It’s possible to spend everyday for 1 week enjoying these free activities.
Are you visiting Rarotonga and trying to do it for the cheapest cost possible? We’ve created a list of free activities to do in between lazing around your accommodation to get you out there and immerse yourself in Island life with these free things to do.
1. ATTEND A CHURCH SERVICE
While remaining respectful of the locals at worship, tourists are welcome to attend any of the church services. Remember its not a tourist attraction as such but a beautiful service that should be experienced. The singing just has to be heard, it will give you tingles. Most parts of the service are presented in Cook Island Maori but you will still get the general idea. The churches do have a dress code so don’t just turn up in your shorts and singlet if you’re thinking of attending one of the services. Men are expected to wear pants or shorts with a shirt or polo shirt. Women, dress with shoulders covered. A skirt and top or a dress with shoulders or something underneath to cover shoulders. Although there is no rule on footwear, don’t turn up in bare feet. Thongs/jandals/flip flops are acceptable. Have a chat
with the locals after the service to get a bit of history and information. The locals are the most knowledgeable and love to tell visitors anything they want to know.
2. SNORKEL ANYWHERE AROUND THE ISLAND
Visitors have the freedom to swim in most areas of the lagoon, just remember to access the beach from public land and not wander through private property to get there. The only areas to avoid are the passages that run from the reef to the shore. These spots or strips of ocean are marked with signage from the beach and you will notice the area by it’s deep blue colour. They can be a little dangerous to swim near. Snorkelling is the best free activity in Rarotonga, spending hours out in the water gazing and finding all the different marine life the lagoon habitates. The most open area for any swimming is Muri Beach, but the best spot for fish spotting due to the fishing ban in this area is definitely ‘Fruits of Rarotonga’ area. This is located directly opposite the ‘Fruits of Rarotonga’ café and Chantal’s Concierge. Another nice area to snorkel. around is where the Queens representative residence is located. Titikaveka district has the widest and most blue parts of the lagoon to explore and gaze at.
3. LEARN TO OPEN A COCONUT
Get a friendly local to demonstrate how a coconut is opened and have a go yourself. Coconuts can be found everywhere on the ground or maybe someone will collect a few Nu green nuts. These are the best nuts for drinking, so fresh you’d think the water inside is carbonated. The darker nuts with water still inside are best for eating. If you ask a local, I’m sure they would take great pride in teaching you this skill before you attempt it. A fun challenge to see if you could survive on your own if stranded on a tropical Island as they will keep you alive, excuse me while I day dream I’m stranded on a tropical Island…
4 WALK TO PAPUA FALLS (WIGMORE’S)
You will find this road Papua Rd in between the abandoned Sheraton Resort and Paintball Kukis on the south side of Island. This may no longer be a free activity, or you may have to do this one in the late afternoon as locals have blocked off the entrance with rope & witches hats as they are charging each car $5 to access the road up to the falls. This has been a touchy subject for a while now as to where the money is actually being spent but to avoid this, walk to the falls, a short stroll. The mozzies are quite thick up there so paste yourself with repellent first. A lovely waterfall to visit after rain, which has been featured on numerous TV travel shows as a place to see in Rarotonga. On your walk up to the falls, you will walk past the SPCA which is the animal shelter housing stray dogs. Make a donation to this organisation if you can to help look after the stray dogs of the Island.
5. WATCH PLANES LAND CLOSE UP OR A JET BLAST TAKE OFF
This is a fun free thing to do that can be done a few times as it never gets boring. Stand at the sea wall where planes land to get a real close up of the plane’s belly. Go to the airport for a list of arrivals and departures to pick which planes you will watch. The biggest ones are Air New Zealand and Virgin flights which are usually in the morning and evening. The Jetstar flights are always around midnight. Get to your spot a little earlier than expected as most flights are a few minutes early. Watch the plane approach you from front on then fly directly overhead before touching down on the runway.
Alternatively, for an intense airport experience, get yourself to the other end of the runway for a jet blast from behind the plane as it takes off (if a westerly wind). The best time to see this is at around 8am to watch the Air New Zealand flight take off. Give the pilots a wave back as they will be waving to you as they turn around and get into position. This jet blast is a hot, windy and powerful blast in your face. 10 seconds feels like a minute but it’s fun and will get your adrenaline pumping for the day. You may also smell jet fuel for the rest of the day as you inhale it from behind. Wear sunnies or even a helmet and close your eyes. Make sure you park your scooter or car right away from the blast, you don’t want issues with the hire company or insurance if your scooter gets blown over.
6. HIKE TO TE RUA MANGA (THE NEEDLE) FOR A GREAT VIEW
This hike will take an easy 1.5hr to reach. This rock formation is easily visible as it protrudes from one of the inland mountains. You’ll need to be fairly fit to climb and I wouldn’t recommend attempting this right after a night of rain as it would be too slippery, but I do recommend hiking up there for a breath taking view. Set off as early as you can to avoid the heat as you will work up a good sweat on the way up. Some parts of the track are only as wide as the 60cm ridge so be careful and hold onto trees and use their roots for steps. Once you’ve made it to the top you can then choose to climb the summit of the needle using the ropes and chains to take in 360º views of the island. This is for the more advanced climber but if just reaching the base of the needle is an accomplishment, take in the gorgeous views while you’re up there and see just how far you’ve come.
You can descend down the other side to emerge on the south side of Island arriving at Wigmore falls or return back to where you started.
To find the starting point, take the inland exit at the round about closest to the harbour in Avarua. Cross the stream and keep driving until you reach the power station. Park your car here and follow the little arrow markers to stay on the track.
7. WANDER AROUND THE MARKET - ‘PUNANGA NUI’
The market is easily found as tourists and locals bustle around the waterfront of Avarua. With free entry to the Punanga Nui market on Saturday, you can walk around and easily fill a few hours. Buy some fruit and vegetables. Have a tropical smoothie for breakfast as you check out the local handcrafts. Buy a garland to wear. Watch the kids perform their dancing on the outdoor stage. Grab some reasonably priced lunch at one of the stalls on the exit side of the market. You can meet a lot of locals and ask them questions, they will happily tell you all about their products they’ve hand made. Open from 8am–1pm every Saturday.
8. WATCH HERMIT CRABS
I could watch these creatures for hours. You can find them on the Island ranging from fingernail size to clenched fist size (probably bigger but this is the largest I’ve seen). They won’t hurt you, just tickle your hand. Be careful not to drop them though, you may break their shell and home. Watch them as they go about their business in their habitat foraging, climbing and socialising.
9. EXPLORE THE MOTU
Swim out to one of the motu around Muri beach. At low tide the water is only waist deep and you can walk out. Walk around and pretend like you’re the only one on the island, because you probably are. Watch out for falling coconuts through the thick of the palm trees and have insect repellent for the mozzies out here. You will find sprouting coconuts and hermit crabs everywhere. Enjoy the whole Island to yourself and lie on a beach with no one else. Watch the main Island carry on without you.
10. VISIT BLACK ROCK
This Big black rock is hidden from view as you drive around the Island but is located just south of the runway end at the sea wall. There is an area to park opposite an empty block with possibly a cow casually grazing. An information sign is also another indication you have found Black Rock.
This large chunk of 1.9 million year old Bassalt lying in the lagoon just metres from shore is significant culturally and historically. This site is where ancestors came to Tuoro (Black Rock) to work the stone to make tools. It is also believed to be the site where dead spirits leave Rarotonga and start their journey back to their ancient homeland.
A perfect site to watch the sunset as it’s at the North/West corner of the Island. Sit on the grass or climb on top of the rock and watch the sun go down. Capture some beautiful sunset photos from here.
If you know of any other free activities to do while in Rarotonga, share in the comments below.