Island In The Sun: Cook Islands
Ironically, within the first month of living in New Zealand we began planning an island getaway for sometime in March. People thought we were nuts saying 'why are you planning a trip when you're on a trip?!' But we knew it was unlikely we would ever be this close to the South Pacific Islands so we began researching destinations. Our ideal island must haves: beaches for snorkeling and relaxing, mountains for hiking, hot weather and cool beverages. When I read the following description for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands I said SIGN US UP: "If you've ever fantasized about escaping to a remote island, far from the hustle and hum of the modern world, then look no further than the Cook Islands. Here you'll find a thousand years of Polynesian culture sitting side by side with some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the South Pacific. The jewel in the crown is Rarotonga, the largest island - a bewitching blend of craggy mountains, dense jungle and glorious bone-white beaches." Sounds perfect to me, am I right?!
That was all I needed to seal the deal so we booked our tickets in October and all of a sudden 4 months later we were seated in our roomy Air NZ seats headed straight for Rarotonga (not to mention we were cradling our cheap duty-free bottle of rum). The highlight of our plane ride was the Air New Zealand Safety video which features none other than Richard Simmons. You HAVE to check this hilarious video out (watch for old grandma who streaks down the aisle at the end): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgpYtJMQQjc. Can you believe that?! More good news (as if it can get better than that safety video), a few hours past Auckland we crossed the International Date Line. Within the blink of an eye we traveled back in time by 22 hours which to us meant an extra day of vacay!
Around midnight we came skidding into Rarotonga airport where we were greeted by a cute guitar-playing Rarotongan. We made it through customs in record time and hopped on our shuttle that drove us to our rental. After scoping out our pad, we crashed almost immediately but little did we know we would be waking up at 3 am thanks to the roosters. I honestly can say I would die a happy girl if I never have to hear another cock-a-doodle-do again. Luckily we still slept in until 9 am, waking up to a quickly passing rain cloud. When we finally pulled ourselves up from bed we saw we were surrounded by lush tropical mountains, sun, and the sounds of the nearby ocean waves. We ate a quick breakfast, threw on our togs (swimsuits) and headed out for the day. The island of Raro is circular and only 32 kilometers around so our first order of business was to rent a moped which was the preferred method of transpo among locals and tourists alike. What's interesting about the Cook Islands is that in order to drive there you must pass a driver's test and follow up by getting a license at the police station. The driver's test went something like this...Rarotongan to Chip: "hop on this moped here and drive for about 30 seconds that way. Then come back." So he did. Rarotongan to Chip: "Okay, you pass." Simple as that. Off we went!
MURI Beach Heaven…
We spent the entire first day at Muri Beach where crystal clear turquoise waters, white sand and a sprinkling of 4 small islands sat nearby. This place has got to be one of the most stunning beaches we've been to. The minute we arrived it was almost like we were in a trance and the Cook Islands had magically relaxed us for the remainder of the week. After today, the rest of the week in Raro blended together in beautiful island fashion. We kayaked, snorkeled, ate local food, drank rum drinks on the beach, hiked the cross island track, swam, attended a traditional Rarotongan church service, hung out with the locals at an evening market, ate out at the Tamarind House (highly recommended), read books, planned our future, plucked star fruit off our tree, taught Chip yoga, ate ice cream cones, played with local dogs, and went running. Whew. Now on to the pictures. But first, here...why don't you listen to a song while you're looking at the pics to set the tone: http://youtu.be/0C3zgYW_FAM
Honestly, if anyone is looking for a small(ish) island getaway look no further than the Cook Islands. This place is magic and the people, food and scenery are to die for!