The Cook Islands represent pure paradise. The breath-taking palm tree-laden white beaches and calm azure water looks even better in real life than in photos. We love a jaunt there and have put together our favourite tips.
Spread over 2 million square kilometres of ocean, this grouping of islands offer warm weather year round. From a mild 25c degree average high between May and October to the perfect 28c degree temperatures for the remainder of the there’s never a bad time to visit. The locals love greeting visitors to the island, with a call of ‘Kia Orana’ joined by a friendly smile and wave.
Rarotonga is the main island and accessible via direct flight from Auckland. It is home to approximately 13,000 locals and the island offers a range of accommodation from basic 3-star apartments to 5-star luxury villas with private plunge pools. There is just one main road around the island and buses run in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction every hour during the day Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings making it easy to get around without transportation.
The Cook Islands are the perfect destination for a wedding or honeymoon and many hotels offer special wedding packages including ceremony and reception. Choose from a church wedding with minimal fuss or make it a day to remember and have your ceremony on a remote island, arriving via boat escorted by local men in traditional dress.
If you love tours, then one of the island’s best is the Progressive Dinner. This tour is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the Cook Island lifestyle, family values as well as try some amazing home cooked local dishes. The tour consists of three courses served at three local family homes. Family is the heart and soul of locals and your tour will include a walk through a family garden to learn about the different plants, tree and food they grow. Your tour guides will entertain you by singing local songs to ukulele on the bus as you travel around.
For an entertaining and informative evening out visit the Te Vara Nui Village at Muri. The evening attraction includes Cook Islands’ Maori storytelling, dancing and music. Hear the pounding of drums, and sounds of traditional ukuleles on the specially made floating stage. The energy is infectious as the dancers smile and shakes their skirts. Dinner is a buffet consisting of local and western food.
If you want to get your heart pumping there are a few adventurous activities available on Raratonga. Quad biking and buggy tours guide you past local farms up into the rainforest where you can explore muddy trails, bumpy tracks and some heart stopping dips. A local celebrity Pa (easy to spot with his blond dreadlocks) operates Pa’s Mountain Trek through hilly central Rarotonga. Pa has extensive knowledge of the island’s history and local medicine plants, keeping you will be entertained with medicinal treatments as you hike to the island’s central summit.
Saturdays also offer the local market, offering a range of fresh food, clothing, wood carving and weaving. Pandanus and coconut fibre weaving is steeped in Cook Islands tradition, baskets were made for fishing and woven rito hats are worn proudly by many women during their regular Sunday church session. However don’t forget to bring a personal fan, the heat can be stifling inside during the warmer months.
If taking the bus doesn’t match your needs, then consider renting a vehicle. To hire a car or scooter you will first need to visit the Police Station in Avarua to purchase a Cook Islands licence for a small fee. It’s a great souvenir to take home too. Your Comprehensive Worldcare Travel Insurance policy provides cover for rental vehicles and scooters, however you must have a valid New Zealand licence and the required local licence. Read more about the rental vehicle excess and motorcycle rules in our policy wording.
Aitutaki is a short flight away from Rarotonga and offers a number of luxury resorts and self catering apartments. For the ultimate honeymoon escape book an overwater bungalow at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort. These to-die-for bungalows are built in the traditional manner with thatched roof and pandanus lined walls. In the morning you can step off your balcony into the dazzlingly blue Aitutaki Lagoon for a swim or snorkel. After catching a few rays you can cool down in your private outdoor shower.
One of the most convenient parts of travelling to the Cooks? You don’t have to exchange your money, as the island’s currency is New Zealand dollars. Be sure to have a great time soaking up all the Cook Islands have to offer and please send us your travel tips too.