Eating out in The Cook islands
There is a multitude of accommodation to choose from on Rarotonga, which can range in price from a budget $90 a night to well over $1000 at an international resort. Some will have restaurants and a lot won’t, most are semi self-contained, but if you are planning on being independent, then there are some tips you need to take on board.
Most foodstuffs are imported to the Cook Islands, owing to the fact that the small island cannot self cater to 100,000 visitors a year and be self sustaining.
While prices in Avarua, the main township can be a little exorbitant, if you are prepared to go sightseeing around the island, you will find that the lettuces that cost you $3.50 in the supermarket for example, can be purchased off a road stall for just one dollar. The same applies to most fresh fruit and vegetables.
Meat can be a little expensive.
But there are market areas where you can buy fish and this is relatively cheap although it is not as plentiful as you might expect being in the middle of a large ocean.
The somewhat infant fishing industry is being expanded with direct help from the government, but as matters stand, there is a small boat population available trying to attain the quotas required by even just the resorts. So at this stage, a fair bit of fish is imported from New Zealand and certainly almost all crustaceans, even crayfish, are brought in from New Zealand primarily.
Island fruit are absolutely beautiful. Pineapples in particular are juicily sweet, as are the pawpaws and the mangoes. You may find island staples like the breadfruit and taro somewhat of as much acquired taste as say avocados are, but they can be presented in unusual ways which enhance the otherwise very bland taste.
Food on the wing
You will find a wide range of takeaways, from pizzas, to Indian, and you normal burgers, fish and chips etc. The Flying Boat at the Fishing Club is a great little outdoor 'eat', whilst watching the whales in season, or the Vaka Iva (paddling competition) in November.
There are many international chefs who have passed through the portals of the Cook Islands and their influence on the menus remains to this day. You would expect to be paying on average around $60 & $79 per head for food and beverage combined with an island night.
Seafood and tropical fruit are the specialty of the Cook Islands with the ever-present coconuts adding their own distinctive flavour to many dishes. The hugely popular umukai is the traditional Polynesian feast and is prepared in an underground earth oven where food is wrapped in leaves and then steamed over hot stones. One dish not to miss is raw fish marinated in lime juice and mixed with coconut cream. If you have a love of crayfish and coconut crabs, these are delicacies on Aitutaki. There are many types of places to choose to eat from in the Cook Islands, with restaurants ranging from top class eateries to friendly island-style cafes, ethnic restaurants (Italian, Asian, Cajun/Creole, Mexican, European).
Island Nights should be on your list of activities. Many hotels plus Highland Paradise provide evenings which include a buffet meal prepared 'Island Style' complimented by an Island show. Highland Paradise, in particular include in their nightly package (Wed and Fri), the pick up from your Hotel, plus a little culture relating to their marae, then you are treated to the beautiful buffet and a professional dance show.
Club Bana in Avarua also present an excellent show on a Friday night, including dinner and show.