The Most Extreme Hike Ever – Cross Island Trail in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

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I have become a bigger and bigger fan of hiking as the years have gone.

I actively seek trails when I go away now. Even when I’m home, I look at what hiking trails are near me.

Well, I got to tell you that I did the CRAZIEST HIKE EVER!

All alone – 4 hours – it was like climbing trees at times! I cross an entire island!!!

The Cross Island Trail in Rarotonga – there you have it and I’m not sure what else out there beats it.

The trail is located on the main island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

It literally is crossing the island from the north coast to the south:

*Do not attempt to do it reverse. It isn’t meant to be and it won’t really work the other way around with the way the mountains go.

The Beginning 

To start, you take the bus to where the market is every Saturday in town. From there, it is easy, you pass a few houses and farms and it is flat land. You will see reminders that you are getting close. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get to the actual inclines in the trail.

Part Two

Once you enter the mountains, it gets steep very quick. For the next 1.5 hours or so you are going at about a 80-degree angle up. This might as well be called climbing and not hiking. It was VERY STEEP.

It was mostly by trees also and their barks. I would be on all fours grabbing onto branches and the barks in the ground, making my way up. I am not in the best shape but even for working out, I would stop sometimes every 3 seconds to breathe and relax.

At the Top

Once you reach the ultimate peak, you are at the Needle.

When you see this sign, it may be in even worse condition than when I saw it. The Needle is north-east so somewhat to your left. You go there and then you have to come back down. Then go straight ahead to continue the Cross Island Trail. It is closed past the Needle so you have to come back to this sign and take the other road.

The Needle is a famous peak for all Polynesians, locals, and visitors. There are many legends about it and this is where you get a view of the ocean from above.

There is a rope that goes around it, however it was very slippery when I went so I passed on doing that part.


After the Needle, you will begin descending through the mountainous terrain.

You think getting up was hard? Yes I agree that is the hardest part. Getting down isn’t easy though.

It is very slippery most of the time and just as steep. Take your time, hold on to everything in sight, and trust that you will ruin your shoes.

The Rivers

Towards the end, the trail will make you cross streams and shallow rivers.

Continue to look for the orange markers. They will point you where to go as they do throughout the entire trail.

Sometimes, I would stop and stand and look for two markers. I would find them. Just take your time to scan the trees and ground with your eyes. They are there and they are visible.

The End – a Waterfall!

Once you get wet and wash off some of the mud off your shoes, you finally level off and come to a waterfall.

You can dip, but it is too shallow for swimming. Get in though!

I was sweating when I was on the bus. I was beat red when I was climbing. At the end, you’re a sweaty mess no matter who you are!

From there, you can sit, take a break on the picnic table, and you might even see a food truck or vendor on the way back to the main road.

After 4 hours of your life – you have conquered the Cross Island Trail!


They (as in Google) say this trail is for everyone and I saw many groups of people of all ages.

Oh boy did some of them have trouble. I would not agree that it is for everyone, it is very hard and dangerous especially after it rains.

Which leads me to my next point – it rains over the mountains pretty much daily. It is hardly ever completely dry.

If locals tell you the trail is flooded, listen to them and do not go.

You can go alone safely.

Or you can book a guide – everyone recommends Pa who has grown up on the island and does this trail daily. Book with him at

If you’ve done the trail – what did you think?

After reading this – do you think you would do it?