After years of heading away for short breaks in Fiji we thought we would try Rarotonga and compare the two. And it turns out there really is a complete difference! We firmly believe there is a place for the 5-star resorts in Denarau and tropical island getaways, but we found that if you want to experience life “Outside the Wall” (you can tell I’m a Pink Floyd fan!) Rarotonga is a great place to go.

It’s the sort of place to holiday when you want to take a little more control over your trip and get out and about without getting harassed by local shop owners. For a start, it’s cheap as chips to hire a car or scooter so grab one for a few days and have a look around as it’s only a 45-minute drive around the main island. The fantastic markets in Muri Beach and the main town of Avarua are a must, as are the local shops where you can mix with the locals and buy fresh fruit and fish and a heap of good old “knick-knacks”.

The beauty of Raro is that you can pretty much snorkel around 90 percent of the island in crystal-clear waters amongst an array of colourful fish in relative safety without having to head off to any outer reefs. Muri Beach is without a doubt the pick of the bunch for beach activities, accommodation, excursions and eateries, and while other spots are equally as nice, the benefit of having an array of good places to drink, eat and play on a short stretch of road makes it a great place to start.

That said, there is a high quality mix of eateries right around the island and the resorts also encourage you to wine and dine and enjoy all that Raro has to offer. From Italian pizzas to a French café the place pleases all appetites and I have to mention in particular the all-day happy hour at the Hula Bar at the Islander Hotel opposite the airport for $3 beers, wines and spirits – remarkably cheap.

If you are into cooking you own meals the food prices are not too bad and there is a large supermarket in Avarua selling local and imported goods. With the ability to bring food in from New Zealand with you, and also our own currency accepted, it’s an easy place to go and will tick all the boxes for anyone seeking an island experience with added extras.

There is inexpensive public transport on either the “clockwise” or “anticlockwise” buses which run all day until about 4.30pm when one of them stops, so just bear that in mind when you are relying on it to get around. The local drivers sing along and take the mickey out of things along the scenic drive, so it’s a good laugh along the way.

Driving around the island, the pride the locals have in their homes with colourful flower beds and former past family members buried in the grounds of their properties is very noticeable. The manicured gardens around the burial sites are quite something to behold with their family values and remembrances of the past and for me they are an enduring memory.

If you are after a little adventure there are quad bike adventures, mini golf, fishing trips, guided walking trips with local legends to see amazing views and the endless fun of cruising around on scooters with the wind in your hair checking out all the local spots. Fun for all and within easy reach of Auckland with just a four-hour(ish) flight, Raro is a great choice for those who want the option of staying within their resort or getting outside the wall and out and about. Raro really has got it all and we’ll be back for sure.