My absolute favourite thing to do in a new country is try different food. Sadly, I never have the time to try all the places that interest me, but that’s what the next trip is for, right?
As we landed late at night, didn’t have a meal on the plane, and everything we saw was closed, I was ready for a big feed Saturday morning. We headed into Muri village, and spied this little place:
Vili’s is located across the street from the Muri Night Market, and is nice and easy to spot. Prices range from about $10-$16 for a burger, $4 for hot chips, $3.50 for a can of soda, and $2 for extra sauces. At the back there is also a place where you can order smoothies/desserts. We didn’t try any as the burgers are MASSIVE and we were far too full to try and squeeze anything else in; the second time we visited Vilis’s, the smoothie bar was closed.
We only ate at Vili’s twice, but I could’ve eaten there every day. The burgers are incredibly delicious – probably the best I’ve ever had!
Left- tamatoa burger (one of the biggest!). The guy at the counter did laugh when I ordered it with a diet coke, but I managed to finish the entire thing. I was very proud of myself. Middle – kiwi burger with cheese removed (I am lactose intolerant). I didn’t realise you could customise your burgers until I asked for it without cheese. Right – my kiwi burger, a fresh Nu (young coconut) from the Muri Night Market, and my partner for scale with his cannibal burger.
Vili’s was closed Monday and Tuesday while we were there.
The only downside to Vili’s was that they didn’t have gluten free options (one of my friends can’t have gluten), I am unsure about vegetarian/vegan options, but they could probably remove the meat from the burgers if you asked.
I would absolutely recommend Vili’s if you are in the Muri area, or even make a special trip to Muri, because it was that good!
La Casita Mexican Cafe
This was one of the places recommended by our hosts at Tropical Sands, the other was Rickshaw Cafe next door. Both La Casita and Rickshaw are about 5-10 minutes walk north of Muri village.
We ate here Saturday night, as Rickshaw was closed. I initially thought that Mexican food in the Cook Islands wouldn’t be very good, but I was completely wrong! We ordered nachos with homemade salsa for a starter; I had spicy beef quesadillas, cost – $14.50, and sangria. I didn’t ask to see if they would remove the cheese from my meal (and paid for that later), but they do advertise gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. My partner ordered the local beer, Matutu Ale, which was a nice dark beer for $7. I quite liked it as well; I’m not much of a beer drinker, unless I’m overseas, but I am a fan of dark beers/stouts.
The total for the meal came to $62. One starter, two mains and two drinks. Very reasonable, compared to what we would pay in NZ for the same.
Sails Restaurant and Isobar
As it was Sunday, and most things are closed, we just picked this place for lunch in Muri. Sails is close to Pacific Resort, and sits right on the beach with some lovely views. The Cook Islands are a very Christian nation, and alcohol is not available anywhere on Sundays, including restaurants. We ordered a shared platter, which contained prawns, spring rolls, samosas, fish, and squid rings with some nice dipping sauces and a lemon wedge.
The cost of the meal was $33 for the platter and two sodas. The platter by itself was $24.
Sails also cater to gluten free, vegetarian and vegan meals on request.
Muri Night Market
The night market is located close to the Pacific Resort in Muri, and is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 5.30pm. There is a wide variety of food, including meat with rice and salad, curries, smoothies, ice cream, and pancakes, to name just a few. You can also get fresh chilled drinking coconuts for $5, or with fruit added for $7. I tried a coconut blended with passionfruit, and one with banana. Both were delicious, but so is the coconut by itself. I also had pork belly with salad and rice for $15, and that was amazing too. I would also recommend trying the ‘baby’ pancakes with your choice of sauce. I think they cost about $6 and you get quite a few. Berry sauce yum yum!
The meat dishes with salad and rice are all gluten free.
Unfortunately, that’s the only picture I took of the night market.
We ate there Sunday night, and went back on Wednesday for drinking coconuts and more donuts after burgers at Vili’s.
Matutu Brewery Tour
For $10 per person you can spend an hour at Matutu Brewery and try their three different beers. Kiva (ale) my personal favourite, Mai (lager), and Matutu (draught). The brewery is located 1.7 km south of Muri, in Takitumu District. You could walk from Muri (about 20 minutes), take the local bus, or scooter like we did, which took about 5 minutes.
The brewery is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Tours are at 12 pm and 1 pm weekdays.
Located 800m west of Matutu Brewery, we decided to stop here for lunch. I had fish n chips, and my partner had calamari and chips, $10 each. We also had fruit smoothies for $6 each, which were just seasonal fruits blended together, no milk or anything.
Yum yum! Another place I wish I’d eaten at more than once. Good prices and very good food!
Sands Restaurant and Bar
This is located at Moana Sands Beachfront Hotel, where two of our friends were staying.
We had cocktails on the beach, during happy hour, which were fantastic. We stayed for dinner, where we got to sit in the beachfront outdoor area and watch the tranquil sunset over the lagoon. I had an amazing fish curry for dinner, $26. Two mains and two drinks (one cocktail and one juice) came to $70.50. The drink I had with dinner was a pawpaw daiquiri, and was the only thing I didn’t enjoy throughout our trip. I found it a bit bland for my taste, but one of my friends really liked it.
Pununga Nui Market
Located in Avarua, the capital. It’s about 10 km north from Muri. I would recommend taking the local bus (anti-clockwise), hiring a scooter, or rental car. The market is open 8am-4pm Monday-Friday and 8am-2pm Saturdays. We went Tuesday morning, so it wasn’t super busy. Saturday is the best day to go, however, the Saturday we were in Rarotonga (the day before we left), there was torrential rain and the market was closed.
We had breakfast at Waffle Shack, which is located right in the market. Waffles start at around $9, depending on toppings, but are well worth the price. I’ve heard waffle shack does great coffee as well, but I went for a cold juice instead, as it was really hot.
I had mine with ice cream (yes I could’ve asked for it without ice cream) and fruit, with berry sauce. They were the best waffles I’ve ever had! I wish I could have that for breakfast every day.
We also purchased fresh fruit from a stall at the market – $2 for a large pawpaw, $2 each for mangoes and $9 for a large pineapple (priced on size). Sadly, the mangoes didn’t ripen up enough to eat before we left, but the pineapple and pawpaw were delicious.
Vaiana’s Bistro and Bar
Tuesday was the “unofficial stag and hen’s dos” for our friends that were getting married. The girls’ activity was drinks and nibbles on a sunset lagoon cruise with Koka Lagoon Cruises, the boys’ activity was big game fishing with Marlin Queen Fishing Charters. The boys caught two big fish, which were cooked for our dinner at Vaiana’s Bistro and Bar in Avarua, and it was very delicious fish too! I am unsure exactly what type of fish they caught.
Vaiana’s also has happy hour 4-7pm with $4 beers and house spirits. You can also purchase a 10 drink card for $40, which I bought just as happy hour was finishing and they let us keep using it outside of happy hour! There is also a food menu, with excellent burgers for about $9.
Bite Time Cafe
Located in Avarua, near Pununga Nui Market, Bite Time Cafe is a great place to stop for a meal. They do all-day breakfasts, as well as catch of the day fish meals, some cooked and some raw. I ordered a Captain Juniors, which was catch of the day mahi mahi with hot chips and salad for $13. You could also choose tuna for $15. Prices for other meals range from $10-$17.
Bite Time Cafe is another place I would definitely go back to. Good food, good service and reasonable prices.
Directly next door to Bite Time is Body Fuel, where we bought yummy smoothies. Prices range from about $7-$9, some have milk, yogurt, or ice cream, but there are a few options that are juice only.
Located next to La Casita in Muri, The Rickshaw was the other place recommended to us by our hosts at Tropical Sands. The menu is Asian fusion and Vietnamese, with gluten free and vegetarian options. I ordered Hanoi Spicy Chili Fish, which was actually very spicy! We had wontons for a starter, and I had a cocktail. Two drinks, one starter and two mains came to $87. The cocktail was $14.50 and the mains range from about $25-$30.
The food was very very good, but it was the most expensive meal we had, the price comparable to dinner out in Wellington, NZ. I would absolutely eat there again.
LBV Bakery and Cafe
There are two locations for LBV Bakery in Rarotonga, one in Avarua and one in Muri. We had brunch in Muri. I ordered vanilla and cinnamon pancakes for $16, and they were so scrumptious I could’ve eaten them all day.
They came with lemon curd, cream, and two syrups (one was berry). The lemon curd and cream are in the same dish, and I had a tough time trying to only get the lemon out. We also bought a couple of pastries to take away for dinner, as we’d had to return out scooter that day, and the rain made going out again not very appealing.
The Islander Hotel
Located across the street from Rarotonga International Airport, we stopped at The Islander for lunch before we were due to check in at the airport. You don’t need to be staying there to go in for a meal or drinks.
I had Rekareka, a non-alcoholic ‘mocktail’ made from fresh fruits and coconut, and their island fish n chips. It was a worthy last meal for our holiday.
The fish n chips were $20 and the drink was about $8. An expensive lunch, but it was very good. I would’ve loved to have stayed a night at that hotel too.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear about any food recommendations for Raro.
All opinions are my own.
Header image by Patrick Mackay https://www.flickr.com/photos/32595043@N03/31172119702/in/album-72157677214543365/
All other photos are my own excluding the images from Google Maps.
All prices are in New Zealand Dollars (the currency used in the Cook Islands) and are accurate at the time this was written.
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