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Luxury Adventures are doing a series of interviews with some of our key suppliers looking at the different aspects of their lives and how these influence the experiences they offer. Pacific Resorts operate three resorts in the Cook Islands: Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Te Manava Luxury Villas and Spa (also in Rarotonga) and Pacific Resort Aitutaki.
What sets Rarotonga and Aitutaki apart from other Pacific Islands such as Fiji and Tahiti in your opinion? The Cook Islands are the smallest nation in the Southern Pacific with a population of about 17,000 spread over 15 islands across 2 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean with a combined land mass of 264 square kilometres. There are no International recognised brands supporting our industry (no Starbucks, International Hotel Chains, KFC, MacDonald’s, etc), so it is easy to say that we are “very non commercialised”. We are the ’boutique’ destination in the South Pacific with an industry that is strong in local indigenous make up offering a variety of very authentic island experiences that have, for the better part, been ‘westernised’ in the larger destinations of Fiji, Tahiti and Samoa. The Cook Islands people Govern their own country with strong ties to New Zealand, and is a very stable and safe destination.
Auckland is described as the gateway to Rarotonga. How long does it take to get to Rarotonga from Auckland, how regularly do they fly? There are daily flights from Auckland to Rarotonga. Flight time is about 3 hours and 45 minutes. We also have direct non stop flights from Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, USA. Air NZ is the primary provider of air access with 14 weekly services supported by 5 services a week by Virgin Polynesia and a single weekly roundtrip service with Air Tahiti from Papeete.
What activities does Rarotonga offer? Golf, Tennis, Bowls, Big Game Fishing, Reef Fishing, Spear Fishing, Sports Fishing, Snorkelling, Scuba Diving, Lagoon Cruises, Local Market Shopping, Black Pearl Jewelry, Carvings, Art Trails, Art Exhibitions, Inland Walks and Treks, Across the Island Treks, Windsurfung, Kite Surfing, Sailing, Ocean Vaka Sailing, Sister Island Day Tours, Bird Watching, Oe Vaka Paddling, Circle Island Bus Tours, 4 Wheel Drive Inland Tours, Back Road Plantation Tours, Progressive Dinners, Plantation Dinners, Pub Crawls, Polynesian Shows, Cultural Performances, Hotel Island Nights, Rental Motorbikes and Cars, Kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boards, Reef Walks, Weddings and Romance, Restaurants and Cafe’s.
Are there any local dining spots that you can recommend in Rarotonga and what type of cuisine do they typical serve?
– I would recommend Tamarind House, a mix of Asian and pacific Rim Cuisine
– Pacific Resort Rarotonga – all day menu and daily specials featuring infusion of local and international dishes with polynesian ambience dining under the stars and beach marquee
– Pacific Cafe for gourmet Pizza’s and Sandwiches
– Trader Jacks for Seafood
– Le Bon Vivant for french flavours
– Cafe Salsa for Pasta and Oven Fired Pizza
– Sands Restaurant for Pacific Fusion fare
Would you recommend visitors hire a car or scooter whilst in Rarotonga and if so what is there to see? I’ve also heard obtaining a licence is an experience in itself!? Sierra Leone and the Cook Islands are the only 2 countries in the world who do not recognise International and National driving licenses, so it is a requirement that anyone who wishes to drive in the Cook islands (and Sierra Leone) must aquire a Drivers license from the Police Station. It is a colourful affair where the Police Department are kept busy on most days processing licenses and testing drivers for their first scooter hire. The tests are mainly to see if you have control of the vehicle around a number of obstacles and a lecture on where to park your vehicle safely…ie. never under a coconut tree! A car or scooter hire is always recommended for those who wish to explore the Islands independently and at their own pace. The Back road is highly recommended as it is here that one finds the many plantations and rambling homesteads. Also driving to the “Hospital Hill’ affords panoramic views of the Airport across to the village of Arorangi or simply driving sedately around the main road of Rarotonga watching the island life go by, then the next day driving the direction to get a completely new perspective (it takes about 45 minutes to drive around Rarotonga). On Rarotonga we have no motorways, drive on the right hand side of the road, there are no traffic lights, 1.5 round abouts, 3 pedestrian crossings and single lanes in one direction…. oh except for the 2 lanes for about 300 metres in downtown Avarua. The ‘back road’ or ‘inland road’ does not go all the way around Rarootonga – there are breaks in Avarua, Ngatangaiia and Titikaveka.
Tell me three selling points for Pacific Resorts Rarotonga and three for Pacific Resorts Aitutaki that sets them above the rest? Pacific Resort Rarotonga – 1) Spectacular Beachfront Location. 2) Established Reputation. 3) Private and Secluded with easy access to island lifestyle, amenities and services. Pacific Resort Aitutaki – 1) Absolute beachfront and lagoon location on one of the Worlds most beautiful island atolls. 2) Sophisticated Pacific Style Luxury Resort immersed into the island environment. 3) Recipient of numerous Tourism Awards including “Worlds Leading Boutique Island Resort”. World Tourism Awards 2009, 2010, 2011,2012.
How’s the diving, snorkelling in Rarotonga? Diving and Snorkelling are very popular activities and all Operators are qualified with Naui and Padi credentials. Diving venues are no more than 10 minutes away from your departure point with a number of departure points located around the island to suit the weather conditions. There are dives to a number of ‘wrecks’, to underwater caverns, to the Continental shelf drop off beyond the reef and of course there are the beautiful coral gardens both in the lagoon and over the reef. Fish life is abundant and Humpback Whales are around between July and November just beyond the reef.
Pacific Resorts have three resorts, Te Manava, Pacific Resorts, Rarotonga, and Pacific Resorts Aitutaki. What types of guests do you think are ideally suited to each of these resorts, for example is one more suited to honeymoon? For Pacific Resort Rarotonga – Families, Couples, Weddings, Honey Mooners. For Pacific Resort Aitutaki – Couples of all ages, Romance, Wedding, Family. For Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa – Couples of all ages, families, small groups, independent travellers.
What can Pacific Resorts offer for a family vacation? At all our propeties we offer 2 bedroom villas and bungalows which are ideal for families. At Pacific Resort Rarotonga and Te Manava we offer 2 and 3 bedroom villas which are very spacious in either beachfront or garden setting. The Te Manava Villas are extremely luxurious and have all the comforts of home including private swimming pools and courtyards per villa. We also offer a ‘kids club’ facility at Pacific Resort for children from 6 to 12 years and all our properties have child minding services. In all our restaurants we also offer Childrens Menu’s. At all 3 of our properties the family market is very welcome and services and facilities are provided for them to enjoy our experiences.
If I had 7 days to spend in the Cook Islands how would you recommend this be spent, would you suggest splitting the time between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and why, how do the two resorts differ? For a 7 day stay in the Cook Islands I would highly recommend 4 nights on Rarotonga and 3 nights on Aitutaki. Rarotonga has so much to do and experience. Aitutaki is all about total relaxation and exploring and bathing in her exquisite lagoon. PRR is a 4 star property with excellent services and facilites with the added benefit of having all services and facilities of Rarotonga within easy reach. PRA offers a truely luxurious experience of pampering, 5 star accommodations and location, fine food and wines, spectacular scenery and so much more that you really don’t want to leave the Resort in case you miss something.
What is a typical Cook Island meal that is offered at Pacific Resorts? Ika mata – marinated fresh fish in limes and coconut cream… pan grilled Mahimahi steaks on island style spinach, with fried banana and coconut hollandaise… braised pork belly in wild honey and tamarind paste with kumara and arrowroot mash… green chilli and pawpaw chicken curry with ginger rice… slow pot roasted makatea goat in tumeric, garlic and grated coconut milk… seafood platter featuring 2 types of game fish, flying fish, freshwater prawns, paua fritters, seagrapes, curried eke, fresh sea urchin… fresh chilled local fruits… Atiu lime and mountain berry flan… ice cold green coconut soup… double ripe banana cake with coffee bean sauce… soursop and pineapple pie.
What happens once visitors arrive in Rarotonga, can they be expected to be greeted by a representative of Pacific Resorts, how do the transfers work to the three resorts? We have 2 types of transfers for our guests… private car or van transfer, or standard coach transfer with other guests. For all transfers guests are met at the airport by our representative with a flower garland and iced water refreshment and in the case of the private transfer are directly transfered to their property. In the case of coach transfers, departure for the resort is subject to all arrivals being processed. All guests for Te Manava whether they have private or coach transfers, are processed at PRR and then are transfered by private vans to Te Manava about 3 minutes ride away. At all our properties all new arrivals are personally welcomed by the Duty Manager, Concierge and/or General Manager then following an orientation are escorted to their rooms or villas with their luggage by our Porters.
How much can visitors generally expect to spend on dinner and drinks at a local restaurant? At a good restaurant – for 3 courses and wine about NZ$ 75.00pp.
When is the best time of year to visit the Cook Islands? Our winter, spring and autumn seasons are the most popular times to visit. Summer is also slowly becoming popular too.
Do you offer weddings at any of your resorts, if so do you offer wedding coordination services as well? Yes wedding programmes are available at all 3 of our properties with ‘wedding manager and co-ordinator’ services.
Tony Townley is a luxury lifestyle specialist and owner of Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.