Wednesday, December 3, 2014


People often talk about 'island time'. Usually as a way of excusing slow service or a late departure or even the complete non-delivery of an expected holiday amenity. Typically imparted with a hearty laugh and a beaming smile, island time is either utterly charming or infuriating depending on the type of person you are. If you're a stickler for detail and precision, and expect slick, deferential interactions from robotic staff, then maybe the Pacific isn't for you.

Of course many tourism operations in the Pacific now deliver precision in spades but fortunately (for mine) island time still sets the tone and pace of life in many corners of this delicious part of the world. 

Time in the Pacific is a bit of a rubbery thing. It seems to sloooow down, and there's the international dateline to deal with (lose a day here, gain one there, arrive before you depart), it's madness. 

Kia Orana - Welcome to the Cook Islands.

The Cooks is a nation of 15 islands scattered across nearly 2 million square kilometres of The Pacific. That's roughly the same area as Mexico, and yet all 15 islands together make up a landmass of just 240 square kilometres - about the size of Canberra. Green needles in a blue Pacific haystack. Rarotonga - the main island and gateway to The Cooks is a jewel. Known to most simply as Raro, its mountainous, green heart is surrounded by concentric swoon-worthy rings of yellow, turquoise and deep, deep blue. Ringed by a single road that can be driven in 45 minutes or so, and plied by a pair of bus routes - Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise - Raro is pretty, almost ridiculously so. A dreamboat of lagoons, beaches, sunshine and hips that move to the beat of drums and traditional song in mind-bending ways. Life here is mostly slow. Like the tide. This is proper island time.

Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga

Image courtesy of
A favourite with Kiwis for many years, and an emerging destination for Australians and North Americans (We're onto you, Kiwis), The Cooks are at an interesting point in their tourism development. Demand is building, but there are few large resorts or hotels, nor much space to develop new ones, and airlines are deploying limited capacity into Raro. Demand and supply circling each other, waiting for one to make the first move. The sprawling ruins of a false-start by Sheraton suggests, perhaps, that we've been here before.

But Rarotonga is ready now. World class everything, pretty much. Quality accommodation from not a lot to a few thousand a night for all the bells and whistles and then some. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars scattered every few metres it seems, never far from wherever you are, hills for hiking (if you must), impressive cultural and folkloric attractions, every water sport (no ghastly Jet Skis, thankfully) under the sun. Plenty of that, too. And a lovely, proud and welcoming people all in sync with a pace of life that seems eminently sensible when you experience it first hand. 

Dancing at Te Vara Nui Cultural Village
No matter what you get up to here, all the while the Clockwise and the Anti-Clockwise buses will rumble reliably around the island in opposite directions, picking up and dropping travellers and locals off at just the pace required. I reckon they affect the sense of time here. One going forwards. One backwards. Time slows, almost to a stop. Almost. For inevitably, someone will eventually tell you it's time to go. Back home where there is no Anti-Clockwise bus to temper things. Just the quickening of time.  

Captain Cook - for whom the Islands are named - never saw the speck that is Rarotonga. Don't live like Cook. Come. Find the time. There's plenty here.


A motu in Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga
Low tide in Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga
The beach at Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa
View from a bed in the Platinum Villa at Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa
This would have been an interesting encounter
One of the friendly Muri Lagoon locals
Noni Fruit sample at Te Vara Nui Cultural Village
Villa developments on Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga
Shells, Muri Lagoon.

Moody Muri Lagoon
Private pool at Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa, Rarotonga
Fancy shower at Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa

Harbour side at Trader Jacks Bar & Grill, Rarotonga

Early evening by the harbour, Rarotonga

The view from downtown Raro

Rugby field by Muri Lagoon

Would you? At Muri Beach Club Hotel

Rush hour in Raro

View through the front door of the Platinum Villa at Rumours

Muri Lagoon, Rarotonga

Unfortunately, you will have to leave
Disclaimer: I do some marketing work for some of the operators shown in the images in this blog post.


  1. Nice article Ben! I just can't wait to get back to the Cook Islands, loved it! Hope all is well.

  2. Really wonderful and very beautiful islands .