A market in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

If you drew a line straight down from Hawaii until you hit the Tropic of Capricorn, you’ve found the Cook Islands. 

the Punanga Nui Market Rarotonga
Kia Orana “Welcome”

Each Saturday in Rarotonga the Punanga Nui Cultural Market is held.  The market is a mix of village fair and market, with locals presenting their produce (this is a place where avocado trees are loaded with fruit and houses have tables offering home grown goods and honesty boxes). 

Other folk prepare dishes for a breakfast, and curries, smoothies, baked goods are presented on trestle tables whilst the sounds of ukulele music and drums drift in and out of your conversation.

Selections at Rarotonga Market

Our favourite stall simply offered a “plate of food” with whatever was plentiful that week.

hearty breakfast in Rarotonga Market
hearty breakfast in Rarotonga

Once you have taken care of your culinary sampling, it’s time to move on to the cultural offerings and craftspeople display their wares for inspection.  Local ladies specialize in Tivaevae, appliqued quilts which are highly prized and significant gifts for weddings and special birthdays.    Black pearls are a feature of jewellery here, and watching an artist engrave the pearls with local designs is a real treat.   

Time for some dancing, oh yes.  Music and dance are a part of life here, and its never too early to start.  This little dancer was strutting her stuff, never mind the nappy under her skirt.

Baby Cook Islands dancer
In the Cook Islands, dancing starts early

Rarotonga is the largest island, and where you would fly into.  The other islands in the two groups (north and south) are quite isolated, and can only be accessed by light planes or by boat.  Its citizens are Polynesian, and closely related to Tahitians and Hawaiians.  They have a strong link to New Zealand or Aotearoa in the Maori language.

Rarotonga has a special place in my heart.  Its welcoming and homey.  It smells tropical and lush. It doesn’t put on airs and graces.  Yes, there are a few posh resorts, but there are many more good value places to stay, owned by locals which I always prefer to patronise. 

As you arrive you will walk from the plane into the airport building for immigration processes, and whilst you wait, a local institution, Jake Numanga will welcome you by serenading you with his Ukulele.   When you leave, he will sing you goodbye, leaving you with a lasting love of this beautiful place.


Jake Numanga

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

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