If they say a family that plays together, stays together, then any trip these days to the Cook Islands should be mandatory.
A decade or so ago, holiday makers just came here to get married – or to gaze into each other’s eyes across a blue lagoon – but now there’s barely time for any of that romantic carrying-on with all the new activities on offer.
There’s been so many new activities introduced in the past two years that these days it’s hard to find a day out to relax at the beach. Stand-Up Paddle-boarding (SUP) has been the biggest thing to hit Rarotonga. Now the lagoons are full of SUPs because there’s no better place in the Pacific to learn.
It’s easy for the whole family to learn together – then take boards out to explore parts of the lagoon previously unreachable to families on holidays. Rarotonga’s Muri Lagoon and Aitutaki’s world-famous triangular lagoon are the ideal spots to introduce yourself to the sport.
Brynn Acheson from KiteSUP Cook Islands will show you how. She offers first-time paddlers introductory lessons on Muri Lagoon. Once you get the hang of paddling you can keep the board and paddle between Rarotonga’s four motus (tiny islets) or take a three-hour down-wind paddle excursion from Titikaveka to Muri Lagoon (all within the lagoon).
She also offers kite-surfing lessons. You can also hire SUPs and windsurfers from Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes right on Muri Lagoon.
If you’d like to go a step beyond – Acheson also offers SUP yoga and pilates. It’s not as hard as you’d imagine, so the whole family can try it – and nothing can beat drifting slowly across Muri Lagoon as you work through gentle Vinyasa yoga poses.
For those intent on mastering SUP yoga, Work Out On Water offers a week-long retreat. You’ll learn about traditional Polynesian living as you practice yoga daily in Rarotonga and Aitutaki with local Charlotte Piho and her father, Tuhe in their family home (you can also stay in a resort and just do the SUP yoga).
Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours also offer visiting families an insight into traditional Polynesian ways in a novel new way.
I’m guided round Rarotonga’s ancient inland road, Ara Metua, built almost 1000 years ago, and though I was born and raised on this island, guide James is teaching me aspects of island life and showing me places I’ve never seen in three or more decades.
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It only takes a five minute cycle from Rarotonga’s main coast road to see locals still subsistence living from the land, tending taro plantations and raising pigs feeding them coconuts and papaws from their plantations.
It’s a new way for the family to see another side of Rarotonga away from the resorts.
Although there’s now a new way for families to get around the Ara Metua (and all around Rarotonga’s coast road) which doesn’t even require peddling.
Tik-e Tours has just launched a fleet of electric tuk tuks to explore Rarotonga. The Lap of the Island Tour is ideal for getting your bearings or you can take half-day tours visiting some of the key cultural sights on the island.
When you’re done, leave the kids with a baby sitter and have a designated tuk tuk driver take you to the best local hotspots for sunset cocktails along Aorangi’s renowned sunset strip on the Cocktail Hopping Tour.
Or for your family to really go back in time to see how life once was in Rarotonga – there’s a brand new tour that takes visitors inside a traditional Cook Islands bush-drinking hut – called a tumunu.
Families can help prepare a traditional island feast, using banana leaves to help cover and cook a traditional umu (earth oven). Adults can also taste traditional home-brew from the islands of Atiu, Mauke and Rarotonga before eating an island feast.