Rarotonga is part of the Cook Islands which a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. The island is small – you can drive around the entire island in under an hour. We came here at the end of autum last year for our honeymoon.
What is a honeymoon on a tropical island, without amazing seafood and fruity cocktails? Maybe I’m weird, but after a full day of snorkelling, I just want to eat seafood. “Oh look hun! Pretty fish! Can we eat that?”
We had been pre-warned that the food in Rarotonga was good. We were even given a few recommendations on places to eat.
These were Kaena – a tiny nondescript dinner restaurant by the diveshop and of course, Trader Jacks in the town centre for their amazing seafood platter. Both of these places we visited twice during week we were in Rarotonga. We also visited Flame Tree Grill which with a massive pet moray and a very kiwi feel about the place (kiwi owned perhaps?) promised much but didn’t quite deliver.
We ate plenty of meals at our resort The Rarotongan. The food was pretty good here and if you stuck to the cocktail special of the day, you would do pretty well for yourself.
Burgers, Island Fries and sangria.
Island fries are thick cut chips made of potato, kumara and taro. We couldn’t get a enough of these. I’m surprised that they don’t have them here in New Zealand all the ingredients are available.
A calamari snack.
Breakfast at The Rarotongan was included with our room. Every day was a beautiful buffet spread of breads, pastries, cereal and island fruit. Heaven! We also squirreled away some bread to feed the fish.
We tried the umu during an Island Night at The Rarotongan.
Umu is similar to the Maori hangi that we’re used to here in New Zealand.
I had heard wonderful things about the food at Kaena and we were lucky it was just a hop and skip away from our resort. On our first visit to Kaena, I ordered the scallops mornay. This was so delicious I didn’t really want to let K taste it.
K ordered the special which was a tuna steak with scallops and a prawn skewered into it. He loved this too.
The second time we visited Kaena, we decided to get starters as well as mains. I was already addicted to Ika Mata – the coconut based raw fish salad that is served everywhere in Rarotonga. I really liked their version of this dish. It was flavourful, but not swimming in coconut.
K had the shrimp cocktail that was made with huge shrimp.
For mains, I ordered the special that K had last time and he sampled the cordon bleu.
The kitchen at Kaena is basic. Primitive even.
The kitchen consists of a standard portable BBQ and small camping gas cooker to the left. Just goes to show, you don’t need a flash kitchen to make delicious food.
If you only get one meal in Rarotonga, make it at Kaena.
Sure, this is a tourist trap, but if you want to eat good seafood right on the water, then you can’t go wrong with Trader Jack’s. Ika Mata and a smoked fish salad went down ok for lunch on our first visit.
“Traders Smoked Marlin Salad – on island greens, vegetables & paw paw lime vinaigrette.”
Their Ika Mata is swimming in coconut and is more a spoon dish rather than a fork dish. Ika Mata is a light dish and while delicious, doesn’t give you the sensation of being full. So bonus points to Trader Jack’s for some big wedges of taro on the side.
“Te Ika Mata – Tuna marinated Island Style in coconut & lime.”
On our return to Trader Jack’s at dinner time, we shared their famous platter for two. We finished our platter, but it pure determination. Another couple near us ordered this and only finished about half of theirs.
“Trader’s Seafood Catch for Two – subject to supply, try a little of our bounty (prawns, calamari, smoked marlin, Ika Mata, sashimi, Papi Papi (Slipper Lobster), or crayfish, grilled game fish, steamed mussels & oysters), served with dipping sauces, fries & garden greens.”
Free lunch with our island tour
There was no fish that day so we had chicken which was grilled beautifully with a tasty marinade. It was a nice change from the seafood we were eating.
Flame Tree Grill
Flame Tree Grill wasn’t my favourite. Maybe I’m just not a fine dining kind of girl, but I found the dishes small and only ok. There are better and cheaper places to eat on this island.
My calamari starter.
His deep fried sushi starter.
Our main courses.
We were in the township on Saturday after the going to the markets in Aravua. I can’t remember exactly but I think this was called The Dockside. We were the only customers here, but it was still early and I guess other people knew that giant burgers like these would probably stuff you for the rest of the day! I think we went back to the resort and napped after these beasts.
We found some coconut on the beach so K smashed it open and we ate some.
Rarotonga Food Highlights:
Ika Mata, Island fries, umu, rustic charm at Kaena, $10 cocktails.
And since I’m a graphics person, here are some graphics from Raro:
As with all the islands, the locals here are fond of corned beef.
A cute token for using services at our resort.
Some graphics at a cafe we had a big cooked breakfast at.
A painted bus shelter. Is that a bunny in the top right?
The bus in Rarotonga comes once every hour. Missed the bus? Snorkel while you wait for the next one.
Our rad scooter plate.