No matter where you're visiting for the first time, it's always great to know the best places to eat & drink and where to get a good coffee! The islands are no exception!
Locally owned by the Nicholas family, the Palace Takeaways have been a mainstay on the island for at least 30 years now starting out of a small caravan.
Famous for their Palace burgers, they still have their cheap nights which means you can still get hamburgers, cheese burgers and egg burgers for $3.50 on Mondays and Wednesdays.
They also do a great milkshake.
Location: Avatiu Wharf.
The Kai Guy
Locally owned, when they first started up they were testing the market and would do Caesar salads from their house and food orders/deliveries to the business sector.
They now operate out of their food truck.
They've introduced a lot of healthy alternatives which is good for the island and in terms of everyone else on the island doing pizzas and burgers - you can come here and get alternative breakfast burritos, tacos & loaded fries
Chere's Fave: Tokyo Jane Burrito
Location: Avatiu Wharf, opposite CITC Liquor. You can also find them down at the Punanga Nui markets on Saturdays and every 2nd Wednesday evening.
Locally owned by Lui & Petua Nicholas.
They set this caravan up a couple of years ago and do fish & chips, burgers and also make a mean sashimi.
Their signature dish is Charcoal chicken & a couple of days a week they'll have a guy out the back who does all their charcoal dishes - charcoal chicken, charcoal pork etc ...
They used to have roast pork nights on Thursday nights and would set up for familys, do a range of pork plates, have a live band but since Covid hit they stopped doing it. Now that the borders are opened they may bring it back.
Fun fact: The Nicholas family also own and run The Palace Takeaways and Annies chicken.
The coleslaw you can buy at Slipways is the coleslaw you'll find in the Palace Burgers and you can buy Lui's aunty Lorna's Kool Kebabs here too. Great family networking.
Chere's Tip: Lately the craze on island is cinnamon buns and you can buy these at Slipway too.
Location: Avatiu Wharf. 200m along from the Palace Takeaways.
Reefside do really great coffee - very consistent.
They also do keto coffees and protein shakes so you can do the bullet coffee which has coconut oil in it and they offer all of those things which most other cafes on island don't.
Location: Punanga Nui Markets
Kai & Co
Locally owned and they try to do burgers with a difference.
Their menu is small and set but great quality. Sometimes they'll do different specials like a 'Surf & Turf' so for $15 you'll be able to get a plate of meat, salad, fries or wedges.
They do really good coffee and also do really awesome desserts - locally made cheesecakes, creme brule, baclava (which is probably not something you can get anywhere else on the island) and then your staple cookies and muffins.
Location: Punanga Nui Markets
Raro Fried Chicken
This place is the hub after the clubs!
Everyone comes here from the clubs to have a feed and get their chicken before they head home.
Locally owned and Filipino managed, Raro Fried Chicken is 24/7. It opens every day and you can get chicken any hour of the day.
They've also expanded their menu to include doughnuts and iced doughnuts. They now do muffins, icecream, milkshakes and coffee as well.
Local Fave: $30 family pack which includes 6 pieces of chicken, chips & gravy, coleslaw and a 1.5 litre drink.
Chere's Tip: Park up after the clubs & eat your Raro Fried Chicken while people watching - highly entertaining.
NB: These guys don't have eftpos so you'll need cash
Location: Avarua Wharf. Opposite the courthouse and roundabout in town.
Hidden gem! You can't see this spot from the road but if you go behind the Cook Islands Game Fishing Club (aka The Fishing Club) you'll find a little eatery operating out of a container.
Locally owned they do seafood platters, fish & chips, burgers and offer a really good kids menu.
He also offers Kombucha in his drinks menu.
Location: Beachside behind the Fishing Club in Tupapa
Locally owned and run by Nathan Ivaiti.
Originally they started out just offering coffee and hot & cold drinks, smoothies etc, but now he offers a full menu including toasties, home made burgers, baked goods, keto options and protein shakes.
At the moment their cinnamon buns are really popular.
They were the first to do 'Text a coffee' on the island where you text them your order, give them a time you're coming thru and then they'll prioritise your order so it's ready for pick-up when you arrive.
Really convenient for those heading into town from that side of the island.
Chere's Tip: They'll give you a discount if you bring your own reusable cup.
Local Tip: Cafe's outside the resorts are closed on Sundays but Love Cafe open their small caravan up in Tikioki on Sundays for when you need a coffee fix before or after church.
Location: Mondays to Saturdays at their main location in Matavera and on Sundays, the small coffee caravan in Tikioki.
The original Vili's was just burgers but now they do burgers, pizza, fish & chips and chicken.
The burgers here are really good - their signature burger would be the Muri Burger and their pricing is reasonable.
Everyone has been trying to create the Big Mac sauce for their burgers and Vili's has pretty much got it.
Chere's Tip: They offer milkshakes and the milkshakes here taste like a Mcdonalds milkshake.
Location: Vili's Burgers - Kaps store in Matavera
Moorings Fish Cafe
Really great, chunky sandwiches, delicious sashimi plates and they also offer really great food options where sometimes they'll do curry nights, pasta nights etc if they're low on fish ...
NEW Location: Muri - opposite the Muri night markets (they're no longer in Avana)
Originally Rima's was just known for baked goods - she bakes her own breads and makes her own pies, sandwiches, toasties, sausage rolls etc ...
In recent years she's expanded out to cooked food and because her husband is Indian, they've introduced currys onto their menu.
They offer a full and affordable menu - chicken, fish, pork meals as well as burgers & pizzas.
Chere's Tip: The best curry on the island! Everyone goes here for the curry and they have an indian chef who makes the curry dishes.
On Sunday mornings Ruben and Victoria Dearlove do coffee and pastries from outside their house in Matavera.
The croissants are a big hit on the island and definitely a Sunday morning treat.
Chere's Tip: You'll need to get in early as the lines can be long and they'll sell out.
Location: Dearloves residence in Matavera. Look out for the line of cars from about 7am in the morning.
Local tip - if you can't wait until Sunday for your croissant fix, there's a small bakery on the Arorangi side who sell delicious sweet croissants on the daily here -