Rarotonga is home to some of the most captivating and beautiful creatures on the planet – sea turtles!
When I went to Rarotonga, one of the main things that I really wanted to do was swim with turtles and now that I’ve done it, I’d love to share the experience with you.
I ended up booking this Cook Islands Turtle Tour as it was super highly rated and reasonably priced.
I ended up having the best time and it was really the highlight of my trip. I saw around 15 turtles as well as tons of other interesting marine life.
In the rest of this post, I’ll go into more detail on my experience and I’ll cover all of the exact locations where you can find turtles for yourself on Rarotonga.
Can You See Turtles in Rarotonga?
Rarotonga is one of the best places to see turtles in the world as the sea turtle population is flourishing.
The sheltered reef which surrounds the island makes it a great place to go snorkeling and after snorkeling here for myself, I can agree that it’s truly the best place I’ve ever snorkeled.
This reef, which features crystal clear waters, is home to a variety of marine life including turtles, eels and rays.
There are two main types of turtles commonly found in the Cook Islands. These are the Green Turtles and the Hawksbill Turtles. Both of these species are endangered.
Best Turtle Tours in Rarotonga
I’d strongly recommend booking a turtle tour if you want to snorkel with turtles in Rarotonga.
This is important because the turtles tend to hang out within the lagoon which surrounds the island.
Conditions can change quickly in the lagoon and could become dangerous so it’s important you only head out there with trained staff who know what to do in these situations.
I’ve done all the hard work for you and listed my favorite swim with turtles tours in Rarotonga with a range of options for every type of traveler.
- Snorkel With Turtles Tour (most recommended)
This is the tour that I personally did and I really enjoyed it. I saw a ton of turtles and I felt that the guides were super knowledgable, really engaging and kept an eye on us.
The tour includes a swim with turtles experience, on-site lifeguards and photos of you with the turtles.
- Turtle Sea Scooter Safari (for something a bit different)
This tour was my second choice as I rode a sea scooter in Mexico a few years ago and loved it! They’re are super fun and easy way to explore the underwater world.
This tour includes the use of a sea scooter which allows you to whizz through the water much faster than by swimming.
- Private Snorkel With Turtles Tour (just for you and your party)
This private turtle tour in Rarotonga includes a 3 hour guided snorkel with turtles experience just for you and your party. It also includes photos of you with the turtles and refreshments.
All of these tours are delivered by reputable companies with fully trained staff. I did a lot of research into the various tours before coming and all of these were super highly rated.
I’d also recommend booking online in advance as the tours often sell out and you also tend to get a better rate online.
I definitely saved a ton of money by booking my turtle tour online as I only paid $50. I had people trying to sell me $100+ tours when I arrived on the island that were basically the same thing.
Check out what you can expect when swimming with turtles in Rarotonga in the video below:
Where To Swim With Turtles in Rarotonga
Rarotonga, which happens to be the largest of the Cook Islands, is one of the best places to see turtles out in the wild.
Below I’ve summarized the best spots and locations in Rarotonga where you can swim with turtles for yourself!
1. Aroa Beach
One of the best places to see turtles in Rarotonga is at Aroa Beach which is located on the south side of the island.
I was astonished when I first got to this beach as it is absolutely mesmerizing! It’s definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
This tropical white sandy beach is truly beautiful and the best bit is that there is a healthy coral reef making it ideal for snorkeling.
Aroa Beach is actually one of the best places for snorkeling in Rarotonga. You’ll be able to swim with a variety of marine life including turtles, giant clams, starfish and a range of colorful fish.
I spent about an hour snorkeling around here and I saw 5 turtles, a pink starfish and so many fishies. It was so beautiful!!
You’ll be able to swim with the turtles in their natural environment, watching them come up for air and gliding along in the water.
2. Koromiri Motu
Koromiri Motu is a small islet that lies just off the coast of Muri Beach in southwestern Rarotonga.
You can easily see this islet from the shores of Muri Beach and it is easily accessible by kayak or paddleboard.
The sheltered lagoon at Koromiri Motu is home to a variety of marine life. Swimming around the live coral, you’ll find tropical fish, turtles and more.
I actually hired a kayak and rowed myself over to the motu which was pretty fun.
Within minutes of arriving, I’d already spotted a few turtles and as time went on, more turtles showed up!
3. Tikioki Beach
Tikioki Beach is located on the southeastern corner of the island in Titikaveka.
I found that the best snorkeling spot on Tikioki Beach is the area directly in front of the Fruits of Rarotonga cafe (you can rent snorkeling gear from the cafe too).
I didn’t have to go far into the water here before I started seeing marine life. At waist deep, I was already able to spot butterflyfish, angelfish, zebrafish and more.
After swimming a little bit further out, I found several turtles, blue starfish, moray eels and more.
💡Tip: Bring a waterproof camera like the GoPro Hero 10 to get some photos and videos of you with the turtles.
4. Rutaki Passage
Another place where you can swim with turtles is in the Rutaki Passage which is located on the south side of the island.
Rutaki Passage is actually the deepest passage on Rarotonga and features narrow canyon walls.
This site is only suitable for divers and it’s not recommended that you go snorkeling in this passage.
If you do go diving here, you’ll likely see turtles, whitetip reef sharks, moray eels and eagle rays.
Large schools of fish can also frequently be found at the entrance of the passage.
I didn’t visit this one myself but it was recommended to me by a local on the island!
5. Black Rock Beach
Black Rock Beach is located on the northwestern point of the island near the airport.
This beach is characterized by colossal black volcanic rock formations that contrast with the turquoise ocean.
Black Rock Beach is very culturally significant to the people of Rarotonga. The locals believe that this is where spirits depart the island.
It’s also a great place for snorkeling.
Tips For Swimming With Turtles
First time swimming with turtles?
To ensure the turtles remain safe, there’s a few key things to bear in mind when swimming with them in Rarotonga.
Remember that all of the different turtle species are endangered so it’s important that we do all we can to help their chances.
- Don’t be too loud. Try to be as quiet as possible when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises will scare them away.
- Do not touch the turtle. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
- Do not get too close. This might scare the turtle and they could bite you if they get really scared (don’t worry this is super rare!).
- Do not feed the turtles. They don’t need help finding food.
- Always approach a turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead of them if they want to swim onwards.
- Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but try not to disturb them.
These key tips protect both you and the turtles.
Best Time Of Year To See Turtles
You can see turtles in Rarotonga year round.
There is a resident population of turtles that can commonly be spotted at several points across the island and for this reason you can see them at any time of year.
Early morning is the best time of day to spot turtles in Rarotonga.
You can see them at any time of day but early morning will give you the highest chance as they are most active at this time.
And that’s it! I hope I’ve inspired you to get out there and have your own turtle watching adventure.
Nothing beats seeing these glorious turtles in their natural habitat.
Rarotonga is actually one of the best places in the whole world to see turtles due to its largely untouched landscape and flourishing turtle population.
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