Unfair as it might be, first impressions are mostly made in a matter of moments and so it is when I go on holiday. If everything isn’t all it was cracked up to be, mild panic starts to set in! Happily no panic, and all expectations met in spades on a recent visit to Pacific Resort Rarotonga. I loved the feeling of crossing the threshold into their reception area and calm descending upon me like a welcome mantle.
After initial formalities and introductions, a friendly staff member showed me to our room, and on the way — we passed lush and well attended tropical gardens, the swimming pool and restaurants. There are two of these — one used only when the weather is not the best, and the other, Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar, the go-to place on all fair weather days, and there are plenty of those.
The best thing about Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar, is that it is outside. Outside and on the beach, beneath a beautiful white canopied marquee only a few metres away from the gentle lapping sea-waters of Muri Lagoon. It was this fabulous space from a tropical dream that quickly became my default, the place I wanted to be — with my book, my camera, towel and suntan lotion, during my stay at Pacific Resort Rarotonga. Or on a sun lounger near by.
Here we met the unforgettable Bianca, ‘queen’ of Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar and what she says goes….
Tall and slim, on Friday evenings she wears a crown of flowers (lei), made from an assortment of fragrant island flowers: Frangipani, gardenia, jasmine, bougainvillea (whatever’s available basically) and the leaves of the maire plant. The result is stunning. Her uniform is an attractive cutaway high-necked dress, which fits like a glove to mid thigh where inset panels cause the dress to flare and drape softly to the ground. The chocolate coloured fabric is lightly hand printed with gold coloured island-style leaf designs. Designed by talented twins — Tuaine Thompson and Nan Thompson-Enoka of Heihere Designs — this maitre’d outfit is one for the books.
Bianca has a quick wit and a mean sense of humour too, an attribute that keeps patrons thoroughly entertained. But despite her flamboyance and showmanship, Bianca is really good at her job, which is to look after all who are eating or drinking or just sitting and enjoying the atmosphere at Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar — mostly during the evening shift. Courteous and prompt to respond to your every need, she ensures that time spent at the Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar is unforgettable in every way.
Bianca and colleagues are a pure and unadulterated example of the spirit of Kia Orana — a commendable move by the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation to align their tourism industry with the core values of their people; the result is that locals are without fail, friendly, welcoming and super courteous to the tourists who arrive daily in their little piece of paradise. It is noticeable too, that they behave in the same positive manner to their colleagues, friends and family. Truly a good move — as visitors may come for the warmth of the sun, but it is the warmth of the people they will remember forever.
Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar is of course not just about the people, or its exotic cocktail selection, or epicurean menu, but about so much more. It is about unforgettable moments, the colours of the sunrise, the crystal clear waters of Muri Lagoon and the brightly coloured fish that dart in and out of the coral outcrops. It is more-ish views that awaken one’s city dulled senses, beach loungers shaded by generous umbrellas, and so much fun to be had in the way of water activities — like stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, cruising in glass bottomed boats, sailing, or trialing one of boat designer — Ken Kingsbury’s unusual peddle boats.
And when a long luxurious and lazy day is done, an inky darkness falls from tropical skies, and Sandals Restaurant and Beach Bar slowly empties of patrons, who sun tanned, relaxed, replete and ready for bed, migrate towards their perfect island retreats, just a short walk down a garden path.
Too warm for anything heavier — a newly laundered, fine cotton sheet is all you need to sleep. Choose to keep cool using the air conditioner, or if fresh air is your thing, then sleep with doors wide open, sea breeze billowing curtains softly, as sounds of breakers foaming and crashing across the nearby coral reef, soothe you to sleep. It is the consummate ending to a quintessential day at Pacific Resort, Rarotonga.
Pacific Resort Rarotonga: THE FACTS
/ 4-Star Resort.
/ Complimentary Kid’s Club
/ Suitable for families and couples.
/ Stunning wedding venue.
/ What sets Pacific Resort apart: top class accommodation; unbeatable location, the friendly, helpful staff; great food, drink and dining facilities; owns its own glass bottom cruiser; it is literally a home away from home.
/ Airlines: Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Jet Star; 4-hour flight from Auckland
/ Capital of Rarotonga / Cook Islands: Avarua
/ Getting around: Clockwise or anti-clockwise bus. Hire a car, a motorbike, scooter or bicycle. Book a taxi.
/ Best time to visit: April-November inclusive
/ Average Temperature: 25 degrees
/ Prices: Same or slightly more than in New Zealand.
/ Currency. New Zealand Dollar — change given in island coins. Visa and Master Card Credit cards easy to use.
/ Cellular network. Blue Sky
/ Data: Has to be purchased. Very little free Wi-Fi on the island.