Shopping is relaxed in Rarotonga, with plenty of variety and great bargains to be had. The main marketplace is the waterfront market located at the western end of Avarua.
While you won't find antiques or haute couture clothing here, you will discover the lustrous and beautiful black pearls which the Cook Islands are renowned for, handicrafts of excellent quality, colourful clothing and more at very reasonable prices.
On Friday nights the market offers hot food, and on Saturday morning it hums as everyone on the island seems to be there! If the fishing has been good, the catch is displayed for sale on the same day it was caught.
Retail shopping hours are normally from 8am to 4pm during the week and from 8am to noon on Saturdays. Do remember that almost everything is closed on Sundays, which are regarded as days of religious observation.
The Cook Islands way of selling is relaxed and friendly and most of all helpful. In fact, the retailers in general are extremely obliging and are inclined to refer you to another shop if they think a certain item will better suit your needs.
You will rarely find here sellers who try to push their wares at you and bargaining is not an accepted custom in the Cook Islands.
The duty free traders are mainly centered in Avarua and also at the airport. These duty-free shops offer an array of competitively priced goods ranging from cameras, watches and stereos to fine china and famous brand perfumes.
There are also a number of smaller island-style general stores where you can purchase some of the tropical jams and preserves which, apart from being delicious, also make inexpensive gift items.
Other specialty stores in Rarotonga include fashions, gifts, stationery, chemists, camera shops, arts and crafts and of course exquisite pearl shops. Mother of pearl and other highly polished shells make distinctive pieces which are often admired. Black and red coral also make most unusual forms of jewellery.
Rarotonga is blessed with many fragrant and exotic flowers and these are used in locally-produced perfumes, oils and soaps. The most fragrant scents are tipani (frangipani), tiare (gardenia), and pitate (jasmine).
The islanders handicrafts are highly prized. Wood carvings, fine grass skirts and baskets are all locally produced.