Just under a km west of Rarotonga airport on the Ara Tapu is the Parliament of the Cook Islands in a building originally used to house workers during construction of the airport in 1973. Parliament meets infrequently February-March and July-September, and if you're properly dressed (no shorts or jeans, women must wear a dress), you can observe the proceedings from the public gallery weekdays. Notice how all the important positions here are occupied by men.
For a cheap thrill, find out when an international flight will be arriving, then position yourself on the seawall below the end of the runway between Parliament and the Golf Club, a bit beforehand. You'll get a rush when the huge aircraft passes just a few meters above your head!
Across the street from the Golf Club west of the airport is a beach park with toilets and outdoor showers. From here it's not far to Black Rock, six km from Avarua, standing alone in a coral lagoon (good snorkeling at high tide). This rock marks the spot where the spirits of deceased Rarotongan Polynesians pass on their way back to the legendary homeland, Avaiki. The Tahitian missionary Papeiha is said to have swum ashore here, holding a Bible above his head (in fact, he landed in a small boat).
Mount Raemaru (350 meters tall) rising behind Arorangi has a flattened top—a local legend tells how Aitutaki warriors carried off the missing upper part. (To climb Raemaru, take Raemaru Heights Road inland off the Ara Metua between Akaoa No. 1 Road and Akaoa No. 2 Road. You'll pass two houses on your right. Keep right until you see two concrete graves on the hillside up to your left (about 150 meters past the houses). The Raemaru trailhead is on your right directly opposite the graves. The trail leads up the fern-covered ridge to Raemaru's western cliffs. When you get close to the forest at the base of the cliffs, take the right fork of the trail up to the cliff itself. The final climb to the mountain's flat summit can be dangerous if the rocks on the cliff are wet and slippery, but once on top, you can see the whole western side of Rarotonga. There's an easier track down the back of Raemaru that you can use to return, but you'd probably get lost if you tried to climb it. Along this route you circle down a taro-filled valley back to the Ara Metua.)
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