We stayed in an interconnecting Beachfront hotel room. The rooms are standard hotel size, probably big enough for two adults and one child. With the interconnecting room option, you have plenty of room for up to three kids. The room looked out onto the lagoon and from the front balcony you were only a dozen steps from the waters edge. The garden rooms open out on to the beautiful manicured gardens with large expanses of grassed areas for the kids to run around. All rooms have air conditioning, a generous balcony with table and chairs and a bar fridge. The garden and beachfront rooms are located in two story blocks, so request a ground floor room. Other types of accommodation available for families include the garden and beachfront junior suites, which can accommodate 2 adults and 2 kids, and the self contained 2 bedroom garden suites which can accommodate 2 adults and up to four kids. These are single story accommodation located close to the pool and the beach. It probably comes down to what you can afford, but the ground floor interconnecting Beachfront or Garden rooms seem the best family alternative. The rooms are quite small and you may even feel cramped with three in a room - certainly you won't be able to move around if you try for four in the one room. The hotel rooms are fairly old, the bath suitable only for the kids, but the decor and the scenic outlook make up for this.
Rarotongan resort pool. image © Kids Holidays
The food choice and quality was of a very high standard. We were also surprised at the reasonable cost of the food. The buffet breakfast included a choice of a Tropical Breakfast for NZ$17.50 or the Grand Island Breakfast for NZ$24.50. The buffet breakfast was a choice of cereals, toast with jams, vegemite etc, fruit, croissants, pastries, yoghurt, cold ham, cheese fruit juice and tea or coffee. The Grand Island Breakfast offered the same choice with pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausages and potatoes. There were also a couple of blackboard specials each morning for around NZ$15. Lunch consisted of a choice of burgers, sandwiches and salads as well as a selection of fish, steak and chicken dishes, vegetables and pasta. Very good choice and the prices ranged from NZ$8.50 for the toasted sandwich, NZ$14.50 for the burgers and around NZ$22.00 for the fish and steak. You could order from this menu from 11am till 9pm. Same with the kids menu, so you could feed them early and let them run off to the kids club so you can eat in peace. Dinner was a choice of one of the theme nights, a special menu which featured two entrees and four main meals or a selection from the all day menu. Monday night was curry night, Tuesday was BBQ, Wednesday was Island night with a traditional umu feast and a Drum and Dance Troupe providing enjoyable entertainment, Thursday was seafood night, Friday was Spices of Asia, Saturday another Island Night and Sunday was roast night. The cost for the island nights was NZ$45.00pp (including the entertainment), seafood was NZ$35.00pp and the others NZ$28.50. The special menu was usually around NZ$16 for starters and NZ$22 for the main course. The kids ate free. This included a tropical breakfast, lunch from the kids menu and dinner from the same menu or the choice of the adults theme dinner. The kids menu included fries, egg, toast and salad, and fried rice for NZ$6.50 and spaghetti, burger and fries, fish & chips, hot dog & chips, chicken bites or toasted sandwich for NZ$7.50 and rice, vegetables or salad for NZ$3.50. Dessert was fruit or ice cream for NZ$5.50. We pre-paid for four breakfasts and two dinners for AU$99, which would have normally cost NZ$127 (only a AU$5 saving).
Each Wednesday and Saturday night as part of the umu feast, the guests are treated to a 'Legends Of Polynesia' Island night. It includes a drum dance troupe with dancing warriors and maidens. Definitely not to be missed. The kids will enjoy this as much as the adults. Sunday brunch features a special Brunch menu as the local choir and dance group from the St Mary's Parish provide the entertainment. On Friday nights the all girl group 'Always' perform during dinner and then it's off on a Nitelife Tour around the islands night spots until the early hours of the morning (obviously not one for the families). The entertainment provided was excellent but limited. Other resorts we've visited have provided nightly entertainment with more audience participation.
Rarotongan resort accommodation. image © Kids Holidays
The number one activity is snorkeling. The resort is situated on a protected marine sanctuary so you are assured of swimming with an amazing array of colourful fish. Flippers and snorkels are available from the activities hut. It's probably a good idea to bring your own snorkeling gear, as the resorts equipment needs to be returned each night. Once a week you can go night snorkeling. Equipped with a waterproof torch, you set off into the dark waters of the lagoon and wind your way in between the coral searching for fish. You won't find many at night, but it's certainly an experience. Kids will need to be reasonably competent snorkelers to attempt this. The beach is ideal for kids, with plenty of sand, shallow water and shade under the trees. From the activities hut you can get kids inflatables, buckets and spades and reef shoes. You can also feed the fish from the waters edge. The beach is also ideal for canoeing. There are smaller kayaks that the older kids can handle, or you can get one of the bigger canoes and sit the kids on the front and back. The games room features an air hockey table, pool table, table tennis and a soccer game as well as a lounge area with a TV. The resort has a good size swimming pool with a waterfall, plenty of sun lounges, two tennis courts and a beach volleyball court. From the activities hut you can get beach towels, kayak paddles, tennis balls and racquets, reef shoes, snorkeling gear, volleyballs, board games and videos. If you need any information on places to go or things to see make sure you ask at the activities hut. The Rarotongan Dive Centre is situated opposite the resort and offers a range of dive options from dives for beginners, PADI dive courses and morning and afternoon dive trips beyond the reef as well night dives. The Polynesian Spa featured full body massages in private, beachside or poolside, salt body rubs, facials, body tans. The body massage was a very enjoyable and relaxing way to spend an hour.
Rarotongan resort beach. image © Kids Holidays
There are numerous other activities including Segway tours, sand tobogganing, 4WD tours, kayaks, catamarans, parasailing, scuba diving, paddle boards, helicopter flights, banana boats, a kids playground, sightseeing tours, sea scooters, whale watching, kookaburra and pelican feeding.
There is usually some sort of nightly entertainment. Music on the weekends and during the week there is trivia, horse racing and bingo in the main lounge area.
The kids club at the Rarotongan Beach Resort is the best equipped we've seen. The club room features a trampoline, swings, large screen TV with a good range of videos, playstation, a computer, a sandpit, cubby house, ride-ons, heaps of games and puzzles, toys, books, a piano, paints, crafts - the list goes on and on. When we visited there were only a few kids staying at the resort, and while this meant that the kids had the run of the kids club, it also meant that the daytime activities for the kids were limited. They included a coconut climbing and husking demonstration, craft including kite making, crab hunting, sand castle competitions and fish feeding. The staff in the kids club were helpful and friendly and the kids certainly enjoyed themselves. At other resorts we've had the kids not wanting to spend hours at a time couped up in a room - not so here. We would often have to drag them out at closing time - certainly a good endorsement for a kids club. You could also select one of the many games or puzzles (and there were plenty to choose from) and take it back to your room for the kids to play. The night time activities were a bit disappointing - certainly no interaction between adults and kids, no organized dances, limbo contests etc. Again this may be due to the numbers of kids present at the time. The kids were certainly happy just to go to the kids club and watch videos or play one of the many games available. The kids club is open from 9am-12noon, 2-5pm and 7-9pm and is closed on Sundays and is free as long as you are staying at the resort. If your kids are younger than three you can hire a babysitter to look after them ($10/hour).
The Rarotongan Beach Resort is a quality resort with a great beach, superb snorkeling and swimming, good sized pool with plenty of outdoor and undercover seating and friendly and helpful staff. The hotel accommodation is fairly basic and small, with the interconnecting rooms a must for more than 3 people. The food was very good in both choice and quality and the well equipped kids club was very popular with the kids. The entertainment provided was good but limited. The cost of the accommodation is reasonably expensive (for interconnecting rooms or higher standard) and the travel time from Australia is pushing it a bit for the kids. But if it was more accessible it would be overrun with tourists and this would spoil the natural beauty and charm of the Cook Islands. We stayed for eight nights which wasn't enough (as with most holidays), so if you have the time (and money) consider maybe two weeks. As far as family accommodation goes, you won't get any better than the Rarotongan Beach Resort for facilities and activities. The kids, as usual, have the final say, and its definitely a thumbs up for the Cook Islands and the Rarotongan Beach Resort.