Hire A Scooter & The Tourist Scooter License In Rarotonga

Find out everything you need to know about scooter hire in Rarotonga. I will be giving you all the information you need to know such as getting your tourist scooter license in Rarotonga, road rules, and where to hire your scooter from.

If you are wondering how exactly you are going to travel around Rarotonga on your relaxing holiday and really want to lean into that relaxed atmosphere I cannot recommend a scooter enough. Though if you are thinking of going down this route you will need to know how to get a tourist scooter license in Rarotonga. As well as this you will want to make sure your scooter hire in Rarotonga is with a reputable company.

Though before we get into those nitty-gritty details imagine this. You’re driving around in paradise, the sun is out, the palm trees are swaying and you have the freedom to explore as little or as much as you like. Whether you’re young or older, people of all ages end up hiring a scooter in Rarotonga, just remember to go about things correctly to stay on the right side of the law.

You will love the freedom to get off the main circular road and explore lesser-known gems. If you’re thinking yes that sounds exactly like what I want then read on. I will let you know everything you need to know about scooter hire in Rarotonga. This includes getting a tourist scooter license in Rarotonga, the costs involved, taking the exams at the police station, where to hire from and so much more!

All You Need To Know About Scooter Hire In Rarotonga & Getting A Tourist Scooter License In Rarotonga

exploring inland rarotonga on my scooter hire
exploring inland rarotonga on my hire scooter // epic views of the needle from some of these back roads in rarotonga

Why Get A Scooter License In Rarotonga

It used to be super easy to obtain a scooter license in Rarotonga back in the day. Think a quick payment then bam it’s yours! In many countries I have traveled to, you don’t even need a separate license to hire a scooter so already The Cook Islands were already one step ahead. Though unfortunately there were too many accidents on the roads, including deaths and the government knew something needed to be done.

Luckily in 2017, this all changed and the laws regarding tourists hiring scooters were all shaken up. Instead of just paying a simple fee and going for a little circular drive, tourists now needed to pass multiple tests in order to legally ride and hire a scooter in Rarotonga. This is in the form of a theory test and a practical test.

Now, this may sound daunting. Though as someone who has been there and done that, including the embarrassingly bad license photo to prove it, trust me when I say it is really not that bad. If hiring a scooter doesn’t appeal to you, then why not check out renting a car in Rarotonga?

How To Get A Tourist Scooter License

Luckily it is relatively easy to get a tourist scooter license and therefore actually hire a scooter in Rarotonga. Though the first thing is first, you will actually need to get to the police station so you can sit the exams. Here you have two different options you can take.

Bus To The Police Station: The first option, and the one I personally did, was to take the bus to the Police Station. There is a small rental hut next door that hires scooters. Though if you are visiting during the New Zealand Cook Island bubble be aware that this may be closed as it was for my recent visit. I recommend checking out the Polynesian Rentals website to see where they are currently operating. Though don’t stress if it is closed because their main office is just a few hundred meters down the road so you can easily walk there. You will need to sit your theory exam before heading to Polynesian Rentals. This is because you will need to provide them with the paperwork for them to release the scooter to sit your practical exam.

Hire A Scooter First With A Temporary Scooter License: To provide a bit of competition in the scooter hire industry many hiring agents in Rarotonga will offer a temporary scooter license for experienced riders. Though be aware most companies require you to have experience driving scooters. This will allow you to ride down to the Police Headquarters to sit your Tourist Scooter License tests. The cost of this is usually between $3.70 to $7.40 / $5.00NZD to $10.00NZD.

an assortment of scooters parked outside the market in rarotonga
all the scooters parked up on a saturday morning outside the punanga nui markets

How Much Does A Scooter License Cost

The total cost for obtaining your tourist scooter license in Rarotonga is $29.50 / $ 40.00 NZD. The amount is broken down into $14.70 / $20.00 NZD for the theory and practical test, as well as $14.70 / $ 20.00 NZD for the issue of the scooter license.

You will then have the cost of the actual scooter hire and petrol on top of this as well.

The Theory Exam

The first step in taking the theory exam is to physically get yourself to the Rarotonga Police Station. This is a large concrete building in the main township of Avarua. In all honesty, it does look quite daunting from the outside. Though when you enter there is generally someone hanging out in the lobby helping lost tourists and pointing you where to go.

I was ushered away to the side and into a room where a paper test was placed in front of me. Automatically flashbacks start hitting me from when I was younger. Walking into the AA testing center in New Zealand to get my learner license at fifteen years of age. I sit there thinking back on everything I studied in the road codebook, surely since New Zealand and The Cook Islands are so close the laws have to be similar. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar, many rental agencies around the island have their own version of the road code available for purchase at a reasonable price.

Now I am not going to lie, some of the questions did make me second-guess myself. In my opinion, they were worded a bit awkwardly and I could imagine someone who did not have English as a first language might find some questions a bit awkward or confusing.

It is a mixture of multi-choice questions as well as writing down your own simple answers. Basically, you will need to know the road laws (who gives away, necessary stopping time, speed limits in town, etc). Though I may have taken some questions too literally and started writing paragraphs explaining my answer if I disagreed with the question or the obvious answer choice.

If you are from New Zealand and have some experience driving you will be fine. The road laws are extremely similar and they drive on the same side of the road.

The Practical Exam

Once you have aced your theory exam your will need to sit your practical exam in order to get your scooter license in Rarotonga. If you took the bus to the police station now is where you will need to head next door to Polynesian Rentals and pick up your scooter. They will ask for proof that you passed your theory test so make sure to bring this with you.

Once you have your scooter and a helmet, you can head to the small driveway next to the large concrete police station where the practical tests are held. Be aware for those who have never ridden a scooter before this is not the place to learn. You will need to be confident in front of the testing officer. You will need to know what the buttons do, how to start, stop, indicate, etc. Basically the basic of any practical test. They will also test you on certain moves such as weaving through cones and coming to a stop.

I must again say that seriously Rarotonga is not the place to learn how to ride a scooter. The roads here are full of potholes! Also, they are not lit at night and there were constant roadworks (seriously they are never-ending!). Often times a would have to do quick maneuvers to avoid large holes in the road. If I did not have previous experience behind the wheel I probably would have overturned/not turned in time. It is common for tourists on scooters to end up in a hospital with a broken bone or a major road burn. This is not the souvenir you want to bring back.

two hire scooters in rarotonga sitting underneath a shelter at our accommodation
our scooter and another parked outside our backpackers after spending the morning getting our tourist scooter license in rarotonga

Find Your Scooter Hire In Rarotonga

There are plenty of places where you can hire a scooter in Rarotonga. Personally, I have only used Polynesian Rentals as they were just the easiest to hire from after sitting my theory exam. I think this is the reason many people book with them.

Polynesian Hire has locations all around the island. This makes returning the scooter super easy, no matter where you are staying! Also, they did a weekly special for their scooter hire which was somewhere between $66.20-$80.00 / $90.00NZD-$110.00NZD. I cannot remember the exact price, but it was the cheapest option for me.

Polynesian Hire also has a branch right outside the police station. This made getting my scooter license plus finding a scooter super convenient. The staff were extremely friendly and were always up for a laugh. Also, I got my bond back no questions asked, which is the complete opposite of the usual South East Asian experience.

An alternative I have heard good things about is Adventure Cook Islands. Though just be aware that they will only hire their scooters to people who have experience riding aka ride one on a regular basis.

Do I Need A Helmet With My Scooter Hire

I know you may picture yourself leaning back on your scooter, basking in that sweet Rarotongan sun with your hair being caressed by the wind. Though unfortunately, or fortunately, you do need to wear a helmet while riding a scooter in Rarotonga.

Anyone riding a scooter on either an overseas motorcycle license or a tourist license needs to wear a helmet. This was introduced in October 2016 to assist with the problematic crash numbers involving a foreigner on a scooter. Ultimately, this law is here to protect you so don’t sweat the small stuff.

If you are riding as a passenger and the driver is on an overseas motorcycle license or a tourist license then you will also need to wear a helmet.

I know you may see some locals riding around without a helmet. Though this is because only travelers need to per The Cook Islands law, residents are not required to wear one.

a moody day in rarotonga
a moody day in rarotonga walking down the road // a building slowly falling apart

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.

kiikii inn

Kiikii Inn & Suites

Beach front location with affordable bungalows from $105.00 per night.

club raro resort

Club Raro Resort

With standard rooms from $130.00 you can enjoy life on the beach at an affordable price.

sanctuary rarotonga

Sanctuary Rarotonga Resort & Spa

Romantic adults only resort. With rooms from $230.00 per night enjoy luxury in peace.

the rarotogan resort

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa

Set on a private beach this 4 star resort is the perfect getaway from $190.00 per night.


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). Make sure to check out the best beaches in 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 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 that 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 magnificent insights 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.


Find out everything you need to know about scooter hire in Rarotonga. I will be giving you all the information you need to know such as getting your tourist scooter license in Rarotonga, road rules, and where to hire your scooter from.

Want more Cook Islands inspiration? Check out….

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

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