July 29th, 2022
Each year from July through October we are blessed in the Cook Islands to be visited by some of the largest whales in the Ocean: beautiful humpback whales. These incredible creatures travel up to 6,500 kilometres from the cool feeding grounds of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica where they stock up on Antarctic krill, to our warmer Pacific waters where they mate and give birth.
Rarotonga is the perfect place to have the life-changing experience of getting up close and personal with whales. Whilst the ultimate experience is from a boat on a whale watching tour, you can still get a thrill viewing them from land. Due to the shape of the reef around our island, there are some great locations to view passing whales. Here are our top seven:
1 The Edgewater Resort. Guests at the Edgewater often have the random excitement of spotting whales from the restaurant and pool area which is raised just enough to have a great view of the nearby ocean. It might be breakfast, lunch or dinner; no one can predict for sure, but if you are staying there over whale season the odds of a sighting are high. For those not staying at the resort, a meal or a few cocktails can be a great time to try your luck and hope to see breaching whales.
2 The Cook Islands Game Fishing Club. Just east of Avarua this is a great place to sit and scan outside the reef for passing whales. The drinks are cheaper than many places and if you'd like to mix and yarn with locals then this is a good place for whale watching.
3 Black Rock. Over towards the airport, this is an excellent location because you are both very close to the outer reef, and also raised up quite high to have very good visibility. Take a picnic and spend some time watching the world go by and looking to see and hear whales exhaling through their blowholes. If you are driving past during whale season and you see a number of cars pulled over here, it is a good sign that someone has spotted whales and you should pull over too!
4 Aroa Beach. Located north of Muri Lagoon it is right where the reef starts to come in closer to the beach, this is a lovely spot to swim and relax while looking for whales. Enjoy snorkelling in the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve, or head into the Rarotongan Beach Resort for a cool drink. This is often the southern-most point that whales come in close to shore and then head north along the edge of the reef all the way up to Black Rock.
5 Trader Jacks. This iconic local bar and restaurant offers an elevated view out over the reef at a point where whales often come in close enough to see. While watching for humpback whales you'll also be entertained by the sight of people in vakas and other vessels coming in and out of Avarua Harbour.
6 Club Raro. Whilst the western side of the island is most popular for whale watching on Rarotonga, this north eastern corner can offer some stunning opportunities for a whale encounter as they come in close to the reef and swim south past Matavera. Club Raro is a vibrant resort with lots of backpackers, so if you keep an eye on social media you'll often be able to see when guests are posting about whales swimming past.
7 Matavera. The lagoon is very narrow at this point on Rarotonga so the whales can be incredibly close when they are swimming past. There are more holiday villas than resorts on this stretch of the island, so have a google and follow a few like Pacific Breeze and Papa Tiki's on Facebook to see when they start talking about whale sightings.
As a bonus, if you'd like to learn more about the various whale species that visit the Cook Islands, come and see the new Discover Marine Wildlife and Eco Centre in Arorangi just south of the Castaway Resort.
Rarotonga is a fun and interesting place to visit any time of the year, but if you can time a trip during whale season you may leave with some extra special memories that will last a lifetime. Scooters or a convertible rental car are the perfect vehicles for finding and following whales, so if you are coming over then get in touch.