The Best Places to Eat in Rarotonga in 2021

Samoa food

2.95min read

Published 15 February 2016


Even if your Cook Islands accommodation 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 six of the best places to eat in Rarotonga.

1. The Mooring Fish Café

Mini fish tacos from The Mooring Fish Cafe
Mini fish tacos from The Mooring Fish Cafe. Image credit: @themooringfishcaferaro

Everyone loves the fish sandwiches at this little shack on the beach, housed in a converted shipping container on Muri Beach. The Mooring Fish Café offers casual beachfront dining and the best of the Cook Island hospitality. It is by far one of the most iconic Rarotonga food places and the original fresh fish sandwich shop in the Cook Islands. They have won many awards over the years and attribute their success to the freshness of the exclusively locally sourced ingredients they use and their homemade sauces. 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 aioli and lettuce on a huge slab of Turkish bread. Also try the Tuna Tacos with Spicy Slaw and Paw Paw Salsa - delicious! They are open Monday to Friday and also on Sunday (closed on Saturday). 


2.Vaima Restaurant and Bar

Colourful food at the Vaima Restaurant & Bar
Flavourful and colourful food at the Vaima Restaurant & Bar. Image credit: Vaima Restaurant & Bar

If you are looking for one of those fine Rarotonga restaurants where you can sit on the beach while enjoying great food, the Vaima is the place for you! Situated on the south side of Rarotonga in Vaimaanga, the restaurant has the option of inside or on the beach dining and offers a wide range of delicious dishes. Imagine sitting on the beach at sunset, sipping on a delicious cocktail and enjoying some of the best cuisine in the Cook Islands - how magical! Our must-try pick is the salt and pepper squid, a delicious entrée packed full of flavours. The Vaima also offers a pizza takeaway service that you can enjoy in your hotel room or just sit on the beach with your feet in the water enjoying the food.  The Vaima opens evenings for dinner and serves lunches weekdays from 12 noon and on Sundays from 11am.


3. The Waterline Restaurant

The Waterline restaurant Rarotonga, Cook Islands
The Waterline restaurant Rarotonga, Cook Islands [Image credit: @twiggletzoe]

One of the best restaurants in Rarotonga to watch the sunset from! The Waterline is a two-storey boutique restaurant on the west coast of the island. Situated right on the beach, The Waterline is a great option to go for a drink or a meal. Attentive staff, friendly atmosphere and delicious food make it one of our favorite places to eat in the Cook Islands! They do a good range of local fish dishes, plus red meat and chicken for the pesca-phobes in your party. Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, come for tasty cocktails on the beach during happy hour (3pm-6pm), then have a choice of dining on the sand or on the deck looking over the ocean. To make the experience even more magical, The Waterline is also famous in the Cook Islands for their live music shows on Wednesday and Friday nights and piano Sunday evenings. 


4. Trader Jacks

Fresh lobster and tuna at Trader Jacks
Fresh lobster and tuna at Trader Jacks [Picture credit: @will_struthers]

The Cook Island’s most iconic dining destination! 2021 marks 35 years since Wellingtonian Jack Cooper first opened the doors to his pub and restaurant, Trader Jacks 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. The restaurant works closely with local farmers and fishermen to offer the freshest Cook Islands food. Find a spot on the verandah overlooking the beach and order a pizza or Jacks Big Burger, plus a couple of ice-cold beers to wash it all down. We also recommend their ika mata (marinated fish salad) which is most definitely one of the best food in Rarotonga and Trader Jacks is one of Rarotonga’s best restaurants for sure! 


5. Muri Night Markets

Fruit stall at the Muri Night Markets
Fruit stall at the Muri Night Markets. Image credit: Cook Islands Tourism.

If you were wondering where to eat on Sunday in Rarotonga, the Muri night markets is your answer! Head down for the perfect takeaway dinner from one of the various food trucks and stalls. From BBQ meals to chicken curries, crèpes to fresh coconuts, this market has something everything to satisfy you! You can also grab some souvenirs with stalls selling everything from flower crowns, sarongs, to wooden carvings. If you are craving some homemade goodies this is the place to be as the local community sets up with amazing homemade cakes and pastries! Situated in the Muri Beach Village the markets also run Tuesday to Thursday from 5pm. It’s the perfect place to relax with tasty food after a beautiful day under the Rarotongan sun! Just note that EFTPOS is not available so you will need to get some cash out first.


6. Tamarind House

Fine dining at the Tamarind House
Ribeye, prawn fettuccine and fish curry from the Tamarind House. Image credit: @rarofoodie


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