The Cook Islands, unlike most of their Pacific neighbours, have no international channels in operation. That means no McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Apple Store, and no Hilton, Sheraton, or Marriott hotels.
It’s nice to know that when you stay on Rarotonga (the only Cook Island with hotel accommodation) you are supporting the locals and putting money back into the local economy.
But it also means that if you’re used to a Fiji or New Caledonia-like setup, you may need to adjust your expectations — few hotels have multiple on-site restaurants, kids’ clubs, or spa facilities. .
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There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat around the island, however, and plenty to do, especially if you enjoy outdoor and water activities. The locals are incredibly friendly and it is very easy to get around the 32 km circumference of the island with rental bikes or by car.
Little Polynesian is a 5 star adults only resort located on the beautiful white sand beach of Titikaveka. It has a saltwater infinity pool, patio-style alfresco restaurant and bar that overlooks the pool and lagoon beyond, and generously sized rooms with terraces private rooms that overlook the lush gardens or directly on the beach.
It is a boutique hotel, not large, and the whole thing is very luxurious and secluded. Decor is understated and sophisticated: white tones, light wood, bright color accents, and windows throughout, so you can’t miss the fact that beautiful blue water is literally right outside your door.
Tasteful and romantic, Little Polynesian is a great choice for honeymooners or couples traveling on a generous budget.
I stayed in a Beachfront Bungalow, a gigantic 88 square meter self contained room just steps from the beach.
Air-conditioned, high ceilings, and lined with windows, the bungalows are airy and airy. Access is from the beach side, via a private patio with lounge chairs that leads to a seating area with a table and chairs and a sofa. Up a few steps, the bedroom has a ridiculously comfortable super king bed, a wall-mounted TV and a generous double wardrobe with built-in drawers.
The bathroom is accessible from either side of the wall behind the bed and offers dual sinks and a walk-in shower with standard and rainfall showerheads. Walk out the bathroom to another patio – very private, with a high wall, to better utilize the outdoor shower.
A Nespresso coffeemaker, milk frother, and jug are stored in a cupboard in the seating area, along with wine glasses and a few plates and bowls. Staff keep glass bottles filled with drinking water, as drinking from the tap is not recommended. There is a fridge with milk, but no mini bar and no way to prepare beyond very basic things.
The bedroom wardrobe is stocked with fluffy bathrobes and ironing facilities, while in the bathroom you’ll find a hairdryer and the usual toiletries, plus, smartly, insect repellent.
The TV faces the bed and is a good size, but not sleek. The selection of home movies, while quite large, is quite old, as are the few box sets of TV shows.
Wi-Fi is not included in the room rate (over $1,000 a night); I was told this was the norm in the Cook Islands, but found this surprising.
The Little Polynesian restaurant is located in the main hall, just in front of the swimming pool and just after, the lagoon. On windy or rainy days the staff affix a transparent sheet so you can still see the view.
The menu is described as a fusion of traditional Polynesian and European cuisine, which seems about right. I had exquisitely fresh and perfectly cooked ruby red tuna medallions, served with olives, capers and roasted vegetables. Fun fact for this Upper Hutt native, the only craft beer on the menu is Panhead; a selection of New Zealand and international wines is also offered alongside a cocktail menu.
Breakfast is included in your room rate. The choice of platter service is extensive, if not exceptional, with toast and spreads, muesli and yogurt, a fruit platter and a hot dish, which on a day when I’m stayed was sausage rolls.
With such large and comfortable rooms and such blue and – even in early June – warm water, Little Polynesian is the perfect hotel to laze and relax all day. Read on your lounge chair, jump in the water to cool off, rinse off in the outdoor shower, nap in bed, then start again.
Worth going out
Dine at Les Antipodes, a restaurant perched on the hills that run through the center of the island. Book early so you can sit on the large deck and watch the sunset over the water while indulging in deliciously fresh seafood.
The staff are very welcoming and friendly and understand the value of a little touch. One day I came back from the morning bike ride to find that my towels had been laid on the elephant-shaped bed.
I really wish I could have watched Netflix. On-site entertainment feels clunky and outdated.
Low-key, comfortable luxury ideal for an adults-only getaway.
Beachfront bungalows start at $1050 per night, while garden studios start at $700. Special packages are available at pacificresort.com/little-polynesian
The writer was invited by Cook Islands Tourism and Air NZ.