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Cook Islands Travel Guide

Pokata Marae
An old marae beside the Ara Metua, Rarotonga.

The Ara Metua

Two roads circle Rarotonga: the new coastal road (the Ara Tapu) and an old inner road (the Ara Metua). The main sights are arranged herein for a counterclockwise tour of the island on the Ara Tapu with the distances from Avarua shown in parentheses on subsequent pages. On a scooter you should be able to do it in four hours with stops; by bicycle give yourself a leisurely day.

On your second time around try using the scenic Ara Metua, which goes two-thirds of the way around the island. You'll encounter lush gardens, orchards, and good viewpoints. This inner road is said to be the oldest in Polynesia, the coral-block foundation laid 1,000 years ago by chief Toi. Up until the mid-19th century, when the missionaries concentrated the population in seven coastal villages, most of the people lived on the inland side of this road. During World War II the road was resurfaced and much of it is now paved. There's very little traffic, which makes it perfect for cycling.

Just west of Avarua on the Ara Metua is the Cook Islands Whale Education Center with excellent exhibits on whales and dolphins. You could easily spend an hour or more here reading up on the subject. The opening hours depend on the availability of volunteers.

Continue to   Rarotonga Sights: Around the Island   »