Rumours of Rarotonga

On a laid-back Cook Islands vacation, you probably think that a marble-tiled villa with its own waterfall pool and an indoor stream is a bit of overkill.  Add a flat-screen TV and two beds to choose from…and you’d be absolutely right.

During our recent 10th wedding anniversary celebration in the Cooks, we tore ourselves away from small, slow Aitutaki and backtracked an hour by air to larger, more touristy Rarotonga.  Our lodgings here, a stunning Muri Beach-area villa about as large as our actual house, were at the Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa.

Because we sometimes don’t read websites as thoroughly as we might, we thought we were headed for a luxury resort with an on-site spa.  What we found instead was a fully-stocked, private beach home with daytime access to an office staff, and two distinct sections of villas; the other section, five minutes up the road, features a small spa.

Used to staying in more traditional resorts, hotels and motels, this more spread-out, independent arrangement was a first for us.  While the privacy can hardly be beat, we found that we’re not really beach villa people; when provided with a lot of room, we like having other people around.

When we first saw our own personal villa, though, our jaws hit the floor. (Seriously, you could hear a distinct thud.)  An outside door opened onto a curving deck with lounge chairs, a hot tub, a small pool with a switch-enabled waterfall, a barbecue grill, and around the deck’s edge, a little stream stocked with teeny, tiny fish.

Inside, we were stunned by the central living area, with its soaring Polynesian ceiling, gleaming marble floors, tricked-out kitchen, glass dining table and cozy living room.  We were at first puzzled by the flat-screen TV, as Rarotonga only has one channel, and public-access, at that — but a quick visit to the adjacent office revealed an extensive DVD library.

Why, hello there, Bollywood musicals.  Meet our vacation.

The outdoor stream continued indoors, snaking past each of two separate bedroom areas.  Small and polished wooden “bridges” carried us safely to beds draped with gauzy mosquito netting.  The netting proved unnecessary on ubër-windy Rarotonga in winter…but romantic all the same.  At night, we’d fall asleep to a sound like a gale across the moors, far above our heads past the palm-thatch ceiling.

Both bedroom areas were wide open and doorless, leading us to speculate that the villa was designed either for couples who swing, who plan on getting in a fight or simply go to sleep at vastly different times.  We just chose the one with a view of the beach and called it a day.

A deck out back sat on a narrow beach of soft but clinging coral sand, volcanic rocks and short, bushy palm trees; on the deck was a teak table and chairs, and yet another barbecue grill.  Adam used the in-room snorkeling equipment to brave (the whipping wind and) the clear and shallow water, but didn’t see much in the way of fish; the best snorkeling spots on the island are farther north.

If you think you might need to do some laundry, ask immediately for special coins from the office. Without these, the low-powered public machines require endless quantities of New Zealand coinage.  With limited staff contact during our two-night stay, and entirely unaware of the need for these coins until we’d loaded two washers, we ended up wrangling our wet clothes in the blowing winter weather.

Our kitchen boasted enough equipment to start a cooking school, but we used it more for snacking. The in-room, delivery dining menu was extensive (e.g., seafood feasts for the barbecue, etc.), and we could have spent copious amounts of money on meals or even the services of a private chef…but we chose to go a simpler route.

We wandered 10 minutes down the main road on foot and stopped into the gorgeously-stocked Deli Foods Limited, where bread and pastries are fresh-baked, salads are tasty, and the owner knows how to pair all the Australia and New Zealand wines he stocks.  As a Rumours guest, you might want to pack a canvas shopping bag for grocery runs; all along the Rarotonga ring road, plastic bags cling to bushes and bounce their wind-blown way towards the water.

We picnicked in our living room one night, and the second night, we invited back a couple we’d met on that day’s hike for Indian take-out from nearby Raviz Restaurant.  British honeymooners with a tradition of Sunday night “curry take-aways,” our guests not only helped legitimize our near-silly amount of space, but helped us meet the $50 delivery minimum.  All this, and we were regaled with funny stories of our beloved London.

The spa, requiring a 5-minute road-side walk, was spare, comfortable and a pleasure.  To music that included one whole side of a Pink Floyd album, we indulged in a dreamy couples’ massage from two Filipino women who’d fled massive unemployment in their home country, and viewed Rarotonga as a land of promise.  We left them with our good wishes, and for our anniversary, they gave us a gift basket of vanilla bath products to take home…all the way home to California, that is.

See related posts:
TWT Travel Binders: Cook Islands
All Around Rarotonga
Rarotonga: Pa’s Cross-Island Trek
Flying ‘Round the Cooks: The Easy Version
Flying ‘Round the Cooks: The Not-So-Easy Version

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