Rarotonga snorkelling is like swimming in a crystal clear tepid aquarium. Large and small, the colourful tropical fish glide in and out of coral beds and sometimes appear to pose for our underwater compact camera.
Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, is a tropical paradise surrounded by a reef that creates protected beaches. As a result, fabulous snorkelling options abound. Once in the water, I was glad to have an underwater compact camera that was simple to use and could help me to preserve my memories.
This page is divided into two main sections, first Rarotonga snorkelling, then our underwater compact camera selection.
Snorkelling Rarotonga photos shot on an underwater compact camera
At first, I was leary of a camera small enough to fit in my pocket. Could it really take quality underwater photos? You be the judge.
Where is Rarotonga?
Rarotonga is in the Cook Islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean. It is a nearly 4-hour flight from Auckland, New Zealand.
One of the great things about being on a small island (32 kilometres around) with a huge volcanic hill in the centre is that if the Rarotonga weather isn’t ideal where you are, you can easily go to the other side. The mountainous interior blocks the wind.
Best places for snorkelling on Rarotonga
Here are what we were told are the best places to snorkel in Rarotonga:
The public Titikaveka Beach is across the road from Fruits of Rarotonga, offering easy walk-in access and nearby coral reefs. Over the coral, colourful tropical fish are everywhere. Whether it’s your first time snorkelling or you have been doing it forever, Titikaveka Beach will impress you. Parking is easy, or take the bus.
This was the first time we tried our new underwater compact camera, an Olympus Tough TG-5 (since upgraded to TG-6), in the ocean, and as you can see, it was a success. The ease of use, the richness of colours captured, and the RAW image output option let us create photographs that one would expect only from a huge and clunky underwater camera.
A safe, protected (by four offshore islets) swimming area with easy entry from white sandy beaches. Muri Beach Rarotonga (including Muri Lagoon) is another great spot for snorkelling. Unfortunately, the wind was strong and coming from the wrong direction the week we visited, so we never had a chance to snorkel here.
Black Rock Rarotonga
The huge black rocks form a windbreak, creating a perfect place for us to snorkel. Our fish shots were similar to the ones above, but using the underwater closeup setting, I was able to get this shot:
Public beach near the Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa
There is a fabulous snorkelling beach just west of the Rarotongan Resort Beach Resort and Spa.
The Rarotongan Beach Resort is where to stay for great snorkelling
There is easy beach access, wonderful snorkelling, and white sandy beaches at this family-friendly resort that also offers the Sanctuary, an adults-only option. As we were not staying here, we snorkelled on the nearby public beach. After we snorkelled, we headed to the Rarotongan for lunch and to feed the fish off the pier. Reserve your room at Rarotongan Beach Resort
Honestly, this is an island aimed at tourism. Rarotonga accommodations are as varied as in a major city anywhere in the world. They range from secluded to popular, from hostel to luxury, and from family-friendly to adults only. There is something for everyone. Find the best Rarotonga accommodation prices at booking.com.
Snorkelling Tours on Rarotonga
We chose to snorkel on our own, but there are several guided Rarotonga snorkelling options:
|Muri Lagoon BBQ Lunch Cruise, including Snorkeling
|Glass bottom boat cruise with time to snorkel
Starts in Avarua and goes to Muri
Hotel pick up and drop off
|Turtle Sea Scooter Safari
|Guided snorkelling to swim with sea turtles
Use sea scooter underwater propulsion
Optional wetsuit hire
|Lagoon Discovery Sea Scooter Safari
|Guided snorkelling to explore coral canyons looking for fish, turtles, and rays
Use sea scooter underwater propulsion
Optional wetsuit hire
More on snorkelling in Rarotonga
- The buses on Rarotonga (clockwise and anti-clockwise) stop at most of the major beaches.
- Check with your resort before packing for your trip. Many resort packages include a mask, fins, snorkel and beach towels with your room.
- Don’t touch coral or fish.
- Most of the coastal waters are protected. Do not take anything from them (in most areas, it would be illegal to take anything).
- Bring an underwater compact camera into the water.
- Snorkelling is one of many things to do on the island of Rarotonga.
- If it’s your first visit to the island, start here: Rarotonga Travel Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Visit
Why I chose an Olympus Tough camera as my compact underwater camera
The Olympus Tough TG-6 is a compact point-and-shoot designed for adventure. Olympus made it waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof, and dustproof. It’s a tough little camera that is perfect for any sport. (I actually used the older version, the TG-5, for most of the photos).
As a photographer, I was leary of a compact camera, but this one offers the option of high-resolution RAW stills or HD 4k video. The RAW output allows me to edit, where needed to recapture the colours that are sometimes lost from underwater surface shooting.
Best underwater compact camera
We had our Tough camera for about a month when we went to Rarotonga, but were really pleased with the results both underwater and on land. Of course, this isn’t the only underwater compact camera that would keep me happy. Here are the options we considered.
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All underwater images on this page were shot on an Olympus Tough TG-5 (the predecessor to the Olympus TG-6).
Which underwater compact camera will you choose? Will you be snorkelling in Rarotonga?
Other islands you might like to see:
Disclaimer: We worked with the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation. We were provided with complimentary entrances, tours and sample items to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.