fun for all the family in Rarotonga
When it comes to an enjoyable holiday with young children, a week in tropical Rarotonga exceeds expectations for Carly Flynn.
Travelling with young kids can be anything but a family “holiday”. In fact, in the early parenting years I reckon the term is something of an oxymoron. A “change in routine” might be a more accurate description, or perhaps “let’s do the same stuff in a different location with less sleep because they don’t like sharing a room/sleeping in a foreign bed/the heat/the cold/the food and so on”.
Gone are the far-flung diveorientated destinations, and the dancing till the wee hours after cocktails on the beach ones (actually I was always more of a restaurant and bottle of wine in the corner kind of girl). A holiday for our Flynn-five right now is really just a break from our normal daily routine.
I always approach these trips with low expectations. You see, for our seven- and five-year-olds – and we also have an eight-month-old in tow – they are the centres of their own universe. And they believe they should be the centre of ours as well. Which of course for the most part they are, but that doesn’t really constitute relaxation for the parents who are looking for a little “me time” does it?
Which is why our destinations with kids have hugely different criteria to those pre-children. Namely: a short flight, sunshine, the ability to purchase nappies, baby food and Pamol at short notice, minimal time difference, access to trustworthy babysitters, beautiful beaches, fresh fruit and seafood and
decent but not overpriced cocktails. It’s a simple list really!
Hands down, there is one place that for us keeps ticking these boxes time and time again. The beautiful Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands.
Our older children are well enough travelled to know that the holiday starts the minute they step on the plane. Rarotonga is a short 3½-hour flight away, and the kids are unable to believe their luck at the access to unlimited movies and plane food for the duration.
The baby doesn’t yet have the same enthusiasm or understanding, but he proved to be a relatively good traveller, thanks in part to the many empathetic adults on board who kept playing peek-a-boo when I was trying to eat my meal in 30 seconds while he was bouncing on my knee/pulling my hair/ spilling my drink. You were lifesavers.
Travelling and being with kids 24/7 is full-on, but the idea of not having to make school lunches and race out the door to various things (like school and work) is as good as it gets. And let’s be honest, one of the most mundane aspects of day-to-day parenting can be the constant food preparation, cooking, wrangling and washing. It never stops!
Twenty-eight years ago when I was lucky enough to live in Rarotonga for a few years, it was a sleepy place, quiet and idyllic, largely unknown to those outside of the Pacific, but there were definitely some things we young teenagers missed.
These days it’s experiencing a tourism boom like never before. There are visitors from all over the globe, doing all sorts of activities and adventures. The island that is affectionately known to locals as “the Rock”, is a happening wee place and there’s now nothing you can’t get.
It’s so well set up for families. When you first arrive at Customs there’s a special queue for those with young children to speed on through so you avoid any impending meltdown about being hot/thirsty/needing a swim/ annoyed the movie hadn’t finished when the plane landed. Before any of that can happen, we’re hustled through and sitting in our rental car, smugly driving ourselves out the airport gates and turning left towards our destination.
It’s Sunday when we arrive and the streets are quiet. In the Cooks, Sunday is truly a day of rest. Our first stop is a roadside stall in Titikaveka where the Mama in charge is having a snooze surrounded by her island produce. We quickly pay for our first stash of prized Cook Island doughnuts and a cool, freshly opened nu (young coconut). Ahhh, it’s nice to be here.
We dump our bags in the gorgeous Pacific Resort villa that’s to be our home for the next seven days, and head for the pool. Within an hour of
The island that is affectionately known to locals as “the Rock” is a happening wee place and there’s now nothing you can’t get.
landing, the kids are doing bombs and I’m contemplating a cocktail.
Such is the ease of the Cook Island lifestyle. Same money, same time zone (less 24 hours), same road rules, no chores and a better climate than home!
The Pacific Resort is on beautiful Muri Beach, a tourist hotspot for kite-surfers, kayakers, sailors, beachgoers and snorkellers.
We weren’t expecting our villa to have self-catering facilities, but it has a full kitchen, and the two bedrooms plus lounge mean there’s enough space for all. It’s a fantastic base, an easy place to hang out at, with its complimentary kids club and delicious food, but it’s also located on one of the best beaches, close to the popular Night Markets and central to some of Raro’s best activities.
While many tropical destinations offer burgers, pizza, battered fish and chips as staples, Rarotonga has become a real foodie haven. Ika
OPPOSITE: The Flynn-five on the beach; a fruit stall at the Saturday market; blue on white traditional tivaevae appliqué quilting; lagoon fish; “bombs away” in the resort pool.
FROM LEFT: Carly and family with the Koka Lagoon Cruise boat; a stunning island sunset; Muri Beach and lagoon from the air. CENTRE: The older children on their kayak adventure; Carly and the littlest Flynn, Freddie.
Pacific Resort, where the family stayed, and (right) Carly’s favourite dish, ika mata.