Rarotonga is the perfect destination for some quality mother-daughter time, writes OHbaby! Managing Director Angela Pedersen
It's not every weekend you get to hang out on a tropical island with one of your kids. But the chance to have a dedicated weekend away with your children is the stuff memories are made of. A picture-postcard setting is just the icing on the cake. The key is spending real quality time together, just the two of you. Laugh, eat, talk and just be together. I can think of few better places in the world to do that than beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
Last year I took a mother-daughter trip with my eldest, this year it was five-year-old Eva's turn. The two of us packed our togs and our smiles for a special tropical island girls' weekend.
We left on Friday at 8pm and arrived at our destination on Friday at 1am - reliving our Friday and arriving in time to have a good sleep and wake up refreshed and ready for action.
Because we arrived in the dark, all we could take in from our room at our resort, The Rarotongan, was the sound of waves crashing in the distance from our room. The next morning, we woke up, opened the curtains and our smiles spread further, from ear to ear. We were a mere 30 steps away from a stunning lagoon. Picture a perfect tropical island, just like a scene on a postcard, and we were there… two very happy girls.
After feeding ourselves, and the tropical fish off the deck of the resort's restaurant, we headed into town so I could collect my Cook Islands driver's licence from the police station in Avarua township. Your driver's licence lasts a year and no doubt thousands of tourists to Rarotonga have kept theirs as a little memento of their island getaway.
We were fortunate to rent a car, which allowed us to drive the full circuit of the island (32km) and explore Rarotonga's beautiful beaches and lagoons. Our first stop was Coco Putt for a round of 18-hole mini golf and some lunch. The mini golf course, owned by friendly local entrepreneur Took and his wife, is well laid out and we had a great time. It was pretty hot though, so do be sure to take a hat, some sunscreen and have a cold drink handy. By the time we were back at the resort we were ready for a cool-down in the pool.
The Rarotongan Beach Resort also has a beauty spa which is just a short stroll across the road. I treated myself to some me-time with an indulgent massage while Eva relaxed at the resort's kids' club rooms. That afternoon we were about as chilled out as you can get. But as comfortable as our hotel room was, there was more fun to be had. We put our glad rags on and headed to the Highland Paradise show and dinner.
The show takes the audience on a tour of Cook Islands' history through dance and music, while you feast on local culinary delights such as taro chips and chop suey.
When we're at home little Eva can stay up until 9pm some nights, protesting about going to bed. This night, however, even with the sounds of the drums beating at full blast, my little poppet simply couldn't last the distance. She fell asleep in my arms, exhausted after the late-night flight and a full day of island time. If we did it again I'd be sure to see the show on the second night or later, so the kids have a chance to recover from the late-night arrival.
Saturday morning in Rarotonga is Te Punanga Nui market day where locals and tourists alike converge to buy food, souvenirs, fresh produce and crafts, while listening to beautiful island music and watching dancers as they grace the main stage in the middle of the markets.
Just down the road from the markets is Trader Jack's Bar and Grill, a popular local hang-out and for good reason. Its beach-front location overlooks magical, clear blue waters and the menu is very family friendly.
That afternoon we made like a local and drove slowly to our next destination, Muri Beach, where we were booked in for a paddle-boarding lesson with Bynn the local operator who runs out of the same location as Koka Lagoon Cruises. Bynn and his buddy Troy were just lovely! I was a bit nervous that Eva might not be too keen on paddle-boarding, but they were so good with her (and all the kids there) that she did it without a peep and had a great time! Truth be told, I was a bit concerned about paddle-boarding myself, but it was surprisingly easy and a real highlight of the holiday, even though it was the activity I was dreading the most!
Of course, it helps that the paddle-boarding lessons happen on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Muri Beach is simply stunning. The lagoon is quite shallow (waist-high at the most) and its crystal clear water was warmer than in the lagoon at the resort. It was easy to stay in for a long time, admiring the white sandy beach. Just beautiful.
By that night Eva and I had worked up enough of an appetite to enjoy dinner at Vaima Restaurant. The restaurant has a surprise when you walk in. You wouldn't know by looking at it from the outside, but you can walk out the back and dine on the beach, which we did, while watching a beautiful sunset. It was a lovely end to a great day.
Alas, Sunday was our last full day on Rarotonga. We began with a visit to the renowned Arorangi CICC church, which openly invites tourists to come along and listen to their amazing choir. As it happened, we were there along with the Welsh netball team. Together we were treated to a wonderful service, with a choir in full voice and topped off with a lovely morning tea.
The hospitality and friendliness of the Rarotongan locals was as beautiful as the scenery. We felt very welcome and it was a privilege to share such a special service with them.
That afternoon, we kicked back, swimming in the pool and the lagoon at the resort with some lovely new friends from Auckland we had made. The girls enjoyed dive-bombing into the pool until their lips were blue, then played in the sand and swam in the lagoon to warm up.
That evening we went to a great restaurant, The Flame Tree, named after a large flame tree that used to stand tall nearby but was wiped out in a storm. The food was absolutely delicious and I do recommend a visit there if you're on holiday.
The lovely evening was a perfect end to a perfect weekend with my girl.
It wouldn't have been hard to stay a little longer, relaxing on the beach, sipping smoothies and sitting on the deck at the resort overlooking the lagoon, or playing in the sand and cooling off in the pool.
The island has so much more to offer than we had time for - four-wheel-driving and picnics with Raro Safari Tours in the midst of lush bush and rugged terrain of the island, snorkelling, glass boat tours, horse-riding, the list goes on, not to mention simply kicking back with a good book under a palm tree in front of the most magical view.
But reality was calling us back home - along with a husband/father and two other little tikes who wanted their mum and sister back. They received some small souvenirs but Eva and I have memories that will last much, much longer.
Rarotonga with kids
Cook islands' climate
The dry and cooler season is between May and October, with the average temperature between 22-24°C. November to April is wet and warmer with the average temperature between 24-26°C.
Worth a visit
Cook Islands Travel, www.cookislands.travel
The Rarotongan Resort,www.therarotongan.com
Island Car Hire, www.islandcarehire.co.ck
Highland Paradise, www.highlandparadise.co.ck
Cocoputt mini golf
Villa Taporoporo Spa
Raro Safari Tours
Flame Tree Restaurant
Photography: Angela Pedersen, The Rarotonga Beach Resort & Spa, Cook Islands Travel.