Rarotonga is blessed with too many accommodations for me to list them all, I regret to say. Because most of us desire to stay on the beach during our vacations, I have primarily confined my recommendations to waterfront locations.

I have organized the accommodations in accordance with Rarotonga's three hotel districts: Muri Beach, on the southeast coast; Titikaveka and the south coast; and the west coast. Marvelous Muri Beach and its shallow lagoon have more activities than the others. Titikaveka also has an even better beach, and its lagoon is the deepest and best for snorkeling on Rarotonga. The prevailing southeast trade winds, however, can make both areas chilly during the austral winter months of June through August. By the same token, these same winds provide nature's air-conditioning during the warmer summer months. You get glorious sunsets on the west coast, which the mountains shield from the prevailing trade winds, thus making the west somewhat drier than Muri Beach. The lagoon off the west coast tends to be very shallow, especially at low tide.

Camping is illegal in the Cook Islands.

Renting a Beach House

With so many residents deserting the Cook Islands for New Zealand in recent years, a multitude of houses are now for rent, ranging from simple bungalows to deluxe villas. Many of the hotels I recommend consist entirely of "self-contained" bungalows (that is, with kitchens), or they have beach houses in their inventories. If you want a place all to yourself, contact Rarotonga Realty (tel. 26-664; fax 26-665; www.rarorealty.co.ck).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.