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Immerse Yourself in the Cook Islands

Cook Islands Couple-Relaxing-in-hammock
Inspire Magazine South Pacific 13
Wigmores Waterfall

Immerse Yourself in the Cook Islands

story by: Inspire Magazine

A journey to the Cook Islands is the perfect island escape. Relaxation, romance, family fun and adventure… you can have it all in this tropical paradise.

Everywhere the scenery is spectacular. With turquoise blue lagoons fringed by coral reefs and stunning white-sand beaches, to craggy volcanic peaks and dense jungles, it’s all picture perfect. As Pacific explorer James Upton said: "If you've not travelled to the Cook Islands, you will never really know what beauty is."

There’s a wonderful familiarity for Kiwis, many products are the same as back home and the NZ dollar is an added bonus.

A FASCINATING HISTORY
The rich cultural heritage continues today, with music, art and craft, a significant part of everyday life. Make sure you enjoy song and dance like you’re a local.

Most hotels host ‘Island Nights’ that showcase vibrant culture, or you can head to Staircase Restaurant and Bar in Avarua and watch captivated as performers twirl their hips and sing in line with local traditions. The allure of the Cook Islands brings visitors back again and again, so be sure to book your holiday early to avoid missing out.

A MELTING POT OF POSSIBILITY
Once you arrive in Rarotonga, you’ll soon find that you are on ‘island time.’ Locals let life unfold at its own pace without hurry, so get into the tropical cadence with a lazy stroll along the beach before you head out to explore the island’s many attractions.

Since the island is so small, you can circumnavigate it in less than an hour - but stretch it out and enjoy beach by beach, scene by scene. Hop on a bike or brave a scooter and drive yourself.

When you reach the southern side of the island, be sure to take a dirtbike inroad to get to Wigmore’s Waterfall. If you’re cycling, this sparkling cascade and deep, cool pool offers a chance to escape the heat. Organised tour groups can also lead you through the exotic jungle on a quad bike or out on a guided mountain trek.

The island is naturally abundant with marine activities too. Snorkelling, scuba diving, reef cruises, fishing charters and sailing experiences are just some of the oceanic activities you can enjoy in Rarotonga.

Amble along to the Saturday markets in Avarua to get your dose of island culture and cuisine. Don your very own pareu (sarong), walk away with a handmade quilt or black pearl and feast upon tropical fruit. Enjoy the friendly, lively atmosphere abuzz with chatter and song. Make sure that you try the traditional island-style feast called an umukai. You’ll devour delectable meats and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a shallow pit by hot volcanic rock.

The pulse of the island starts racing when the sun goes down, head to Avarua town to the Whatever Bar & Grill or Trader Jack’s where the party really begins.

BEYOND PARADISE - THE OUTER ISLANDS
Rarotonga isn’t the only tropical haven worth a visit, and fortunately it’s close to a smorgasbord of other beautiful surrounding islands.

Aitutaki is one such place. An untouched paradise that is less frequented by boisterous travellers, here you can find a truly authentic Cook Islands experience. It’s known as a honeymoon hotspot because couples love to come here to get away from it all. Empty expanses of bright white sand and azure waters await you, ready for swimming, snorkelling or sunbathing. To hear some genuine Cook Islands song, make your way to the limestone coral rock CICC church in Arutanga on a Sunday and be moved by the beautiful music. Climb 30 minutes to the summit of Mt Maungapu, Aitutaki’s highest peak to see the curving lagoons below.

Also visit Vaipae, nicknamed the Hollywood of the Cook Islands, for some awe-inspiring dances performed to the drumbeat - and maybe you’ll even spot a fire dancer. When the sun sets, enjoy the nightlife at Coconut Crusher Bar.

Other islands such as Atiu, Mangaia and Mauke offer even more unique and unforgettable experiences such as caving, bonefishing and diving.

Spotlight: Captain Tama's - Fun, food and friendly locals make this a cruise not to be missed! Enjoy this fun-filled tour which carries you on a journey around calm and tranquil lagoon waters aboard a glass bottom boat. Experience, up close and personal, the marine life of Muri Beach and lagoon as you snorkel and swim amongst the tropical fish before enjoying a mouth-watering barbeque fish lunch on Koromiri Island. Shrug off those inhibitions and partake in a few local traditions such as pareu tying and enjoy the cultural entertainment on offer.

WHEN TO GO
  • Tropically warm throughout the year, an ideal time to travel is the dry season (May-Oct) as it’s less humid and slightly cooler with temperatures ranging 24- 27°C. 
  • Book at least 3 months out from your travel date to avoid disappointment as airline seats and accommodation sell out quickly.
GETTING THERE
  • Rarotonga is just under a 4 hour flight from Auckland. 
  • Fly Air New Zealand non-stop from Auckland daily. 
  • Fly Virgin Australia non-stop from Auckland five times a week. 
  • You’ll gain a day on your outward journey as you cross the International Dateline and you’ll lose that day again on your way back. 
  • Once in Rarotonga there are 3-4 daily (except Sunday) scheduled air services to Aitutaki operated by Air Rarotonga, with a flight time of only 45 minutes. Some international flights into Rarotonga are timed to link up with these flights to Aitutaki.
To find out more call 0800 838 747, visit houseoftravel.co.nz or come instore!

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