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The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa

The Rarotongan, exterior

Rarotonga, The Cook Islands
If you think "child-friendly" is the mark of the beast, then think again. Blue List Hotels discovers a new breed of family resort that's an entirely different animal.

first impressions
It's no co-incidence that The Rarotongan is considered 'heaven on earth' by guests. Legend has it that the Cook Islands were created when God sprinkled 15 of his most precious gems over the South Pacific. In fact, the host of amenities, competitive rates and idyllic location of this stunning four-star, beachfront resort is nothing short of miraculous.

Set amid six lush acres on the edge of beautiful Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve, just minutes from Rarotonga's main hub of Avarua, the bustling complex is a natural playground for youngsters - and a natural wonder for adults.

Guest lodgings, nestled among tropical garden, range in size from intimate Garden Rooms, to larger beachfront rooms and suites, and the luxurious Honeymoon Bungalow. There's even the ultra-exclusive two-bedroom Beachside Suite - a favourite with passing celebrities. Each is outfitted in authentic Polynesian decor, including bedspreads, curtains and locally-drawn paintings, and have spacious, modern bathrooms. All 156 properties are just steps away from the beach.

Deluxe Beachside Suites are spacious and boast a spa bath and outdoor shower - but no direct sea view - making them a popular choice for families. Beachfront Rooms, meanwhile, have unparalleled views over the sparkling lagoon, and as a spot to watch the tropical sunset, cannot be beaten.

For that 'native' feel, stay in a secluded Beachfront or Deluxe Suite, with rattan-lined walls, cane furniture and huge sliding-glass doors overlooking the South Pacific.

Grand Beachfront Suites have large, open-plan living rooms, featuring super king-sized beds, spa baths, dining and lounge areas as standard. Glass doors lead from the lounge onto a private, wooden sun deck. These self-contained apartments also boast a fully-fitted kitchen, and can sleep up to three adults, or a family of two adults and two children.

Newly-weds may be interested in the Honeymoon Bungalow, a secluded paraside complete with private swimming pool, outdoor spa, sauna and polished wooden floors. A huge veranda offers 180 degree views of the Marine Reserve - interestingly also called the "lagoon of love".

food and drink
The Rarotongan is literally bursting with places to eat. For a flavour of the South Pacific, try Te Vaka, the resort's main eatery that's decorated throughout with traditional Cook Island art and handicrafts. Sit on the sun deck for a view of the lagoon and the tropical fish within. Children's menus on request.

A less formal option is Captain Andy's Beach Bar & Grill, where fresh seafood and meats from the grill can be enjoyed from 11am to 9pm.

Hot and cold snacks are also available at the Hibiscus Hut, and from Reef Fish Cafe.

For that romantic, special occasion, visit the plush Blue Lagoon Restaurant for an adults-only evening of gourmet cuisine and fine wine.

The resort also offers a different theme dinner buffet, complete with live entertainment, every night. Be sure to take-in an Island Night for a mouthwatering selection of Cook Island treats, to the sounds of traditional Maori song and dance.

Breakfast includes a wide range of tropical fruits, yoghurts, individually-baked rolls, and cereals. There's also dozens of restaurants within a few minutes' drive of the hotel.

service with a smile?
A resort of this quality means one thing: helpful, well-trained staff are on hand 24/7. They'll happily accommodate guests' special requests or needs. In fact, you'll feel like your very own red carpet has been laid out everywhere you turn.

And if it's pampering you're after, head to the SpaPolynesia for a coconut body scrub, and algae wrap, or a 60-minute facial. Spa packages are also available.

The more active may make use of the in-situ Health and Fitness Centre, rental sea kayaks, or the complimentary tennis courts.

Parents can also take advantage of the free, fully-supervised kid's group, The Moko Club. There's even a baby sitting service for newborns.

The Rarotongan, beach

local attractions
There's activities to suit all ages, tastes, and budgets. If time allows, visit the Punanga Nui Market on a Saturday for local handicrafts and other bargains. It's a fairway from home, but there's also 9-hole Rarotonga Gold Club. Don't worry if you forgot your clubs, as a wide selection are available for hire - now that's a stroke of luck. Plumb the depths at a variety of world-class dive spots, or just relax on some of the island's tan-tastic beaches. After a night on the tiles at the Blue Nun Cafe, get some spiritual healing at the Cook Islands Christian Church a short distance away.

will it break the bank?
No - room rates start from NZ$250 per night for the Garden Room, through to NZ$550 for the Honeymoon Bungalow, and NZ$650 for the two-bedroom Beachside Suite.

Up to two children aged up to 11 stay for free when sharing a room with two adults; up to four stay free in the Beachside Suite of Grand Beachfront Suite.

Wedding packages start from as little as NZ$1,299.

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa
Aroa Beach
PO Box 103
Cook Islands

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