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Best for Cocktails
Crown Beach Resort
Rarotonga is known for its stunning sunsets, and Crown Beach Resort is one of the best places to kick back and watch it go down, with a cocktail or two of course! Sit by the pool, or out overlooking the beach and enjoy some of the most colourful cocktails you’ve ever seen. Happy hour runs from 4.00pm-6.00pm daily. Stay for dinner at one of the island’s best restaurants, but book ahead if you’re planning on staying for their popular island night.
Best signature dish
The Mooring Fish Café
Perhaps the most famous meal on the island is the Mooring’s FOB Sandwich (Fish On Bread). The freshly caught mahimahi (or yellowfin tuna if you prefer), lime juice, and their special aioli will have you salivating before you even get the plate. It’s also said to be the best value meal on the island.
Best place to meet the locals
Whatever Bar & Grill
It’s not much to look at, but this is the best place to meet the locals and have a bit of a party. It’s on the beach, the drinks are cheap, and there’s usually a local band playing late into the night. Happy hour is from 4.00pm-7.00pm, and again from 9.00pm-11.00pm.
The iconic Trader Jacks is on most people’s must do list, and justifiably so. Sitting right on the waters edge in the main township of Avarua, Trader Jacks overlooks the towns main beach which is usually busy with locals in their dragonboats, and even the odd cruiseship anchored offshore. They have a relatively wide range of drinks, great service, and plenty of seats in the sun. Be sure to say hi to the larger-than-life owner, Jack, if he’s around.
Best happy hour and cheap eats
Roadhouse Bar & Grill
Rather dingy looking from the outside, but it’s easily one of the cheapest places to eat and drink on the island. Burgers start at $5.00, and drinks are about the same, until happy hour that is! This is also a good spot to watch the rugger.
Best new restaurant
One of the newest restaurants on the island, situated at the five star Nautilus Resort. Here you’ll find superbly cooked New Zealand lamb, steak with blue cheese and peppercorn sauce, or roasted duck, all set in an elegant restaurant overlooking the beach. Perfect for a special night out.
Best beach bar
Spilling off the courtyard and onto the beach at the Pacific Resort is Barefoot Bar. Happy hours are well timed at 4.00pm-5.00pm and 8.30pm-9.30pm which make it a perfect place to stop in for pre and post dinner drinks as you meander down the beach.
Best coffee, and best breakfast
The Waffle Shack
These guys take care of two of the most important meals of the day, breakfast and coffee! Crispy of soft waffles, covered in icecream and syrup, or perhaps the healthier tropical fruit option, topped off with the islands best cappuccino. Oh and it’s conveniently located at the town markets, so be there early if it’s a Saturday.
Best fine dining
After a day swimming at beautiful Muri Beach, be sure to head to Sails at the Rarotonga Sailing Club for one of the best meals on the island. Sails serves up freshly caught fish and locally grown ingredients from their beautiful setting right on the beach. Sails is a slightly cheaper option over Nautilus.
Best Island night
A must for any holiday to the Cook Islands is attending one the many ‘Island Night’ shows. Most restaurants and resorts have their own, and our pick of the bunch is at the Edgewater Resort. Chow down on a buffet meal with your usual meat and veg, plus local specialties such as ika mata and taro. As you dine, the professional Orama Dance Group performs traditional music, dances and songs; and if you’re lucky, maybe even a fire show! So good, it runs twice a week on Tuesday and Saturday.
Best hidden gem
Right on the beach at the Aro’a Beachside Inn is one of the Cook’s hidden gems, the Shipwreck Hut. Here you can relax at the picnic tables or in a hammock with a pot of their signature cocktail, Opu Ra Magic. On Saturday night there’s a seafood BBQ, and on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s there’s live music. It may not stay hidden for long though, CNN voted them into the number three spot of the ‘World’s 50 Best Beach Bars’.
> Read more about the Cook Islands here
> View hot holidays deals to the Cook Islands here
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