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Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Seattle, Washington
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Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

We're planning a 12-night honeymoon in October, split between Rarotonga and Aitutaki. We're looking at self-catering options in Rarotonga, and are still deciding whether we want to rent a car for our whole visit or just for a day or two. In case we go with the latter option, it would be ideal to stay somewhere with options for dining and groceries within walking distance. Is there an area you would recommend as being especially good for visitors without a car? I understand the bus service is good and I'm sure we'll use that as well, but walkable options would be ideal. The Bella Beach Bungalows have caught our eye - they look lovely and not too expensive, and many people on the forum seem to love the Titikaveka area. How much is nearby the bungalows in terms of restaurants? Are we better off looking somewhere closer to Muri?

Rarotonga, Cook...
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1. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Hi again Julie,

I recommend the Vaimaanga area, which is further west of Titikaveka, with a lovely beach and lagoon, and it's a pretty part of the island. Choices for accommodation (around Bella Beach price range), include Tarani, Vai and Vaka holiday rentals. All these are on the beachside. Some nice choices also immediately inland from the beachfront.

Restaurants are handy to accommodation (easy walk) in this locality, with Yellow Hibiscus at Palm Grove and Vaima being licenced restaurants. Cocolatte is a nice daytime café (open Sundays), opposite Wigmore's superstore. Wigmore's is one of the best provisioned village stores on Rarotonga, selling groceries, breads and baking, wines and beer, fresh produce (local and imported). Fresh tuna and beef when available. This store opens 7 days until 10pm.

All the best deciding on your accommodation. Kia manuia.

Edited: 12:05 am, May 05, 2014
Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Thank you - this sounds like it might be a perfect location for us. It sounds like there are other walkable clusters at Muri and Arorangi - but my understanding is that Muri is on the busy/crowded side and Arorangi's beach isn't as nice. Is that a fair assessment of those two areas?

Seattle, Washington
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3. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Also, it seems that staying in or near Avarua is not a popular option, correct?

Rarotonga, Cook...
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4. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Hi Julie,

Both Muri and Arorangi have their own attractions, or aesthetics.

There are nicer beaches in Arorangi, from the vicinity of Coral Sands apartments north to Black Rock. Although there are more coral heads within the lagoon, and the reefline is closer to shore in the west. Wonderful watching the waves break onto the reef though and enjoy lovely sunsets.

Muri has a large clear area for swimming and other aquasports, However it does tend to become busier as a tourist hub. The southern end of Muri, (in the Maai area) has a few places priced about the same as BB studios, including Muri Beach Cottages. Nearest grocery store is a short walk (say 7 - 10 minutes), located on the roadside of Aqua restaurant at Muri Beach Resort. Numerous dining options in Muri. Manea Beach Villas in Muri may be worth looking at if you are interested in a central location, with a number of attractions at your fingertips - lagoon cruises, aquasports, the cultural village, small village shops.

Hobart, Australia
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5. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Julie K I think that is a pretty good assessment. But please take Muri being touristy in context! This might mean 10-15 people on the beach. The good thing about Raro is that everything is close. I would highly recommend that you rent a car so you can pick the best area that suits your needs - best swimming, best sunsets, best honeymoon resort etc

Regards

Suzi

Nelson-Tasman...
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6. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

We found it was so convenient to rent car through rarotonga rentals AND cheaper than paying for transfers. We arrived at airport and it was parked in carpark, and we left in carpark after. It was cheaper to hire for 3 days than pay transfers for our family. Honestly, I wouldnt want to stay in Muri - boats, noise, water was not as clean. But everyone is different and some people like to have others around all the time. The cruises left from muri and it was really a gathering point, rather than a staying place. We stayed at Little Polynesian and the water was clear, great swimming and a good beach. It was a 40 min walk along the beach to Muri, so we were able to walk to restaurants. As usual Frangipani has given excellent local advice.

New South Wales...
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7. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Hi JulieK,

I agree with poppynz, to us Muri area is a place to visit, not a place to stay.

I do, however, have a bias towards the Titikaveka & Vaimaanga areas, the beaches are cleaner, less crowded & the snorkeling & swimming is great.

The bus service is reliable but I would recommend hiring a car for at least a couple of days, this will give you the opportunity to explore the inland area of the island that the bus doesn't go & as poppynz suggests, can provide you with another option for your airport transfers. If you do have a car, a drive up "hospital hill" is a must - great views of the island.

Another advantage of having a car is that you can quickly escape poor swimming weather. On many occasions, when it's been raining in Titikaveka, we've packed up our "bat & ball" & gone to "play" at Black Rock where the sun has been shining.

We have always hired our vehicles from Island Car & Bike Hire & have been very satisfied with their service. On our next visit this year, we are hiring from Go-Cook Islands, who have offered us a newer vehicle at a better price. It pays to shop around.

I'd just like to add, Bella Beach Bungalows are on a stunning beach - we often visit when we stay in the area. Nothing is far away on Raro - some restaurants offer pickup &/or drop off & there's always the bus if you don't have a car.

Seattle, Washington
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8. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

Thanks, everyone - this is really helpful. We'll get a car for at least a couple of days, but even if we end up getting one for the whole week, it would be nice to have some things close by to where we stay.

I haven't heard any negative opinions about Vaimaanga or Titikaveka anywhere on the forum - seems like it would be hard to go wrong in that area. Your descriptions of Muri do help us get a better idea of what it's like and I agree that it sounds less like somewhere we'd want to stay.

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

I think Bella Beach Bungalows would be a great choice for your honeymoon. They are clean, affordable and right on a fantastic swimming beach. When we stayed at Sea Change (not far from Bella Beach) both Vaima and The Sands restaurants offered free return transfers which meant we could have a few extra cocktails and not worry about driving home or getting the bus. We also did the Highland Paradise Island night which offers free return transfers. I also think it would be good to hire a car for at least a few days so you can get off the main road, drive to Wigmores to stock up on supplies, drive round to Fruits of Raro for snorkelling etc.

Where are you staying in Aitutaki? My pick would be the Ootu area as there are a few eateries within walking distance and the view of the lagoon there is amazing. I can personally recommend Ootu Villa, although Samade next door would also be good. If you are on a tighter budget then Paradise Cove on the west coast would be my pick. Would recommend hiring a scooter or car in Aitutaki for a day and going up to the lookouts and on the back roads and dinner at Tupunas.

Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: Where to stay if we don't rent a car?

We haven't even begun to figure out the Aitutaki part yet, so thanks for the recommendations to get us started! This is going to be a lovely and relaxing vacation once we get there, but there sure are a lot of variables to sort out in the meantime. :-)

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