With a circumference of about 20 miles, a perfect option for tranportation in Rarotonga is the rent a bycycle. It's great exercise and trafiic is slow and light enough that it's a great option. However if its raining or biking isn't your thing there is bus service that circles the islands once and hour in each direction ( clockwise, Counterclockwise) meaning you can catch a bus anywhere within 30 minutes. Beware that the buses do have limted hours.
Not many airlines fly to Rarotonga, but Air New Zealand does. From NZ it feels much like a domestic flight really.
Since I wrote this tip over 5 years ago, Air NZ has also introduced a Sydney-Rarotonga service.
Hire a scooter and have fun
One of the first things to do on the island is to go and hire your self a scooter or motor bike, they are the best wya to get around the place, they cost from around $12 nz a day, very cheap.
Having a scooter means that you can just get up and go any time you like, want to go to town, ok lets ok, jump on your scooter and your away. Running cost are very cheap too. You do not have to wear a helmut and there are no drink driving laws as such, but as allways drink in moderation when in control of a scooter or motorbike.
There is a bus that come past every hour, but if you miss it you have to wait for the next one,
If you do hire a scooter, one warning just watch the exhust pipe, its nasty burn.
Domestic Air Travel
With the vast expanses of ocean which separates the individual Cook Islands, air travel is the only viable option to travel between the islands. Air Rarotonga offers a fairly comprehensive schedule servicing the islands. The most important routes for visitors will be the daily services to and from Aitutaki and a more limited 3/4 weekly service to Atiu.
There is also a day-trip packages to Aitutaki as well as a variety of other air tours including trips to the northern atolls. Aitutaki day trip costs around NZ429
International Air Travel
There aren’t a huge amount of options for air travel to and from the cook islands.
There are only three scheduled international carriers to and from the Cooks
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand operates daily flights to and from Rarotonga from Auckland, New Zealand
There are also stop-over options between the US and Auckland and connection options from Sydney and Christchurch
Pacific Blue operates direct flights from Auckland to/from Rarotonga every day except Wednesday and Thursday with connection options with Christchurch and Sydney.
Air Rarotonga offers weekly flights between Tahiti, French Polynesia and Rarotonga
Getting around Rarotonga by us is fairly straightforward. There are two buses, one of which runs clockwise around the 32km coastal road (Ara Tapu) and one which runs anticlockwise.
The clockwise bus runs every hour on the hour leaving from Cook Corner in Avarua between the hours 7am and 4pm and the anticlockwise bus running every 25 minutes past the hour between 7am and 4pm. Both buses run Monday to Saturday with a limited, Clockwise only, bus running on Sunday between 8am to 12 noon and 2pm to 4pm.
The Clockwise bus also operates evening services with a bus running every hour between 6pm and 11pm Monday to Thursday and Saturday.
Friday has an extended bus service with the clockwise bus offering an evening service from 6pm to 10pm and 12midnight to 2am
One Way - $4
Return - $7
10 ride booklet - $25
Day pass - $16
Family Day Pass - $26
Getting A License
The Cook Islands Authorities do not recognise driver’s licences from any other country so you will have to obtain a Cook Islands licence before being allowed to operate a vehicle...more a source of income than a genuine attempt at road safety regulation!!!
Getting a licence is pretty straightforward. On renting a scooter or car you will have to present your own country’s licence for inspection. When renting a scooter you will simply be asked if you are experienced at operating a scooter.
If you answer yes, you will be asked to demonstrate your ‘skill’ to the agency representative by riding up the road, indicated and turning before returning. They will then give you a document stating that you are fit to operate a scooter which you bring to the police station at Avarua where they will issue you a 1 year driver’s licence for a $20 dollar fee.
If you answer no at the rental agency you will be sent to the police station to do a ‘test’ which involves driving up an alleyway and weaving between cones. If you pass you will be issued your licence.
Rent a scooter!
You can get around Rarotonga using public transport but it does tie you down a little and so I would highly recommend renting a scooter for the greatest flexibility and freedom during your stay on the island. Renting a scooter is an economical and fun way of exploring the island and there is a variety of rental agencies who will rent you a scooter for as long or short a time period as you like. Cars can also be rented but are obviously much more expensive than scooters and not really good value for money on such a small island. You can circle the island in about an hour on a scooter and passes through and alongside beautiful beaches and quiet village communities. It is especially useful to visit the quieter parts of the island in the north-west and to explore communities and scenic spots along the inner ring road which the public bus does not service.
However, there have been many scooter related accidents on Rarotonga. While you do need to obtain a Cook Islands licence before being allowed to operate a scooter, these are pretty easy to get and don’t involve a huge amount of skill. This leads to a lot of inexperienced riders being allowed to ride scooters and this inevitably leads to serious accidents. Use as bit of common sense...if you don’t have at least a little experience operating a scooter don’t let a small secluded Pacific island, with limited health services, be your first attempt!
We used the well known and reliable Budget rental agency on Rarotonga and picked up a scooter for three days for $60. As you can carry a passenger this breaks down to just $10pp per day which is a very economical way of getting around. Budget has a few rental locations scattered around the island which is makes them very convenient for pick-up and drop-off.
Budget - http://www.budget.co.ck/
Polynesian Bike Hire - http://www.polybike.co.ck/
Rarotonga Rental - http://www.rarotongarentals.co.ck/
Island Car and Bike Hire - http://www.islandcarhire.co.ck/
Buses around the island
Rarotonga's efficient bus system is operated by Cook's Island Bus Passenger Transport Limited.
One clockwise bus and one anti-clockwise bus make the 50 minute (32km) round-island journey almost continuously throughout the day. All buses run along the island's main perimeter road.
All buses start and finish their journeys at Cook's Corner bus terminal in the island's capital, Avarua.
The following information was correct at the time of my visit to the island in May 2006.
The clockwise buses leave Cook's Corner on the hour, arriving back there at 10 to the hour. The anti-clockwise buses leave Cook's Corner at 25 past the hour, arriving back there at quarter past the hour.
Mon-Sat: Buses leave Cook's Corner every hour from 7am - 4pm.
Sundays: Buses leave Cook's Corner every hour from 8am -12pm and then 2pm -4pm.
Night buses only run on the clockwise route. They operate as follows:
Mon-Thurs + Sat: 6pm - 11pm.
Fridays: 6pm - 10pm then 12am - 2am.
Sundays: There are NO night buses on Sundays.
Mon-Fri: Buses leave Cook's Corner every hour between 8:25am and 4:25pm.
Saturdays: Buses leave Cook's Corner every hour between 8:30am and 12:30pm.
Sundays: There are NO anti-clockwise buses on Sundays.
There are lots of small bus shelters around the island's perimeter road, but you can also flag down a bus anywhere along the route.
Pay the driver as you board the bus. The buses can become full during the day and you will possibly find yourself, as I did, having to stand up on a crowded bus. This can make the journey quite a bumpy one!
Fares (as at May 2006)
1 way ticket: 3 NZD
Return ticket: 5 NZD
10 trip ticket: 20 NZD
Cooks Passenger Transport
Cooks Passenger Transport operate buses which run around the coastal road, where most accomodation is situated.
They operate in both directions, so you should not have long to wait.
We found buses to be cheap and efficient.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Buses go both clockwise and anti-clockwise around this island, as it is 32km around, hourly most of the week.
Pretty easy to get where you want to go.
Air New Zealand
We flew on Air New Zealand. They have flights to Rarotonga from Auckland and L.A., with onward connections
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