Rarotonga is the biggest and most populated island in the Cook Islands, but still takes less than an hour to circumnavigate by car. While the coastline of this island is lined with tropical blue waters and white-sand beaches, the centre of the island is mountainous, with a lush rainforest covering the hillsides.
Renting a car at Rarotonga Airport makes it easy to disembark and start exploring. You can take the road up to Te Rua Manga (The Needle), which is one of the higher peaks on the island and the most recognisable for its summit spire. Other top things to see with your rental include Muri Beach, the Takitumu Conservation Area, and the Cook Islands Wildlife Centre.
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Introducing Rarotonga Airport
The Rarotonga International Airport (RAR) is the main gateway to the Cook Islands. The airport handles more than 100,000 visitors from around the world each year, with popular departure locations in Auckland, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Christchurch.
There are a number of cafes within the terminal, as well as an ATM, and vending machines. Note that while WiFi is available at the airport, you will need to pay to access it. You will find the car hire desks inside the terminal next to the baggage claim area.
A guide to driving in Rarotonga
Driving from Rarotonga Airport
Rarotonga Airport is located on the northern coast of the island, and is no farther than an hour’s drive from practically any spot on the island. The main ring road around the island is the Ara Tapu, and will take you to all the beaches and many of the attractions in Rarotonga.
Tips for driving in Rarotonga
Rarotonga’s road rules are similar to those of Australia and New Zealand, but this island nation still has its own driving quirks, so read our tips before hitting the roads with your car hire.
● You will drive on the left-hand side of the road in Rarotonga.
● Note that many drivers will be other visitors who are not familiar with the roads, so have patience and be wary of last minute turns.
● Be wary of animals that frequently wander onto the roads.
● Coconut trees are no joke - do not park under one as coconuts can fall and damage your car hire.
● The maximum speed limit on the island is 50 kilometres per hour, and this drops to 30km/h in Avarua and Muri.
Parking at Rarotonga Airport
There is currently a NZ$2 charge per car that you will pay as you leave the parking lot. The airport is currently working on installing a new system with hourly rates.
Parking in Rarotonga
Parking in Rarotonga is very laid-back - simply find a spot on the roadside. These areas are wide enough for vehicles and are free, although as noted earlier, avoid parking under coconut trees. Beaches often have small car parks (also free) but these can fill up quickly, so you may need to drive further up the road and walk back to the beach.
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