Accommodations are plentiful on Rarotonga and it's unlikely you'll arrive on a day when everything is full. Be aware that during the high season from June to October the better places are often booked solid months in advance. It's advisable to reserve unless you're willing to accept a fourth or fifth choice.
Bargaining for rooms isn't done but it's okay to ask if they have any "specials" on. The arrival of email has made booking ahead from overseas much easier and you can sometimes get specially reduced rates through a hotel's own website.
If saving money is a concern, get a place with cooking facilities as restaurant meals can add up. Most of the budget and medium-priced hotels are self-catering, but many of the upmarket resorts are not.
When choosing, keep in mind that the west coast is drier and gets beautiful sunsets, while the finest snorkeling is at windy Titikaveka in the south and the top beach faces the gorgeous Muri Lagoon in the east. The places near Avarua are best for those more into shopping, sightseeing, and entertainment than beachlife.
Most places include the 12.5 percent VAT in the quoted rate but some charge it extra. Check out time at the motels is 1000. Most of the budget hotels provide free transfers from the airport to their properties (from international flights only) but charge a fee for the ride back to the airport. The more upscale places charge a fee each way.
The accommodations listings on this site are arranged counterclockwise around the island in each price category.