White sands, clear and warm azure water, swaying palm trees…you name it, the beaches of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands are the physical embodiment of the tropical island dream. Once dominated by a volcano, those now craggy mountains are covered by lush green jungle to contrast dramatically against the bone-white sands and bluer-than-blue lagoon.
This being Polynesia, Rarotonga subscribes to 'island time' where you can do as much or as little as you like. The island's only coastal road is 32km in circumference making it easy to visit the beaches by local bus, rental car or scooter. The water is a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius all year round and the island is surrounded by a shimmering blue lagoon where you can catch glimpses of multi-hued tropical fish. For swimming, sunbathing and scenic views, head to Arorangi Beach on the west side for a long sandy shore that boasts a stunning sunset at dusk. Picturesque Muri Beach is located at the southeast and deepest section of the lagoon with four tiny motu (small islands) just offshore to explore. This is the place to catch enchanting moonrises over the water. Also in this area is Titikaveka Beach resplendent with soft white sand and palm trees. On the southside, Aroa Beach has sugarlike shores and great swimming around the marine reserve.
For visitors wishing to venture further than the shallow shore, the south coast lagoon is renowned for snorkelling and diving, especially around Tikiaveka village. The blue water lagoon around Muri Beach also offers prime opportunities to spy technicolour fish, rays and giant clams. There are several scuba diving companies on Rarotonga offering everything from coral dives in the Aroa Marine Reserve to exploring limestone caves and wrecks, as well as opportunities for lagoon cruises and fishing expeditions.
To visit Rarotonga's beaches, take the island bus which circles the coast, or DIY with a rental car or scooter.