Karen Goudge discovers Rarotonga Paradise
On a small, idyllic island in the heart of the Pacific, Karen Goudge discovers there is richness in giving time to self.
Another day in Paradise
I have arrived and that awaited sense of surrendering, discovery and the tropical climate is now a reality. The small Rarotonga airport has a buzz of happiness that is contagious for evoking a smile and the greeting “Kia Orana” (hello, may you live a long, fulfilling life).
I delight that my private transfer from the airport to the Sea Change Villas is welcoming and spontaneous, and we stop to buy a fresh coconut to drink from a cart along the side of the road.
Rarotonga is sprinkled with coconut trees, a lush green mountainous interior and an outer reef; it’s also the largest of the 15 islands that make up the nation of the Cook Islands. It is soon revealed that Rarotonga is a joy to navigate with its 32-kilometre road around the rim of the island, whether it is on a bicycle, in a hire car or on a scooter.
I discover no buildings are higher than a coconut tree, land ownership is always connected to a local family and the boutique villas and small resorts are personally owned or managed.
Sea Change Villas
Sea Change Villas is my abode for the week. All of its 12 villas have lagoon views, their own private pool and are fully self-contained. The beachfront villa is literally that – on the beachfront with only a strip of native shrubbery hedged up against the deck before giving way to a white sandy beach and a pristine outer reef view.
The floor-to-ceiling concertina doors display a magical ocean view from any angle within the villa whether I’m lazing in my fourposter bed, resting on the wicker sofa or creating a shared plate in the well appointed kitchen.
I walk over a foot bridge and meander through the lush tropical garden to discover the Hidden Spirit Cafe, a perfect refuge from the sun, as well as a tropical wholesome meal created from its organic garden.
Joining a small group Storytellers Eco Cycle tour led by Cook Island Maori, Uncle Jimmy and owner David, we stop to sample local fruits and learn of some local medicinal benefits within this beautiful emeraldgreen jungle interior. I was impressed to discover a store where a good variety of Ceres organic products from New Zealand could be purchased, giving me the option to self-cater as I pleased.
The integrity of wellness and style is not forgotten in the few boutique spa resorts. Loving a treatment, I booked in for a massage at Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa with its Balinese-style treatment room, trained therapists and the use of Te Tika. This is made from organic ingredients from the Cook Islands and manufactured in Australia. I walked out feeling totally blissed.
Vichy treatments at Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa
Another must while on holiday is the obligatory facial for that radiant glow. However, it’s the rehydrating and a deep cleanse that truly makes a difference. To my delight, Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa uses Ayurda skincare.
The knowledgeable therapist chose a Pita Balancing Facial and it showed results. It was a thrill to discover that Rumours Spa also offers Vichy treatments; I will be booking a seaweed body mask in advance next time to secure an appointment.
A week-long holiday in the Cook Islands passes quickly. I still have cafes and nature walks to experience. While I was there I was embracing the island’s easy-going lifestyle with no traffic lights or congestion, a speed limit of 50 kilometres, and no global branded resort or people doing the hard sell of their wares.
It is nice to know that taking time to reconnect with yourself, your loved one and the Cook Islands Maori culture can be rewarding.
Getting there Air New Zealand offers weekly direct flights from Sydney to Rarotonga. Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Jetstar have flights from Australia via Auckland.