Bordered by a flame-orange reef and sparkling white beach, and rising to a forested mountain interior, the main island of Rarotonga has some surprisingly modern touches, with fine-dining restaurants and busy bars to explore.
By far the largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga is home to the biggest slice of the population and is considered the hub of almost all activity.
It is also the youngest island, and while the neighbouring isles have been eroded over time, Rarotonga rises high from the deep blue shades of the surrounding lagoon, exploding upwards in sharp ridges covered in fertile soil and thick forest.
Some stunning walking trails, most notably the three- to four-hour Cross-Island Track, crisscross this mountainous centre.
An almost complete ring of coral fringes the island, and the offshore breakers create a near- permanent white edge.
It's also alive with cultural tradition. The sound of music is a near-constant companion, be it hymns on a Sunday morning, the pounding of drums on hollowed-out trees or ukulele bands picking away to the evening sun.
So, do as the locals do and hop on a scooter, throw a flower behind your ear and lose your inhibitions on the island dance floor.
Top places to stay in Rarotonga
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