12 fun things to do at Punanga Nui Market, Cook Islands

Saturday mornings at the Cook Islands are not for sleeping in. From 8am to noon or thereabout, the Avarua town comes alive as locals set up shops selling local produce, homemade food and handmade crafts.

Here are the top 12 things to do at the farmers’ Punanga Nui Market that you wouldn’t want to miss!

#1: Queue for Raro Kebab of grilled chicken with THE mushroom sauce

Possibly the best thing I’ve done for myself at the market! This shop has a queue even before the owners arrive with the grill and set up. The amazingly creamy mushroom sauce is generously poured over grilled chicken and rice or kebab. It hits the spot right on.

#2: Try Poke, a local dessert like “kueh” (traditional Singapore teatime snack)

Drizzled in coconut milk, the poke is a sticky, chewy dessert made with paw paw (papaya). There’s banana too, which is my favourite. While I enjoyed it very much, my French friend disliked the “weird” texture. It’s easy to understand — the poke’s consistency is wobbly like a jelly but chewy like a gummy bear. Singaporeans, it will taste nostalgic. Everyone else, I’d say give it a shot!

#3: Crack open a funky-looking coconut to quench thirst

Now if you’re thrifty like me and did not go for the lagoon tour, you had probably missed out on the crash course on how-to-open-a-coconut. Let someone else do it for you then!

#4: Eat an island crepe to nurse a hangover

A popular with locals and tourists, the crepe has many queuing patiently. If you had a wild Friday night out at the bars, we recommend throwing in an extra 5nzd for that homemade ginger lemonade, said to cure hangovers.

#5: Stay cool with a smoothie or shaved ice

I was told not to leave Cook Islands without trying a smoothie, and boy was my green smoothie delicious! I splurged a little and got myself one with superfood spirulina in it. My backpacker buddies edged me on, saying I’d need that for our morning hike after – proven effective!

#6: Grocery shop for freshly-picked local veggies and fruits

Because almost everything in Cook Islands have to be imported, the freshest food you can get will be the local produce. Here you’ll find plenty of veggies and fruits such as lettuce, bok choy, and bananas. There are the occasional goat meat and fresh fish too.

#7: Get handcrafted souvenirs for friends

Handmade souvenirs are the best kind of gift for loved ones! I’d recommend picking up a “pareu” – a hand-dyed cloth that multi-functions as a mat for the beach, as a holiday dress, and even as a home decoration. The market is a potpourri of local artists.

#8: Or go premium with customised gifts

If you’re looking to bring home something more precious, there are authentic pearls to purchase and shell necklaces for engraving.

#9: Buy a straw skirt to sway that hips

Dance is everywhere in Cook Islands. From the young to the old, everyone dances and enjoys watching dance. Almost not a day goes by without stumbling onto school dance rehearsals or local dance performances.

At this market, the local kids put on a show too, so be ready when you’re called on stage to participate!

#10: Watch a local dance and win prizes

The children are so talented and adorable at dance, you can’t help jaws from dropping! When I was there, the event organiser was provided with two local village show tickets as prizes for audience participation. Don’t be shy!

#11: Make some noise with a handcrafted ukulele

Now that you’ve learnt the dance moves, it’s time to put the music on! Bring home a handcrafted ukulele – there are classes to attend on the island too.

#12: Eat more, more and more!

Remember to arrive early as the place gets busy and good fun runs out very fast! Arrive by local bus, cycle, or personal transport.

Punanga Nui Market

Address: Ara Tapu, Avarua District, Cook Islands

Every Saturday, 8am to 12pm


Anna lives to explore. She loves digging toes into warm sand, diving, hugging trees, eating with locals, yoga and meditation. She enjoys stuffing her face with good food and prancing through back alleys of urban spaces. Some say Anna lives carelessly, she says "live wild, live carefree."