With more than fifty cafes and restaurants on Rarotonga alone, there's no shortage of dining options. Influenced by the bounty of local fresh seafood and tropical fruit and vegetables, Cook Islands cuisine also benefits from the community of Kiwi chefs who come to visit; many never leave.
Top 3 Meals You Should Try
Be sure to try the national dish, ika mata, a delicious blend of fresh tuna marinated in lime juice, coconut milk and a touch of chilli. Every home cook has their own special recipe, and many restaurants claim to have the best on the island. You be the judge.
Don't miss the opportunity to join in a traditional island feast or umukai. An earth "oven" is heated up with volcanic stones and food is cooked all day in preparation for a big feast and an even bigger party. Cooked dishes usually include fish, pork, chicken, potatoes and taro.
Give your Vitamin C levels a boost with the bounty of fresh fruit available in the islands. Bananas, passionfruit, papaya and breadfruit are in abundance in this lush environment and are delicious eaten on their own or prepared in various creative dishes.
Top 7 Places You Should Dine
Punanga Nui Markets
Enjoy takeaway with a difference from the food trucks and stalls at the Punanga Nui Markets in the heart of Rarotonga. Ika mata is always on the menu, as well as tropical fruit salads and Asian dishes. Indulge a sweet tooth with Nutella waffles at The Waffle Shack.
Muri Night Market
Warm tropical nights are best spent outdoors and what better way to wander around after dark than at Muri Night Market? Held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays on the eastern side of the island, the market is a great place to sample affordable local cuisine.
The Mooring Fish Cafe
Consistently rated the best spot for casual eats on Raro, The Mooring Fish Cafe is funky and straight-out delicious. Housed in a converted shipping container on the beach, The Mooring dishes up mahi mahi fish sandwiches, tuna salads and wahoo burgers that have been described as "life-enhancing".
Tamarind House Restaurant (aka The Plantation House)
Celebrating a milestone birthday, anniversary or proposal in the Cooks? Book a table at Tamarind House Restaurant or The Plantation House well in advance. At Tamarind House, Pacific Rim cuisine at its best is served. The Plantation House presents an unforgettable organic three-course dinner.
Mingle with the locals at Trader Jacks, a laidback beachfront pub in Avarua. Pizza, burgers and seafood go down well with an ice-cold local lager in the family-friendly restaurant area. Bamboo Jacks, an offshoot of Trader Jacks, specialises in Pan Asian and Pacific Rim cuisine.
Progressive Dinner Tour
Experience authentic Cook Islands cuisine in the homes of local islanders when you join a progressive dinner tour. The five-hour wine and food experience happens twice a week (Monday and Thursday) and visits three island homes, where traditional meals are served, family-style. It's about as far from the Golden Arches as you can get.
Don't miss Koru Cafe on Aitutaki for breakfast, lunch, coffee or deli essentials. Warm service, fresh and tasty dishes, and an extensive menu that almost commands return visits. Sandwiches and salads are the perfect lunch fuel for lagoon-hoppers. And the coconut cheesecake? Possibly the best thing you've ever eaten.