Time To Go ☹, Rarotongo, CI

All to quickly our time came to head to the airport. We have had a fabulous week at Palm Grove Garden Resort!

So why did we choose The Cook Islands? Well we celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary last September and last July we decided we should do something special. We married young and started our family right away, which didn’t leave a lot of free cash for travelling. Although we have managed to do some pretty awesome trips, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexican Riviera, Domincan Republic, Caribbean and Alaska cruises, and of course the last five years of winter travels which included the Florida Keys. When trying to decided what to do to celebrate our anniversary we visited a travel agent who had clients that return to Palm Grove Garden Resort in Rarotongo every year. After listening to her description and doing some research we knew this was the place for us and we have not been disappointed!

If you are every fortunate enough to visit The Cook Islands here are some tips for you …

If you want cell service you can purchase a package from Blue Sky, they have a kiosk at the airport once you clear customs. For $50.00 we got thirty minutes of talk anywhere in the world, three hundred incoming/outgoing texts, and three gig of data. It worked well and we thought it was worth the money.

Bring water shoes, the coral is very sharp! We did bring our own but the resort also provided shoes. The beach in front of our resort was white sand for a long way so you didn’t need water shoes for swimming but they were very handy when we walked out to the coral reef.

The Flame Tree

Close up of the flower on the Flame Tree

Our resort also provided snorkeling equipment and kayaks free of charge and I think most of the resorts we looked at do this as well.

Lot’s of different coloured hibiscus.

At someone’s suggestion we packed our rain jackets and an umbrella but never used them. We did get the odd rain shower, and that one fairly rainy day, but never enough to wear our coats. One night after dinner we wandered down to the store and it starting raining, the rain continued until we arrived back at our villa, but it was so fine and so warm that we were dry when we walked into the villa. As I have mentioned before the rain hangs over the mountains in the centre of the island but rarely fell over the beaches.

Sunscreen is expensive so bring lots from home, and use it. We put sunscreen on as soon as we arrived in our villa but others didn’t and were very red that first night! I also brought some aloe after sun lotion and I was glad I did.

We had been told that alcohol was very expensive on the island so we picked up two one litre bottles of spiced rum from the duty free at LAX, you can bring in two litres of alcohol each. You can also purchase alcohol from the Rarotongo duty free store when you land and before you cross through customs but since we already had ours I didn’t check out the prices. Alcohol was expensive but honestly not a whole lot more than we pay in Canada and as I mentioned the Canadian dollar is a little better than the New Zealand dollar. A bottle of rum at the supermarket was $40.00 and a glass of wine at the restaurant in our resort was $7.50 and a bottle of local beer was $5.50. We purchased a nice Pinto Gris in our local supermarket and it was only $16.90 a bottle.

We had also been told snack food, like potatoe chips, were very expensive so we packed cheese, crackers, popcorn, and trail mix. Snack food is expensive and we tended to have cheese and crackers for lunch so I wish I had brought a lot more. We brought three different blocks of cheese, which I placed in a zip lock bag with a thick ice pack, and they made it here just fine and the ice pack was still partly frozen.

There was a supermarket about a three minute walk from our villa, which was great for basics, but other than the fruit juice for our drinks we bought all our other food at a large supermarket in town. The main reason we chose to bring rum is because pop is also very expensive on the island, $8.00 for 1.5 litres, but fruit juice is much more reasonable, $8.90 for 2.4 litres. So gin and tonics were out, and actually I never did see tonic water, but rum and fruit juice were definitely in!

If you like beer, Rarotongo Brewery is a good option. We purchased a 2 litre flagon (their version of a growler) mainly because we wanted it as a souvenir but also because a fill was only $14.00 and, lets face it, a cold beer on a warm afternoon while listening to the waves roll up on the sand is very enjoyable.

I saw this flower on the side of the road and thought it was pretty.

The next day I saw it used in a floral arrangement … so very pretty!

So there you have our suggestions for a more enjoyable trip to Rarotongo. If you ever get the chance to visit, take it! We would definitely come again.

Until next time …

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Something’s Fishy, Rarotonga, CI

During our beach time in the afternoon I would sit on a beach chair, enjoy my book, and cool off in the ocean from time to time. That’s my idea of fun beach time … hubby’s not so much 🙂

Hubby likes to keep busy so generally beach vacations are not his thing and he is always looking for something to do, and that means I don’t get much reading done 😦

While we were working my cousin and I would take off every February to some tropical climate, usually on a cruise, and enjoy lots of reading and relaxation. Did I feel bad leaving hubby at home … nope … he never wanted to come! He had his own business and was very happy working … yes he truly was, I’m not making this up!

But back to Rarotonga … hubby was very gung ho for this vacation and because it wasn’t his usual style I was a little hesitant, I didn’t want him to be bored.

Well bored is not what he was! Back to the afternoons of reading on the beach 🙂 While I was reading hubby was out snorkeling, usually armed with my underwater camera or his Go Pro. It was a win win vacation, I was happy and he was happy.

So all these fishy pictures are courtesy of hubby and his fishy friends 🙂

Until next time …

Our Room, Rarotonga, CI

I realized I never posted these pictures of our villa … so here is a look at our accommodation at Palm Grove Garden Resort in Rarotonga.

We were really pleased with the resort and would definitely stay here again.

View out our kitchen window through our open air window.

It is not as fancy as some, it is ranked at a three and a half star out of five and I think that is a fair ranking.

Looking in from the deck.

Looking out from the deck.

It appealed to us because it wasn’t all modern and fancy, it had a real island feel with its bamboo walls and teak floors … and of course the price was better 🙂

Until next time …

A Rainy Day In Paradise, Rarotonga, CI

Well it even rains in paradise, but it didn’t spoil our day 🙂 We had a leisurely breakfast, enjoyed coffee on our deck, under the covered portion, spent some time walking through local stores, had a late lunch out, and then … even with the rain … enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

Hubby had a great time wandering through the hardware store.

A single gang switch costs around $.99 at home. It would cost a lot of money to wire a house in Rarotonga!

We buy this water filter at home at a cost of 3 for $9.00, that would cost you $114.00 here!

$475.00

Home Depot in Yuma had a Ridgid eight piece set on sale for $329.00 before Christmas! Here it is $1,195 for a two piece set.

Seeds ranged from $1.80 to $5.00 a package.

Some things are very expensive here, but others didn’t seem that bad to me. Of course everything has to be shipped in either by air or sea. After the hardware store we wandered through the largest supermarket on the island. Like items in the hardware store, groceries also get shipped in by air or sea. Other than coconuts and bananas we didn’t see anything grown on the island.

Wow flour is expensive. It sure makes me appreciate the banana muffin I have every morning!

$7.90 for a box of Cheerios.

This didn’t seem that pricey, $4.80 for six granola bars.

These may be local chickens because we did see lot’s of those running around

We saw a few cows but no ranches.

And I thought eggs were expensive in Canada!

I definitely can’t afford to eat peppers for lunch everyday. For those of you in the US this works out to about $5.79 a pound.

Lunch today was at Charlie’s, which was highly recommended by the locals … and they didn’t disappoint 🙂

Keep an open mind, the entrance is deceiving.

Amazing view from our table!

There is live entertainment in the evening.

Hubby had a fish burger that was huge! Three large pieces of fish in one humongous bun, he brought half of it home.

Until next time …

We Finally Rented A Car, Rarotonga, CI

So this was the day … we decided to rent a car. Our original intention was to rent bicycles and just use them for transportation, we even brought our bike helmets with us, but it wasn’t feeling like a safe option given how narrow and busy the road was. Renting a motorcycle, while cheaper, wasn’t making me feel a whole lot safer, so a car it was.

Pretty Sunrise this morning.

 In order to get a slightly cheaper rate, $45.00 per day, we rented the car for three days, which is probably all we will need. The only roads on the island circle the coast, there are no roads over the mountains in the middle of the island, so there wasn’t lot of driving to be done. The main reason for renting the car was to visit some different restaurants and do some souvenir and grocery shopping.

Our rental car … they drive on the other side of the road than we are use to so it took us awhile to get in the right sides of the car 🙂

The bus is a good option if you don’t want to rent a car but it is expensive, only runs every half hour so it’s not great when you have several stops, and it makes many stops so it is slow going.

It is so lush here!

We had lunch at Trader Jack’s and the food and atmosphere were great.

Trader Jack’s has an interesting history. The restaurant was only open for six months in 1987 when Cyclone Sally wiped it out. It took a few years to rebuild but was hit again by Cyclone Pam in 1997, which did about $80,000 worth of damage.

The views from almost every table are amazing!

In 2005 Cyclone Meena came along and caused a $1,000,000 worth of damage. Now much of the building can be dissembled on short notice if there is a serious threat of an approaching cyclone.

If you look at the top of the glass doors you can see plates that can easily be unscrewed and the doors can be taken out if a cyclone is approaching.

 After lunch and some shopping it was back to our villa for an afternoon of swimming and relaxing.

Until next time …

A Lazy Day, Rarotonga, CI

I asked hubby, while sitting at breakfast, “What do you want to do today?”

We took a kayak out to the reef and checked out the coral. Hubby went right up to the reef, I was chicken and stayed further back.

He replied “we have to go to the office and get them to replace the burnt out bulb in our kitchen and we were going to rent a car”.

The coral was still pretty where I was.

“Hmm that seems like a busy day”, I replied.

“Yes it does”, he replied

So in the end we went to the office and let them know about the light and then we went back to our villa, put on our bathing suits and spent the day at the beach. Maybe we will rent a car tomorrow 🙂

I meant to mention in yesterday’s blog, when talking about the price of the bus, that The Cook Islands use New Zealand dollars, which is worth .928 Canadian.

These fish were very friendly but it was hard to get a good picture of them with my underwater camera because my camera is about ten years old and it is next to impossible to see the screen when the camera is under water. So I just point, shoot, and hope for the best, it worked with the coral but not so much with the fish.

Until next time …

A Day Around The Island, Rarotonga, CI

Today we toured the island on the local bus.

We decided to buy day passes for the Island Bus, which is not cheap, $16.00 a day per person. The price per trip is $5.00 for an adult or you can buy a ten-trip punch card for $30.00. In retrospect we should have bought the punch card but we didn’t and in the end the day cost us $4.00 each more than it could have, but oh well, we had an awesome day and that’s all that matters 🙂

The road around the island is thirty-two kilometres, 20 miles, and there are two bus routes, clockwise and anti clockwise … seriously that is what the routes are called. So we sat on the bench outside our villa and the first bus to come by was the anti clockwise bus so off we went.

We enjoyed great views of the beaches along the way.

It was probably a twenty-minute ride before we arrived in the main city on the island, Avarua, so we decided to get off and wander around. Avarua is on the north side of the island and the reef surrounding the island is very close to shore so you do get some great waves crashing into shore.

I spent some time wandering around the gift shops but to hubby’s delight I didn’t spend anything. While I was shopping hubby went over to the Police Station to see about getting a motorcycle license.

The Police Station, even they are home to chickens … do you see him?

If you want to rent a scooter in Rarotonga you have to get a motorcycle license, which involves a written test and a drivers test that costs around $40.00 with the rental of a scooter for the test.

The mountains in the middle of the island are very pretty!

A home on the island.

When we booked this trip we were told that people rented bicycles and use them as transportation and really that is what sold us on this island. When we arrived we realized that the one road around the island was busy and not really safe for bicycles, in fact we saw very few on the road.

Nikao Cemetary, a historic cemetery on the island.

The cemeteries have prime real estate with ocean views!

So we decided we would use the island bus as our mode of transportation, but the cost and erratic time schedule had us thinking that a rented scooter or car might be a good idea, at least for a few days … hence hubby visiting the Police Station, while I was shopping, to check into the requirements. We were told at the resort that an International Drivers license was required to rent a car but it turns out you don’t need it, and since I’m not fond of motorcycles or scooters, a car was looking like the way to go.

Local building store

And another one. I was surprised to see two on an island this small.

During our travels we walked by a car lot and saw a Honda for sale.

Fully loaded 2018 Honda Jazz $29,995, financing is available with $10,000 down and payments to suit over a maximum three year term.

A good price for a BMW, mine cost a lot more than that!

We stopped by our resort for awhile and then hopped back on the bus for some more sightseeing.

There are many churches on this island from Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, many Christian Churches, and many Catholic Churches.

The rectory for St. Josephs Catholic Church.

The Courthouse

 

We stopped at the Rarotonga Brewing Company for a taste and found we really enjoyed The Cook Island Lager, it was very light and refreshing!

And then it was back on the bus once again to head home to our villa.

The red tree amongst all the green is a Fire Tree and they are very prevalent around the island (Contessa that is the name of the tree you were asking about.

Until next time …