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Located at the southwest tip of Rarotonga Island, Aroa Beach is widely considered as one of the best snorkeling spots in the Cook Islands. Located in a shallow lagoon and protected from the surf, Aroa Marine Reserve is home to an incredible variety of reef fish. Access to the spot is free, all the more reason to go there if you visit “Raro”.
The Aroa Marine Reserve is located in the lagoon that faces Aroa Beach, at the southwestern tip of Rarotonga. Aroa Beach is free to access, like all the Cook Islands beaches. If you are staying at The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Lagoonarium, the spot is just a few steps from your room.
You can enter from anywhere on Aroa Beach.
It is a safe spot to snorkel as the marine reserve is within a fringing coral reef border that protects you from any large marine life (so there are no sharks), and also there is no surf – it is a lagoon. The snorkeling spot covers a large area, so some people may like to wear a life jacket while snorkeling. There is a current that runs close to the shore (to the left when you are facing the ocean). Depth does not exceed 6ft/2m in the lagoon, making it a perfect spot to enjoy the sea life from the surface.
Near the beach, the seabed is mostly sandy, but you can see many fish (especially bluefin trevally and blue sea chub), which seem to be sometimes fed by swimmers. To reach the coral areas, move away from the beach. The first coral gardens start about 100m from the shore. To explore them, you can follow the directions of the resort, which suggests several itineraries in the lagoon (see map).
The corals are unfortunately in quite bad condition in the lagoon, but here and there some hard coral colonies are still preserved. Giant clams, sea urchins and blue starfish live on the rocks. By swimming over the reef, you will see dozens of species of colored fish, in particular wrasse, butterflyfish, Moorish idols and parrotfish. On the sand, you will have a good chance to encounter a peacock flounder, rather common on this spot (often well camouflaged on the sand).
The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Lagoonarium is located on the beach, opposite the spot. The Kaena Restaurant, which offers burgers and drinks, is across the road (near the public beach access).
Learn more 👇 about the creatures living in Aroa Beach with Ambrose!
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
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