I did not actually rent a car in Rarotonga. I didn’t need to. I was only there for a few days and with regular bus service stopping right outside my resort, there wasn’t a need for it. But I was curious what options there were for people wanting to hire an MX-5 on their vacation to paradise, and sadly no information was readily available via the search engines.
What did I find out?
It is possible to rent a Mazda MX-5 on your visit to Rarotonga. You could also rent one on at least one of the other islands: Aitutaki which is a popular day trip destination.
My plan before coming to the Cook Islands was to lay on the beach and do absolutely nothing… which I attempted to do on the first day, but by the second day I was getting pretty restless. So I went ahead and ventured into town: Avarua. There are only two bus services on Rarotonga, one running Clockwise and another Anti-Clockwise. The Anti-Clockwise bus would get me to the town quicker but the Clockwise bus took the scenic route around the whole island. Before I could even reach Avarua I spied a nice red NC with a giant rear spoiler hidden in a garage near the Pacific Hotel. Not long after getting off the bus in town at Cooks Corner I spotted another NA this time Black with a Tan soft top. I kept seeing that car a few more times during my stay, but I was really after an NC model.
I figured the local Avis office would be a good place to start my search for a later model MX-5. And sure enough they had one… allegedly. But according to the sales person behind the counter that car was in the shop. She said she would try to get it out to the office the following day and I’d be able to rent it for $80 bux a day (that’s New Zealand dollars as the Cook Islands use kiwi currency). I knew not to get my hopes up the next day but figured I might as well check it out. And to no-one’s surprise the car wasn’t there. So thanks for nothing Avis.
I bought the all day pass for the bus on my last day on the island and used it quire frequently to check out various beaches and resorts for my future visit. And what do you know? I spotted a white NA at a Pacific Cars rental agency right on the main road near Muri Beach. The car looked to be in a pretty rough shape, but so did many other rentals on the roads. The most common car for hire was a Toyota Passo which was my favorite car in Southeast Asia, technically in it’s Perodua Myvi variation, as the Toyota Passo and it’s sister Dahaitsu Boon look very bland in stock form. But seeing the NA Roadster parked up at a rental car place gave me hope there would be more to find. So I went in asking about newer models. The person behind the counter said he didn’t have one but the Polynesian Car Hire next door may… he described the same green NC that Avis was telling me about which made me wonder if that car was privately owned and leased out to Avis, Polynesian and anyone else interested in it when they found a customer for it.
I took a look around Polynesian’s lot and saw a few mid-2000’s BMW Z3’s, a pretty Orange MG Roadster with a rear engine, and a few weird looking Daihatsu’s with a bubble top look to them. But no more MX-5’s. So I went ahead with my next trip to the beach at another resort. Along the way I spotted a nice Gold color NB driving by, and then the Black NA passed me again with a different driver behind the wheel from the last time I saw it.
So my conclusion based on these observations is: there are plenty of MX-5’s on Cook Islands. Considering it was the off season when I visited Rarotonga I would venture a guess that many cars are probably stored in garages waiting for the tourism industry to pick up. The few cars I saw were probably not the only ones on the island. And as I was getting ready to leave for the airport for my midnight flight I flipped through the local tourism magazine where a big MX-5 rental advertising popped out at me. The picture showed a Grey NC on Aitutaki Island… Great! Admittedly most cars on the island seem to be second hand Japanese imports or possibly even second hand New Zealand imports after they were already imported used from Japan. I would be really surprised to learn of new cars sold in Raro.
The more common cars for rent at Rarotonga included the following models:
One way to tell rental cars from privately owned vehicles is by the license plates, the rentals obviously start with “R” while private cars typically have just the number sequence on the plate. Hopefully this info helps someone heading to Rarotonga with an interest in MX-5’s.
Kia Orana Cook Islands!
Since the majority of tourists to the Cooks are Kiwis, there is a reliable option to rent an MX-5 while in New Zealand, check out this page for more information: www.mx5rentals.com/