But today, try driving down the narrow stretch road along Muri lagoon and you’ll struggle to find anywhere to park on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights.
The smell will hit you first – sweet aromas of rukau, fresh fish, stir fries and beautiful barbecue meals permeate the air, to the delight of both locals and tourists.
And then you’ll hear the sound of entertainers, ranging from popular local acts such as Browne and Tixier to beautiful traditional dancing performed by talented local youngsters.
Muri night market owners and landowners Tu and Bernie Purua are humble about their entrepreneurial achievement, which has created what surely must be the most successful and well-attended food market in the country.
“It has been exciting to watch it grow, but we don’t want it to grow any more,” says Bernie with a laugh.
She says the couple are sticking with the four-night schedule, with Thursday’s and Sunday’s the market’s busiest days.
Vendors can come as many or as few nights a week as they like, which suits the flexible island lifestyle, as some stall owners have their hands in many different pies.
And market-goers can enjoy a range of truly authentic Cook Islands’ food, as well as unique international options and sweet treats.
One of the most popular stalls is the Nicholas’ “Kool Kebabs” which usually attracts a long line of hungry market-goers who have heard about the yummy kebabs and mushroom sauce.
Other crowd favourites include seared tuna, fish curries, steak, and heavenly smoothies.
And just in case you thought it was all healthy, don’t worry; there are decadent delights for those who prefer something a little more sugary, too.
The ladies from Paradise Pit Stop have a stall selling classics such as carrot cake and chocolate brownie, as well as yummy banoffie pie made right before your eyes.
Tu and Bernie welcome anyone who hasn’t experienced the night market to give it a whirl the next time you’re in the neighbourhood.
The Muri night market runs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings.