Find out everything you need to know about visiting the Punanga Nui Market in Rarotonga. I will be giving you all the information you need to know such as what to expect, when it is, and opening hours!
What is a better way to discover the beauty of Rarotonga than through the people, food, and culture. This all comes together at the Punanga Nui Market on a Saturday morning to create an exciting atmosphere for people of all ages.
Here, on Saturday mornings, you will find the majority of the Rarotongan community, locals and visitors alike. There, they are showing off the best the island has to offer in the 130 plus stalls. Think ice-cold smoothies, fresh foods, and delicious waffles to perfect souvenirs, local music, and clothing.
Even though it is open throughout the week, the busiest day is no doubt Saturdays. With a live show going on and the laid-back vibes, it provides the perfect social atmosphere.
So, get ready as I let you how everything there is to know about the Punanga Nui Market in Rarotonga. From opening hours, where it is located, and what you need to buy on your visit. Bring some cash along and get ready for an awesome morning among locals and fellow travelers as you discover this weekly community event.
A Morning At The Punanga Nui Market In Rarotonga
- Where Are The Punanga Nui Markets
- When Are The Punanga Nui Markets
- The History
- What To Expect
- Meals And Drinks To Try
- What Souvenirs To Buy
Where Are The Punanga Nui Markets
The Punanga Nui Markets can be found off Ara Tapu Road nearby to Awatiu Harbor in the main township of Avarua. It is located on the left-hand side of the road if you are coming from the airport, or clockwise on the circle road.
It is super easy to find when driving around Avarua and if it is a Saturday morning all the scooters and cars parked out front will let you know you have arrived at your destination. Be aware that it can be quite tricky to park on the road, especially with all the traffic and then having to reverse out over two lanes of traffic. Just be aware extra parking can be found at the back if you continue on ever so slightly past the markets on the left-hand side.
When Are The Punanga Nui Markets
The Punanga Nui Market opening hours:
Monday to Friday 8am until 4pm.
Saturday 8am until 2pm.
Saturday is the most popular day of the week to visit the Punanga Nui Market. Visiting on the weekdays you will find a lot more of a quieter atmosphere and a lot of the stalls empty. Though, there are some permanent eateries present so if you are looking for a quick bite check it out! I can highly recommend Kai & Co who serves up delicious burgers and bagels on the daily.
The Punanga Nui Market was actually opened back in 1992. For the grand opening Prince Edward was present and since then it has been operating six days a week. After that, it became a tradition in the community to head there on a Saturday morning for both the locals and tourists.
This has provided the perfect opportunity for the locals to sell their homemade goods to travelers. On the other hand, it has provided tourists with the chance to purchase some one-in-a-kind souvenirs and support the economy of Rarotonga.
I last visited Rarotonga a week after the New Zealand and Rarotonga bubble opened in May 2021. During this time the number of stalls had definitely decreased from pre-pandemic times. Though this was only the second Saturday the border had been open so I imagine the stall numbers will build-up to the old amount over time.
What To Expect
A Saturday morning at the markets is when all the best parts of Rarotonga come together in one place. The permanent stalls throughout the week merge with the temporary vendors to bring the freshest produce, delicious foods, fruity drinks as well as many souvenir shopping opportunities.
What sets the Punanga Nui Market apart from many other markets you might typically see is that it is not a flea market. The goods sold here are of high quality and you can truly feel the cultural influence as you are walking through. The whole thing is extremely well organized with plenty of places to sit down and a live show which keeps audiences captivated and involved.
I must say if you have recently arrived in Rarotonga and have no idea what to do during your stay a visit to this market can keep make up your mind. All the best tour providers have stalls there where you can find out all about the best attractions and activities. Having staff in front of you also helps if you have any questions and you can book it in on the spot. There are also opportunities to purchase a tourist sim card which will be helpful if you are battling the lack of wifi and data.
Meals And Drinks To Try
My favorite part of any market, the food, and oh does the Punanga Nui Market deliver. You can find everything your foodie heart could ever desire here. Local favorites are abundant with taro, coconut, poke, and ika mata (marinated raw fish which the Cook Islands are famous for). As well as western favorites such pizzas, donuts, waffles, and kebabs. You will quickly find out which food stalls are must try thanks to the long line of travelers and locals alike.
The fresh fruit smoothies here were absolutely amazing which is not surprising being in such a tropical environment. Though, one of my favorite things was trying all the amazing baked goods made by the local ladies. Home baking is oftentimes hard to get while on the road and this fulfilled all my needs. From danishes and croissants to cakes, they are all made with Rarotongan love.
I recommend if you are visiting on a Saturday to try food in the smaller stores then revisit during the week and try out the permanent food shacks such as Kai & Co. This way you can continue eating your way around the Punanga Nui Market without feeling too full to walk.
What Souvenirs To Buy
This is the best place to buy all your souvenirs to take back home. There is something for everyone here from pearl jewelry, local clothing such as sarongs and incredible artwork to wood carvings and ukuleles. Basically, anything you can associate with the Cook Islands you can find here.
One of my favorite items to purchase in the Cook Islands is the flower head crowns. These can be found all around the market in a variety of colors. They even have fresh and fake ones available, perfect for taking home or if you are allergic to flowers like me!
I find most of the souvenir stalls are located towards the round-a-bout end of the market or the left-hand side from the entry. There is also a large shop at the end which sells anything and everything Cook Island-related.
I always make sure to purchase a sarong when I visit The Cook Islands and it is so handy to use while you are there and just want to layout on the beach. Afterward, you can take it home with you as it can be hard to find in some countries and come in so handy as a beach cover-up.
Where To Stay In Rarotonga
There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation in Rarotonga. From small hostels, apartments on the beach, luxury resorts, and everything in between.
Though just be aware that even 5-star resorts in Rarotonga don’t actually look too great so adjust your expectations accordingly. This is an island with limited resources and seems to be a few years behind New Zealand, which is again, a few years behind the rest of Oceania. As a result, rooms can look quite dated, think floral prints from the ’70s, though that’s just the atheistic on the island.
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With standard rooms from $130.00 you can enjoy life on the beach at an affordable price.BOOK NOW
Romantic adults only resort. With rooms from $230.00 per night enjoy luxury in peace.BOOK NOW
Set on a private beach this 4 star resort is the perfect getaway from $190.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Things To Do While In Rarotonga
One great thing about Rarotonga is that is it basically impossible to get bored during your stay! There is such a wide variety of things to do and beautiful sights you will constantly be out exploring.
Also, for a more extensive list be sure to check out my post on the Best Things To Do In Rarotonga.
Across Island Hike: One of the most popular things to do is do the Across Island Hike and visit The Needle. This will take you right into the interior of the mountainous island with some amazing ocean views.
Beach Hop: Now you cannot go to Rarotonga and miss out on exploring the incredible ocean life and this can easily be done on a budget, if not for free. Basically, no matter where you are staying on the island the ocean is just a walk away. Do what I did and bring your own snorkel, or hire your own from a few dollars a day. Honestly, you could spend hours exploring the underwater life and corals (pro tip: the best snorkeling spot is Aroa Marine Reserve behind The Rarotongan beach resort or in front of Fruits of Rarotonga)
Swimming With Sea Turtles: No matter what your budget is swimming with sea turtles is one activity I recommend to everyone visiting Rarotonga. This experience will have you swimming alongside these majestic beauties. I did this with Ariki Adventures and cannot recommend this enough. As an alternative, they also offer a lagoon safari which I recently did. This is suitable for all ages and is safe for those who are not the most confident swimmers.
Raro Buggy Tours: I have always wanted to do the buggy tour as there is such hype so I booked it in on my most recent trip. I remember saying at the start to my partner that we must swap halfway so I get some fun. Though when that time came I was enjoying it so much I was happy to stay a passenger!
Lagoon cruise: More of a family-friendly activity is the lagoon cruise. There are a couple of companies you can book with, though we went with Koka Lagoon Cruises. It is a perfect way to get into the Cook Island spirit. With plenty of performances, snorkeling, entertainment, and a delicious lunch it is the ideal way to spend half a day.
Quad Biking: If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie then quad biking is perfect for you! Head right into the inland area and among the jungle. Explore off the beaten track and get some of the best views of the famous needle which stands high over Rarotonga.
Aitutaki Day Tour: If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience definitely think about booking the Aitutaki Day Tour. Though it is pricey, 100% worth it. It still has some of the best beaches I have ever seen.
Cultural Show: A more tame activity is checking out one of the evening cultural shows. These are a magnificent insight into the Cook Island culture with extremely impressive performances involving dance and fire. A buffet dinner is also included with both western and local favorites.
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Want more Cook Islands inspiration? Check out….
- WHERE TO EAT IN RAROTONGA
- AITUTAKI DAY TOUR FROM RAROTONGA: DISCOVER PARADISE WITH AIR RAROTONGA
- EXPERIENCE THE BEAUTY OF RAROTONGA WITH KOKA LAGOON CRUISES
- SWIMMING WITH TURTLES IN RAROTONGA: SEA SCOOTER SAFARI WITH ARIKI ADVENTURES
- HOW TO TAKE THE BUS IN RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS
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