. Be sure to be there already to watch the sunset, reserve a table and go down the beach to enjoy the sunset.

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