Another thing I love to do in a new country, aside from eating everything I can, is to find affordable and fun ways to see as much of the place as possible.
There are many different ways to get around Rarotonga, including renting a car, scooter or mountain bike, taking the local bus, taking a taxi, or just walking.
There is one main coastal road, 32 km long, around the entire island, that connects everything and is the only way of getting from one point to another. There are a few inland roads as well, but they don’t connect up. While the road is flat and reasonably straight, some places aren’t as well maintained as others and contain bumps and small holes. The road around Avarua (the capital) is nice, smooth and sealed.
You can certainly walk anywhere you want to go, it just takes time, and bear in mind there are no sidewalks, so you do have to walk on the road in some places. We walked 16 km one day between places our friends were staying; the difficult parts were definitely the heat and the fact that I developed blisters between my toes from wearing jandals (flip flops) instead of walking shoes.
There are two buses in Rarotonga – the clockwise bus and the anti-clockwise (counter-clockwise) bus. As you can probably guess, one goes clockwise around the island, and the other goes anti-clockwise around the island. The route takes about an hour.
Bus fares start from $5 for an adult single journey and $8 for a full circuit around the island. There is also a charge of $2 for each large piece of luggage.
The buses are cash only, which is paid to the driver.
There are no bus stops; you just stand on the side of the road and flag the bus down. The buses will stop anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers, so you don’t need to worry about missing your stop. You can also wait outside any hotel, as the bus typically stops at most places anyway.
The clockwise bus runs day and night, every hour from 7am-11pm Monday-Saturday. On Sundays and public holidays during the busy season (April-November) it runs every hour 8am-12pm and 2pm-4pm. There are no night buses on Sundays.
The anti-clockwise bus runs every half hour from 8:30am-4:30pm Monday-Friday, and Saturdays every half hour from 8:30am-1:30pm. The anti-clockwise bus does not run at night or on Sundays.
There are no buses at all on Good Friday, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.
Taxis in Rarotonga can get expensive very quickly if you are travelling with a group or as a family. Daytime taxis charge a minimum of $10 per person and night taxis charge a minimum of $15 per person. Keep in mind that if you are travelling as a family these charges are also per child. You could be easily looking at over $100 for a short trip.
We only took a taxi once – from a restaurant in Avarua back to our bungalow, which was well over 10km and it cost us $30 (two people).
I would advise taking the bus unless you have no other choice.
There are many different car rental places all over the island, including Avis, Polynesian Hire, Island Car & Bike Hire, and others. Prices start from $35.95 per day, depending on what car you rent. There’s a range of vehicles from small 4 door cars, up to 16-seater minibuses, so if renting a car is something you want to do there will be something to suit your needs.
We didn’t look at rental cars, as it was just the two of us for most of the trip. If we did rent one, I would be keen to drive a convertible!
We rented a scooter for 7 days from Island Car & Bike Hire, which brought the cost down to $20 per day for the scooter, $2 per day for each helmet (compulsory unless you want to risk getting a $100 fine), and $2 per day for me as the second driver.
We picked Island Car & Bike Hire because it was in Muri, and it was the only rental place still open on Saturday afternoon. We both have full New Zealand driver’s licenses. You are required to present a driver’s license in English, or with an English translation.
We spent about $11 on petrol refilling it to take it back on the final day.
I had never ridden a scooter before, but it’s super easy. I was usually the passenger, but I rode it a few times by myself, from Avarua back to our bungalow, and from our bungalow to our friends’ place at Moana Sands.
There are a couple different kinds of bike that you can rent – beach cruisers and mountain bikes. Beach cruisers have fewer gears than mountain bikes. We only rented bikes for one day, just to bike around the island. Ours were from Polynesian Hire, and cost $13 per day per bike, and $1 per day per helmet, so $28. With Polynesian Hire, you also have to pay a $50 deposit per bike, which you get back when you return them. We paid the deposit with a credit card, and it was refunded back onto that same card.
We chose Polynesian Hire because it was conveniently located in Muri, and some of our friends had rented bikes from there as well.
There are no insurance options for bikes, but there is a $500 charge if it is lost or stolen. You do get a bike lock and key with each bike, which I would recommend using.
If you are wanting to rent bicycles, I would advise going early, as they tend to all be rented. We had to wait 2 hours for some to be returned as there were none available at the time. Polynesian Hire has 6 stores around the island, including the airport, in Avarua, and in Muri.
There are of course other rental companies you can use, such as Avis – located in the Pacific Resort.
Me on the beach cruiser:
Matt on his mountain bike:
We didn’t get to choose what bikes we got, this was just what was available.
We spent a few hours one day biking around the island in the anti-clockwise direction, starting from Muri, and stopping for lunch in Avarua. We had one other stop for a cold drink near the southwestern point of the island.
Across the road was a scuba gear hire store, and a bar. Nice and convenient!
Thanks for reading!
Header image by Patrick Mackay https://www.flickr.com/photos/32595043@N03/31316265415/in/album-72157677214543365/
All opinions are my own. Other images belong to me unless otherwise stated.
All prices are in New Zealand Dollars (the currency used in the Cook Islands) and are accurate at the time this was written.
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