It’s wedding season. Which means it’s also honeymoon season. Just not for you. While you excitedly help your friends plan their weddings, cry when they’re declared husband and wife, and party all night after the ceremony, there’s still part of you that’s jealous. It’s the moment the newlyweds leave for their exotic vacation. But why are certain places—like Bora Bora, the Maldives, and the Seychelles—reserved for those with shiny new rings on their fingers? It’s time for you to plan that amazing beach trip you’ve always dreamed of taking.
That’s how you ended up on the Cook Islands. The 15 volcanic islands lie in between French Polynesia and Tonga in the South Pacific. Rarotonga, where you’re staying, is the most-populous island. Green mountains, taro and banana fields, waterfalls, and swamps fill the interior. Are Tapu, the main road, circles the island. It’s lined with white-sand beaches and palm trees. A turquoise lagoon surrounds Rarotonga. It’s bordered by a reef, which in turn is bordered by steep slopes that drop into the deep ocean. It certainly looks like paradise.
After landing in Avarua, Rarotonga’s little capital, you’re welcomed with a flower lei and many “kia oranas.” On the ride to the south coast, your driver points out Te Manga (the island’s highest peak), Raemaru (a flat-topped mountain), and the path that leads to Papua Falls. He describes how the road was built in the 11th century with large stone slabs and tells you to visit Fruits of Rarotonga for homemade chutney and the best smoothies on the island. You’re trying to pay attention, but it’s hard with the view of the almost-clear water out the window.
You’re staying at the Little Polynesian Resort in Titikaveka. Your arrival is met with champagne, the smell of fresh flowers, and more “kia oranas.” The resort was built in 1974 by a Tasmanian artist. While the amenities have certainly been upgraded, the resort hasn’t grown much. With only 14 villas, there’s no worry of overcrowding.
In fact, you don’t see another guest as you’re shown Are Nui (the main building), the salt-water infinity pool, and the picture-perfect beach. There are plenty of places to relax, though. It isn’t until you reach your villa that you realize why you haven’t seen anyone. Your beach bungalow has a high thatched-roof ceiling, a mahogany floor, and a king-sized bed, as expected. A handwoven cream bedspread and fresh flowers are a nice touch. But it’s the outdoor living space that takes your breath away. A shady gazebo and a comfy daybed overlook the water out front, while a tub big enough for two and a rainfall shower are beyond the bathroom. You might not leave your villa, either. And you didn’t even need to get married to find paradise.