The capital of the Cook Islands, Avarua is also the main town on Rarotonga. Located on the northern coast, it is a bustling lively place with a relaxed friendly ambiance. A sleepy port until a decade ago, Avarua is so small that you can easily explore the entire town on foot in one day. Here you can find everything from banks and ATMs to supermarkets, shopping stores, museums, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and bars.
Avarua which means ‘two harbors’ is also the main port and yacht hub on the island. There are quite a few hotels and resorts to stay at out here as well. Internet access is available on the island, with a small post office, police station, hospital and pharmacy also on hand in case of any emergencies.
Getting around Avarua is very simple as there is only one main road in town, the Ara Marie Nui. Also referred to as Marine Drive, this road runs along the waterfront. A great way to explore Avarua is to start at the traffic circle that sits in the heart of town. To the west of the traffic circle are a number of homes, shops and the Banana Court Bar, while to the east the first thing you notice is the Seven-In-One Coconut Tree. Head a block inland from the tree and you will find Papeiha’s Stone. It was here that Papeiha first preached the gospel on Jul 26, 1832. Roughly some 200 meters east of the traffic circle is the Para-O-Tane Palace, the traditional home of the most senior ariki (chief) in Avarua.
As you head eastwards, you will pass the Beachcomber Gallery where an array of arts and crafts and jewelry are on display. Next, head to the Cook Islands Christian Church or CICC that was built here in 1853. A good time to visit here is on a Sunday, where you are welcome to attend the local service, with some truly wonderful singing. Head right from here to the Cook Islands Library and Museum, which sits behind the Para-O-Tane Palace. Well worth a visit, you will find some excellent books out here. The museum has some excellent exhibits both modern and traditional, including the island’s first printing press.
Opposite the library and museum is the University of the South Pacific campus, while if you head east you will reach the Sir Geoffrey Henry National Cultural Center. Home to an auditorium, museum, library and conservatory, this center also houses the Ministry of Cultural Development.
West of the traffic circle is the Punanga Nui Market, the Rarotongan Brewery and Avatiu Harbor.