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“Fantastic location-cottages much nicer than what is advertised on website”
Review of Muri Beach Resort

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Muri Beach Resort
Ranked #7 of 17 Speciality Lodging in Muri
Certificate of Excellence
Scotland, UK
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
“Fantastic location-cottages much nicer than what is advertised on website”
Reviewed 31 October 2005

I stayed at the Shangri-La Beach Cottages (No 5) from May 19th to June 3rd (14 nights). I was making my way home after having been living in NZ for 10 months and decided I wanted a real treat of a tropical holiday. Despite having seen a brilliant travel show about the Cook Islands, I still had a hankering to go to Tahiti. However, once I'd done my research, I soon realised, in my opinion, I wouldn't have got good value for my money if I'd gone to Tahiti. I felt the Cook Islands were equally as good and even though it is pricey there, it's way less expensive than Tahiti.

Having again spent ages reviewing all of the accommodation on Rarotonga (Aitutaki was way out of my league in terms of staying there), I decided on the Shangri-La Beach Cottages. I felt this was the best value for money and in the best location in terms of being situated on Muri Lagoon. I wasn't expecting too much when I arrived at the cottage but I must say, I was pleasantly suprised. The cottage was a lot bigger than what is shown on the actual website. It was very clean, basic but good range of cooking/dining equipment. The bathroom was nice with the jacuzzi bath.

The site itself is situated on Muri Lagoon which is by far the best spot on Rarotonga, particularly for water sports and sunbathing. The sea water is crystal clear and the beach is spotless apart from the stray coconuts which have dropped from the trees!! (I think we can all live with that!)

There is a tiny convenience shop/petrol station next to the cottages but you are better to use the hourly bus service which goes either clockwise/anticlockwise into the main town where the supermarket is.

It's a very peaceful place and Elliot Smith (the owner) has strict guidelines about noise. Elliot is a real character (originally from New York) and that is being kind!

I have to say, I spent a lot of money on this holiday but to be honest, it was a once in a lifetime moment. I would have kicked myself if I hadn't gone. If you want utter bliss, tranquility and the mother of all chill out holidays, this is the place to go. It's definately worth the money for that bit of paradise. If you want something completely reclusive though, I wouldn't recommend this place as it's private to a degree but not total privacy. You can get complete peace elsewhere on the island but I was on my own and I would have gone stir crazy without my fellow holidaymakers.

One final piece of advice, I stayed there for 14 days. Personally, I felt this was too long as there is very little to do on the island. Even when it did rain, you can't just pop on the TV to relax. The TV only has a local channel and it starts broadcasting at 3pm! If you are into churchy/religious stuff, it might be your thing but it wasn't mine!! So bring plenty books!!!

  • Stayed May 2005
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26 Thank IonaHelen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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10 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 62 helpful votes
Reviewed 26 October 2005

Living in NZ but having never holidayed in the South Pacific my wife and I were initially going to book a package deal through Air NZ; flights and accommodation combined, but when we researched the hotels they had on offer in their packages (mainly through this site) we realised a lot of the hotels they were offering had some pretty bad reviews. (and the ones with good reviews were horribly expensive)

We then started looking at other accommodation possibilities and Shangri La seemed the best, price wise, location and facilities on offer, and it had good reviews from other travellers, so we thought we would organise our own accommodation and booked it direct ourselves.

The booking process couldn't have been easier, a simple email and very quick reply from Elliot Smith and in a couple of days it was all confirmed and paid for.

We arrived late at night and were collected from the airport by Shangri La's Taxi driver who met us at the arrivals area, took our bags and then as we were driving around the Island gave us a bit of a commentary of where things were. He checked us into our room on arrival.

We had a "garden view" room. Slightly cheaper then a lagoon view although really this made no difference as we could walk out our front door and 10 metres across the lawn to get a "lagoon view"

The room was exactly as described on Shangri La’s website and was very comfortable and well appointed with everything we needed for our stay.

The first morning we checked in at the office and met Jenny who was running the show. (Elliot was away for a few weeks) Jenny was very friendly and helpful; writing down for us a list of her personal recommendations of things to see and do on the island.
We collected some complimentary snorkelling gear and reef shoes from the office and headed off to start our holiday.

1st stop; Budget Rentals to get a motorbike. Everyone seems to ride these on the island and although I'm not a great fan of motorbikes and haven't got a motorbike licence, a scooter seemed the easiest and cheapest way to get around, and “when in Rome!”

We got a Yamaha 125cc, 2 person scooter, automatic, no licence- no problem. (I showed my NZ car licence) $120 for the week.

We then had to ride the 8km or so to the main town of Avarua to the Police station so as I could get my Cook Island motorcycle licence. This is compulsory for all tourists to the Cook Islands who wish to ride/drive their own vehicle.

$15 and about 1 hour later I was in possession of a full motorcycle licence. I had to ride around the block with the traffic Policeman following me to pass my test. (I think the real test was whether I could pay the licence fee!) This is obviously a bit of a rort to extract cash from tourists, but I wasn't bothered and found the experience quite interesting.

We spent the next 7 days exploring the island, swimming, snorkelling, eating, drinking, reading, sleeping and generally having a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

We found the snorkelling amazing, like swimming in a tropical aquarium, just like "Finding Nemo" only in real life. The best locations we found, or rather were told about were: In Muri Lagoon between the last island (Motu) and the reef. That’s the Island you look at as you stand on the beach outside Shangri La and look to your right. (on the map it’s the small Island furtherst south)

We took the complimentary Kayaks and paddled out to the far side of the Island where we left the boats and then swam out towards the reef. It was quite deep but with huge coral heads that came up almost to the surface of the water, and Loads of Fish of every size and colour.

The other 2 spots on the Island that we found best were: Opposite "Fruits of Rarotonga" just go straight out from the beach opposite the shop and also opposite "the Dive shop" on the western side of the Island, you have to swim out about 20-30 metres to where it gets a bit deeper but its well worth it.

Eating out our favourites were; Tamarind House lovely atmosphere, great food, fantastic dining experience. Sails, again awesome food, right on the beach overlooking Muri lagoon with picture postcard views (we came to Sails a couple of times).

Chillies; on the main Rd almost as you come into Avarua on the eastern side, great Pizza and beers on the huge upstairs deck. This was really our kind of place and the owner Dave was a real character who joined us at our table and answered all our questions and gave us a bit of an insight into Island life.

The Flying Boat; Fish and Chips on the Beach with the same awesome beach views as Tamarind or Sails but at a fraction of the cost. And the yummiest fish and chips I think I have ever tasted. And while there grab a beer at the fishing club next door, only $3 a can.

Best Bar would have to be “Whatever Bar”, across the road from the cinema and around the back and up the flight of stairs. String band on a Wednesday night (ukulele and guitar) and the lead singer is very funny (a Cook Island version of Billy T James)

We didn't think much of Trader Jacks which is supposed to be the main tourist bar in town, the service was below average and it just didn’t have much atmosphere.

Most days we organised our own food for breakfast and lunch, buying food at either the supermarket or the open air market (Saturday morning) and making full use of the self catering facilities available in our room. Then we would go out and find a place to dine out in the evenings.

Also worth checking out while in Rarotonga, and what we found really amazing and discovered quite by accident, was the abandoned Sheraton Resort. On the main Rd on the western side of the Island.

This place is HUGE. Not a ghost town but a ghost 5 star resort!! It was abandoned in the early 1990's after it went bankrupt just before construction was completed. We spoke to a few locals about it who told us it was a project undertaken by the Cook Islands government and was mired from the start in doggy dealings, corruption, nepotism and theft of monies by government ministers and the Italian partners etc.

We walked into the resort and had a look around as it is all open for anybody to just wander in. All the suites are huge, with beach views and have bathrooms fully fitted out with luxury spa baths, double vanities etc, and ceiling fans and down lights all attached. A lot of the windows are now broken and with the roof coming apart in many places all the interiors are deteriorating and exposed to the weather. In the admin area hundreds of bedroom furniture draws sets stacked up ready to assemble. The whole place has become overgrown with vines and creepers, and vandals have added to the mess.

It is simply staggering the millions and millions of dollars that have literally gone down the drain in this place and the Cook Islands taxpayers are still footing the bill today so I understand. If you are a Kiwi think “Wananga” or “Pipi Foundation” but on steroids and multiplied by millions and you start to get an idea of the scale of this corruption and wastage. This place is a real warning to New Zealanders about the possible consequences of the Maori party ever getting into our government.

The weather during our stay was pretty good, only one ½ day of rain and even then it was still warm, average temp around 25 degrees.

Pretty much all the people we met were very laid back and friendly, helpful and happy to talk to tourists and answer any questions. There was no crime that we were aware of although there is a prison on the Island and one of the cops we spoke to told us there were about 40 inmates. (maybe 40 politicians responsible for the Sheraton?)

What we found really refreshing was the Rarotongans totally laid back attitude to road safety, or rather non existent attitude to road safety. We really enjoyed riding around the Island on the motorbike without having to wear helmets.

The local’s total lack of seatbelt wearing and obvious unroadworthy condition of many of their vehicles was such a refreshing change from the hard core, over the top, style revenue gathering/ ticket quota traffic enforcement that goes on in NZ.

It was like steeping back in time to an age long since passed in New Zealand where individuals made decisions for themselves instead of nanny state dictating everything we do.

You definitely need transport if you are staying on Rarotonga, so budget for and hire a bike, scooter, motorbike or car/jeep. Without one you will be stuck walking in the heat, or studying bus timetables.

I was about to finish by saying that we had the perfect holiday but not quite, there was one incident on our last morning which really pissed us off. It was mostly our fault but I’ll tell the story anyway as a warning to other travellers.

Our flight was due to leave at 5:00am. The taxi (pre-arranged by Shangri La) picked us up at 3:00am and drove us to the airport (15 mins away).

When we got there the airport was in darkness, not a plane, not a light, not an airport staff member to be seen, only us and a couple of other vehicles that had just pulled up out the front. The taxi driver got our bags out and promptly drove off after I paid him the $25 fare.

We walked in to find written on the board in the check in area that our flight had been delayed 3 hours due to maintenance. This notice had obviously been written up the night before when the last staff went home.

We were unhappy to say the least and kicking ourselves that we had forgotten to phone the previous evening to check the flight. So here we were stuck at an empty airport at 3am, tired as anything and knowing that we had a room back at Shangri La booked and paid for until 10am which we could be still sleeping in if we weren’t standing at this empty airport!!!

A few other passengers had obviously made the same mistake and arrived to find the same. There were no facilities open, only vending machines for snacks and drinks but we didn’t have the correct change so they were useless to us. We found a deserted corner of airport lawn near the viewing area and tried to get a bit of sleep but of course it was impossible.

Eventually airport staff started arriving and we were able to check in about 5:00am and soon afterwards most of the other passengers started arriving having obviously had the foresight to phone ahead (or the resorts where they were staying had notified them) The plane finally left at 8:00am!

We realise this is minor in the overall scheme of things and just one of those annoying delays that happen sometimes when you are travelling but how much nicer it would have been to have ended our, up till that point, wonderful holiday with a decent sleep and a flight leaving at a reasonable hour (which it eventually did).

Although we realise this incident was predominantly our own fault for not phoning ahead and checking the flight if I ever found out that our taxi driver was aware and said nothing I would be extremely pissed off.

Despite this we loved Rarotonga and will definitely be back for a longer holiday. The people are friendly, the weather is just right, the atmosphere is relaxed and the pace of life slow and uncomplicated. The food is fantastic, everywhere we ate, fresh yummy and competitively priced, if not cheaper then NZ then certainly no more expensive. The views are picture postcard stunning, the water beautiful clear blue and fantastic swimming and snorkelling. The country is generally clean and tidy with no rubbish or graffiti all over the place as I hear there is in a lot of other South Pacific Island nations although many buildings are somewhat run down or dilapidated but this kind of adds to the charm of the place. There are no snakes or spiders to worry about but there are lots of annoying roosters that wake you every morning with their screeching and dogs that seem to roam everywhere and are obviously all related as they have the same physical traits; long bodies and short legs. (obviously all inbred)

If you want a quiet getaway holiday where you can just wind down and relax, are not interested in shopping, theme parks or all night drinking (I did all that stuff when I was younger) then Rarotonga is for you. And especially Shangri La is for you!! I think having good accommodation is very important on this type of holiday. We got out quite a bit, every day we went exploring but we also spent a lot of time around Shangri La, reading, sunbathing or relaxing by the pool.

Make sure you check out the TV while staying, the local adverts are priceless, as is “Raro Idol”, amateur TV at its worst, or best, depending how you look at it.

NZ dollars are the currency here so if you are Kiwi’s like us it is really convenient and of course very easy to compare prices with home. The Cook Islands is sort of a part of New Zealand anyway, the Islanders we spoke to were quick to point out that they were New Zealand citizens so in a way visiting Rarotonga is kind of like visiting an exotic (and warm) part of NZ, in fact I understand far more Cook Islanders live in NZ then in the Cooks, goodness knows why?

  • Stayed October 2005
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
49 Thank Hilde43
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
Reviewed 14 May 2005

My husband and I stayed at Shangri-la Beach cottages for ten days.
As we flew back to the east coast of the US, we wondered where the
days went. We had the honor of staying in cottage number one which
was located close to the beach and next to Elliotts home. Elliott saw to
our every need, gave us information about what to do and see, and even
joined us for dinner one night as our guest. We enjoyed the wonderful
lagoon, kayaking, and strolling on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Elliott's dog Princess would join me each morning for my walk and help eat my toast. The town was small and just what we wanted. The shops reminded me of the Walton's. Since we live close to Myrtle Beach, we found Rarotonga to be just the opposite of all the traffic and many shops and malls. We enjoyed all the food, the peace and quiet, and the wonderful gentle people. The weather was wonderful each day and we spent our time napping in our cottage or lounging on the beach. Access to town is easy by bus and reasonably priced. We found it to be a good deal.
We plan to return to Shangri-la to see Elliott and Princess. The only problem is arranging our schedules so we can make the trip.

  • Stayed May 2001
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
29 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Vancouver Island, Canada
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 92 helpful votes
Reviewed 23 February 2005

It is impossible not to think of the Cooks every day since our return from our three week holiday there. While there I constantly asked myself why would people want to move to the Cooks and live there not only for a few years but as much as 26 years (as at least two fellow Canadians have done!) With any warm destination there is always the potential for the underlying feeling that the unsuspecting tourist will have their pockets emptied as much as possible during their stay. This how I felt for the first little while until I got into “the mood”. I am not sure what happened. Perhaps I finally became acclimatized to the warm humid temperatures, or the quiet charm of the locals finally found it’s way into my heart, or I was absorbing the South Pacific way of life that is so well written about in James Mitchener’s books: “Tales of the South Pacific” and “Return to Paradise”. Reading these books while in the Cooks certainly added to the charm I felt and made me realize how important the South Pacific was during the Second World War. The Cooks are actually a group of 15 islands scattered over 2 million square kilometers of Pacific Ocean. The closest island to Rarotonga is Aitutaki, a 50 minute flight from Rarotonga.

Our typical day started with the humid warm hug of air that greeted us as we walked out of our air-conditioned unit to enjoy our passion fruit on the porch. Passion fruit, as someone was kind enough to show us, are best eaten by cutting off the very top and eating the sweet seedy contents with a spoon. I wonder how many North American tourists miss the wonders of this fruit, as they don’t know how to eat it! We were also told the best way of eating a mango (which falls off local trees in abundance). Cut off the top and suck the contents until it is empty enough to peal it back to finish the remainder of the fruit. Often they look terrible on the outside but their juicy contents are delicious. Paw paws (papayas) also fall off trees in abundance throughout the island. They are best served chilled and we found these very refreshing even on the hottest days. We didn’t have to buy any as people kept on giving them to us! Early on in our trip we were given a juicy delicious pineapple, which we gobbled down in one go. Throughout the next three weeks we looked for pineapple and didn’t find another! Apparently there is only one small grove on the island and they weren’t quite in season yet. The same with oranges and avocados.

After our breakfast of passion fruit and toast (we found delicious bread at the local JMC store) we walked the beach to the Sokala Villas and back. “Princess”, the black lab that effectively comes with the propery, would accompany us most days. She pranced down the beach as if saying “these are my humans, I have humans to walk with today”. Other dogs would join us as we walked along and soon we had 5 or 6 in tow. They all seemed to get along and to understand that we were Princess’s humans so they let her get the most attention. We also had a pet cat for a couple of weeks. Princess loved to chase her off “her” property but towards the end she tolerated the cat more and more as she could see that we were still giving her some attention too! These animals gave us a surprising amount of pleasure on our vacation, making us feel more “at home”. Grant who is a cat “hater” even tolerated the cat and was amused by her antics.

Once back from our walk we were in a full South Pacific sweat, so into the pool, which was not that cool especially with so little rainfall. We then hung out at the pool for a few hours until the heat got to be too much then we hauled our “stuff” down to the beach side where we hung out on the lounge chairs. Here the offshore breeze cooled us down. The sun of the South Pacific is very hot and this is supposedly due to a hole in the ozone layer in that part of the world that also apparently affects Australia. We spent most of our time in the shade. Lying in the sun for 5-10 minutes is all we could tolerate at a time. Sunscreen of 35 will still render a dark tan in a matter of days! We also got a lot of skin colour when we snorkeled and did our ventures on our 50cc motor scooter.

The view of the Muri Beach Lagoon is beautiful. We took over 300 pictures and I am sure most of them are of the same Lagoon in its many moods of colour. The shades of blue are infinite and depend on the cloud cover, the wind and even the time of day. There is a sailing club nearby so it was very picturesque and entertaining watching the colourful small boats sail by. Some of the novices often tipped their sailboat over but the shallow waters made it easy for them to get back in the boat. The surfing sailors were very dramatic to watch! These guys are propelled on their surfboards by the wind caught in the huge sail that they manage. Back and forth they flew turning adroitly from one end of the lagoon to the other. The wind and the tides had to be just right for this to take place.

We were surprised to learn that there is quite a noticeable tide on the beach. There is a large amount of seaweed deposited onto the beach with every tide change and some of the more expensive resorts have their employees rake it all up every morning. The Lagoon is very sandy between Pacific Resort and Sokala Villas making walking in the water very pleasant and walking out to the motus (islet’s) very easy. Of course the dogs tagged along. It was entertaining to watch them chase fish. They never catch any but they never seem to tire of the chase. The best motus for this was Koromir as it had a huge sand bar where the dogs seemed to fly in full chase. Beach combing around these motus was interesting. Most of the stuff on the beach was jagged old coral. The reef shoes provided by the Shangri-La are essential for this type of walking. From here the outer reef was closer and very jagged in appearance. It is very hard walking on this rock in the water so walking the reef was not that appealing.

Snorkeling was very colourful once you found a good spot. We found a coral rock in the lagoon on the way to Koromiri with a real aquarium collection of teeny tiny fish of all colours, a miniature of what we saw on the far side of Taakoka. Apparently it was mating season for some of the varieties of fish so I found they seemed to attack me a bit so 20-30 minutes was enough at one time. The water is very salty and I found it quite irritating to my eyes. (I obviously need a better snorkeling mask!). Grant found that he could see quite well even without contact lenses. Getting over-heated on these excursions was our biggest concern so the best thing was to snorkel in a swimsuit then put on a dry T-shirt coming and going in the kayak. I had a hat on constantly but the rim wasn’t wide enough to shade my lips so next time I will be taking a Tilly hat with me! They are also excellent for riding the bikes as they can be secured under your chin. One gets a lot of sun exposure on those bikes!

The bike was our biggest adventure. We are not the “conquering tourist “ types, as we don’t want any kind of schedules while on holidays. I must admit that by the third week I was ready to do more exploring but it seemed that things were still not fully functioning on the Cooks. Most locals do much of their holidaying Dec 25 to Jan 15th so we found a lot of places closed: Taraua Bakery, Fruits of Rarotonga and Maire Nui Gardens and Café for instance.

The bike allowed us to get around and discover things on our own schedule. Viewing the sunset at 7 o’clock each evening turned out to be fun. Every night was different and the beaches are long and sandy across from the Salt Water Café where it is easy to park and take the stairs to the beach. This is roughly the half way point around the island. Of course there are no helmet rules and two up on this tiny bike was a challenge, requiring a little legwork to get the thing mobile. Driving on the left added to the excitement. We had several small mishaps but we came away unscathed. Once we had to return home in the dark without a headlight and, another time that we had planned to go somewhere, a flat tire made us take the bus instead. We learned to give the bike a check over every morning: does the light work? are the tires inflated? and it was always a good idea to cool the black seat in advance when it was parked in the sun.

A visit to the Saturday Punangi Nui Market was the best way to see and experience the local culture. It opens early and is all packed up by noon, so the sooner you get there the better. The bus ride will get you there at 9:30 am at the soonest. The produce available is seasonal so the oranges people talked about we didn’t see, but watermelon was very plentiful. Along with the traditional diet of coconut soaked raw fish (ika mata), rukau (a spinach like vegetable cooked in coconut cream and very tasty) and root vegetables including 50 different types of potatoes. Unfortunately the North American diet of fries and pop is also popular and so many of the locals are a little plump. We bought the coconut rolls and found out that they are a sweet roll soaked in coconut juice – a lot of coconut juice! Trying them once was enough for us. I went back alone on my last day there to take what I hope to be colourful pictures of the shops selling pareus (material that is wrapped around the body in many different ways to protect you from the blazing sun), some of the beautiful young women and the flowers that are used to make the tiara’s as well as lei garlands. The frangipani is the characteristic flower used to make these and if one is worn behind the left ear, it indicates you are not available for dating. The best benefit of wearing one is the wonderful aroma is exudes for hours long after it has turned brown and dried up. They come in many colours: yellow, white and pink.

The other item that most people shop for are black pearls. I found them very expensive and, to my taste, not that pretty. I decided that I liked the fresh water pearls much more than the mother of pearl. However I do recommend checking out Munik Pearls whose store is on the back road directly behind the airport. She does some beautiful work with black pearls. The other thing you may consider is having your favourite photograph painted by a local artist. Jean (I think his name is) paints beautiful canvases that he can roll up and send to you if not completed before your departure. His studio is called Avananui Studio on Muri Lagoon near Tokerau Jim, the jeweler.

Tours such as the Cross Island Trek with Pa, the 4X4 Safari Tour, Island Night at the Edgewater Resort (we heard they had the best one on Saturday night) and a visit to the Sunday morning church service at a local CICC church will have to wait until our next trip.

We stayed at the Shangri-La Resort owned and operated by Elliot Smith. We were glad that he returned earlier than expected from his vacation in New Zealand while we were there as some of the local Maori are not hugely motivated. Perhaps, this is why a lot of produce and products need to be shipped in weekly from New Zealand on “the Wednesday boat”! We did find some locally grown eggs. We wondered as there are chickens running free everywhere on the island. No one talked about this in any of the Internet sites we read. So the sound of paradise, in addition to the constant roar of the surf on the reef, was the sound of roosters waking the sleepy tourists at early hours! Many times the hens had little chicks under wing that dwindled daily in number until there were none. Then the rooster seemed to hang around more often with his brood of a few hens and soon we saw nests being made in the bushes for the next cycle of chicks to be raised. This added to our animal entertainment. One of the hens had it out for me as well and attacked me several times! There were two birds we saw the most: the turns which were brilliantly white against the very blue sky and the mynah were like crows and seemed to be great scavengers. The white turns were very white and graceful usually flying in pairs. They like to make their nest in the Ironwood trees, which afford the most shade. Sitting or parking one’s bike or car under a coconut tree is dangerous as falling coconuts leave quite a dent!

Shangri-La provided us with four things that are hard to combine in most of the accommodations on the Cooks: air conditioning, swimming pool, beach front and a two person soaker bath tub. Added bonuses were the good restaurants and grocery stores within walking distance. There was the butcher and the JMC market just down the road. The 6-11 was a little bit further but very handy if you had to use a credit card. JMC, it turns out, has the cheapest ice cream cones on the island: $1.00 NZ for two scoops of vanilla flavour. We met two very nice locals who go there just for that reason! JMC also provided wonderful fresh produce: lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, paw paws, limes, passion fruit, bananas and tomatoes. Turns out our property had a banana tree so for the first two weeks we were picking fresh bananas off the tree! The produce was organic! Fresh and delicious. The balsamic vinegar we bought turned out to be very sweet and fantastic for salad dressings! The Butcher provided us with good New Zealand beef, including rib eye steaks as well as local bacon, lamb chops and chicken legs and thighs. Coconut milk was sold in plastic coke bottles and made the best curried lamb and chicken dishes. We prepared 2/3 of our meals in the kitchenette. Food prices, both in the local and large grocery stores, are roughly the same. Eating lunch out runs NZ$50 and dinner NZ$80-90 for 2 people.

Within walking distance is the Flame Tree restaurant (owned by Canadians), Sails, That’s Pasta and Pacific Resort. Pacific Resort was about the only place open on Christmas Day. We were able to have a real Christmas dinner. We ate at Sails twice, both times delicious and had their luscious warm chocolate cake once. Outdoor seating may be promptly changed to indoor in case weather moves in off the reef! The Flame Tree was also delicious. That’s Pasta is run by a young couple from Milan, Italy who make their own pasta, served with delicious sauces. Our favorite was the ravioli with mushroom sauce.

The Kebab across from the airport was reasonably priced and made delicious wraps with chicken or lamb. They made the best fries on the island. Our favorite restaurant, however, was “The Tamarind House” owned and operated by Sue Curruthers, long time resident from South Africa, previous owner of the Flame Tree and author of “The Tropical Garden Cookbook”. I recommend purchasing the book there if you are interested as it doesn’t seem to be available on the internet. The food was the high caliber that we are used to in the south of France. We found that lunch was the best meal to have there to fully enjoy the north facing view of the surf. Their pizza, fish and chips and lasagna are our favorites and of course they make the best pavlova dessert!! The problem with recommending restaurants on Rarotonga is that they seem to change hands after a few years so follow Sue Curruthers and you won’t be disappointed! Avoid any of the restaurants downtown as we found them over priced and service highly lacking! Trader Jack’s we found to be particularly disappointing with very poor service, high prices and mediocre food.

Getting a driver’s license in Rarotonga is part of the charm and waiting in line will give you a flavour of who vacations on the island. Roratonga is a stopover for many coming and going from New Zealand with most folks staying 5-7 days. However more and more folks are returning every year and staying 3-5 weeks. They say it is like Hawaii or Tahiti was 50 years ago. It is not a destination for those who like the high life. The island is about 20 miles around and takes about an hour by car to circumnavigate. It is for people like us who like it quiet. Shangri-La allows no children and having just 12 units keeps the place quiet. Getting to know fellow guests can be difficult as most are out and about being “conquering tourists”. We did make good friends with a couple from Wales who were on a diving stop-over from Australia and a Canadian couple on a stop-over on their way home to Ottawa from Tasmania! We sure learned a lot from these folks who were all seasoned travelers.

Shangri-La does provide phone service in the rooms. We found out a little too late that we could have arranged to access dial-up Internet service from our laptop by contacting Cook Islands Telecom (oyster dot net dot ck) in advance. Although one day at the Internet café we did meet a bright young lady who sounded Canadian and who turned out to be a lighting expert with Cirque Du Soleil. She was on her way to work in Singapore.

I have never seen so many churches per capita as I saw on Rarotonga! There was a beautiful Mormon church, several Seventh Day Adventist Churches, a Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall, a Bahai Center and of course many Catholic churches in addition to the Community churches: CICC.

There are many memories whirling through my brain as I write this and look at the 2005 Calendar that I bought there but none so much as the beauty of the locals when a smile lighted their face. The music that greeted us on our arrival both ways in Rarotonga and Papeete, Tahiti is just a small example of the local flavour and hospitality. Where on earth is there such music in international airports no matter time of day or night to greet weary travelers?

We noticed that the caliber of the graphics on New Zealand television is greatly lacking compared with CBC graphics! However NZ has a significantly smaller population than Canada but learning more of that culture was fascinating. For example, they say “How are you going?” rather than “How are you doing?” and use words such as “shocking”. The pilot warned us of a few “niggles” (turbulence) on the flight south. It has sparked our interest enough to consider flights to the Cooks via Auckland or Sidney Australia next time.

Tears came to my eyes on the flight home when, along-side my breakfast, there was a single frangipani, the last touch of the South Pacific from Tahiti.

All in all we were very happy with our choice of Shangri-La as the property was better than the website (shangri-la dot co dot ck) portrayed. The Cooks really are the definition of paradise. There is no pollution to hide the blue sky, the produce looks and tastes organic and the NZ meat and dairy are very good, the language is English spoken with the charming NZ accent, the weather warm even when it is cloudy and rainy and the locals are friendly with the tourists and the South Pacific charm gradually embraces you wishing you could mutiny your life and stay! We will certainly make plans to visit the Cooks again hopefully in the not too distant future.

Ingrid & Grant

  • Stayed January 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
90 Thank Grant_Ingrid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Muri Beach Resort

Property: Muri Beach Resort
Address: Main Road, Muri Village | P.O. Box 146, Muri, Cook Islands (Formerly Shangri-La Beach Cottages)
Phone Number:
Region: Cook Islands > Southern Cook Islands > Rarotonga > Muri
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #7 of 17 Speciality Lodging in Muri
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Muri Beach Resort 3.5*
Number of rooms: 20
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Absolute beachfront on Muri. This intimate boutique resort offers 20 beautifully decorated deluxe self-contained villas and apartments. These well-appointed units feature air-conditioning, Jacuzzi spa baths, insect screens, TV/DVD, in-house movies, Wi-Fi internet, IDD telephones. And all of this is set amongst tropically landscaped gardens. When not enjoying the stunning views from the beachfront deck, enjoy lazing by the large swimming pool sipping tropical cocktails. The resorts beautiful poolside Polynesian style cafe & cocktail bar which is surrounded by tropical gardens is al-fresco dining Island style. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Muri Beach Hotel Muri
Muri Beach Resort Rarotonga, Cook Islands

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