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 Rarotonga - Profile

Location

Rarotonga is the vibrant centre of the Cook Islands and is where government resides. Circular and only 32 km in circumference, it is dominated by high mountain peaks from which lush rain forests provide a dramatic backdrop to a palm-fringed shore.

The island is almost completely encircled by a reef, however there is no navigable lagoon, or free anchoring here.

Avatiu has the only harbour on the island and it has no facilities for visiting yachts. The harbour underwent a huge realignment and dredging project to straighten the east quay and dredge the basin to 10m in 2012. The end result is a better arrangement for yachts, however locals warn that the harbour is now even more exposed and open to the north winds and seas brought on by frontal passages, due to the additional dredging (luckily most of the weather comes from the ESE).

In strong northerlies this harbour does become untenable.

Position 21° 12.06' S, 159° 47.02' W (Avarua harbour entrance)

Clearance

See Cook Islands Formalities for complete clearance information.

On Arrival

It is important to call PORT CONTROL on Ch 16 upon arrival. Working channel is 12. It's unlikely you will get an answer before 9am.

The Port Operations manager will direct yachts where to moor.

Officials will visit the yacht, however they will all come at different times and some may not visit at all. It is important nobody goes ashore before clearance is complete so it can be frustrating waiting for officials to turn up.

Harbour dues must be paid in cash at the Harbour Office (Mon-Fri).

Immigration is at the other end of town by the Post Office, 3rd floor of the 3 story building.

Customs is above the book shop just before immigration. They accept credit cards.

It is possible to get clearance here to visit all the other Cook Islands.

Clearing Out

The departure fees are also paid to the Harbour Master's Office. These fees must be paid by 2:00 pm on a Friday if you plan to leave on the weekend. Then you must walk into town to the Immigration Office. Each person on board must fill out their own departure card. These cards, along with a crew list form, are submitted to Immigration and they will then stamp your passports.  The Customs office is close by and is the final stop. A flat fee for officers' time is paid to Customs

Last updated May 2018.

Docking

As an alternative to mooring in Avatiu Harbour, yachts can anchor in the open ocean roadstead off town.  However, with the Trade Winds blowing it can be rougher at anchor here than at sea. The holding is very poor; flat hard coral with a couple of inches of sand over it.

Mooring in Avatiu Harbour

The harbour redesign has meant that there is more draft (10m) and the harbour now even has port and starboard entry buoys.

Mooring is still at the Southern end of the main harbour with stern to anchoring (Med style using own anchors). There are large black tyres about every 2 metres along the wall.

There is now straight access to sea when moored, so less shelter than there was previously, particularly with a northerly swell. Surge can be a problem here. You will need a long bow line to shore to hold the boat in position. In strong northerly winds the harbour is untenable.

Be prepared to use the dinghy for getting ashore. There is a ladder on the quay around the corner from where yachts berth, difficult to get onto from a dinghy.

A height restriction of 27m is in place at the north end of the wharf as yacht masts obstruct aircraft taking off from the nearby airport.

Harbour dues are charged on a daily rate by the foot (see latest costs reported by cruisers at bottom of page under comments). Harbour facilities include a very basic washroom and shower for which a key deposit is required and a small charge.

Garbage is collected 3 days a week, there are no bins.

Whilst this report Tips for Mooring in Avatiu Harbour was written in 2010, much of the advice is still current.

Last updated May 2018.

Harbour Master
Ports Authority , PO Box 84, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Tel:+682 28814 Fax:+682 21191 ,VHF Channel 16
Opening hours: From 0900.
Contact this office on approach and for Cook Islands maritime queries. They also sell charts for the Cook Islands.
The office is between Avatiu Harbour and the road, conveniently across from the Coconut Bar. New Harbour Master 2013 Saungaki Rasmussen.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
May 25, 2018 09:14 AM

Reported by Hugh Pilsworth:
Rarotonga:
There is only one harbour on the island, Avatui. It has no facilities for yachts. On approach you call 16, harbourmaster. Don’t bother before 9am as there’s no one in the office.
You are required to use your own anchor and moor Med style to the quay wall. There are large black tyres about every 2 metres. To go ashore use your dinghy and go about 75 metres to a ladder around the corner, and it’s not that easy to get onto from a dinghy.
There is constant motion in the harbour from the prevailing SE trades, and you need a long bow line to shore to hold position when the bullets arrive. In northerly winds it is untenable.
There is a lot of dirt and dust blowing around and after 3 days the boat was filthy.
If you need any machine work done then Rarotonga Welding is excellent, and for second hand boat parts ask for Keith, about 1 kilometre from the harbour. Garbage is collected 3 days a week, there are no bins.
The island is well worth a visit, and you will get clearance to visit the other islands without all the paperwork. Saturday morning market is well worth a visit. BlueSky is the phone and internet provider, both in town and the market.
The burocracy is maddening. In theory all officials arrive close to each other. In fact the health check was at 08.30, the Customs in the afternoon and Bio Security never appeared. Harbour dues are $2.48 per foot per day, cash only in the harbour office, Customes worked out at $95 per person for a 3 day visit, they take cards in the office. Immigration is at the end of town with the Customs. Health check was $40. All in all, almost $550 for the visit.
Would I go back? Probably not.

13 Beaufort
13 Beaufort says:
Jun 25, 2015 11:42 PM

Departure tax is $66.30 p.p
Customs fees $ 57.20
Harbour dues $2.45 per meter (monohull) per day

Del Elson
Del Elson says:
Aug 03, 2014 05:30 AM

Do not buoy your anchor in Avatiu harbour. It's likely that the buoy will be in the way of shipping and you will probably be asked to remove it.

wildfox
wildfox says:
Aug 24, 2013 09:17 PM

All there mooring information is correct; surge is a major problem if there is any N in the wind. All officials now come to the harbor, not Trader Jacks. Do not go ashore until you have permission! The harbor master is a great guy, very helpful. Anthony sv Wild Fox

saungaki
saungaki says:
Aug 11, 2013 07:18 AM

Andre Tuiravakai is the ports operation manager

Departure tax is now 65 dollars

27 meters is the air restriction

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