Food is often a highlight on any given day in this tropical paradise known as the Cook Islands. Despite its small population, there are more than 50 cafes and restaurants on Rarotonga alone. The fresh international and local cuisines provided manage to draw an ‘Mmmm’ from even the fussiest of foodies.
The large variety of restaurants means you can find something new and unique to eat every day. From dining in a restored colonial house on the edge of a lagoon, to staring out across at the offshore islands from a table on an open deck, each dining experience delivers a new appreciation for the island way of life.
For a cultural evening, have the Progressive Dinner at Rarotonga. You’re taken through three homes of local residents who are experienced cooks and know how to get the best flavours out of the Cook Islands’ ingredients. Traditional food such as kumera (sweet potato) and rukua (taro) is served up, and you even get to see the old style of cooking food in an umu (earth oven).
Regardless of where you’re eating, a visit to the Cook Islands isn’t complete without tasting the delicious national dish of Ika Mata: fresh tuna marinated in coconut milk, onion, tomato and chilli.
Sandals Restaurant & Barefoot Bar
This beachfront restaurant serves up fresh seafood and local and international dishes, while lavishing you in a romantic island atmosphere. You can sit at finely decorated tables on the sand with the palm trees at your back and the water stretched out before you. An Island Night is held every Friday, during which you can enjoy traditional cooking methods, songs, dancing and music.
High Tide Bar & Grill
The High Tide Bar and Grill brings a bit of western charm to the island, with an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Owned by friendly locals, the restaurant has a fun atmosphere that extends to the adjoining bar, which offers cheap happy hour specials from Wednesday to Friday. Enjoy ocean views from the spacious balcony while you eat.
The Boat Shed
Situated on the famous Popoara beach, The Boat Shed has a rustic appeal with its wooden structure and antique decorations. The diverse menu lets you select from a range of tasty meals including seafood and Asian dishes. If you’re dining during whale season, you may be treated to a whale show just off the reefs in front of the restaurant.
Housed in a restored colonial house and set on sprawling manicured lawns that stretch down to the beach, Tamarind House is easily one of the best establishments to taste the flavours of the Cooks. The menu is often changing things up with new dishes from both local and international influences. If you’re ever dining at the Tamarind House, it’s worthwhile trying the fresh tuna nicoise salad or the taro leaf and roast pumpkin lasagne. After dinner, you can take a moonlit stroll through the gardens or along the beach.
If you don’t want to decide on just one type of fish for dinner or you’d prefer to give your taste buds a tour through the South Pacific's fish, the Sails Restaurant can accommodate with its Moana Nui Trio main course. If you order the Moana Nui Trio, you receive three deep-ocean fish served over kumara (sweet potato), rukau (taro leaves) and ratatouille. The restaurant's location, right on the edge of Muri Lagoon, provides excellent views for you to enjoy while eating.
Flying Boat Fish & Chip Cafe
Close to Avarua you can find the Flying Boat Fish and Chip Cafe, which delivers a truly casual atmosphere along with delicious fish and chips. You can choose to eat at one of the picnic tables outside or purchase takeaway and enjoy the fresh seafood down by the water. You can also purchase a tasty seafood platter of fish, prawns and other delicacies. This little establishment is great for a change of pace from the other notable dining options.