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Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach

4.0 out of 5.0

Recent guest reviews

Jason Napa, the sales & reservations manager, is one of the friendliest and most helpful people you could hope to meet. We had booked a ground floor Deluxe Beachfront Suite, with a spa and day beds in The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa, but on arrival were "upgraded" to a 1st floor motel type room in the Sanctuary Rarotonga. This is a wing of the Rarotongan that is adult only. Our room was clean and had a good view, but you couldn't watch TV unless you were in bed. Breakfast and dinner were in an area adjacent to the bar, but they had a different juice each day, and only one juice option. The milk and coffee ran out before late breakfast diners arrived and the evening service was slow. They only had one waiter. Lunch could only be had at the pool, unless you went into the Rarotongan resort proper. However, when we went to eat at the pool, the tables were wet, dirty and hadn't been made up. The place has great potential, but perhaps they need to consider appointing an established international hotelier to manage it?

After holidaying earlier in the year with our children, it was nice to have a romantic time away with my wife. A beautifully appointed room on ground level with views of the lagoon. With the doors opened you can hear the roar of the surf breaking on the reef. With them closed, complete silence. The restaurant and food within the resort we of good quality and price. Do not expect bacon and eggs style buffet. It is continental all the way. It would have been nice to have th edoors looking out to the lagoon open or at least clean so you could enjoy teh view. Great location to hire a scooter or car to trip around the island. The resort is very nice.The staff are friendly and run on island time. All in all a great place. We will stay here again.

This is a authentic island style place to stay with beautiful gardens and settings. The rooms are very island like rooms, clean and tidy. I found the staff to be very friendly and very helpful in booking events and transport. We visited most of the main resorts for cocktails and to be honest this is the place to go unless you want to spend a small fortune to stay somewhere else. It is very relaxing with no kids running around. The rooms are very soundproof as it was pouring with rain most days and we couldn't even hear it. The cleaners do take a while to get around I guess you put it down to island time. This was only an issue as every time we had a shower it just leaked like crazy all over the floor and we used our towels to mop up. So we wer always out of towels. It just looked like it was missing the plastic at bottom of door to stop the water coming out. After visiting the other resorts and checking them out my wife and I both agreed we will be back to the sanctuary for our next stay in raro next year.

Our stay was for 5 nights October 22, 2017 - October 27, 2017. My partner and I booked our stay with the Rarotongan in a Deluxe Beachside Suite in July through Flight Centre in NZ. My partner and I were so excited despite reading the mixed reviews prior to landing in Rarotonga. Getting to the resort was simple and easy as it literally takes 45 minutes to get around the whole island itself. Rent a car though, it takes 3 hours to get a scooter license. You'll find a car is much easier. Saves you the trouble of booking transfers, and if you want to do some bulk shopping, the car is storage efficient. Upon checking in, we were hot and exhausted and all i could think about was settling into our room and trying out our outdoor shower. Unfortunately, we got there and was told to check into the Sanctuary which was the adults only resort. Although we were confused, we did as instructed and headed next door. We were then told our room was upgraded to a beachside room at the Sanctuary. I looked through my emails and could not see any notification of the room/resort change. I asked the assitant at the front desk why we were moved when my itinerary clearly confirms a deluxe beach suite, and I had called in the week before to confirm my booking. He said that unfortunately the Reservations Manager was away for the weekend and I was told to take the room provided for that night, and come back in the morning to talk with the manager. This room did not come with an outdoor shower, or a bathroom with a spa bath. It was just a basic room and not the suite that i was excited to be in for the past 3 months. I went online and tried to book a deluxe beachside suite online (my original room) and found out they were not available for our dates. That's when i realised, that the reservations team may have overbooked however, considering i booked AND paid in full in July, I believe that because we were a couple, the resort thought to boot us into the Adults Only resort and give a family our suite. Thinking that this was it, the reservations team also deactivated our room key and had us on their departure list a day earlier than what we paid for. We gave a copy of itinerary and they confirmed it was an error on their end and corrected it. Recommendation: I've been managing Accommodation facilities for the past 3 years and have worked in accommodation for the past 6.5 years. I understand that there are times where room moves may occur however, it is important that the reservations team communicates with the customer who had secured their booking and paid in full for their stay of any changes made to their bookings via email and prior to their check in. To be fair, yes - It costs $600 more than what i paid to be at the sanctuary. So essentially, you pay more to get rid of kids. Because the rooms at the sanctuary are smaller than the suites at the Rarotongan. Customer Service Recommendations: Being a Pacific Islander, I was fine with the aesthetic of the facilities. What I believe needs improvement is the quality of the experience within the facilities. This starts with your staff. I strongly recommend that your staff receive training in 'Excellence in Customer Service' most particularly front of house staff, gift shop staff, and catering/catering assistants and reservations. I was friendly and energetic and unfortunately that energy was not reciprocated by a few staff i had interacted with. It shouldn't be the job of the customer to get staff energised or excited as i am sure is outlined in their position description. The only person who was willing to go the extra mile was Apii. He was knowledgeable, helped us book tickets for shows and experiences, quick to respond and follow-up on our maintenance and housekeeping issues, and was friendly in his interactions. The entertainment at Dinner, there is a female singer who has a wonderful voice however, I heard more of the backing track than her actual singing as she remains seated the whole time, and spends most of the time talking to the guy that sits next to her. It's unprofessional. I would recommend investing in a DJ or a band that can sing to the diners rather than a singer who hogs what now appears as a karaoke booth. We want to dance and sing and engage with the entertainment as you don't offer an island night. Islanders love music and dance, so i encourage you to think about how to ensure that your diners are getting a real island dining experience. We're not just paying for food on a plate - we're paying for an experience. Tropical breakfast buffet - Wow -Disappointed. You're paying extra for the following: 1. Cereal in a box. 2. fruit selections - coconut, pawpaw, strawberries, kiwifruit 3. Yoghurt 4. Toast 5. Tea, coffee, juice and that's it. No eggs, no bacon cause those things cost a lot extra. I had breakfast at the resort as like an entree to breakfast. Then we'd jump in the car and search the island for a cafe. Only place i had decent breakfast was Le Rendevous which opened up on time and didn't have a 50-minute serving time. Would've liked to stay at the resort but couldn't find much reason to stay a part from the reserve. After our 5 night stay, I don't believe we will be returning to Rarotongan/Sanctuary anytime soon but I hope that this review may spark some thinking on how to improve the residential experience for future customers.

My friend and I stayed for 5 days and we had a fantastic stay. We had a lower beachside room. I was stunned by the beach view as we walked into it. The rooms are decorated in an island style (so not super modern and perhaps not to everyone's taste)but i thought it was great. The room was spacious and very clean and the best thing is the beach is right on your doorstep. The beach outside is for guests of the hotel only and was always very peaceful and quiet and never crowded like at other resorts we visited and with very comfy loungers.We loved the fact it was adults only-no screaming kids-perfect. The sea was clean and there is lots to see whilst snorkelling. Just beautiful. We actually got to see whales on one day from the beach here, which was super amazing. Snorkel and kayak hire is available for free and I never had any problems with this. They provide a continental breakfast, which was yummy, including heaps of fresh fruits and pancakes. There is also a lovely pool and swim up bar. Plus you get to use the facilities of the sister hotel next door. The service is pretty good and everyone is very friendly but you have to remember you are on island time and things can be slow but who cares, your on holiday. We hired a car and there is ample parking available. Overall I highly recommend this hotel for a beautiful, relaxing and peaceful stay in Rarotonga. Although this hotel isn't super modern and the service may be slow at times I personally disagree with some of the recent bad reviews and I don't think it deserves them.

It is apparent that this had been a good hotel. From the decor I'd say 1970's. The dated appearance and rooms wouldn't matter much if the service was right, but it wasn't. The staff morale, training and attitude were consistently poor. The shower screen was broken. (The floor flooded the first time I had a shower - solved later by wedging a face washer into the gap). There was no grate over the shower drain (you needed to be careful not to put your heel into the hole). I phoned the first day I arrived and reported it. Thinking that maybe I hadn't been understood, a couple of days later I took photos on my phone and went down to reception to make sure they understood the problem. We left after 9 days having heard nothing and I presume the next guests in the room had the same problem. There was a significant collection of kayaks and paddle boards. In the time I was there these were never cleaned, stacked or attended to in any way. The paddles were at reception and you had to sign for them. However there were only a handful. When I wanted two there was only one. The reef shoes, fins, masks and snorkels were full of sand and looked like they hadn't been cleaned in, well, forever. Fortunately we had our own kit - I don't think I would have been prepared to put my feet into theirs - at least not without first taking them off to be cleaned. Despite several attempts our return transport to the airport wasn't arranged. We just got a taxi. The impression is of a hotel that is understaffed (housekeeping, for example, were working very late to get round the rooms and the need to hurry meant only a pretty average job was being done). Maintenance is obviously being overlooked. The gardens are overgrown and too many things are broken, Finally, there is a degree of role confusion. It is often unclear if the Sanctuary is a separate entity or just a wing of The Rarotongan. There are many better hotels on Rarotonga. This one feels like it is in a death spiral. A sinking reputation is leading to lower profit, the response to which seems to be to cut costs, which leads to new problems and staff losses.

The reviews on this hotel are quite mixed, some people love it and others hate it. I think it comes down to your own expectations, which should be in line with what you have paid and what you can pay for 5-star beach front resorts on the island ie $1,000 AUD a night. Our group of 3 couples really enjoyed it and we thought it was good value for what we paid. We had ground floor (beachfront) rooms 602, 603 and 604. These rooms all had good lagoon views and we found them to be quite private at the front (which had lounges, large picnic tables and a hammock). You do need to bear in mind that block 600 has got the pool behind it and people do tend to party on at night. This did not bother us as we always travel with good earplugs and the rooms were very solid and quite sound proof. We could not hear the people above us at all. This resort also caters for wedding parties and work conferences, so again consider this if you cant tolerate a bit of excitement and noise. The rooms are good, very solid, sound-proof and island authentic. Everything worked and was in good order, the fridge was excellent, turned right up and a bonus was that it was empty of minibar items meaning you can load your stuff straight in. The shower water pressure and temperature was great, bed comfortable (king size) and the room had all the things you would expect ie. kettle, tea, coffee, cups, hairdryer, fan, air-con, beach towels, phone etc. We had one problem with the sliding screen door getting stuck but we rang maintenance and a competent man came immediately and fixed it. Our early 6am check-in didnt happen, mainly because this was promised by our Australian based agent with no reference to the fact that the resort was fully booked. We understood this and the staff did their best to get us in at midday, which is still 2 hours early. The service is a little slower than what we are accustomed to, however we were prepared for this and believe this is part of the charm of holidaying in a tropical island destination that has not been consumed by large hotel chains that are staffed with primarily non-local labour. It really is 'island time' so just chill out and relax! It also helps if you treat staff with respect ie smile, make eye contact and say 'please' and 'thank-you'. The equipment, snorkelling, canoes, paddleboards were all very good quality. In fact, my husband preferred the mask he used from the resort as he said it was better than the one he had just recently purchased in Australia for $100. Our group never had a problem with the availability of the water gear, another bonus. The food - again I cannot understand why people complain about the breakfasts. No, it is not the equivalent to a 5-star, full Sheraton breakfast buffet but it has all the basic continental items (cereals, toast, pastries, yogurt, fruit, juice, tea, coffee) and you can still order a-al-carte from the kitchen it you want to for a small charge. We ate breakfasts and dinners next door in the sister resort, same kitchen but we just preferred the outdoor decks and private little dining huts. There is a tall European (I think) chef running the kitchen and he does a very good job making sure the meals come out on time. The dinner food/drinks are very reasonably priced and are good quality. The lagoon/marine park is simply outstanding, great coral gardens and lots and lots of friendly fish. You simply swim out a few metres from the shore and this amazing sight is right there in front of you! Some other recommendations for fellow travellers... great restaurants: Waterline, Flambe (go on a Friday or Saturday night when they have a fire show), Tarragon House, Spaghetti House, Trader Jacks. The Koka Lagoon Cruise was excellent as was the Saturday Punanga Nui Market. A big tip here... getting through customs is slow, prepare yourself for at least an hour BUT look out for the 'locals' line which they open up for all travellers. Go straight to it as soon as you get off the plane, it is on the right hand side of the counter. One couple in our group got into it and went through in about 15 minutes! Definitely consider hiring a car (or scooter), you don't want to be hanging around waiting for a bus and walking along the road (no footpath) at night in the dark is not recommended. The car hire is reasonable, we paid $921 AUD for an 8-seater van for 9 days from Avis. It carried 6 of us and all our luggage to and from the airport. We used it everyday so it was good value at $307 per couple. Wifi connection - get a Blue Sky visitor's sim available for $49 for 3GB of data. DO NOT take the top-up option if you run out as this works at $200 per GB! Just take your phone back in and get another visitor SIM. We had to continue working on our online business over there and we found that the speed was fine. We will definitely be back to the Cook Islands, we love its authenticity and the fact that there are no chain department stores, no Maccas, no large international resorts with staff constantly greasing you up for extra tips (even when you have already paid a service fee). The prices in the Cook Islands are advertised with VAT/GST already included and there are no additional service fees (unless it is a public holiday). Staff do not expect to be tipped and it is not encouraged or suggested. We hope this has been helpful for viewers:)

This is a well designed hotel in an excellent location. Our second floor room was well appointed with a spacious bathroom & a private balcony with a great ocean view. We could hear the ocean roar outside the lagoon at night, with the sliding glass door open & the screen door closed. The beach has ample lounge chairs and provides easy access to the shallow lagoon for snorkelling amoung the myriad of tropical fish. Try the seafood platter for 2 in the dining room. It was excellent & plentyful! After leaving for Aitutaki & forgetting my shaving kit, the staff were kind enough to meet me at the airport with it upon returning. Above & beyond service!

My friend and I recently stayed 13 nights at this beautiful resort. I do a lot of research when organising a holiday, and had chosen the sanctuary for its absolute beachfront room and stunning beach. I was wary of the bad reviews posted, and honestly don't understand where they come from! I had emailed the resort before arrival and our room (ground floor 700 block) was perfect. Stepping straight onto the sand into the water. Our room was spacious, even with the king bed made into 2 singles and when we arrived back after lunch everyday it had been fully serviced without fail. Staff are amazing. I think because they are quiet, people assume they are rude or inattentive. Over the 13 days, there was never a time the reception and bar was unattended with my longest wait being a few minutes whilst staff helped other guests. Roma and Siva were standouts! There was never a long wait for meals in either restaurant and I must note, the breakfast is continental! On par with other destinations and if you would like something hot there is a menu to order from. We had a fantastic, relaxed, quiet holiday and would definitely recommend.

This hotel was a disappointment from day one. We booked an ocean front room with a preference for the second floor. This is what we paid for, but instead we were given a ground floor room that faces the fence of a neighbour. We were told we would be moved the next day, but it took three days to finally get a room we paid for. How can they charge waterfront prices for rooms 717, 716 and 715? A total ripoff. Our new room was nice but by then we were so frustrated it was hard to let things go. Food is poor. We rented a car and went out for dinner. Service is laughable. Very slow. Front desk is not worth bothering about. Go to the main desk. There are better places to stay. There is a reason this place always has vacancies.

Aroa Beach & Marine Reserve Rarotonga

Hotel highlights

  • Free continental breakfast
  • Free parking
  • Onsite dining
  • Private beach

Located 1 mi (1.6 km) from Puaikura Beach, Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach is within a 10-minute drive of Tikioki Marine Sanctuary. This 4-star resort has 49 guestrooms and offers a private beach, an outdoor pool, and free self parking. In the historical district, the resort is also a short drive from Te Vara Nui Village and Black Rock.


Start your day off right with a free continental breakfast, served each morning from 7 AM to 10 AM. This resort is home to a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Savor a meal from the comfort of your room with room service, or get a quick energy boost at the coffee shop/café.


Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach's 49 rooms are air-conditioned and provide furnished balconies or patios, refrigerators, and coffee makers. 32-cm flat-screen TVs come with cable channels, and guests can stay connected with WiFi. Bathrooms offer hair dryers and free toiletries, and pillowtop beds with premium bedding ensure a restful night. Other standard amenities include ceiling fans, safes, and phones.

Property features

Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the beach features a private beach, karaoke, and an outdoor pool. There's free parking, and an airport shuttle (available 24 hours) for NZD 60 per person roundtrip. The 24-hour front desk has staff standing by to help with concierge services and luggage storage. Other amenities at this adults-only resort include a fitness center, a sauna, and an outdoor tennis court.

Room options

Suite, Beachfront

King 1 | Sleeps 2

Honeymoon Suite (Spa)

King 1 | Sleeps 2

Reviews from Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor aggregated rating

61% of guests recommend this hotel

Total of 485 reviews