UNTIL RECENTLY, RAROTONGA, a 26-square-mile volcanic cone in the South Pacific, was known as a prime offshore tax haven and money-laundering center. It's also a good place to cleanse the soul, and Reflections on Rarotonga, the Cook Islands' charter member of Small Elegant Hotels of the World, wants to heal you one massage at a time. Reflections' sister hotel, Rumours of Romance, opened in Muri Beach last September, offering all the cush of Reflections plus indoor and outdoor waterfalls.
THE GOOD LIFE: Whole days can slip away in your 1,500-square-foot-plus "room"complete with super-king four-poster bedbut the champagne brunch might coax you out. For a private alternative to the ocean, head for your six-foot-deep backyard plunge pool.
SPORTS ON-SITE: Grab a sea kayak and paddle for the outer reef, less than a half-mile offshore. Drop anchor, slip on your snorkeling gear, and find Nemo or his parrotfish brethren.
BEYOND THE SAND: After your subaquatic survey of the reef, get a gull's-eye view with a 30-minute Adventure Flights Rarotonga ultralight or paragliding flight thatin the right windcan take you around the entire island. Soaring across clear skies and over a vivid multicolor ocean begs the question "How many shades of blue are there?"
THE FINE PRINT: Doubles at Reflections on Rarotonga start at $350, including airport transfers; 011-682-23703, www.reflections-rarotonga.com. Doubles at Rumours of Romance start at $595, including airport transfers; 011-682-23703, www.rumours-rarotonga.com. Air New Zealand (800-262-1234, www.airnewzealand.com/usa) flies from LAX to Rarotonga starting at $806 round-trip.