The Cook Islands, unlike most of its Pacific neighbors, have no international chain companies in operation. That means no McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Apple Store, and no Hilton, Sheraton, or Marriott hotels.
It’s nice to know that by staying on Rarotonga (the only Cook Island with hotel accommodation), you’re supporting the local people and putting money into the local economy.
But it also means adjusting your expectations if you’re used to a Fiji- or New Caledonia-like establishment — few hotels have multiple restaurants, kids’ clubs, or spa facilities on-site.
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However, there are plenty of places to eat and things to do on the island, especially if you like outdoor and water activities. The locals are incredibly friendly and it’s very easy to get around the island’s 32 km perimeter by rented bikes or by car.
The Little Polynesian is a 5-star, adults-only resort on the stunning white sands of Titikaveka. It features a saltwater infinity pool, an open-air patio-style restaurant and bar overlooking the pool and the lagoon beyond, as well as lavish rooms with private patio areas that either overlook the lush gardens or directly onto go out on the beach .
It’s a boutique hotel, not big, and the whole feels very luxurious and secluded. Decor is understated and sophisticated: white tones, light wood, colorful accents, and windows everywhere so you can’t help but notice the fact that beautiful blue water is literally at your doorstep.
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 – freestanding room just a few steps from the beach.
Air-conditioned, high ceilings and lined with windows, the bungalows are airy and airy. Access is on the beach side via a private terrace with sun loungers, leading into a seating area with table and chairs and a couch. Up a few steps is the bedroom with a ridiculously comfortable super king-size bed, permanently mounted TV and a generous double wardrobe with built-in drawers.
Accessible from either side of the wall behind the bed, the bathroom offers dual sinks and a walk-in shower with both standard and rainfall showerheads. Exit through the bathroom to another terrace – very private, with a high wall, all the better for using the outdoor shower.
A Nespresso coffee machine, milk frother, and jug are tucked away in a cabinet in the sitting area, along with wine glasses and a few plates and bowls. The staff keeps glass bottles filled with drinking water as you are advised not to drink from the tap. There is a fridge with milk but no mini bar and no possibility to cater for yourself apart from very basic things.
The bedroom wardrobe is stocked with fluffy bathrobes and ironing facilities, while in the bathroom you will find a hairdryer and the usual toiletries and, cleverly, insect repellent.
The TV is in front of the bed and is a good size but not fancy. The in-house movie selection, while quite large, is fairly dated, as are the few TV show box sets.
Wi-Fi isn’t included in room rates (over $1,000 per night); I was told this is standard in the Cook Islands but found it surprising.
The Little Polynesian Restaurant is located in the main lobby, just in front of the pool and just beyond on the Lagoon. On windy or rainy days, the staff puts up 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 ruby tuna medallions cooked to perfection paired with olives, capers and roasted vegetables. Amusing for this Upper Hutt native, the only craft beer on the menu is Panhead; In addition to a cocktail menu, there is also a selection of New Zealand and international wines.
Breakfast is included in your room rate. The tray service selection is extensive, if invariably, with toast and spreads, cereal and yogurt, a fruit platter, and a hot dish that was a sausage roll on a day I stayed.
It’s worth staying
With rooms so large and comfortable, and water so blue and – even in early June – warm, the Little Polynesian is the perfect place to laze and chill all day. Read on your sun lounger, hop in the water to cool off, rinse off under the outdoor shower, nap in bed and start over.
It’s worth getting off
Dinner at Antipodes, a restaurant high on the hills that cut through the center of the island. Book early so you can sit on the large deck and watch the sun set over the water while savoring deliciously fresh seafood.
The staff is so welcoming and friendly and understands the value of a little touch. One day I came back from a morning bike ride to find that my towels had been laid out on the bed in the shape of an elephant.
The deep light
I really would have liked to be able to watch Netflix. The in-house entertainment feels clunky and dated.
Understated, 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 author was a guest of Cook Islands Tourism and Air NZ.