Muri Lagoon Villas review: Idyllic tropical getaway in the Cook Islands

Our rating

4 out of 5

THE PLACE

For the uninitiated the island of Rarotonga has it all for anyone wishing for an idyllic tropical getaway from start to finish. A ukulele player sings visitors through the arrivals hall to the island that at just 32 kilometres around has good food, coffee and beer a short walk or drive away, white sand beaches are lined with coconut trees. The laid-back vibe is part of day-to-day life on the island of about 12,500 locals.

THE LOCATION

Set at the quiet end of Muri Beach on the eastern side of the island, the two-bedroom villa is down a residential driveway and has exclusive lagoon frontage including the requisite coconut palm. Peak hour traffic consists of people strolling on the sand, especially at sunset and the odd flutter of tulle as brides pose for a photograph at this immensely popular spot for weddings for out-of-towners. This is a much-loved place for owner Shona Lynch; from the 1978 until 1988 Shona's mother, with her three children travelled to remote islands of the Cooks working as a teacher to buy building materials for the original house in the prized location. The villa is one of four properties that Shona runs with husband Paul, and daughter Manine who also represents the Cook Islands in weightlifting.

THE ROOM

Inside is a simple but well equipped space with dining area and couches is ideal for a family of four. However it's outside where we spend our time on the elevated and spacious deck that overlooks the lagoon, snoozing on the sun loungers or playing cards on the couch. When it's time for a dip or stand-up paddle board in the lagoon all we need do is don the sea booties to avoid coral cuts and step from the grassy front area into the water. It's a newish build and the louvred windows allow for the sea breeze at night. Beds are firm and comfortable in the two bedrooms. The shower and toilet are contained in the one bathroom which is perfectly adequate but something to keep in mind if you have teenagers who need privacy. An outside shower, plentiful towels, undercover clothesline and washing machine make it ideal for an extended stay.

THE FOOD

There is a kitchen in the villa but for those who would rather stick their head in an oven than cook while travelling reasonably priced dining options in the Muri Beach area are plentiful and a 10-minute walk from the villa. They include the Muri Night Markets on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30pm serving ginger pork belly and wood fired pizzas and burgers at Vilis including The Gout (double beef, cheese and bacon with tomato mayonnaise sauce) and The Cannibal (double beef, bacon, cheese and secret sauce). A recommended coffee fix can be found at The Beluga Cafe on Main Road in the Arorangi district on the island's west and a short drive from Muri Beach.

STEPPING OUT

The departure point for snorkelling cruises (kokalagooncruises.com) and buggy riding (rarobuggytours.com) are a short beach walk from the villa. The Te Vara Nui over-water cultural show and dinner including local fare make for an enlightening and tasty evening (tevaranui.co.ck)

THE VERDICT

A breezy and quiet holiday home that's still close to the action. For further privacy a pool and a larger group, the just opened Turangi Lagoon Villas can house up to eight people each in one of the two new accommodations.

HIGHLIGHT

Watching the moon rise over the lagoon while sipping a gin and tonic

LOWLIGHT

Sharing a bathroom with a teen and pre-teen requires precision timing.

ESSENTIALS

Muri Lagoon Villa from $650 a night for up to four people Tuoro Villas from $550 a night for up to eight peopleTurangi lagoon villa from $750 a night for up to eight people

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Blue lagoon one-bedroom villa from $210 a night for up to three peopleBlue Lagoon five-bedroom villa $650 a night for up to 10 people (opening March 2019).

See www.cookislandsholidayvillas.com

Jane Reddy travelled as a guest of Cook Islands Tourism and Jetstar.