Winston Aldworth checks into Pacific Resort Rarotonga.
On the southeastern corner of the island — driving on Raro's famed ring road, you're about a 20-minute drive from the airport.
Check-in experience: Classic Pacific chill.
The room: Our family of four perched up in a spacious (180sq m) Premium Lagoon View Villa and it made a fabulous base for us as we explored the island. You can sleep up to seven people in here and, with a fully kitted-out kitchen you could easily do it self-catering style (if you're doing this, then follow the savvy travellers and bring piles of food with you from New Zealand).
Our front door opened on to a lushlawn that led straight to the beach — 20 seconds from doorway to sand beneath your toes.
Dotted around the villa — and in some other spots around the resort — were some cool portraits of older Cook Islanders.
What's in the neighbourhood: Pacific Resort, an institution of the island's tourism industry, sits right on the shoreline of Muri Beach. Make the most of it. Lagoon cruises and the excellent Te Vara Nui cultural show are a short walk away.
Guests have access to spa treatments at Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa. After completing the cross-island hike, I had my aches eased by a delightful Balinese woman. "How does life here compare with home?" I asked. "This is much better," she said.
Food and drink: The complimentary breakfast buffet is served on the beach and at the on-site restaurant, Sandals. We dined there on a couple of evenings during our stay and, as with pretty much everywhere else we ate during our stay on the island, the tuna was absolutely phenomenal. Be sure to check out the Muri Night Markets, a five-minute walk away.
Finish the night with an evening cocktail at the Barefoot Bar — a pina colada should do nicely.
Exercise: The kayaks and snorkelling gear are free to use at the Beach Hut. One of my highlights of the whole trip was the keenly contested crab-racing sessions organised by the guys running the hut.
(That's the Beach Hut in the photo, with a trail of kayaks leading to it. Notwithstanding that terrific shot, it's comforting to know the resort is a no-drone zone, to respect guests' privacy.)
Back towards the entrance of the resort, the swimming pool was deep — up to my chin — and a relief for anyone who fancied a break from the salt water.
Kids Club (for littlies aged 6-12) is also complimentary.
The bed: The super-king in the master room was a whopper, and super comfortable.
Fellow guests: Mostly Kiwis and Aussies, but with a surprising number of British and European accents at the breakfast buffet.
Noise: Not a lot; the villas have a great sense of privacy — though my daughter took great delight in peeking at a wedding that took place on the lawn nearby. We were near enough to the water to go to sleep with the sound of the ocean.
Price: You can get a villa like ours for $970 a night. They have a deal on at the moment which allows you to stay for seven nights and only pay for five.
Perfect for: A family break for when you're fed up with the onset of Auckland's winter.
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