Sunday, March 3, 2024

In the mood for paradise

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Most of us have heard of ‘island time’ and take it to mean ‘taking life slowly’ but for KATE OCKELFORD-GREEN island time is synonymous with sun, sea and sand, warm welcoming smiles, tropical cocktails and an escape from her busy work day.

Given the chance of a five day break in Rarotonga I was never going to say, ‘No!” And it couldn’t have come at a better time especially as husband and I needed some real R&R away from the pressures of our small Franklin farm.

We arrived to beautiful weather – 28 degrees celsius with the warm, salt-laden air tinged with the smell of frangipani from our welcome leis.

For Kiwis, Rarotonga is such an easy place to holiday – just a three to four hour flight from Auckland and no need to pack anything more than swimwear, sarongs, and sunglasses.

Okay, maybe a couple of pairs of shorts, with Ts and something a little more dressy for dining out.

But, really, you don’t need a lot, especially if you spend most of the day under the sun umbrella, next to the pool with a book in hand. Of course, we did get out. Everyone should do the short 32km drive around the island – whether you opt to sit for your scooter licence, take the island bus or just hire a car for a day or two is up to you… and your age!

If you’re there on a Saturday, the morning market at Avarua is a convivial mix of friendly locals and tourists wandering the open-air stands and small huts selling handicrafts, bright pareu (sarongs), tropical fruits, vegies, seafood and great coffee!

Visitors also flock to Muri Beach for a chance to enjoy a whirl in glass bottomed boats or try their hand at snorkelling in the Tikioki Lagoon Marine Reserve. But if you’re after somewhere away from the madding crowd and a busy public beach, then opt for the privacy and seclusion of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa (where we stayed) and sister resort next door, Sanctuary Rarotonga – On the Beach, for adults-only aged 16 and over.

These resorts sit on a truly white, sandy beach (some places are on rocky coral shorelines) and the lagoon out front offers arguably the island’s best snorkelling in the sheltered Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve. The resort offers guests guided snorkelling tours, and even night snorkelling, a unique experience – imagine seeing a parrot fish tucked up in its jelly-like sleeping bag for the night! This is a lovely place to holiday or celebrate something special, such as saying ‘I do’!

At such resorts you can expect air conditioning, flat screen TV, Wi-Fi, insect screens and other amenities such as hair dryer, mini-fridge, tea and coffee making, plus on-site restaurants, bars, swimming pools, gym, spa and possibly a kids’ club – creature comforts to make a short getaway truly relaxing.

Off-site there’s a huge variety of tours, dining and entertainment options – possibly the widest range in the South Pacific. But, perhaps, Rarotonga’s greatest asset is its friendly, warm-hearted people, who happily share their paradise.

The sun may have set on my recent Rarotongan holiday but there are still stars in my eyes after vacationing in what so many folk call paradise. I racked my brains for a way to stay longer. Now I’ll settle for a visit next year. It is the place to escape winter.

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