With each visit to Rarotonga, I like to go inland completing at least one hike. After seeing some photos with great views on Instagram of hikers posing at the top of Raemaru, it was decided this was the mountain to climb this time.
Getting an early start to the day was a great plan and meant we could grab a strong coffee from our fav coffee spot, Reefside Rarotonga, to enjoy with our banana on the way to Arorangi and the starting point of our mountain hike. I was going to need that extra boost of caffeine to push me up the hill.
I was keen to climb Raemaru mountain and had been looking forward to being up in the Rarotongan bush again. I really enjoyed exploring the inner side of Rarotonga where it's lush jungle surrounds and abrupt mountain peaks stand tall.
The previous day we found our starting point while out on another adventure. To find it, head clockwise around the Island, turn right off the main road 50m past the Discover Marine Wildlife & Eco Centre where you’ll see the road sign Akaoa No. 2 Rd. Head up here until you reach Are Metua, the inner Rd. Turn left, then right to continue heading inland. A few hundred metres along this road you will come to the Raemaru trailhead. Leaving the car, the track turns left where you will see the sign to begin your hike.
As the sun was beginning to rise above the palm trees on the edge of the Island, we parked the car off the side of the road and set off on foot while it was still cool and the caffeine could still give me a gentle push to get moving.
It’s a less rigorous hike than The Needle here on Rarotonga and also takes a little less time to climb overall. Raemaru rises to 357m and a low fitness level is required to climb to the base of the rocky peaked summit which takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you wish to climb the very last section of rocky peak this requires a little more ability and time. I recommend wearing sturdy walking shoes and insect repellent and bring lots of water to drink because you'll sweat and don't forget it's a tropical island so if it has been raining it will be more of a challenge therefore dangerous so be careful.
The hike begins very easily, taking you under twisted branches that have formed a natural tunnel and giant taro leaves creating a thick jungle canopy. As you start to walk over the rougher terrain, mother nature provides natural footing of tree roots and handy trees to hold while climbing the mountain ridge. Keep an eye out for the triangle markers on trees to let you know you’re going the right way.
While hiking the mountain, we stopped every so often to not only have a drink of water but to take in the ocean views on one side and mountain views everywhere else. We took some great shots as we were nearing the top of Raemaru, capturing the green layers of nature sometimes overlapping each other in the distance. It’s the most striking green mountainous views I’ve seen.
The environment of inner Rarotonga is peaceful with butterflies under the canopy and birds gently flying above. Seeing the Island in its most natural form of nature has to be experienced and this is the perfect way to do that.
Cook Islands tourism corporation keep you on the right track to guide you along the way with QR codes nailed to some trees helping you on your self guided hike with links to info and the local legend of Raemaru.
Nearing the top and the half way point was a relief as the two of us were not only bright red but also a little tired. We stopped at the top for about 15 minutes to re-hydrate, take some photos of ourselves with red faces and also to attempt the final part of the climb which is the rocky peak. The smooth basalt rocks create a kind of stairway to the very peak. A guide rope is provided for grip but as the rocks were still wet from the rain the night before, this made it too slippery to get a foothold but we did give it a try. If the rocks were dry this would have made it so much easier to climb the final section for the fantastic panoramic views from the very top. A great excuse for me to hike Raemaru again on a return visit to conquer the last 20 metres.
Enjoying the views from a different angle for a while we soaked up the sights of the villages below, the turquoise lagoon and the vast Pacific Ocean beyond everything we see before starting our descent back down.
I got a nice surprise near the end of our hike when a local guy and 2 tourists approached us as they were about to start their hike. As we stopped to greet each other I recognised the local guide as Mata George who I met back in 1992 on my first visit to Rarotonga with my parents. He also recognised me after 27 years and after a few minutes talking they continued on their hike. I caught up with Mata a few days later selling his woven baskets at Punanga Nui Market where I purchased one as a souvenir.
Getting closer to the base of the mountain, we noticed the temp was warming up and we were grateful we set off early while cooler. The descent which took only 45 minutes to get back to the car was surprisingly quick, again with a bright red face of accomplishment.
Our entire hike from the car to the top and back down with a short rest took 2 hours in total. It was a relatively easy hike and I highly recommend this free activity for your trip to Rarotonga. Finish the day off like we did with a massive feed and a few drinks from Charlies. We relaxed and snorkelled for the rest of the day finishing off with some yummy cheap burgers from Palace Takeaway, eaten at the end of the runway while watching an Air NZ plane land.
What a fantastic day that only cost us coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner. We slept very well that night. There’s nothing like a bit of mountain climbing while in paradise to tire me out so I can take it easy for the rest of my stay.
Time to start looking for the next place to explore nature when I return to Rarotonga.