When choosing a hostel or any type of budget accommodation in Rarotonga, the main island in the Cook Islands, there isn't a huge range to pick from. I can't remember what made us go for Rarotonga Backpackers, but whatever it was, I'm so glad we did as we had the best time there.
~ Arrival ~
On our arrival at the airport, which was at a disgustingly horrible time in the morning, we were surprised, but so relieved, to find that someone from the backpackers actually picked us up. Whatever time you arrive they will be there to welcome you and to take you to the hostel.
We were shown into our room and didn't really take any notice of anything as we were kind of mucked up on time flying from New Zealand as the time is so different that we ended up living the same day twice! The next morning we took a look around and it really is a lovely place.
~ The Hostel ~
The hostel takes up a fair bit of space even though there aren't that many rooms so it's not too noisy a place to stay. There's a pretty little garden at the front and a drive which keeps a couple of cars and scooters on it for you to hire out. The reception area is just like a tiny little port-cabin which is host to the reception desk, lots of DVDs and books to hire as well as snorkelling equipment which you can borrow for no charge. Behind the reception room is the main part of the hostel which hosts a communal area, a few dorm, single and double rooms, and the kitchen. The communal area is pretty big and has four big comfy sofas, a large TV, computers with internet access and a pool table. The kitchen is also pretty big and has everything you need to make your own food as well as plenty of take away menus and a phone available for you to use with free local calls.
Outside the kitchen is a lovely decking area where you can either relax on the sunbeds or take a dip in the pool or do some laundry if needs be. Steps leading down from the pool take you directly onto the sandy beach. On the beach there are several more rooms which are obviously the most expensive ones in the hostel, being on the beach front, but if you have the extra money to spend, they really are worth the treat.
~ Rooms ~
We made friends with lots of people here so we got to check out all the different types of rooms that everyone was staying in. The dorms are nice enough - not too squashed but I would have thought it would get pretty hot in there when full. They may also be a little too close for comfort if you had to share with the opposite sex. The standard doubles are fairly big but very basic. We stayed in a standard double and all we had was a no-frills bed and a bedside table each. There was nothing fancy about it and we did ask to change rooms seeing as it was the last place on our 5 month trip, but no other rooms were available. In the end though, we hardly spent any time in the room so this didn't really matter to us at all. The double rooms with ensuite bathrooms are near the reception area and are also a kind of port-cabin with patio doors and a small separate room with a toilet and shower.
The huts and bungalows on the beach front are the best of all though. As the beach slopes down to the sea, the very front rooms are on pillars so you have to climb up some stairs to get to the room, which means that there's a balcony at the front, overlooking the sea. The room opens up with patio doors into a large open area which has a large double bed, a small kitchen with microwave, oven, toaster, kettle and all the cutlery and crockery that you need, and then a separate room with a very plush shower and toilet. You get your own TV and DVD player in these rooms and they really do feel like luxury. A couple we made friends with were upgraded to this room and so about nine of us spent the night in there watching DVDs, making food, and drinking and playing games on the table on the balcony. A few steps down onto the beach below, there's a hammock underneath the room, a rope swing to play around on, and the beautiful sea literally a few feet away.
The bathrooms for those who aren't in an ensuite room are fairly standard but not at all dirty. They have a separate guys and gals shower and they had about 3 individual showers in the gals ones. If you're having a shower at night you should be aware that each separate shower has its own little window - no one can see in but when the lights are on all the creepy crawlies are attracted to the light so make sure you shut the window in there before turning the light on.
~ The Weird and Wonderful ~
A couple of strange things about the hostel is that, in the garden, there are random chickens walking around (don't ask me who they belonged to) and the roosters are very noisy in the morning which does get a little annoying if you want a lay in. Another strange and slightly creepy thing is the fact that the garden is also home to a couple of buried bodies. It's not a cemetery, there are only a couple of people buried there with headstones - don't ask me where the people came from either, they had nothing to do with the hostel owners - just as mysterious as the chickens! At first this is really weird but after taking a quick bus trip around the island, you realise that these are all over the place buried in every house's garden simply because there isn't enough space to bury every resident of Rarotonga in a proper cemetery!
There are a couple of cats and a huge dog that make the hostel their home and they all love to snuggle up in the lounge and watch the DVDs with you.
~ Staff and Activities ~
The owner and all the rest of the staff were so friendly and they were brilliant with giving us advice on things to do and places to go.
They have a notice board up in the communal area which details the different activities you can take part in every day and I'd recommend doing some of them as they're all fantastic and great value. Some of these include a cheap BBQ on a certain night of the week where the food is all cooked for you and you can help yourself to as much food or yummy punch as you like. You can go to church on Sunday morning and this was a great experience to see into the local way of life and to see all the Cook Island folk singing away really loudly. There's also the hostel's shuttle which will take you and pick you up from anywhere on the island at whatever time of night including to some of the best bars, nightclubs and traditional dancing shows which all have to be tried out. During the day the bus stops directly outside the hostel and this goes round and round the island's only road throughout the day so it's perfectly easy to get anywhere and only a 10 minute ride into the main part of town.
As I said, part of the hostel is actually on the beach so whether you want the sea or a swimming pool, you don't need to go further than down a few steps. This part of the beach is very quiet and I don't think we saw more than a couple of people on it the whole time we were there, as the hostel is mostly surrounded by homes. The sea here isn't the best place to swim in as it can get very choppy but the 'official' beach is just a 10 minute bus ride away.
~ Overall ~
Part of the reason why we loved the place so much was because we made some wonderful friends here but focusing on the hostel itself I still can't really think of anything negative to say about it. The only thing which some people may not like is that there are small gaps under the bedroom doors and, being very close to the beach, we did have a visitor one night - one of those little opaque coloured crabs. All I could hear was this clicking noise as it snapped it claws together and getting it out was so bloody hard as it would never go in the right direction to the door because the stupid thing only walks sideways!
Overall, this place made a lovely stay for us on our last stop on a 5 month trip, and I'm so glad we stayed here. It felt so homely and comfortable right from the off, especially as you have to take your shoes off inside the hostel. Not a single thing could have made it better.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.