A Day Trip To The Phi Phi Islands From Phuket

The Phi Phi Islands also known as Koh Phi Phi (Koh meaning island in Thai) is a cluster of six paradise islands set in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand, and are part of the Krabi province. With crystal clear turquoise ocean surrounding each of them and stunning white sand beaches curving around the islands and their jungle interior. They make the perfect tropical getaway, and they can easily be reached from both Phuket and Krabi.

Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest and most developed of all the islands, it’s where the main town is and all the hotels and resorts are located on this island, along with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, Phi Phi Don is known as the party island! Loh Dalum Bay is the main party hub on the island, every night from 9pm the party kicks off on the beach with fire shows, Thai boxing and live bands all fighting for tourists attention. This is the place to come to drink buckets of booze and dance all night long.

Tonsai Bay is the bustling heart of Phi Phi Don it’s the main village on the island and the main arrival port. There are no cars or roads and everywhere can be reached by foot or bicycle, including Loh Dalum Bay which is a minutes walk away as this part of the island is so narrow.

All around Phi Phi Don are a variety of other beaches which are quieter such as Laem Tong Beach and Loh Bagao Beach. All of Phi Phi Don provides stunning scenery with its jagged cliffs and beautiful bays and beaches, however mass tourism has spoilt the island somewhat with over development and overcrowding of tourists.

Phi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket Thailand

Koh Phi Phi Leh is an uninhabited island that lies one mile from the southern tip of Koh Phi Phi Don. This island is most known for Maya Bay which was made famous by The Beach film back in 2000 that starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Phi Phi Leh offers stunning vertical cliffs capped with greenery, rocky caves, small sandy beaches and colourful coral reefs. Most visitors find their way around Phi Phi Leh on a tour boat.

The other four islands are Koh Pai also known as Bamboo Island, Koh Young also called Mosquito Island, and two islets marking the southern end of the archipelago named Koh Bida Noi and Koh Bida Nai.

With such a heavy footfall of people and boats coming to the islands, unfortunately, much of the coral reefs and marine life that once surrounded the islands have disappeared and much of the islands natural beauty is being threatened by more tourism expansion. Thai authorities are now seeing the effects of mass tourism on the islands and have recently been closing parts of the islands, and trying to reduce the number of visitors. So while planning your trip make sure to check what is open to the public, Maya Bay has been closed to let it recover.

Phi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket Thailand

The Phi Phi islands were somewhere I had dreamt of going for many years all throughout my teenage years after I watched the Beach my infatuation for Thailand began, and after I graduated from university my then fiancée (now husband) decided to book a trip to Thailand – our first trip to Asia which sparked our obsession for the continent. For our first trip to Thailand, we booked a two week itinerary and went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

When we visited the Phi Phi Islands many years ago we opted for a full day tour from Phuket, which included pick up from our hotel in Phuket and ferry to the islands where we cruised around some of them. We got off at Phi Phi Don for lunch and to relax on the beach, before heading off on a long tail boat to some snorkelling spots.

The Phi Phi islands have mixed reviews and they have become like marmite you will either love them or hate them! I think when visiting you have to go with an open mind and manage your expectations, yes they are touristy and overdeveloped, and they may not offer an authentic Thai experience, however the natural landscape is undeniably stunning, and I would suggest not letting anyone put you off going, if it’s somewhere you fancy going I will always suggest doing what feels right for you, and go and make your own mind up about a place.

Personally, I liked the Phi Phi islands as much as they were touristy etc, were they the best beaches I’ve ever been to? No, I have been to better beaches and snorkelled in better locations, however we had a really lovely day out to the islands and I would definitely like to go back in the future to see how the government has implemented changes and to perhaps make the islands tourism industry more sustainable, so the islands can be preserved and enjoyed by people in years to come.

Phi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket Thailand

Transport & Getting Around

Getting to the Phi Phi Islands is pretty straight forward, the islands are located about 30 miles from Phuket and roughly the same distance from Krabi. There are basically two options to reach the islands and that is either by ferry or speedboat.

The ferry is the most popular choice for reaching the islands. Ferries take about two hours from Phuket and about an hour and a half from Krabi or Koh Lanta. The main departure/arrival port in Phuket is Rassada Pier which is located in Phuket Town. In Krabi, the main ferry pier is Klong Jirad Pier, situated just south of Krabi Town.

Top Tips

I would recommend when planning any trip to the Phi Phi islands to check to see what is open as recently the authorities have been trying to help the islands marine life recover so have closed parts of the islands such as Maya Bay. So be prepared and know what you’re able to visit when planning. A day tour is a great way to visit the islands if you don’t have much time and there is a huge selection of tours to choose from, however personally looking back I wish we had stayed a night or two on Phi Phi.

If you suffer from travel sickness then make sure to take travel sickness tablets before getting on a ferry or speedboat to the islands as the sea can be quite rough! When we visited a lot of the passengers on board the ferry were suffering from seasickness, myself included!

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

A Day Trip To The Phi Phi Islands From Phuket - Pinterest Pin

You might also like…

A Day Trip To Phang Nga Bay From Phuket - Pinterest Pin

A Day Trip To The Gili Islands From Lombok

The Gili Islands are a group of three tiny islands clustered close to one another. The islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are situated near the coast of northwest Lombok. The islands are a popular spot for tourists for their white sandy beaches fringed with palm trees and coral reefs just offshore.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Each island although similar in appearance all have quite a different vibe from one another. All of the Gilis do not have roads and do not permit any motorised vehicles on them, so the main way to get around each island is by foot, bicycle or by cidomo (horsedrawn carts). Just be careful with hiring a horse and cart as I have heard many stories of the horses not being cared for properly.

Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the islands and attracts the majority of visitors, it takes approximately 30 minutes by boat from the northwest of Lombok and regular daily fast boats depart Bali directly to Gili T. Gili T is popular with tourists as it has the most going on in comparison to the other Gili Islands – restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Gili T was once known as a hippie party island, but today is popular with both backpackers and families.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Gili Meno is the smallest Gili Island and by far the most peaceful and underdeveloped, and is popular with honeymooners and the more mature traveller. The island is ringed by pristine beaches and coral reefs. Most accommodation is on the east side of the island with the most beautiful beach on offer, although there is some development going on in the west of the island. Inland on Gili Meno are homesteads, coconut plantations and there is a salty lake.

Gili Air is the island closest to Lombok and is a good island to visit if you want the best of both worlds – less busy than Gili T, but with still a little bit of nightlife, and chilled out enough so you can do plenty of relaxing. The snorkelling is really good right off from the main beach too. The beaches on Gili Air are said to be the best out of the three islands.

We visited the Gilis on a day trip from Lombok and booked a boat trip through Perama Tours which picked us up from the hotel in the morning and took us to the harbour where we then had a private boat that took us snorkelling around all three of the islands, and we stopped at Gili T where we had a wander around and had lunch and got to spend some time on the beach.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

After lunch, we got back on the boat for some more snorkelling around the islands. The Gili islands also have lots of scuba diving trips and courses available too, and the scuba diving is meant to be amazing! Snorkelling is really great around all of the islands and we were lucky enough to swim alongside a beautiful turtle.

Gili Islands Indonesia

The Gili Islands are an absolute must when planning a trip to Indonesia, and you could easily spend your whole holiday there or add it on to a Bali or Lombok itinerary. Personally, I would love to go back and revisit the Gilis and next time I would like to spend a few nights there. I would recommend that if you have time to spend a couple of nights on the islands. However if you are limited on time like we were, a day trip is a good idea so that you can get a taste of the islands.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Transport & Getting Around

The quickest and easiest way to get to the Gili Islands is from Lombok, as they are much closer in proximity than Bali. From Lombok, there are several transfers that can be booked as well as cheap public boats. Each of the Gilis has public boats in their harbour areas that leave when at full capacity.

Depending on which Gili Island you are visiting there are several departures from Lombok to the Gilis throughout the day, there is Teluk Nare Harbour which is where the ferries and speedboats come in, and Bangsal Harbour which offers public boats across to the Gilis. From both these ports, Gili Air is only a 10 minute boat ride, to Gili Meno it is 15 minutes and to Gili Trawangan its around 20 – 30 minutes.

Once on the Gilis you can easily get between each island by hopping on one of the boats which runs between them all regularly, and they are all between 5 – 10 minute boat ride apart from one another.

There are also plenty of options to reach the Gilis from Bali, which are longer boat journeys but easily doable and can take anything between 1 to 5 hours depending on which option you choose and where you depart from. There are fast boats and also ferries which run between Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok. The ferry option is a cheap option, but I would only recommend to people on a tight budget and travelling for an extended amount of time. I would suggest anyone who is on holiday for a few weeks to go with the quicker options. You can also charter private boats to take you across from both Bali and Lombok.

We booked through Perama Tours to go from Lombok to the Gili Islands as they have daily tours but you can also book boat transfers through them as well.

Top Tips

The Gili Islands although set up for tourists, they are a little more behind with facilities to that of its popular island neighbour Bali. Make sure to carry cash as well as cards as ATMs are only in a few hotels in Gili T, and cards are accepted but monly in modern establishments.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

A Day Trip To The Gili Islands From Lombok - Pinterest Pin

You might also like…

5 Things To See And Do In North Lombok - Pinterest PinCultural Things To See And Do In Bali - Pinterest Pin

5 Things To See & Do In North Lombok

The island of Lombok is placed between the popular tourist island of Bali and the remote Sumbawa Island of West Nusa Tenggara. The residents of Lombok are predominantly Muslim, which makes it very different from Bali which is mostly Hindu. Before the independence of Indonesia, Lombok was mainly ruled by the chiefs of the indigenous Sasak tribe, which still dominates most of the population today.

Lombok has something for everyone from stunning sandy beaches, jungles and waterfalls, with plenty of surfing and trekking on offer for adventurers. Lombok itself doesn’t have a very big nightlife scene, however if you’re looking for something a little more lively then head to the island of Gili Trawangan for a few nights. The island is also home to Indonesia’s second largest active volcano – Mount Rinjani which is popular with hikers. Lombok is definitely more suited to travellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle and looking for a quieter destination with plenty of off the beaten track natural wonders.

We only had 3 nights in Lombok and had a day trip out to the Gili Islands. I really would love to go back to Lombok and spend some more time there in the future. I really recommend that if your travelling to Bali and the Gili Islands then make some extra time and visit Lombok for a few nights at least, as it’s a complete contrast to Bali and the Gilis.

Sights & Activities

Malimbu Hill

Malimbu Hill is a gorgeous coastal viewpoint and is located 10 minutes drive from Senggigi. There are two viewpoint options one which is Malimbu Hill which is a grassy hilltop covered in palm trees, which is a perfect spot for watching the sunset, or there is Malimbu Cliff which is a higher viewpoint. We didn’t really get chance to stop here as we were on a Lombok day tour, but did get a quick glance over the view, and could even see the Gili Islands in the far distance. I would recommend visiting for sunset to take full advantage of the ocean views.

Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest

Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest is a stunning jungle viewpoint set along a winding mountain road about a 35 minute drive from Senggigi. There’s a small lay-by to pull over in, which has lots of wild macaque monkeys roaming around because many tourists feed them. This is a great place to stop off and admire the forest views and of course see the monkeys climbing the trees and waiting to be fed.

Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest LombokBaun Pusuk Monkey Forest LombokBaun Pusuk Monkey Forest Lombok

Senaru Village

Senaru Village is a traditional Sasak village which is located next to the Mount Rinjani Trek Centre where the Rinjani trail begins, it’s approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Senggigi. The Sasak inhabitants are the cultural guardians of Mount Rinjani and its surrounding forest. Visiting the village is a great insight into local life and getting to see the authentic thatched houses. It’s a great place to stop off at before visiting Sendang Gile Waterfall or if your heading to Mount Rinjani.

Senaru Village Lombok

Sendang Gile Waterfall

Entrance Fee: 10,000 IDR

Sendang Gile Waterfall is located close to Senaru Village and close to the base of Mount Rinjani. Lombok has many waterfalls to go and visit, but this one is a popular one due to its location and ease, as its an easy 15 minute walk from the entrance to view the waterfall. It’s a gorgeous waterfall surrounded by greenery and nature, on a hot day it’s really refreshing to take a dip in the pool or to fully submerge yourself underneath the falls. We booked a day tour so all prices were included in the tour price. I would really recommend visiting Sendang Gile waterfall or at least one of of the many waterfalls Lombok has to offer such as Benang Stokel, Benang Kelambu, Tiu Tedja and various other waterfalls dotted around the island.

Sendang Gile Waterfall Lombok

The Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are a group of three tiny islands clustered close to one another. The islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are situated near the coast of northwest Lombok. The islands are a popular spot for tourists for their white sandy beaches fringed with palm trees and coral reefs just offshore. Each island although similar in appearance all have quite a different vibe from one another.

Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the islands and attracts the majority of visitors, it takes approximately 30 minutes by boat from the northwest of Lombok. Gili T is popular with tourists as it has the most going on in comparison to the other Gili Islands – restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.

Gili Meno is the smallest Gili Island and by far the most peaceful and underdeveloped, and is popular with honeymooners and the more mature traveller.

Gili Air is the island closest to Lombok and is a good island to visit if you want the best of both worlds – less busy than Gili T, but with still a little bit of nightlife, and chilled out enough so you can do plenty of relaxing.

We visited the Gilis on a day trip from Lombok and booked a boat trip through Perama Tours which picked us up from the hotel in the morning and took us to the harbour where we then had a private boat that took us snorkelling around all three of the islands.

The Gili Islands are an absolute must when planning a trip to Indonesia, add it on to a Bali or Lombok itinerary. I would recommend that if you have time to spend a couple of nights on the islands. However if you are limited on time like we were, a day trip is a good idea so that you can get a taste of the islands.

Read more about The Gili Islands: A Day Trip To The Gili Islands From Lombok

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Transport & Getting Around

Getting to Lombok is pretty easy to reach from Bali, there are plenty of flights to Lombok airport which is what we opted for. We booked a flight with Lion Air which is a 20 minute flight and cost us about £30 per person return, however this can vary depending on when you travel. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Kuta from the airport and it’s an hour drive to Senggigi.

You can also head to Lombok by public ferry from Padang Bai Port in Bali which is really cheap and easy to do, however the ferry does take between 4 – 5 hours to reach Lembar Port in Lombok, which is approximately an hour away from both Kuta and Senggigi.

Lombok isn’t the easiest island to get around with regards to public transport as mostly it only operates in bigger towns on the island. Renting a car, motorbike or scooter is the best option or booking onto day tours if you want to explore more of the island if your short on time.

As we were limited on time we just booked all our tours through Perama Tours who are reliable and great value, and are an Indonesian based tour operator. We booked Perama for a Gili Islands day tour on our second day in Lombok, and on our last day, we booked a full day tour of Lombok where they took us to Malimbu Hill, Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest, Senaru Village and Sendang Gile Waterfall.

Top Tips

Lombok although set up for tourists, it is a little more behind with facilities to that of its popular island neighbour Bali. Make sure to carry cash as well as cards, as ATMs are only in the major towns and cards are accepted only in modern establishments.

As Lombok is mostly Muslim – make sure to cover up and dress modestly in the towns. Beachwear is fine when on the beaches and in the resorts, but covering shoulders is advised when in the towns and villages.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx5 Things To See And Do In North Lombok - Pintetest Pin

You might also like…

A Day Trip To The Gili Islands From Lombok - Pinterest PinCultural Things To See And Do In Bali - Pinterest Pin

An Island Guide To Boracay

The Philippines is a diverse country made up of over 7500 islands, which are situated in south east Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. Over the centuries these islands have seen many changes and encountered many influences from all around the world. One of the biggest influences was the Spanish colonisation back in the mid 1500s and the Philippines became part of the Spanish empire for more than 300 years, which is evident as the main religion in the country is Catholic.

The Philippines is somewhere that was on my travel radar for many years, and I dreamed about travelling to dreamy little islands surrounded by turquoise waters and tropical sea life. Several years back my husband and I had 2 weeks annual leave booked and decided to take a trip to the Philippines.

After lots of research and hours of trying to decide on which islands to visit in this archipelago, we finally decided to travel to Cebu, Bohol and Boracay. Originally we both really wanted to visit Palawan, however the Philippines is not the easiest country to get around, and when we visited there wasn’t many flights connecting the islands or you had to fly back to the main hub Manila to connect to another flight.

Originally we wanted to visit El Nido in Palawan however it looked like it would be a really long drive from the airport to El Nido, and unfortunately with all the travelling to the Philippines and travelling in between it does eat into your actual time in the country to enjoy. So we booked flights to Kuala Lumpur and stopped in Malaysia’s capital for the night before catching a flight the next day to Cebu airport. We only spent a night in this busy city and wish we could have spent longer but we got a ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran in Bohol and spent 3 nights in Bohol before catching a flight to Boracay and having to connect via Manila.

We spent 6 nights in Boracay in total and really loved our time on this tiny island which is only approximately 5 miles long. Boracay has a booming tourist industry and travellers are drawn to Boracay’s famous White Beach, which is a stunning beach lined with crystal clear ocean and palm trees. This small island has lots to offer its many visitors with beautiful beaches, water sports, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping and much much more. Yes Boracay is touristy however we both loved it, and it really was a fantastic trip, and we never felt like it was overrun with tourists it had a really good balance of relaxation and a party island with lots to do during the day too.

Sights & Activities

Boracay Grotto

Boracay Grotto which is also known as Willys Rock is an iconic landmark on the island and is a volcanic rock just off from the beach in Station 1. The rock formation is adorned with a blessed Virgin Mary, this is one of the most photographed attractions on the island. It’s quite quirky and you don’t expect to see a Catholic grotto set in the sea just off from the sandy white beach.

It is a very touristy attraction, however as we stayed along white beach, most days we would walk from one end of White Beach to the other, and it’s easy enough to stop off at and take a look so I would recommend a little visit to Boracay’s main landmark.

Bulabog Beach

Bulabog Beach is on the quieter east side of the island and is one of the most well known water sports centres in all of Asia. It can be very windy on that side of the island which makes it the perfect setting for wind and kite surfing. Many surfers are drawn to the paradise beach of Bulabog as it’s one of the quieter beaches but a perfect spot for water sports. It does have lots of seaweed and sea urchins so it’s not recommended as a swimming beach, and of course the wind and kite surfers blasting about on the waves can be dangerous for swimmers. It’s only a 5 – 10 minute stroll from White Beach and if your up early try and head there early morning for a walk or to watch the sunrise or sunset.

Crystal Cove & Magic Island

Crystal Cove and Magic Island are small islands about 20 minutes boat ride away from Boracay. There are also several other islands such as Crocodile Island, Monkey Island and Tablas Island, but these 2 islands are the most popular with tourists and when you visit you can see why! Both islands have crystal clear water surrounding them and look like paradise. We booked onto a boat tour which wasn’t very much about £20 per person, and this was for a private boat. First the outrigger motor boat took us to Crystal Cove Island which is stunning with a beautiful landscape, caves, marine life and views of other neighbouring islands.

We stopped here for a while and explored the island by foot and stepping down into caves and the many coves the island has which is where it gets its name. This was my favourite out of the 2 islands it had ramshackled bamboo stilted walkways and the most gorgeous blue lagoons and coves. Just walking around you could find peaceful quiet spots away from the rest of the tourists. There is also a restaurant, gift shop and plenty of picnic spots. You could easily spend a full day here alone and snorkel all around the island.

After our stop at Crystal Cove we headed to Magic Island which a smaller island but has lots of cliff jumping available. Lots of tourists visit Magic Island as they have various platform heights, and are better for amateur jumpers, for adrenaline junkies then have a look at Ariel’s Point in Aklan, which is a bit further away from Boracay than Magic Island but has much higher cliff jumps. Magic Islands platforms range from 3 meters to 10 meters, I opted for the smallest platform as I’m abit of a wimp when jumping from high up, however my husband jumped off the highest one. There is also a lifeguard on hand just incase your not a confident swimmer.

Once we had finished at Magic Island our boat took us to a snorkelling spot before heading back to Boracay. I really recommend doing this small boat tour as it’s only half a day and it’s great to see both islands, if you have plenty of time in Boracay I would recommend spending a full day at Crystal Cove snorkelling. However check prior to your trip as recently Boracay and the surrounding islands have been closed off to tourists to let the marine life recover from over tourism.

Diniwid Beach

Diniwid Beach is just tucked around the corner from White Beaches Station 1, and is easily reached by walking around to it from White Beach. Diniwid Beach is a lot quieter but just as pretty, and it’s a great swimming spot. If you want a much quieter stretch of beach then walk over to Diniwid!

D’Mall

D’Mall is a great place to visit day or night and most shops are open until around 10pm and restaurants a little later. This unconventional open air mall is a great place to have a wander through as it has a whole range of various shops from local arts and crafts, souvenirs, essentials and boutiques as well as lots of cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s really well laid out and we visited several times as it’s a really convenient location in between Station 2 and the main road.

It has such a variety of shops you will be pretty much able to get anything you want or need there. There is also a local market inside which sells plenty of fruit and vegetables which is handy if your self catering of if you just want some healthy snacks. If shopping isn’t your thing then wander down there one evening and check out the many restaurants on offer.

Ilig-Iligan Beach

Ilig-Iligan Beach is located in the north east of the island and isn’t very well known and many tourists don’t venture over to this secluded quiet beach, I really can’t understand why it’s so quiet. This was one of my favourite beaches on Boracay. We got a trike over to Ilig-Iligan Beach after spending some time on Puka Beach.

This beach has beautiful white sand, turquoise blue waters and is surrounded by lots of trees and jungle. There are no shops, cafes and bars which may put tourists off, but just take your own food and drink like we did. This is by far one of the most beautiful spots on Boracay. We spent a few hours snorkelling here and there were plenty of starfish and fish to see, just be careful as the current can be quite strong and there aren’t many people around to help if you get yourself in a dangerous situation, that’s not to put you off but just to take a bit of extra care when out snorkelling.

I would really recommend spending a full day at Ilig-Iligan Beach or do as we did and visit Mount Luho in the morning then a few hours at Puka Beach and then finish off the day at Ilig-Iligan. There are also boat tours available but flagging down a trike is easy and cheap enough and you the have the freedom to spend as little or as much time as you like at each place.

Mount Luho

Mount Luho is the highest point on the island and is 100 meters above sea level, it’s a popular tourist attraction as it provides stunning views across the island and the ocean at the viewing deck at the top. We got a trike to take us to the top and just walked up to the viewing deck, however there is a hike which you can do too. Entrance onto the viewing deck was only about £2 per person so its really cheap and worth doing.

There is a zip line at the top and unfortunately a few caged animals which isn’t needed to be honest as tourists are going to see the island view not some poor animals which have been forced into cages for a life of misery! Unfortunately this is seen quite frequently around the Philippines so please try and avoid anything animal related unless you do your research first. However I would recommend going to see the spectacular views over the island.

We visited in the morning, however I would recommend to visit for sunrise if you can get up early enough to avoid the crowds and to get even more beautiful views.

Parasailing & Water Activities

Parasailing in Boracay was a real highlight of our trip, there are lots of water sports and water activities available all over the island. We opted to try parasailing as it was really affordable and a great experience to overlook White Beach, I think we paid less than £40 each from what I can remember. It is a little bit scary floating that far up in the air but I’m so glad we did it, it was such a good experience and was only about 30 minutes in total so doesn’t take up all of your day.

We did also book in for a helmet dive on our last day but unfortunately my husband wasn’t feeling well so decided to stay in the hotel room, I decided to go on my own however as soon as I was in the water I chickened out I didn’t like the helmet at all and felt really claustrophobic in it. I’m still annoyed that I didn’t just get on and do it as I could see everyone below and it looked amazing! So if your braver than I am I would really recommend it.

Puka Shell Beach

Puka Shell Beach is not to be missed and a great place to spend a day, it’s a beautiful white sandy beach backed by lots of jungle and rocks behind the beach, it got its name from all the Puka Shells which can be found there. There is a bar on the beach which offer bamboo cabanas, beds and seating however can be a little over priced so we took our own snacks and drinks and sat towards the end of the beach which was really peaceful. There are also several stalls which sell souvenirs and of course the famous shells.

My husband and I visited along with 2 other travellers that we befriended on our second night on the island and spent a few days and nights with them. We just flagged down one of the many trikes to take us to the beach, however you can also book onto boat tours which make regular stop offs at the beach.

White Beach

White Beach is a world famous stretch of beach and is Boracay’s top tourist spot. This powdery white sand beach stretches almost 3 miles long, and is the centre of where all the action happens on this tiny island. There is so much to do on White Beach from relaxing and sunbathing, lots of water sports, snorkelling and there is a huge choice of bars and restaurants etc.

The beach is split into 3 sections which are Station 1, Station 2 and Station 3 which were defined by 3 former boat stations. Just beyond station 3 is Angol which contains most of Old Boracay and more budget accommodation. Station 1 is the more high end and quieter end of the beach, Station 2 is the epicentre and where most of the action happens, and Station 3 is more budget accommodation and a bit quieter too.

The sea around White Beach is crystal clear, however there was a slight issue with algae while we were there and the government does sometimes close the beach to let it recover, and they are always trying to focus on preserving the beach and ensuring that its environmentally looked after. To be honest even with the algae it was still visually stunning with beautiful white sand beach and palm trees running all along the back of the beach where all the businesses hide behind.

White Beach is commercial and touristy but it just works, we honestly had such a great time staying there. We relaxed most days sunbathing and swimming in the sea. Then would walk along the beach in the afternoon and evenings stopping off at the various bars, cafes and restaurants. There is also lots of places to shop and vehicles are banned along the sandy path and we just walked bare foot or in our flip flops along it.

Along the beach there is also a great choice of tour operators and PADI schools providing various trips and activities so be sure to shop around as there is a huge amount of choice. White Beach cannot be missed when visiting Boracay and to be honest it spans almost half of the island! I would recommend trying to base yourself either on White Beach or as close as possible so in the evenings your stumbling distance back to your hotel.

Food & Drink

Army Navy Burger & Burrito

Army Navy Burger and Burrito is a chain fast food restaurant located all around the Philippines, but there is one located along White Beach. They have a huge menu with so much choice of burgers, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, pizzas and chicken and much more. This fast food chain serves up hearty comfort food at an affordable price. They also offer an all day breakfast too. You have to visit at least once while in Boracay as Army Navy is popular with both tourists and locals.

Bar Crawl

Boracay is the ultimate party island it really does have something for everyone. Just walking along White Beach there are so many bars to choose from! On our second night we ventured out for some dinner and stopped at BomBom Bar after dinner we got chatting to some other English travellers on the next table and ended up getting quite drunk with them and stayed out all night with and stumbled into a club with them and partied the night away.

We also met up with the other couples for the rest of our trip meeting in the evenings for drinks and going out exploring during the day. That’s another reason why I love travelling you always meet the most incredible people and make such amazing memories!

Coco Bar is another awesome bar with a good atmosphere, and there are also lots of shisha bars which are great to sit out in the evening having drinks and a shisha, there’s also lots of local women offering beach massages. On one of our final nights we sat out on some beach bean bags, having a shisha and foot massage with one of the couples we made friends with, that’s the good thing about White Beach if you want a mad wild night you can but also it’s just as easy for a chilled beach night too.

There are also lots of organised bar crawls which you can book onto so there are plenty of options. We just liked walking up and down the beach every night and seeing where took our fancy.

Jeepney Stop

Jeepney Stop is located in D’Mall and is a funky colourful restaurant serving up authentic Filipino dishes, as well as some Asian fusion dishes. They have fresh seafood available however it’s main draw is the crispy lechon (roasted pork) which originated from when the Philippines was part of the Spanish empire. It’s a popular dish in the Philippines and is delicious. When we travelled to the Philippines it was prior to us becoming vegetarian so we tried plenty of fresh seafood and lechon.

Jeepney Stop is a must while in Boracay as it’s such a great restaurant not only does it serve delicious Filipino food, the staff are really friendly and the decor is bright and colourful and has a Filipino jeepney in the middle of the restaurant. Make sure to add this restaurant to your itinerary one night!

Spider House

Spider House was one of my favourite places we visited for dinner and drinks on the island, it’s located at Diniwid Beach so easily accessible from White Beach. We got dropped off here after visiting Ilig-Iligan Beach. We came in time for sunset and it has the perfect setting. I have seen various posts however recently saying it’s closed down or under refurbishment but can’t quite find out 100% for sure. If you are visiting Boracay and Spider House is open or reopened then I would really recommend paying this ramshackled place a visit it was so eccentric!

We had to go through rocks and up some bamboo stairs to reach it, it felt like you were sitting in an oversized tree house and felt very Robinson Crusoe! It’s set on the rocks edge but it provided the most beautiful views of the ocean and beach. The food and drinks were more pricier than compared to elsewhere on Boracay but your paying for the setting and the sunset was amazing!

Summer Place Nightclub

Summer Place Nightclub is located in station 2 along White Beach, we ended up here after a bar crawl on the night we met some other travellers, and we had one crazy night in Summer Place it was a Korean nightclub and I’m pretty sure from what I can remember we were the only westerners in there. We had such a laugh and met so many lovely people, everyone was drunk and dancing and the place just had a really good atmosphere. If you want to dance all night to a whole range of music then this is the place to go!

Tom n Toms Coffee

Tom n Toms Coffee is a cafe chain which is popular with many of the Korean tourists as we all know how much Koreans love their coffee! Tom n Toms is the perfect stop for coffee lovers aka my husband! Not only is it good for drinks but also good to stop at for lunch or a light bite. The pizza pretzels are delicious and great for lunch or a light bite!

Tres Amigos Mexican Cantina

Tres Amigos Mexican Cantina is located in D’Mall and serves a good selection of burritos, tacos and quesadillas at affordable prices. It’s brightly decorated and cooks up comfort food. If you fancy something other than Asian food then give Tres Amigos a try the food is delicious and very filling.

Accommodation

The Boracay Beach Resort

Hotels and accommodation providers in the Philippines are more basic than what you will find elsewhere in south east Asia, and you don’t get as much for the your money. When searching for hotels in Boracay I came across The Boracay Beach Resort which we decided to book, we had such a great stay there. The location is amazing it’s situated in station 1 on White Beach and just a few steps onto the beach.

There are various room types to choose from such as suites with balconies or you can choose one of the bungalows. We opted for one of the wooden bungalows which were basic but cute and quirky at the same time. The room had a double bed and en-suite and we had a small veranda with a hammock to sit out on. The room price included breakfast, we paid about £250 for 6 nights bed and breakfast which we thought was an amazing deal!

Breakfast was made fresh to order and bought to your room there were several options to choose from and every morning we ate our breakfast on our veranda which was a really nice way to start the day. The staff were also really friendly and helpful, and there is 7-eleven situated a few doors down which is helpful to grab drinks and snacks for the room.

The resort has quite a few sun beds outside the front on the beach which are reserved for guests which was great as we always had a bed on the beach everyday, and were just steps away from a dip in the sea. I really can’t recommend this hotel enough, it’s great value and in a perfect location, and has everything you could want for an amazing trip on the paradise island of Boracay.

Transport & Getting Around

Boracay is pretty easy to reach compared to other islands in the Philippines there are 2 airports situated nearby on the larger island of Panay. There is Caticlan airport which is much closer to Boracay and only about 15 minutes away from the jetty to get the boat to Boracay, but flights can be more expensive to fly there or there is the other airport of Kalibo which is about 90 minutes car journey from the jetty.

We flew into Kalibo as it was much cheaper even with booking transfers from the airport to the jetty. When booking it’s worth checking both options and weighing up cost and time to see which flights work out better for you. We booked a transfer company which picked us up from the airport in Kalibo in a mini bus with others, and then drove us to the jetty and then organised the boat which is about a 15 minute boat journey. They handled all terminal fees and environmental fees, I would recommend this as it was hassle free and run really smoothly both ways. We booked ours through Viator, however Klook and Island Star Express also have packages available as well as several other companies. It costs between £10 – £20 per person depending on what you opt for.

Once we arrived at Boracay we hoped in a trike which are the Philippines version of a tuk tuk. On the island there are lots of electric trikes which are cheap and easy enough to flag down. Once on the island most places can be reached by foot or by trikes and mopeds. Outrigger boats are also readily available if you wanted to venture off to nearby islands.

Top Tips

My top tip for Boracay would be to check the island is fully open as recently it’s been closed to allow recovery to its marine life and environment, so check what’s open prior to booking. When visiting the island ensure to book your tours when your there as we found when prebooking tours they worked out slightly more expensive than just booking with the local tour companies. I would recommend on your first day wandering down to some of the tour companies and choosing what you would like to do on your trip as they offer multiple booking discount. We booked the parasailing and helmet dive together and got it a little cheaper as was booking more than one excursion.

As beautiful as Boracay is, it has suffered at the hands of tourism. So when going to try and remain as eco friendly as possible by wearing reef safe sunscreen and avoid standing or touching any coral. Take your own reusable cutlery straws and try to avoid single use plastic or waste as much as possible.

Try to purchase one large bottle of water to last your trip rather than lots of small individual ones. Take your own water bottle and reusable coffee cup. Just bare in mind that Boracay is a small island and cannot fully cope with the amount of tourists flocking in so be mindful and maybe if you use up a product of your own rather than binning it there take it home with you to be recycled. The Philippines is still a developing country so like travelling to any developing countries try and make sure your impact on the environment and waste issues are minimised as much as you possibly can.

Important Information

Hua Hin Mini Guide

Thailand has to be one of my favourite countries to visit and always holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first country my husband and I visited in south east Asia, and we fell in love instantly with this amazing place. We have been fortunate to travel to Thailand on several occasions and a few years back we both had a random week of annual leave booked in June and didn’t have anything planned so decided to jet away to Thailand.

As we only had one week and not much time we opted to stay in Hua Hin as it’s easily accessible from Bangkok, it’s south of the capital and about a 3 hour car journey. We chose Hua Hin as it’s located on the beach, and there isn’t much to see and do there, and we both really wanted a chill out break, and knew if we went somewhere with lots around we would be wanting to go and explore everyday. Hua Hin has been a popular getaway for the royal Thai family for over a century.

We booked a stunning resort and spa and spent 5 nights relaxing by the pool and beach all day and in the evenings venturing out to the town for massages, dinner, drinks and Hua Hins many night markets. Hua Hin isn’t the most exciting place in Thailand however if you just want a relaxed trip and you are strapped for time then Hua Hin is easily accessible and affordable, and you won’t be beating yourself up about not venturing out sightseeing as there really isn’t that much to see or do in and around Hua Hin.

Sights & Activities

Hua Hin Market Village

Market Village is Hua Hin’s largest shopping complex located in the centre of this sleepy seaside town. The complex offers shopping, dining, entertainment and a cinema. With over a 150 shops and restaurants there is something for everyone all under one roof. The mall is very modern but also offers lots of affordable products and food options. The mall runs a free shuttle service between the mall and Hua Hin’s many resorts and hotels.

Hua Hin’s Nightmarkets

Hua Hin has a really good selection of night markets in the town centre to visit we went to several different ones. Chatsila Nightmarket was one of my favourite markets and is more like an arts and crafts market with lots of locally made items, it has a really nice relaxed atmosphere and there is food stalls too.

Hua Hin Night Bazaar is also another night market to explore it comes alive at night with the many street vendors and stalls. It may not have as big of a variety like the night markets in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, however if your really into your seafood there is a big selection of seafood stalls selling fresh quality fish and shellfish street food dishes.

The Grand Night Market is popular with locals and sells more main stream goods such as gadgets and electricals, clothing and homewares with also some street food stalls.

There are also several other markets to explore too, I would suggest every evening just wandering around the town centre, and see what you stumble across as this is how we found the various markets, shops and restaurants and it’s a great way to spend an evening just getting lost amongst the many stalls and people watching over a cold drink.

Hua Hin Train Station

Hua Hin Train Station might seem like a bit of a strange place to go and visit however it was built during the reign of King Rama VI, and is only a short distance from the town centre, Hua Hin’s railway station and adjacent royal waiting room are brightly painted wooden buildings that are Thai in design but have a Victorian feel to them. Hua Hin many years ago had no road access and train travel was a new alternative to get from Bangkok to Hua Hin instead of by boat. The train station was built in 1926 and the town gradually grew around the station.

It’s only a small attraction and we came here early evening one day before heading out for dinner, and had a wander around. There is also a small brightly coloured shrine opposite the station with lots of animal statues which is quite nice to go and see too.

Food & Drink

Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa

The Anantara food which was on offer was absolutely exceptional and we had the most delicious lunches by the pool during our stay. The resort has a good selection of western and Thai dishes but we always opted for the Thai and Asian dishes as we always like to try and eat local delicacies as we can eat western food anytime while at home. I also tried lots of the cocktails from the menu and all were amazing and not over powering and great drinks to have either by the pool or to finish off the evening. I also managed to drink my body weight in fresh coconuts by the pool daily.

Hua Hin’s Nightmarkets

As we ate in the resort for breakfast and lunch, in the evenings we enjoyed venturing out and seeing what the night markets and local restaurants had to offer, so each night we would try somewhere different. Hua Hin is a great place to try lots of fresh seafood from the many local stalls and restaurants. You won’t be disappointed with the food around the town centre as there is so much choice, and it’s all so affordable and much cheaper than eating in the hotels and resorts, and also helping the locals make a living.

Accommodation

Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa

Anantara Hua Hin Resort was the first hotel from the Anantara brand. It is an award winning resort and spa, and set amongst lush green gardens. The grounds of the resort are truly stunning with lots of plants, flowers and lotus filled lagoons. The main pool area in the hotel is simply gorgeous and is really big and doesn’t feel crowded and has a fab swim up bar, and really comfy day bed seating around the other side of the pool bar for casual lunch time dining in your bikini.

There are 190 rooms and suites on offer at the Anantara Hua Hin and all have a terrace or balcony. The rooms were spacious and absolutely immaculately kept, with one of the hugest beds I’ve ever slept in! The room decor is in keeping with a traditional Thai theme. The bath was so big it was more like a hot tub! It also gave you the option to have an open plan room and bathroom are there are sliding doors to shut off your bathroom from the bedroom. Everything felt really well thought out and luxurious. The staff were all so friendly and welcoming and couldn’t have been more helpful.

There are also several bars and restaurants to choose from dotted around the resort. We only ate breakfast in the mornings and would order an informal lunch around the pool as we went out into the town in the evenings for food. The breakfast was absolutely delicious and so much choice available. It was a buffet breakfast but had everything you could possibly imagine to make for the perfect breakfast. The lunch options were also really tasty and always cooked fresh to order.

The resort also offer their guests the chance to learn some Thai cooking, kick boxing or kite surfing. There is a spa that offers a load of different treatments and uses Elemis products. There is the option to either have your treatment by the pool or in the spa itself. We never actually got round to using the spa we literally snoozed by the pool all day and then went to the night markets in the evening or would grab a foot massage from one of the many massage parlours around the town before going to bed.

The Anantara is a real treat and relaxing getaway, the only thing that we weren’t too impressed with was its beach front setting, it’s great that the Anantara has it’s own private stretch of beach, however it wasn’t the prettiest beach we had ever set foot on and there was some litter about. We just felt that the whole resort was so well cared for and the attention to detail was second to non, however it seemed like the beach had been forgotten about, that was the only downfall that the resort had in our opinion.

I really can’t recommend the Anantara enough if your on a budget and time constraint this is the perfect week long getaway that won’t cost the earth!

Transport & Getting Around

Airport Transfers

To get from Bangkok airport to Hua Hin we booked a transfer in advance which did cost about £45 each way, you can get a taxi from outside the airport however we wanted to have everything arranged prior as we didn’t fancy messing around after an 11 hour flight, we just wanted a transfer ready and waiting which worked out really well, and also I’m not sure if it would cost more or not just picking one up at the airport.

Getting Around Hua Hin

Shuttle buses are laid on by the resort and will take you into the town, from what I can remember they only cost about a £1 each and you could arrange for them to come and pick you back up in the evening too. We used their shuttle buses most nights. There are also taxis and tuk tuks readily available too if you didn’t want to be stuck to a set pick up time.

Important Information

24 Hour Layover Guide To Doha

Doha is the capital of Qatar and situated on a peninsular in the Arabian Gulf. It is a modern city in Doha Bay. Doha has a sleek and stylish skyline which is forever expanding and changing. It’s fast becoming one of the new Gulf mega cities which will give Dubai and Abu Dhabi a run for their money.

Doha isn’t short on huge modern shopping malls and luxurious hotels and resorts, however like other cities around the Gulf that have literally just sprung up from the desert, there is a slight lack of history and authentic charm.

Doha isn’t somewhere I would consider going on holiday myself, as there isn’t a huge amount to see and do here unless you like sunbathing and staying in flash hotels, which I like to an extent but I also like to do lots of exploring on my holidays. However when I get a layover there with work, I have to admit I really look forward to a chilled trip lounging by the pool, sunbathing on the beach and taking a dip in the warm sea, and finishing off a chilled day with a trip to Souq Waqif for some dinner.

Sights & Activities

Arabian Gulf

The beaches all along the Arabian gulf in Doha are gorgeous and this is one of the best reasons to visit Doha if you want ultimate relaxation and guaranteed hot weather, Doha makes a great chill out holiday destination. It’s got a ton of fancy hotels most of them offering pools and private beaches.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif has been built on an old market site from centuries ago, Bedouins used to bring their livestock here to trade for everyday essentials. Today the entire market area has been redeveloped to imitate a 19th century Souq. The Souq is new but made to look old with exposed beams, mud rendered buildings and some traditional Qatari buildings have also been restored.

Souq Waqif is very much the social hub of Doha with so much going on all in one place, it’s also a bit chaotic and maze like. There is lots to see and do here and it’s great to come in the evening when it’s slightly cooler. There’s stalls selling everything from clothes, homewares, food and other trinkets.

I love going down there in the evening and pigging our on warm bread and hummus. If you do visit here remember you are in a Muslim country so make sure to dress modestly and cover shoulders, or you will stick out like a sore thumb and potentially get some funny looks.

Even though I love coming down to the Souq, there is one area I’m not a fan of which is the pet section of the market. It’s quite upsetting to see lots of dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, birds and reptiles all kept in small cages without anything to keep them mentally stimulated. When walking around a few of the cages have empty water bowls so I normally go round filling them up with my water. The only kind of saving grace with it being a pet section is that hopefully these designer pedigree pets will end up with a doting owner.

When in Doha I would really recommend going down as this is one of the top attractions in Doha.

Transport & Getting Around

Doha has very recently built a metro system which I haven’t used yet, however I normally tend to use taxis to get around as they are pretty cheap and normally I go out with other crew so split between a few of you it’s even cheaper.

Top Tips

My biggest bit of advice would be that when in Doha remember you are in a Muslim country, so respect traditions and customs and be modest with the way you dress. There is alcohol available at licensed bars and restaurants but it is illegal to be drunk so be mindful of your limits.

Doha is a huge hub for flight connections so if you have a connection it’s a great place to stop off at for a night or 2 to break up a long flight and get some much needed r and r.

If you are planning on staying longer in Doha look into your budget as like other cities along the Arabian gulf it is not cheap. Eating out is similar costs to eating out back home, and many of the hotels offer room only or bed and breakfast rates rather than all inclusive, so costs could mount up.

Important Information

Sydney Travel Guide

Sydney is probably the most recognisable city associated with Australia, it is a major gateway to Australia and has lots of world famous landmarks and famous beaches. I have been lucky enough to travel to Sydney on many occasions with my work.

With the airline I work for we stop over in Sydney for about 36 hours, and stop in Singapore for 48 hours on the way to Sydney and stop back in Singapore again on the way back. The Singapore/Sydney trip is a 9 day trip and is actually one of my favourite trips to do with work, as I love both Singapore and Sydney and they have both started to feel like second homes now.

The first time I went to Sydney with work I was so excited as I had never been to Australia before, and couldn’t wait to go exploring. On my first ever trip to Sydney I actually got to spend 3 days there as unfortunately for our passengers our aircraft went tech, and parts had to be flown over from London Heathrow. I have to admit I was over the moon to get some extra time in this exciting city.

Since my first ever trip to Sydney I have done many more Singapore/Sydney trips and always try to visit an area or place that I haven’t been to before. My brother in law lives in Adelaide and on one particular trip I bought my husband along and my brother in law flew up from Adelaide to meet us which was great, as I love having a layover with family it makes it feel like a mini holiday, even though I was really tired we packed lots in, and met up with some of my husbands friends that now live in Sydney too.

Sydney has so much to offer from beautiful beaches and bays, to world famous surf spots and landmarks. Sydney has a really cool vibe and there is always something going on in the city.

Sights & Activities

Bondi Beach

Most people I speak to seem to prefer Manly Beach to Bondi Beach. I think maybe I’m one of the rare few that actually prefer Bondi Beach. I just think Bondi is so iconic all around the world, and has so much to see and do there, it really does have something for everyone. It has lots of street art to admire, surfing or watching surfers, and lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Even if your not a big fan of swimming in the Ocean you can swim and relax at the ocean pool at Icebergs Club.

I really love the atmosphere around Bondi it’s got a really cool laid back atmosphere to it, but with a bit of a quirky edge. Even if your not a surfer just going to the beach and sunbathing here is great, I have been to Bondi on several occasions and always have a great time there.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

The coastal walk between Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach was one of the best coastal walks I’ve ever done. We started from Coogee Beach and walked to Bondi Beach it is approximately 3.5 miles, and takes just short of 3 hours to walk, it is a leisurely walk taking in many bays, rock pools, cliffs and coves along the way and lots of breathtaking scenery.

This is one of my favourite things I’ve done in Sydney, I went when I took my husband and my brother in law and their friend that lives in Coogee took us along the walk, and we also had some of the other crew that I was working with join us. It was a beautiful sunny day when we went and we had breakfast then headed off for the walk, we took our time and stopped to admire views and take photos. I cannot recommend this walk enough it is an absolute must do in Sydney!

Chinatown

Sydney’s Chinatown is like most other Chinatowns around the world, the Main Street which is Dixon Street is the heart and soul of Chinatown, it has a huge selection of Asian eateries and shops. As Sydney can be quite pricey this is the place to go to get cheap eats if you are on a budget and craving some Asian food.

The Main Street also has some ornate gates either end of the street which are decorated with dragons, bamboo tiles and golden writing. If your in Sydney for a while I would recommend having a stroll through Chinatown, and not too far from the Main Street is Paddy’s Market.

Circular Quay

Circular Quay is one of the main tourist hubs in Sydney, with many of Sydney’s main landmarks located within the area. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and The Rocks are all located within this horseshoe cove.

Circular Quay was once where Australia’s first European settlers came and was once home to ex convicts, sailors and whalers and had lots of brothels and pubs. Today it is home to upmarket bars and restaurants offering champagne breakfasts overlooking the opera house, lots of street performers and the many tourists and locals coming in and out on the many ferries that run from the harbour.

Circular Quay is a bustling vibrant area of Sydney, I always really enjoy having a wander around the Quay and seeing what’s new, sometimes it’s lovely to just sit and relax with a drink and watch a cruise ship coming in.

City Hall

Sydney City Hall was constructed between the mid to late 1800s. It’s function and use is very different today and is mainly used now for meetings, events and exhibitions and is home to the council and civic offices. When exploring Sydney try to stop by this historical building in the heart of the city centre.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is a former dockland which was regenerated in the 80s and is now home to a numerous amount of restaurants and cafes. It has lots of Sydneys tourist attractions such as a Sealife Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife Zoo, Madame Tussaud’s and various museums and parks.

Darling Harbour is an upmarket area of Sydney, I enjoy wandering around Darling Harbour and grabbing a drink here, however I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time here it’s great to wander around maybe for an hour or 2 but you won’t find the authentic Sydney experience here it’s more purpose built and office spaces.

If your in Sydney during Australia Day go to Darling Harbour as they normally put on lots of family friendly activities and entertainment, and some years have beautiful firework displays on in the evening which is a perfect way to finish off the day.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach is Sydney’s second most famous Beach after Bondi Beach. Over a mile long stretch of golden sand beach makes up Manly Beach and lined by pine trees. Manly Beach attracts lots of tourists and locals, every time I have visited Manly it’s always been busy that’s one reason why I tend to prefer Bondi as I always find it less busy.

Manly Beach however is still iconic to Sydney and is a must visit on any Sydney Itinerary. I do love wandering down the Main Street of Manly and looking in all the shops which sell a selection of clothes as well as souvenirs. Manly also has lots of cafes and restaurants that line the beach front.

Paddys Market

Paddy’s Market is located right next to Chinatown in a large brick building. It has a variety of take away or eat in food options. Paddy’s Market is ideal for budget conscious travellers looking for a bargain. It is a traditional market and offers women’s fashion, kids clothes, accessories, jewellery, food, souvenirs, gadgets, and lots more. Paddy’s Market in Haymarket is open Wednesday – Sunday, and is a great market selling a variety of products.

Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens are a free attraction which expand over a huge area of Sydney, you can enter these gardens next to the Opera House. The gardens have a huge array of plants and trees from both Australia and the rest of the world. The gardens were created in 1816, and is steeped in history. There are several free walking tours from November to March, and aboriginal tours are also available for approx AUS$40 per person.

When I visited the gardens it was on my first visit to Sydney and we wandered through the gardens in the morning before heading to the Opera House. If your only in Sydney for a short period of time I wouldn’t make the Botanical Gardens a must do on your itinerary unless your an avid gardener. However if you do have time I would suggest walking through the gardens while visiting the Opera House – time permitting.

The Rocks

The Rocks is located in Circular Quay, and has lots of old buildings and quirky lanes which is quite rare for Sydney as many of the cities buildings are modern and high structures and more high tech buildings being built, its great to see The Rocks being maintained and preserved.

The Rocks used to be a maritime hub and was known in the old days for its open sewers and dingy alleyways, since the 1970s it has been transformed into a tourist hub. The Rocks is now home to some amazing restaurants, bars and pubs.

As well as having lots of places to eat and drink there is some gorgeous little boutiques, and also has a weekend artisan market which has stalls selling local arts, crafts and food. On Fridays there is a foodie market which has lots of street food and local products available, and during the month of December there is a Christmas market.

The Rocks also hosts many festivals and live music events, and there are several museums and galleries to visit, The Rocks is the cultural core of Sydney and should be on every Sydney itinerary.

Watson’s Bay

Watson’s Bay is a quick 15/20 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay. Watson’s Bay is a quiet suburban area of Sydney which is a lot less well known compared to other beaches in Sydney.

On one of my trips here I got the ferry over with one of my colleagues, and we had the most lovely day. As we arrived during lunch time we started our day at Doyle’s Fish and chips take away, and then wandered along the South Head Heritage Trail which took us past Lady Bay, which to our surprise was a nudist beach, we didn’t go down to it as we didn’t know where to look. We carried on over to the Hornby Lighthouse which has breathtaking views over the cliffs below and out the vast Pacific Ocean.

After having a little walk we decided to go and sunbath at Camp Cove which has the most gorgeous beach and calm clear waters which makes a change from both Bondi and Manly’s crashing waves. There is a small beach bar located at Camp Cove, if your needing some rest and relaxation, this is the beach for you.

Wildlife Sydney Zoo

The Wildlife Sydney Zoo is located in Darling Harbour next to the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium. This is a small zoo which houses lots of Australian native insects, reptiles, snakes and other small critters as well as having kangaroos and koalas. It’s a small zoo in comparison to Taronga Zoo which I still haven’t been too, however if your short on time and want to see some Australian wildlife without leaving the city this is a great little zoo.

You can purchase combo packages too with the Aquarium next door, if your just wanting to visit the zoo it was AUS$40 per person, I visited here on my first trip to Sydney when we were delayed and we spent a few hours here and really enjoyed it.

Food & Beverage

Bondi Icebergs Club

When visiting Bondi then a trip to Bondi Icebergs Club is a must, on weekends it is absolutely heaving as it offers great value casual bistro dining with excellent views over Bondi Beach. If you don’t fancy eating here then you can just go in for a drink as there are 2 bars inside.

As well as having a restaurant and bar you can pay to access the famous Ocean Pools which were the Bondi Baths, and have been there for over a 100 years in your ticket price you also get access to the sauna. When I visited Icebergs I went there for lunch and got a lovely salad, the portions are big here I ordered a side of chips with my salad that I really didn’t need.

City Extra

City Extra boasts an amazing location in Circular Quay with great views overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge with both outside and indoor seating areas. It’s a great spot with incredible views and also good for people watching. The food is modern and delicious and not only is it a great place for dinner but also a great for breakfast too. The food is also reasonably priced considering it’s location. Its also open 24 hours a day so even if your jet lagged and can’t sleep this is a great find to come and grab some food or drink.

Coogee Bay Hotel

Coogee Bay Hotel is a little gem right on the beachfront of Coogee it has a really friendly and casual atmosphere. It’s great to come here for drinks or dinner. We came and had a few drinks at their beach bar and also ordered some food from their menu which serves up comfort food that is affordable. After dinner my husband, brother in law and some of their friends and crew sat outside enjoying some drinks, we really loved the mood here and the view of the beach.

Doyle’s

Doyle’s is situated in Watson’s Bay and was set up and is still run by the Doyle family since 1885. They serve up a selection of seafood dishes and delicacies. They have their restaurant which is Doyle’s on the Beach which is more up market sit down restaurant, or if that is a bit out of your price range, go to Doyle’s on the Wharf takeaway which is just opposite the restaurant, and also has some seating but is more laid back and affordable, we ordered some fish and chips and it was delicious and great value.

However if your a big fan of seafood and want something special I would suggest reserving a table at Doyle’s on the Beach, try to book in advance as it gets extremely busy. Doyle’s is associated with Watson’s Bay and is well know by many locals and tourists.

Fish Shack

Fish Shack Is situated in Manly directly opposite the beach and serves up fish and chips either as a takeaway option or you can sit in. They also sell drinks here too so if you fancy a cold beer that’s close to the beach then this place is for you.

Gloria Jeans

I am obsessed with Gloria Jeans! They are a coffee shop chain situated all over Sydney and the rest of Australia, they are kind of similar to Starbucks. I always love their cold iced drinks which change seasonally, Gloria Jeans offer up great pick me up drinks and snacks which are great for on the go.

Kazbah

Kazbah overlooks Darling Harbour and specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine such as grills, meze, sharing platters and tagines etc. It’s interior is sleek and stylish and has touches of Moroccan flare.

North Bondi Fish

North Bondi Fish is my favourite bar in Sydney and sits overlooking Bondi Beach. It is a bar but serves up fresh and delicious food, and amazing cocktails and on a weekend there is a DJ. North Bondi Fish just oozes cool and is full of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. Their cocktails and sharing jugs are so tasty and easy to drink I usually always loose track of time in there.

Olivo

Olivo is set overlooking Darling Harbour and when your jet lagged and craving a decent breakfast this is my go to place. Their breakfast is fresh and tasty and affordable and always hits the spot. It is an Italian restaurant and has a great menu on offer for lunch and dinner too.

Opera Bar

As you may have guessed Opera Bar is situated just by the Opera House. Opera Bar is always busy with both tourists and locals, it has amazing views overlooking the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Opera Bar on a hot sunny day is the place to be in Sydney, and I always like to come here for a glass of prossecco. Sunset at Opera Bar is always pretty magical and I can’t recommend this bar enough.

Ribs & Burgers

Located in the heart of the Rocks is Ribs and Burgers and you guessed it, it just sells ribs and burgers but done really well. It’s a casual restaurant you order at the till and orders are cooked up fresh. Staff here are really friendly and welcoming and the outside seating area is perfect on a warm day. They also offer take out and delivery too.

The Glenmore

The Glenmore is a heritage listed building and has been in The Rocks since 1912. It is a popular watering hole and had a large refurb a few years back. The rooftop bar is great and has amazing views across the harbour. The Glenmore is also a great spot for a casual lunch on the rooftop.

Tropicana Cafe

We went to the Tropicana Cafe in Coogee before walking along the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. I’m not normally a huge fan of breakfast but the breakfast at the Tropicana Cafe was one of the best I’ve ever had, I had the chicken breakfast wrap and it was absolutely delicious. I would recommend starting your day off here before heading off on the coastal walk if your starting from Coogee.

Transport & Getting Around

Sydney is really easy to get around once you get used to it. Sydney has lots of public transport available from buses, trains and ferries. I always tend to try and get ferries when visiting the various beaches and bays in Sydney, as I find it easy to leave from Circular Quay.

The Opal Card is widely available throughout Sydney and can be purchased and topped up in many newsagents around the city. The Opal Card is capped at AUS$15.80 per adult for a day of travel on all public transport.

I would suggest before travelling to Sydney or venturing out for the day to plan your public transport, as there are quite a lot of options, it can be quite daunting for someone who isn’t familiar with the city, and Sydney is quite spread out. You can plan all your travel plans online at Transport New South Wales.

Top Tips

Sydney is a great city and iconic all around the world. It’s best in the Australian spring and summer, I have spent time in Sydney when the weather wasn’t great and I have to admit it does loose some of its charm when the weather isn’t great.

This city has lots to offer, but it’s also one of the cities you don’t have to spend weeks getting to see everything. You could easily spend a day or 2 exploring the city and a bit more time if you want to spend time on Sydney’s many beaches and coves.

Sydney is quite expensive so be prepared this is not a cheap city. However a lot of the main sites and attractions are free, such as the Opera House. I would recommend sitting at Opera Bar at the Opera House and treating yourself to your favourite tipple and enjoying the view of this iconic building on a sunny day.

I would also recommend if you are strapped for time in the city but would like to see some of the beaches and coves then try and squeeze in the Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk, it takes about 3 hours but you will take in so many beaches and coves along the way and can see two of Sydney’s famous beaches, which is great if you don’t have much time and gives you a taste of the beach life in Sydney.

One last tip would be if your flying into Sydney, then prior to landing make sure to look out the window of the plane, as you get the most spectacular views of the Blue Mountains and the coastline of Sydney.

Important Information

 

 

Aitutaki Travel Guide

I have been wanting to travel to Aitutaki for a long time, so when my husband and I decided to travel to New Zealand, I knew we had to tag The Cook Islands onto our trip, as it’s pretty straight forward to reach The Cooks from Auckland, and to take an internal flight to Aitutaki from Rarotonga.

Aitutaki is probably one of the most instagrammed islands in The Cooks, just looking at the photos of Aitutaki makes you feel complete wanderlust!

Aitutaki is the second most visited island after Rarotonga. Many visitors to Aitutaki tend to just travel there for the day with Air Rarotonga, which is great if your really strapped for time, however I think if your paying that much to travel there for a day, why not spend a few more days in paradise?!

The island of Aitutaki has a different vibe to that of Rarotonga. I found the locals on Rarotonga to be a lot more friendly and up beat. However Aitutaki is stunning like no other place in the world I have been to before. The lagoon is just picture perfect and the coral and marine life is fantastic.

I think Aitutaki is not to be missed when visiting The Cooks, as much as Aitutaki is very quiet, and may not have a lot going on, there is more to do than you might think, with scooters readily available to wizz around the island, a peak with gorgeous views and unlimited amount of snorkelling to be done in the lagoon, you definitely won’t be bored on this gorgeous island.

I fell in love with Aitutaki and it’s beautiful lagoon and marine life. In this blog I will be writing about my recommendations, tips and about places that I have visited.

Sights & Activities

Aitutaki Lagoon

The biggest draw in Aitutaki, has to be its lagoon. With crystal clear aqua water and white sand beaches, and lots of small isolated motus dotted around the lagoon, it really is a slice of heaven. This for me was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Aitutaki. I had seen photos of the lagoon and thought it just looked like paradise. The programme shipwrecked was also filmed on some of the small islands in the lagoon.

The lagoon is a must when travelling to The Cook Islands! Air Rarotonga do offer a day tour to Aitutaki however it is very pricey, and personally I think if your going to fly there, why not spend a few nights and get around Aitutaki, and spend longer on the smaller islands in the lagoon.

Aitutaki Marine Research Centre

The Marine Research Centre is well worth a visit, it’s free to enter however you can make a donation if you wish to. It’s not particularly large, and you will likely spend around 15 minutes or so there. It has several large tanks where they breed giant clams which are placed into the ocean when they reach a certain size.

There was a large decline in giant clams so The Cook Island government set up a marine centre to breed clams to get the numbers back up, and to reestablish the clams back into the lagoon, as octopuses can eat them when they are still quite small. There are also some large coconut crabs to see as well.

The Marine Research Centre is on the north of the island, not to far from the airport. If you have a scooter definetly wizz round to have a look, as the clams are the most beautiful and bright colours.

Arutanga

Arutanga is Aitutakis only town, but really it is more like a village with a church, a few places to eat, and a supermarket. There is not a lot to do in Arutanga. It’s worth having a look though if you have a scooter as it’s nice to drive around the whole island.

There is also the local market, but when my husband and I drove there the only thing that was left to buy was a few coconuts, and that was at about 10am! There is also The Cook Islands Christian Church located here which is the oldest church in The Cooks, it was built in 1828. If you have time try and attend a Sunday service.

Honeymoon & Maina Islands

Honeymoon and Maina are 2 small motu islands in the lagoon, which are very close together you can swim between them as they aren’t far apart from one another. We did a lagoon cruise and stopped here for lunch. You can also get dropped off here for the day by a water taxi, and have both to yourself for most of the day. They are both stunning, neither of them have anything on the islands apart from palm trees, so take plenty of supplies such as water and sun tan lotion if you are getting dropped off for the day.

Kia-Orana Cruises

Kia-Orana Cruises was a great day out, Captain Fantastic as he likes to be called, is knowledgeable and takes you to the 7 wonders of the lagoon. The 7 wonders are 7 small motu islands which are dotted around the lagoon. This tour is really great as it’s a small group no more than 10 people at a time, unlike some of the larger tour companies like Teking and Vaka Cruise, which take approximately 40-50 people on their tours.

The cruise was reasonable for what you get included in the tour, it was NZ$125 per person when we went on the tour. Kia-Orana Cruises picks you up from your accommodation, and the tour consists of snorkelling, seeing 7 different islands and getting off to explore them and being told about the islands folklore’s and myths. They also provide a lovely fresh local lunch cooked for you on Maina Island.

I highly recommend this tour as you can take in so much of the lagoon all in one day. With enough time for snorkelling around One Foot Island too. They are also one of the only tour companies to operate on a Sunday.

Maungapu

Maungapu is Aitutakis highest peak which is 124meters, up at the top you get the most amazing view of the island and the surrounding lagoon and atolls. If you do have a scooter you can drive up most of the way then walk the remaining bit up for about 5 minutes, which is quite steep and challenging especially on a hot day. Make sure you wear trainers rather than flip-flops, as there is some loose gravel towards the summit which can be quite slippy.

One Foot Island

One Foot Island was one of my personal highlights of our trip to The Cook Islands. We visited One Foot Island on the Kia-Orana Cruise, however I decided I wanted to go back the following day, and was dropped off there by water taxi which cost NZ$60 per person. We had the whole of One Foot Island to ourselves until about midday when some larger tours come and had lunch there, but as soon as they were finished with their lunch they left and we had the island back to ourselves again.

There isn’t anything on One Foot Island other than a small wooden shack and small post office which opens when the large tours come on, there you can have your passport stamped and also send postcards to back home and purchase some drinks, but this is only while the tours are there.

The snorkelling is great and you see lots of giant trevellys, corals and some giant clams which have been put back into the ocean, there is a boy floating above them so you can snorkel over to have a look. It’s also really lovely to walk around One Foot Island as you get some amazing views out towards the edge of the lagoon. It really makes you feel like your at the edge of the world on One Foot Island, as you can see the waves crashing against the corals edge at the end of the lagoon, and then the Pacific Ocean for miles and miles. You can walk around the whole island in about 10-15 minutes and it is really worth it for the views.

Food & Beverage

Boatshed Bar & Grill

The Boatshed Bar and Grill is a lovely laid back restaurant and bar. It’s full of maritime memorabilia, and the food and drink is quite reasonably priced. I recommend the fish and chips it’s very fresh and the portions are large, I was stuffed afterwards. The menu has lots of choice and caters for vegetarians too. If you go on a nice day try and sit out on the front deck for views over the ocean. Unfortunately when we went it was pouring with rain so we sat inside.

Cafe Tupuna

Cafe Tupuna was one of my favourite restaurants in Aitutaki, it is the only independently owned restaurant on the island, and is in a rural setting behind the hills of Arutanga, make sure to take insect repellent as I got bitten quite a lot here, as it’s set outside undercover.

It can also be quite hard to find as it’s quite tucked away, take a phone with satnav or maps on if you can. Try and make a reservation prior to going as we went early and only just managed to get the last table!

The food served here is delicious and serves up fresh, authentic Polynesian food! It can be a little pricey, however it is definetly worth it as a treat. They also have a great selection of wine too.

Koru Cafe

Koru Cafe is great for sandwiches, salads and all day breakfasts. We went for breakfast when we arrived on Aitutaki, and the service was great and friendly and the food was reasonably priced too. Koru Cafe also offer take away meals, picnics and bbq packs which is great if your going to get dropped off at one of the motus for the day, or to just have on the beach, as there is not many restaurants readily available on the beach and islands around the lagoon.

Puffys Beach Bar & Grill

Puffys wasn’t the best place we ate at, however as there isn’t a huge amount of options near by or on the island, we decided to walk down one evening as it’s only a few minutes away from where we stayed at. Puffys is more like a take away than a proper restaurant it has some tables and chairs to sit at, but you order your food from the front.

I decided to have fish and chips and my husband had chicken and chips. They were both ok, but nothing particularly special and we found it quite pricey for what it was. If your staying on Aitutaki for a while I would suggest going here for somewhere different, however if your not on Aitutaki for that long I wouldn’t really bother.

It is good for a drink if you wanted to go there in the evening as the alcohol is quite reasonably priced in comparison with the food. They do also host an island night once a week too.

Tamanu Beach Front

We went to Tamanus Island Night which they host every Thursday, it’s meant to be the biggest and best on Aitutaki, I only went to this island night so can’t compare it to any others. However the buffet was delicious and had a wide variety of dishes available with lots of traditional Cook Island food. The band was great and played lots of island music. The entertainment came after the dinner and had a lot of traditional dances and fire dancing, at the end they did ask for audience participation which was great fun.

The island Night can be quite expensive at NZ$70 per person plus drinks on top, however it is still much cheaper than the island nights that are held on Rarotonga. If you don’t fancy forking out for dinner you can just attend the entertainment after the dinner is served, and just purchase a drink and still get to watch the show.

Tauono’s Garden Cafe & Market Shop

We loved Tauono’s as it was so convenient, it was located a few minutes walk from where we stayed at Matriki Beach Huts. It could be accessed along the beach or by the front along the main road.

Sonja a Canadian-Austrian who runs it is a delight. Sonja makes the most delicious coconut cake which she makes with fresh coconuts. She also sells fresh organic fruit and vegetables from her own garden. This place was really handy to grab some fruit for our breakfast, and some lunch bits. She also makes fresh bread most days which is available to buy.

We didn’t eat in her cafe, but I’m sure the food is amazing as we bought some cakes and bread from her most days, and all were really tasty. If your self catering definitely pay Tauono’s a visit, as the stores around the island don’t really sell much fresh fruit, vegetables or other fresh produce.

Accommodation

Matriki Beach Huts

When we were on Aitutaki we stayed at Matriki Beach Huts. They were reasonably priced, and were not too big with only 2 beach huts and 1 double storey beach hut, and a garden unit.

They had a really good location set right on the beach. They were knocked up and kind of thrown together, however I think this added to the charm of the place. There were shared toilets, the huts themselves however were self contained with bed, small kitchenette and an outside contained shower and a deck area.

The deck was lovely to sit out on at night and listen to the sound of the ocean. There is also a bbq and social area and everyone that stayed at Matriki was really friendly.

There’s also a coconut cutting area and a pole to hook down the coconuts from the trees. This was good fun as the weather wasn’t great on one of the days we were there, and a couple we had made friends with and ourselves decided to get some coconuts down, and cut them open and have drink.

Matriki also offer bikes and scooters available to hire as well as offering lagoon tours, and water taxis. However I would recommend pre-booking a lagoon tour, when I made the booking a few months before our arrival, I asked if I could book a tour and they advised me they would arrange it on my arrival, but when I arrived they said they would let me know as soon as possible. Then 2 days past with glorious sunny weather, then the weather took a turn for the worse, and they said they could not take the boat out, which is fine I understand that bad weather can be dangerous, but I started to worry thinking we wouldn’t make it out to the lagoon, which was the whole reason why we traveled to Aitutaki.

We amended our flights back to Rarotonga to later ones so we could give ourselves some more time to get out onto the lagoon, and we ended up booking Kia-Orana Cruises in the end, which I wish we had just done in the first place, rather than waiting for Matriki to decide on a day to take us. Other than the tour mess up, Matriki did make it up to us and took us out on our last day to One Foot Island and dropped us off there for the day.

I would recommend Matriki as a place to stay as the beach huts are cute and quirky, I would recommend also using Matriki for water taxis, but would advise pre-booking a lagoon tour with Kia-Orana Cruises or another lagoon tour operator as their boats are better equipped incase of bad weather.

Transport & Getting Around

Airport Transfers

Most accommodation providers will organise or provide airport transfers for NZ$20 per person each way. Prior to arriving try and organise airport transfers as the airport is very small, and there isn’t much at the airport. If your accommodation provider doesn’t provide airport transfers book in advance with Island Tours.

Buses

Aitutaki has no public bus services.

Scooters & Bikes

Scooters and bikes are readily available to hire all around the island, however with scooters you need a valid motorcycle licence, alternatively you can obtain a licence for a fee and a practical exam from the police station in Rarotonga. Aitutaki is a lot more relaxed than Rarotonga and don’t ask for a motorcycle license to hire the scooters. Some accommodation providers hire out scooters and bicycles which is the best way to get around the island. The roads are very quiet and the speed limit is low.

Taxis

Aitutaki has no taxi services, however car hire is available from Popoara Rentals, Ranginuis Retreat and Rinos Beach Bungalows and rentals.

Top Tips

My top tips for The Cook Islands would be take lots of bug repellent my husband and I got eaten alive while we were there. If you have snorkels and masks take them with you, as there are lots of great snorkelling spots within just a few meters swim out from the beach. My husband and I have invested in some full face snorkel masks which are great and don’t steam up, and best of all not having to breathe through a snorkel.

Another tip would be to explore the island of Aitutaki by hiring a bike or scooter, and spending a morning driving around the island, also one evening at dusk head to some of the mangroves around the island, and see if you can spot the crabs coming out of the ground from their dens.

While on the island try and spend as much time as you can out on the lagoon, and on the beach as it’s truly stunning. I noticed most tourists that were staying in the larger resorts would be sat by the pool rather than on the beach. Which was great for us, as most days we had the beach to ourselves, but also made me think The Cook Islands is a long way to travel to, to then sit by a pool and not admire the beautiful beaches.

Important Information

 

Rarotonga Travel Guide

Rarotonga will always be your first stop in the Cook Islands, as this is the largest and most visited island in the Cooks. This is down to it being home to the Cook Islands capital Avarua, and the international airport which has direct flights from Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles.

When we went to Rarotonga we flew direct from Auckland with Virgin Australia, and decided to spend 3 nights there before flying over to Aitutaki, and then on the return spent 1 more night on Rarotonga.

We fell in love with Rarotonga as there is lots to do, and its also a great place to relax. The locals are some of the warmest and friendliest people we have ever met. As the island is so small everyone knows everyone, and locals will wave hello to you as they pass, and even stop and offer you lifts if they see you walking along the roadside. There is also nightlife on the island if you want it, with party buses, organised bar crawls and island Nights.

Rarotonga really does have it all from paradise beaches, snorkelling and water sports, jungle treks, island nights, bars, shops and lots more on offer. Even though Rarotonga has lots going on on the island, it is by no means touristy and busy like other places around the world. It still has a very laid back Island feel to it.

As soon as you step off the plane and into the airport you get a warm welcome from a man playing the ukulele at the baggage belt, and being met with a flower lei as you walk through arrivals this is just the start of the warmth you will receive from the locals.

Kia Orana is the saying around the Cook Islands, and you will be greeted with this everywhere you go, Kia Orana means may we lead long and fulfilling lives. While in the Cook Islands try and greet the locals back with it as soon as you arrive, by the end of your trip you definitely will be as you won’t be able to help but say it after a day or 2.

Rarotonga really is an amazing place to stay and visit. In this destination guide I will be recommending places that I myself have visited and tried out, so I hope you find the below helpful.

Sights & Activities

Ariki Adventures Night Paddle Tour

Ariki Adventures is a tour operator that offer a wide range of water sports and tours. We booked onto the night time paddle board tour, which was a highlight in our trip. My husband and myself had been wanting to try paddle boarding for a while, and decided to book onto the night tour. The tour is a great for all levels of paddle boarders, they give you a quick lesson on the beach before heading out on the lagoon at sunset, the views over the lagoon are stunning at sunset. The tour also bring along their mascot dog Tama who loves to be on the paddle board and joins the tour most nights.

The paddle boards all have neon lights attached to the bottom which light up the water beneath, and with a selection of neon colours to choose from of course I decided to choose the flashing disco lights. When the sun had set we all turned off our lights on the boards and huddled near each other and laid on our boards to look at the stars, a real amazing experience I can’t recommend this enough.

Ariki Adventures offer rentals for bikes, kayaks, paddle boards etc. They also offer sea scooter tours which look amazing! We were booked onto a tour but unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse so it wasn’t safe to go out on that day so we didn’t get chance to experience it, which was a shame as it looks amazing so if you can, try and book on the tours straight away on a clear sunny day.

Avarua

Avarua is a town and district on the north of Rarotonga, and it is the Cook Islands capital. It not like any capital I have ever been to in the world, it is more or less a street with some shops, bars, restaurants and some banks.

There isn’t a great amount to do here, however there are several sights and historic buildings such as the Cook Islands Christian church which is a white washed church that was build in 1853. They hold a service at 10am every Sunday which all are welcome to attend, Cook Island church services are well known for their lively singing. Unfortunately we had a tour booked on a Sunday while in the cooks so didn’t get chance to experience a cook church service, but everyone says how energetic and welcoming they are are, if you get a chance definitely try and make a church service anywhere in the Cook Islands.

There is also the Para O Tane Palace which is where the treaty accepting the Cook Islands status as a British protectorate in 1888 was signed. Just behind the palace is the Cook Islands Museum and library which has a variety of Pacific literature and some small exhibits.

Black Rock

Black Rock is situated on the northwest of the island, and is a great natural sight to visit. It also hosts one of the best snorkelling spots on the island. Traditionally it is believed that spirits of the dead travel from Black Rock to the afterworld.

Koka Lagoon Cruise

There are several lagoon cruises available, after researching we decided to go with Koka Lagoon Cruises they were the same price as other operators but a percentage of all bookings made is put towards marine conservation.

The tour leaves Muri Beach on a glass bottom boat and consists of snorkelling, and a small cruise around the lagoon with lots of singing and music from the guys running it. You definitely feel like your in the South Pacific on this tour with their traditional island sounds and music, after snorkelling they provide a traditional Cook Islands lunch and BBQ on the small motu island of Koromiri which you can also swim/walk over to from Muri Beach.

After lunch they play lots of games and love to have lots of audience participation it’s abit tacky and tourist but it was so much fun, and everyone had a real laugh. My husband was even dragged up to attempt to climb up a coconut tree. The tour lasts approximately 4 hours and finished off with hermit crab racing. Koka lagoon cruises is great to do on your first day in the Cooks to get you into the island spirit.

Muri Beach

Muri Beach is one of the most stunning places on Rarotonga with its white sand beach, and views over the aqua blue lagoon and the 4 motu Islands that surround it. The water around Muri Beach is really clear and great for snorkelling with lots of bright colourful fish. There are also tons of water sports available on Muri.

Even though Muri is one of the most popular places to visit it is still relatively peaceful and not to busy, and you can enjoy lots of peace and quiet. When staying on Rarotonga try and base yourself in or around Muri, as there are some great places to stay as well as some restaurants and Muri night Market which offers a selection of tasty food.

Food & Beverage

Ariki’s Shack

Ariki’s shack is also owned by the same owner who runs Ariki Adventures and Ariki Bungalows. Ariki’s shack is a great little place set along Muris main road and serves up a selection of coffee and drinks. When we went they had just started to serve bagels and jams which were perfect for breakfast, we walked down there most mornings to grab a bagel and a drink. Ariki’s shack also serves as a booking office for Ariki Adventures, and you can hire a selection of equipment here such as bikes and boards etc.

La Casita

La Casita is set along the main drag in Muri, and although this place is tex-mex they offer a bit of island flare by serving up local fresh fish in their dishes and island brewed beers. They also offer some Italian dishes such as pasta and pizza. La Casita is a great place to go for comfort food if you have had a busy day out on the lagoon.

Mooring

Mooring is a converted blue shipping container which serves up a selection of sandwich’s and smoothies. They use fresh local fish in their sandwiches although other fillings are available such as chicken, salad etc. We decided to go for the tuna options they were delicious and fresh!

Mooring is situated on the main road just before you come into Muri and is easy to walk up to from Muri. The alfresco dining option is a great place to sit for lunch with gorgeous views over the lagoon. Mooring isn’t open for dinner so make sure you try and make it there for a lunch.

Muri Night Market

Muri Night Market is a must when staying on Rarotonga. The market is only on Tuesday – Thursday nights and Sunday night. There’s lots of choice with lots of local dishes. The portions are huge to so make sure you go hungry, there’s some great stalls to choose from with fresh fish curries, Asian Pacific dishes, meat skewers, papaya salads, and some great slabs of deserts and cakes.

Occasionally there is also live music to playing. We loved the market so much we went a few times as the food is great, and it’s really reasonably priced too, and we tasted the best ever brownie we had there as well. Muri Night Market is a must to your Rarotonga itinerary.

Accommodation

Ariki Bungalows

We stayed at Ariki Bungalows as it was a great location just set back from Muri Beach. The accommodation was clean, comfortable and the hosts Jules and Kave were warm and welcoming. Ariki only has 3 rooms available, and a great social area/bar where guests can use the BBQ facilities, and socialise with drinks. Ariki Bungalows is also owned by the same owners Jules and Kave who run the Ariki’s Shack and Ariki Adventures.

When staying at the Bungalows you received 10% discount off tours with Ariki Adventures. The Bungalows are decorated in traditional island decor, and all have ensuites with small kitchenette and fridge. We really enjoyed staying here and was a few minutes walk down to the beach and the main road which runs through Muri is just down the driveway. Ariki Bungalows is also reasonably priced and was affordable. If your on a budget definitely check Ariki Bungalows out as you get a lot for you money here.

Transport & Getting Around

Airport Transfers

Most accommodation providers will organise or provide airport transfers for NZ$20 per person each way. If you do not organise transfers there’s several desks as you come through arrivals which offer transfer services. There is also a bus stop next to the airport however you may have to wait for the bus as the buses run clockwise and anti-clockwise around the island.

Buses

Rarotonga buses are a great way to get around the island as you can just wave them down at the side of the road. The buses run clock wise and anti clockwise. However you could wait a little while for them. We decided to go around the island while we were there and bought an all day unlimited pass and hardly used it, as we started walking between the stops instead of waiting, and as locals saw us walking would stop and offer us a lift.

Scooters & Bikes

Scooters and bikes are readily available to hire all around the island, however with scooters you need a valid motorcycle licence, alternatively you can obtain a licence for a fee and a practical exam from the police station.

Taxis

Taxis are available around the island for around about NZ$3 per kilometre. Look out for the bright green cars and vans also known as the Cook Island taxi association. While we were on Rarotonga we didn’t use any taxis as found we could walk to most places whiles in Muri and only went out of Muri during one day which is when we used the bus and lifts from locals.

Top Tips

My top tips for the Cook Islands would be take lots of bug repellent my husband and I got eaten alive while we were. If you have snorkels and masks take them with you as lots of great snorkelling spots. My husband and I have invested in some full face snorkel masks which are great and don’t steam up, and best of all not having to breathe through a snorkel.

In the Cook Islands and around the Pacific tattoos are extremely popular and part of their history and culture. While we were in the Cook Islands I decided to get a more permanent keepsake, I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate our trip.

On the island there is a tattooist Croc Tatau, I really wanted to go to him for a tattoo but he only offers traditional Polynesian tattoos, and I wanted a Flower or palm tree. Just down the road from Ariki Bungalows is a tattoo shop called Images of the Soul so I booked in there and got a small palm tree on the inside of my ankle. If you are also looking to get any ink while in the cooks I can highly recommend Images of the Soul tattoo shop.

In the Cook Islands internet WiFi is not readily available everywhere. The Cook Islands is so remote that they offer data packages, but it has to be bought at either the airport or one of the Bluesky sales offices. Bluesky is the main internet provider to the Cook Islands and has hotspots around the island where you can access the internet. Either go without WiFi for the duration of your trip, or purchase some data before you leave the airport.

Important Information