Feel The Rarotongan Feeling


Aroa Beach

Aroa Beach - on the sunshine southwest coast - is home to The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa. Here in an eternal embrace, the white sand shore is lapped by the luminous Aroa Lagoon, the Lagoon of Love. Stroll along the water's edge. Recline in a beach lounger. Sip a long cool cocktail. The soft sea breeze caressing your cheek, the warm sun on your shoulders, the gently swaying palms and lapping lagoon - these are the rhythms of Rarotonga which will lull you into a supreme sense of relaxation. Really, truly, deeply.

Private and secluded, Aroa Beach enjoys all-day sun and sizzling island sunsets, making The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa the best-located resort on the island.

At day's end, Aroa Beach provides grandstand views of the island's glorious tropical sunsets. You can even book a private candlelit dinner right on the beach, with your toes in the sand. Aroa Beach, your personal paradise.

Island Sunsets

The sun gently kissing the sea at the end of another perfect day in paradise. The Rarotongan is blessed with being set on the southwest coast, enjoying sun all day long, and spellbinding island sunsets. Whether walking hand in hand along Aroa Beach, lying back in a hammock skimming the sands, or enjoying a cool cocktail on the lagoon deck, the sun's blazing kaleidoscope as it dips below the shimmering horizon silences all conversation. Everything is enveloped by a deep peace and serenity. Your first Rarotongan sunset. A memory apart.

Tropical Gardens

Stop and smell the roses, says the old English proverb. Here at The Rarotongan, everything encourages you to stop and smell the frangipani. The lush tropical gardens here are filled with hibiscus, heliconia, gardenia (tiare maori), ginger, alamanda, banana, and frangipani, all under the canopy of elegant coconut palms. The vibrant colours of paradise call out to you: soulful yellows, pale pinks, ravishing reds, and energizing oranges, framed by the fresh greens of palms, taro leaves and soft carpets of grass. Framed by the backdrop of towering rainforest-clad mountains, and tracing the edge of Aroa Lagoon, the gardens here at The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa provide a peaceful haven to retreat, rest and relax.

Culture - Pacific Architecture

The islands of the South Pacific have a long history of innovative, resourceful and artistic architecture, and The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa celebrates that history in its design. Huge natural timbers, soaring dramatic ceilings, hand-tied artistic rope, thatched roofs, and weaved pandanus covered walls embrace the ancient building materials and techniques of our forebears, with all the modern amenities you would expect from a full-service four star resort.

Original Artworks

Showcase of Cook Islands Art, Crafts & Culture

At The Rarotongan you can experience the real Rarotonga right in your resort. Locally and independently-owned, The Rarotongan has a strong commitment to expressing the essence of the Cook Islands through showcasing the best these unique and exotic islands have to offer.

When you arrive, you are greeted by upright traditional staff gods in the porte cochere, carved from island hardwoods, and by two massive wooden carvings of Tangaroa, the ancient god of the sea, standing as sentinel as you enter the Resort Lobby. Within the Lobby, original art works adorn the walls. Kia Orana and welcome to The Rarotongan!

As you make your way around the resort during your stay, you will be greeted by many more examples of authentic Cook Islands culture. There are works by a number of Cook Islands painters including leading Rarotongan artist Mahiriki Tangaroa, exploring the fascinating story of our islands and our people. There are soaring lightshades of flowers, fish and many things, made of hand-painted fabrics or of translucent Cook Islands black pearl shell crafted by expert lighting designer Jesus de Navarre. There are massive wooden vaka (outrigger canoes) suspended from the ceiling, made by Rarotongan master carver Mike Tavioni and his team.

Within your room or suite, you will discover commissioned art works by talented painter Andi Merkens of evocative Cook Islands people and scenes. Each week The Rarotongan stages the island's best Island Night, 'Legends of Polynesia', which starts with the only traditional island night Umu Feast of island pork, beef, lamb, chicken, fish and local vegetables slow-cooked all afternoon in an authentic fire pit dug into the earth and layered with hot rocks and banana leaves. After the feasting enjoy a stunning performance of Cook Islands drumming and dancing.

Hear the Cook Island drums, like hearing the heartbeat of Mother Earth herself. See the riveting Cook Islands 'ura (hula) dancing, the finest dancers in the whole of the South Pacific. Experience the culture yourself. Our friendly Activities Team would be delighted to show you how to beat the Cook Islands wooden log drums (pa-tay), dance the 'ura, play the ukulele, tie your own island pareu (sarong), or make the Cook Islands favourite dish, ika mata (fresh gamefish tuna steeped in coconut milk, onion and a little chili).

Here at The Rarotongan you can discover and experience the essence of the Cook Islands, as we honour the rich culture of our past, and celebrate our vibrant, living culture of today.


Wood carving is a key pillar of Cook Islands artistic expression. The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa is proud to be the caretaker for future generations of a spectacular collection of Cook Islands wood carvings, displayed throughout the Resort's public areas. Admire the way elegant form and precise function combine seamlessly within the outrigger canoe paddles displayed in the Te Vaka Restaurant, whose soaring wooden ceiling is home to two carved vaka (outrigger canoes) which appear to glide through the air.

Compare heights as you stand beside the Lobby's life-size depictions of Tangaroa, the once highly-revered god of the sea and of fertility. Enjoy the sense of fluid motion of the dolphins caught in freeze-frame within the Reef Fish Café. Even the directional signs throughout the Resort are hand-carved. As your stay with us here at The Rarotongan unfolds, you will discover that your experience and appreciation of our living, breathing Cook Islands culture will unfold with it.


The art of tivaevae making is unique to the Cook Islands, and is another key pillar of Cook Islands artistic expression. Since quilt-making was introduced by Christian missionaries over a century ago, Cook Islands women have embraced it enthusiastically and with extraordinary skill, making it an essential part of local life and culture. Groups of women (vaine-tini) gather together in the villages to carefully cut, sew and share yarns, and the tivaevae they create are often bursting with the colours of the Pacific, sometimes over-sewn with intricate embroidery.

The patterns and designs depicted are almost always inspired by the beautiful flowers and plants of the Cook Islands, and much thought goes into selecting colours to achieve unique combinations and contrasts. Tivaevae are traditionally bestowed as gifts of love on such occasions such as weddings, births, baptisms, hair-cutting ceremonies (a traditional rite of passage for boys), 21st birthdays, funerals, or to honoured visitors. Many house-proud mamas also use tivaevae as decorations at home, sometimes draped over the sofas. More often though, beautifully and finely-crafted tivaevae are carefully stored in heavy wooden chests, to be brought out only on special occasions.

These lovingly-made works of art take many months or years to create, and are treasured heirlooms. Few are sold but if you are ever lucky enough to find one for sale you would expect to part with anything upwards of NZ$2000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the intricacy of the work and the level of attachment to it by the owner! Over the years The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa has maintained a commitment to collecting diverse examples of this unique Cook Islands art form. 

During our 'Legends of Polynesia' Island Nights we proudly display examples from our collection within the TE VAKA Restaurant. Tivaevae from the Resort's prized private collection are also used to decorate our Treetops Verandah Room during such private events as wedding receptions or conferences held there. Art displayed within the Resort's guest-rooms and suites also depicts tivaevae.

The unique beauty of tivaevae and the way it captures the exotic colours and patterns of our special slice of paradise provides many hours of enjoyment. The Rarotongan is proud to act as a custodian of this integral aspect of Cook Islands culture.


Over the years The Rarotongan has brought together a diverse private collection of original works by a wide range of Cook Islands artists. These reflect the evolution of painting in the Cooks, a relatively recent form of artistic expression here. The paintings can be viewed around the resort’s public areas, and include works by such noted artists as Mahiriki Tangaroa, Tim Manavaroa Buchanan, Loretta Reynolds, Kay George, Tereapii Rongo, Joan Rolls Gragg, Michael Tavioni, Dernice Rongo and Ian George.

The works include a triptych by Mahiriki Tangaroa in which she seeks to provide a visual narrative of the tapestry of events and icons surrounding the discovery and history of the Cook Islands, called “From darkness to light”.

The key theme of Part One and a consistent theme across all three panels is a homage to the feat of oceanic navigation across vast distances achieved by the early Polynesian explorers, from the migration from South East Asia to Samoa, Tonga and thereafter the Cook Islands, to the continued navigational prowess which led to the Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. Throughout, the people held fast in their beliefs in the power of their traditional gods to safeguard them on their potentially perilous voyages of discovery.

The second panel visually documents the discovery of Tumutevarovaro (Rarotonga) by Karika from Samoa and Tangiia from Tahiti. They met at sea on their journey to Rarotonga, and decided that rather than fight over the island, they would split Rarotonga between them, a decision which continues to be reflected in the affairs of the island today. The panel also includes visual references to the fascinating pre-European star charts from the northern group island of Pukapuka.

Part three provides a painterly record of the sighting of Manuae by Captain James Cook in 1773, and his subsequent closer investigation of Manuae, Mangaia, Palmerston, Atiu and Takutea in 1777, which Captain Cook dubbed the Hervey Islands in honour of the First Lord of the British Admiralty of the time. Interestingly, Captain Cook never landed on Rarotonga. 

Our People

There can be no denying that here in the Cook Islands we enjoy a very special slice of paradise indeed. Our islands are stunningly beautiful, our lagoons pristine, our beaches unspoiled. But it is the genuine warmth of our people that will prove to be the highlight of your stay at The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa.

Life in Rarotonga is what life was like in places like Hawaii or Tahiti 50 years ago. Neighbours with a true sense of community, no one in any great hurry, local Rarotongans stopping to enjoy life with one another. Rarotongans are some of the most approachable people on Earth, ready and willing to let you into their hearts and homes. Although at first some can seem a little shy, your interest in them and their lives will soon be richly rewarded as you are welcomed in to experience a slice of true Cook Islands living.