Water activities in Rarotonga
In Rarotonga and Aitutaki there's no limit to the fun you can have in, on and under the water. Calm, safe lagoons provide a perfect playground for everyone, whether you feel like drifting or paddling in the warm sun, or exploring the fascinating underwater world. Beyond the outer reef, the deep blue ocean provides exceptional scuba diving and fishing experiences, whether you're a novice or a seasoned pro.
The lagoon beaches are sandy and shallow so they're safe for swimming and floating about. And the Rarotonga water temperature ranges from 23°C to 28°C, so it's just perfect all year round.
Rarotonga water sports
Rarotonga's beautiful fringing lagoon is an aquatic playground of epic proportions. And it's complemented by operators who have all the gear and equipment you need for daily water fun and adventure.
Let's start with stand up paddle boarding. The lagoon is perfect for this cruisy activity. Paddleboards can be hired from hotels and cafes around the island, making it easy to explore the lagoon and soak up the sun as you glide above the white sandy bottom, beautiful corals, all kinds of tropical fish and maybe a turtle or two. If you're new to the sport, there are guided paddleboard tours to get you started and even a popular night tour, with underwater lights beneath the boards. Yoga lovers will definitely enjoy a class or two of paddleboard yoga on the serene lagoon.
If you'd rather stay seated on the water, many hotels and holiday homes come with kayaks for paddling around the lagoon; there are also hire places in some of the best kayaking locations. You can even hire glass bottom kayaks that provide a clear window to the underwater world. Be sure to ask a local where it's safe to paddle or kayak, as there are strong currents near the reef passages.
Windsurfing and kitesurfing Rarotonga
With steady trade winds and sheltered waters, Rarotonga is a great place for windsurfing and kitesurfing. If you've never tried these exhilarating activities, now's your chance. There are several places offering lessons on the island.
Sea scooter safaris
If you enjoy a snorkel, why not take it up a notch by booking a sea scooter tour? Shaped like a mini torpedo and held out front in both hands, a sea scooter tows you along under the water at up to 4km/h. You can increase the pace by kicking with fins if you choose. Apart from being huge fun, a sea scooter is a relaxing way to see Rarotonga's gorgeous underwater world in double-quick time.
Experienced shallow water surfers and body boarders will love the challenge of the top Rarotonga surf spots on the outer reef. Exciting reef-pass waves provide short fast rides before breaking over coral. If you're used to riding these sorts of waves, you're in for a treat. Good beach feet are a must. The surf shops can point you to the best spots and you'll find that the local surfers are friendly, welcoming and happy to share their experience.
Best swimming beaches
There are great swimming beaches all around the island and every Rarotonga beach is open to the public. The lagoon beaches are sandy and shallow, so they're safe for swimming and floating about. And the Rarotonga water temperature ranges from 23°C to 28°C, so it's just perfect all-year-round. Pretty much the only place not to swim is near the channels, which have currents that lead out passages in the outer reef.
Located on the southeast side of the island, the ever-popular Muri Beach has two kilometres of white sand and a large lagoon with picture-perfect islands. It's a go-to place for water sports, lagoon cruises, cafes, bars and restaurants. There's also plenty of local accommodation.
Covered in white sand with shady palm trees leaning out over the beach, Titikaveka is south of Muri Beach. It's a wonderfully quiet place that's ideal for swimming, snoozing, walking and snorkelling. The road's set back a little from this beach, so you'll find some good accommodation options that are right on the sand.
Located on the southwest coast near the Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, Aroa is a beautiful white sand beach on the shores of a longstanding lagoon marine reserve. This is a great place for soaking up the sun and the snorkelling is rewarding.
Black Rock Beach
Featuring black volcanic rock formations that contrast with the beautiful white sand, this popular local beach is on the sheltered northwest side. That makes it the best beach in Rarotonga when the trade winds are up. Visitors come here for swimming, snorkelling and watching the sunsets.
Some of the best snorkelling Rarotonga has to offer is straight off the beach. This makes it perfect for kids and beginners, because you can see fish while it's still shallow enough to stand on the sandy bottom. Just make sure you don't stand on the corals - they're easily damaged and take a long time to regrow. Here are some of the best spots for snorkelling in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. If you need more detailed directions, just ask a local.
Aroa Marine Reserve
A great place to start is the Aroa marine reserve beside the Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium. It's not too deep and there are plenty of fish to see. After getting started off the sandy beach, you can snorkel out to coral areas in the clear turquoise water.
Muri Lagoon is another popular snorkelling destination. There's good coral just east of the Muri Beach Club and around the small island in front of the Nautilus Resort. Some of the best snorkelling can be experienced further out with one of the local lagoon cruises or Rarotonga snorkelling tours.
Tikioki - Fruits of Rarotonga
Fruits of Rarotonga has deeper water, bigger fish and large coral bommies to explore. It's a permanent marine reserve and home to a wide range of beautiful tropical fish in good numbers. Many people rate this as the best place for Rarotonga snorkelling. You'll want to explore about half way out across the lagoon towards the outer reef, so it's a good idea to wear fins for this one.
Around the northwest side of the island, sheltered from the trade winds, Black Rock beach has nice calm snorkelling conditions even on windy days. There's lot's to see under the water and when you've finished snorkelling you can explore the large black volcanic rock formations, or relax on the white sand beach.
If you're flying to Aitutaki Island for a day trip or to stay a while, you're in for some wonderful snorkelling. The popular Aitutaki Lagoon tours make it easy to experience several of the top snorkelling spots in one day with a local guide.
There are more than 20 great spots for scuba diving around Rarotonga and as many again at Aitutaki. So there's something for everyone, from beginners to experienced divers. You can choose shallow reef dives, cave dives, wreck diving and deep reef dives with curious sharks, overhangs and more. The water clarity is legendary, with up to 60m visibility in most places and many of the best dive sites in Rarotonga are only a short boat trip away. That means most dive trips only take half a day, leaving you more time for other activities. Rarotonga and Aitutaki diving is good all year round, however the best time to dive Cook Islands might be July to October when there's a possibility of seeing humpback whales.
If you're keen to get started or advance your skills, local professional dive companies offer everything from free first-timer trials in a pool and beginner dive experiences, to PADI and Open Water dive courses that lead to internationally-recognised qualifications.
The Cook Islands operates a marine protection scheme that covers an area more than six times the size of New Zealand. Large-scale fishing is banned within about 90 kilometres of any island. For visitors who love game fishing and sport fishing trips, this means plenty of impressive fish to make your day and fill your photo album.
Local fishing charters operate year round and you'll be outside the Rarotonga reef with lines in the deep blue ocean within minutes. Yellow fin tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi are common deep water catches. Giant trevally, aka GT, can be found in large numbers on the reef. These are thrilling fish to catch and release using light tackle. If you're heading to Aitutaki, be sure to experience fly-fishing for the fast and energetic bonefish that lie on the sand flats.