Rarotonga is the main settlement in the Cook Island group, and a popular holiday destination. Picture: Robert Linsdell/flikr
Rarotonga and its lagoon islands make for a popular holiday destination. Picture: Robert Linsdell/flikr

Rarotonga is the most populous of the Cook Islands, and a popular holiday destination.

It has a large variety of resorts and accommodation, as well as restaurants and local entertainment.

The main town is Avarua, on the north coast, the capital of the Cook Islands.

Rarotonga is a volcanic island that rises 4500m from the sea floor.

The highest peak is Te Manga, at 658m.

The island is 32km around and surrounded by a lagoon, which often extends more than 100m out to the reef, then slopes steeply to deep water, an exciting place for experienced divers.

The reef fronts the shore to the island’s north, but in the south-east the lagoon is at its widest and deepest, ideal for snorkelling and watersports.

Along the south-east coast are four small coral islets within the barrier reef, Motutapu, Oneroa, Koromiri and Taakoka.

Roads allow access to the island interior, which is mostly unpopulated because of the terrain.

Large cruise ships must anchor offshore as the island’s ports are not deep.

Three-quarters of Rarotonga is encircled by an ancient inner road made of stones, Ara Metua.

There is also a short tourist railway, Rarotonga Steam Railway, with a working steam locomotive.

Rarotonga has two bus routes, clockwise and anticlockwise, with pick-up and set-down anywhere en route.

Visitors from Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, UK and the EU can now drive rentals in the Cook Islands for up to six months using their overseas license. Otherwise, visitors who rent mopeds or cars are required to get a Cook Islands driver licence.

Rarotonga International Airport has Air Rarotonga inter-island flights, with daily flights to Aitutaki, regular flights to Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro, and occasional flights to the remote northern atolls of Manihiki, Tongareva (Penrhyn) and Pukapuka.

Check out the island’s accommodation at booking.com