Friday, July 5, 2013


There is no Wal-Mart or K-Mart or Stuff Mart in the Cook Islands.  There is no ABC Store or Hilo Hattie or Rite Aid.  There are no chain stores.  Period.  So if you are looking for 3/$10 t-shirts you have landed on the wrong spit of land.  There is, however, Punanga Nui Market in Avarua, Rarotonga.

While the Market is open seven days a week, Saturday is the most popular day. This is an event not to be missed because this is where you are going to get your week's worth of food for a whole lot cheaper than the grocery store.  We had already determined that groceries were expensive (see so we were looking at anything that would keep the prices down.

The market opens at 7 am and closes at midday.  We arrived around 8:30 and it was already busy.  The market may seem like a tourist trap, but in fact, when we asked the students at the school what they liked to do, they put the market at the top of their list.  The first thing we did was wander to get he lay of the land.  The second thing we did was order a smoothie.  The smells of the baked goods was so delicious, you needed something in your stomach just to keep going.

The market sells everything from watermelon to bananas to taro to the longest beans you've ever seen.  Fish hang from hooks on the ceiling of the fish shack.  There are lots of arts and crafts, some made locally, some shipped in.  We were strictly looking for those made by islanders (and sometimes it was hard to tell - local is not Bali to me).  If you are looking for the cheapest things, you are not going to find them.  The Cook Islands Number One source of income is Tourism.  They need to feed their families based on the money they bring home from the market.  If you know that going in, you won't be shocked and cranky.

The people are very friendly and will answer any of your silly questions (especially the pudding in a cup one).  When you go to order a Strawberry smoothie off the menu of "Strawberry Orange Apricot Banana Papaya Mango" smoothie, they do not laugh at you when they inform you that they are all mixed together with ALL the fruits (who knew?).  They talk to you about their crafts and how they are made.  They talk to you about the organization that the proceeds helps.  They just like to talk.  We didn't dicker much because we heard that wasn't the thing to do.  Although we did get a free necklace because the seller found out we had been to two of the schools.  And my daughter got a discount on her pate (pronounced par-tay) drum because a student was selling them.  Again, that school thing came back to help us out.

While we're at it, it did rain while we were there.  A teeny bit of drip and drizzle.  It didn't thwart any one's shopping experience.  Just be prepared that it could happen.  Then again, enough of this stuff and who cares?

When you need a break from shopping (or you need to digest some of the fantastic food), there is entertainment at the main stage.  This involved a lot of the traditional dancing, some pareu wrap training (and, yes you do need it - it's not as easy as it looks).

When you go to discard your trash, make sure you do so in the right container.  The island does not have room to have a landfill so they recycle everything.

  So whether your plane lands on Sunday or Tuesday, make sure you plan your stay to include at least one Saturday at the Punanga Nui Market.

To see more of our trip to the Cook Islands, visit our webpage full of images: