Ever dreamt about lazing in a hammock watching the sun set over the incredible Pacific Ocean? Or snorkelling amongst multi-coloured fish right outside your door? Then the Cook Islands is for you.
Named for Captain James Cook, this is a little piece of paradise nestled in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It can be broken into 2 areas, the northern group of islands and the southern group of islands.
The Northern Group includes Suwarrow Atoll, Pukapuka Atoll, Penrhyn Atoll, Nassau, Rakahanga Atoll and Manihiki Atoll.
They are rarely visited, and some still have no way of even transporting visitors to them. They are remote, isolated and fascinating.
The Southern Group is home to Mitiaro, Manuae Atoll, Palmerston Atoll, Takutea, Ma'uke, Atiu, Mangaia, Aitutaki Atoll and Rarotonga.
Of the southern group, the last 4 on this list can be visited. Generally, Aitutaki is visited as a side trip from Rarotonga, which is what most people consider the "Cook Islands".
Rarotonga is the main island in the country, is the only international airport, has car rental options and even a small town, Avarua. The entire population of the Cook Islands is under 20,000 people, and the circumference of Rarotonga is just 32km.
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RAROTNOGA (and AVARUA)
Rarotonga is lush, peaceful and beautiful. The centre of the island houses breathtaking volcanic mountains, and the entire island is surrounded by lagoons and beaches. There is one road that rings the island, where you'll find most of the main attractions.
Avarua is the capital of the Cook Islands and Rarotonga's main town. It has the feel of the old-fashioned seaside port, just waiting for the next ship to come in and liven it up for a few days. It is a pretty town, with a very relaxed feel.
Toward the eastern end, near the harbour, is the traffic circle and Seven-in-One Coconut Tree, a group of trees growing in a perfect circle. It is believed that it is in fact just one tree!
There are a couple of 24-hour food stores, established to service travellers that arrive and depart in the early morning. Their major trading partner is New Zealand, and the Cook Islands use their currency. As a result of this, many prices are quite reasonable.
Aitutaki is the most common "side-trip" from Rarotonga. What it lacks in size it makes up for with isolation and charm. It is part of a natural lagoon, which is dotted with motu.
Arutanga is the main village – but this is not the reason to come to Aitutaki. The snorkelling, diving, kayaking, swimming and picnic lunches on your own island are what entice travellers to this piece of heaven.
This really is "getting away from it all". There are daily flights between Aitutaki and Rarotonga.
The Cook Islands is not a place where highrise resorts and big name hotels exist. The villas, bungalows and hotel-style rooms available here are all individually run, offering you the best in hospitality and personal service.
You can choose from romantic beachfront bungalows to family-friendly, 2-bedroom villas. Whatever you're looking for, the Cook Islands can offer it at very reasonable rates.
The Cook Islands Cultural Village is a great introduction to the history and culture of the Cook Islands. Near the southern coast of the island is Wigmore's Waterfall, culminating in a natural swimming pool. You can drive a car all the way there, but it does get a little bumpy toward the end.
If you enjoy trekking, you can take the Cross-Island Track via Te Rua Manga (the Needle), the peak of the island with an amazing view. It will take you two to three hours, and there are public buses at either end.
The island of Rarotonga is only 32km around. Because of this, many people opt not to take a car for their entire stay.
Renting for one or two days, however, allows for some independent travel to some of the sights, as well as looking around a few of the back streets and meeting the people.
Scooters are also available, and provide a very memorable way to tour around the island.
We are always happy to be your source to answer those obscure questions. All of us have been to the Cook Islands and can provide you firsthand experience and we can help you find the answer you're looking for.
If you have a specific question or are just starting the planning process, give us a call.