Whilst the first image you might conjure up when you think of the stunning island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is more likely to be white sandy beaches and aqua blue waters, there is a lot more our beautiful island than meets the eye. Rarotonga is a walkers’ paradise with tracks all across the island that will take you deep into the island’s interior and get you off the beaten track. For many, the only thing they are interested in on a trip to Raro is lounging on the beach, taking a dip in the sea and sampling some of our delicious, fresh cuisine however we urge you to get out beyond the resort and explore the island. We promise you will not be disappointed.
The Cross-Island Track
The cross-island track is both the most rewarding and challenging of the walks on Rarotonga and is not for the faint-hearted. The track will take you from the north coast right over the mountainous centre and back down to the south coast (or vice versa) and will lead you to the top of Te Rua Manga otherwise known as ‘The Needle’ – a 413m high volcanic plug that sits in the centre of the island.
Most people start the walk from Avarua and take the short hike up the Avatiu Valley. The trail is quite well signposted and the first 3kms out of the town are all on tarmac roads. Just beyond the power station, the road ends and the track commences, also giving you your first view of Te Rua Manga. This part of the trail is pretty easy going but after around 15 minutes you hit the steepest and most difficult part of the walk. Make sure you have plenty of water with you as it can get hot and sticky as you climb higher and higher through the canopy. Once you reach the top, you’re almost there. The path forks and you can take the path straight down to the left towards the south coast or fork right to scramble half way up Te Rua Manga for some pretty spectacular views across the island.
The path back down towards the coast will take you through true Rarotonga rainforest and follows the winding stream on its way down. The path emerges by the Papua Waterfall, also known as Wigmore’s waterfall which is a great spot for a picnic so pick up some supplies before you set off and it will give you something to look forward to on your way down.
The track turns into a dusty road all the way out to the main road and you will pass the crumbling remains of the hapless Sheraton Resort on your right before you hit the main road. For the serious walkers, it is possible to walk back to Pacific Resort Rarotonga from here and after a short time on the road, you can walk on the beach and paddle your hot and exhausted feet in the refreshing waters.
Other Island walks
The cross-island track is without a doubt the most popular walk on the island but it’s worth taking the time to explore. There are some good maps available that will show you some of the alternative walks on the island and these include:
- Takitumu Conservation Area – located on the south side of the island in Titikaveka. The trail commences to the eastern side of the Queen’s Representative’s official residence and takes you inland into the cloud forest where you may catch glimpses of the Kakerori (or Rarotongan Flycatcher). There is a small entry fee which contributes towards species protection at this private conservation area. Guided bush-walks to see nesting and feeding birds is available here.
- Raemaru Track – Situated in Arorangi village this picturesque track heads inland to Raemaru bluff on the western side of the island. Sometimes finding the trails can be the biggest challenge so try and grab a map if you can. To find the Raemaru Track, you will need to find Akaoa Road. You’ll know you are at the entry to the Raemaru Trail when you reach Akaoa Road on the opposite side of the road to where you start the Cross-Island Walk.
- Takuvaine Valley Trail – You can either drive up this sealed road, winding your way inland past neatly kept residential homes as well as the National Archives centre, or you can walk it and enjoy the richness and beauty of this ancient trail.Before European settlers arrived, the people of Rarotonga tended to live inland where there was ample freshwater and wild foods. The Takuvaine Valley was one of the most popular areas for people to live. Where the road ends and the bush track begins you’ll come across one of the island’s water intakes. Make sure you take the time to sit back and enjoy the native wildlife as well as checking out the coffee plants which grow our delicious tasting beans.
- Avana Valley Track – If you are looking for a nice easy going walk, the Avana Valley Track is perfect. The track heads inland from Avana Harbour and is reasonably wide and crosses several tributaries of the Avana stream. Start at Avana Road which is right next to the Manavaroa homestead, a colonial home on the inland side of the stream mouth in Ngatangiia and just a short walk from Pacific Resort Rarotonga. Head into the native bush following the clearly defined path and cool off in the stream on a hot day!
- Maungatea Bluff Track – To reach this bluff, head inland towards Takuvaine Valley again, except where the small Tauae Store is head to the right-hand side of this store and continue on the sealed road inland. Where the road runs out the trail begins and you will encounter some steep climbing/scrambling along the track but you will be rewarded with some of the best views of the island.
Most of the walks have sign in/sign out books at the start of the walk so people can see who has been out on the trail. Some of the walks involve some scrambling and there are at certain points ropes and footholds hammered into the rocks to help you up – this is all part of the adventure and makes you feel like a real explorer! The walking tracks on Rarotonga are rarely busy with the exception of the cross-island track but even this attracts limited walkers each day.
The great news about walking in Rarotonga is that we don’t have any poisonous insects or snakes so you can walk in relative comfort. You may get the odd mosquito so take some repellent but other than that, you should just be able to head out and enjoy the beautiful interior of our beautiful island.
If you need more information, please speak to any of our members of staff who will be more than happy to help guide you in the right direction no matter what type of walk you are looking for.