Rarotonga aerial shot
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Rarotonga - The Cook Islands Capital

Geologically the youngest of the 15 islands in the Cooks group at only 2 million years of age, Rarotonga’s mountainous volcanic peaks and verdant hillsides make it the largest geographically of all the Cook Islands at 32 kilometres in circumference. Though one of the last islands in the entire chain to be discovered by Europeans – that distinction went to the mutinous crew of the Bounty, in 1789– Rarotonga's importance to Polynesian voyagers dates back around 1400 years when it is said to have first been found by Io Tangaroa from Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas Islands.

Originally called Tumu Te Varovaro (Source of the Echo) by its discoverers, the island's name was later changed to Rarotonga, meaning 'down south'. When Europeans did finally make landfall, in 1814, they were astonished to find a fully constructed inland road made from crushed coral, known as the Ara Metua, or Great Road of Toi, believed to have been built sometime in the 11th century.

The island's history holds that two opposing warrior chiefs, one Samoan and the other Tahitian, arrived at the same time and after conquering the pre-existing inhabitants agreed to divide the island in half, with the district of Ngatangiia belonging to the Tahitians, and Avarua to the Samoans. Later, the island was broken into six tribes.

Sometime between 1000 and 1400 AD an assembly of seven vaka, large ocean-going canoes, made their departure from Rarotonga and headed south to settle Aotearoa, New Zealand, where many of the New Zealand Maori tribes still bear the names of those original canoes. Plaques with the names of all seven vaka now stand to commemorate the historic departure site near the entrance to Avana Harbour and the Muri Lagoon.

Rarotonga offers today’s visitors a unique blend of authentic culture while providing a sophisticated holiday destination, so it is not uncommon for visitors to see locals planting and harvesting their plantation crops of taro by hand, a traditional food supply throughout the ages, while travelling in air conditioned comfort to a lagoon-side luxury resort. With quality restaurants, an eclectic shopping district in the main township of Avarua, international banking facilities, museums, art galleries, a vibrant marketplace, and of course, many beautiful beaches to relax upon, Rarotonga is a fascinating point to start your Cook Islands immersion from.

For more information on luxury Rarotonga accommodation, please click here.

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