Even if your Rarotonga resort includes breakfast (and most do), that's still two meals a day to organise on your own. Luckily, the island has plenty of great options, from cheap and cheerful takeaways to sophisticated fine dining. These are five of the best.
2016 marks 30 years since Wellingtonian Jack Cooper first opened the doors to his pub and restaurant on Avarua Harbour. Cyclones have knocked it down three times over the years, but each time Trader Jacks has bounced back – this place is too important an institution for Rarotonga to lose. Find a spot on the verandah overlooking the beach and order a pizza, seafood platter or burger, plus a couple of ice-cold beers to wash it all down. Cooper also owns Bamboo Jacks around the corner, a casual restaurant with a pan-Asian menu.
The Mooring Fish Cafe
Everyone loves the fish sandwiches at this takeaway joint, housed in a converted shipping container on Muri Beach. We recommend the F.O.B (“Fish on Bread”): fresh mahi mahi (courtesy of owner Jillymae's husband, who runs the fishing charter business next door), lime aoili and lettuce on a huge slab of Turkish bread. The pick of the salads; the Cook Islands ika mata – raw fish marinated in coconut cream and citrus.
Widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in Rarotonga, Tamarind House is a restored colonial homestead surrounded by 2.5 acres of garden, located right next to the beach. Come here for a special occasion or romantic meal on the balcony – children aren't permitted after 7pm, so you're guaranteed a peaceful meal. If you go for dinner, be sure to get there early enough to catch the spectacular sunset over the water.
Another gorgeous place to watch the sunset, the Waterline is a two-storey restaurant on Raro's west coast beach. Come for cocktails on the beach during happy hour (3pm-6pm), then head upstairs to the dining room for dinner. Their ika mata (marinated fish salad) is one of the best on the island, and they do a good range of local fish dishes, plus red meat and chicken for the pesca-phobes in your party.
Flying Boat Fish n Chips
Whether you're home in New Zealand or on holiday in the Pacific Islands, there's something so right about fish n chips on the beach. Housed in an old boat which has been hauled onto dry land, Flying Boat serves locally caught mahi mahi, parrotfish, broadbill and tuna, plus burgers and toasted sandwiches. If you fancy a beer with your feed, the bar at the Cook Islands Game Fishing Club next door is open Monday to Saturday.