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A warm lagoon, a swaying hammock and a waft of frangipani are waiting for you in the Cook Islands, just under four hours by air from New Zealand. Forget long arrival procedures and complex transfers – slipping into Island life here could not be easier. Step off the plane in Rarotonga to a song of greeting and an ei (flower garland) welcome; very soon you will be relaxing at your accommodation – because although ‘Raro’ is the biggest of the Cooks, it is really quite small. Villages dot the shoreline, and the main town, Avarua, occupies the top end of this almost apple-shaped island. It’s probably the most easy-going national capital you’ll ever visit, and as well as a good market, has interesting boutiques and eateries. Woven bags and jewellery are two top buys here. Chances are you’ll be staying on Raro for at least part of your visit, so do get out and explore. It has classically gorgeous lagoon beaches but also a mountainous, forest-clad interior that’s perfect for visitors wanting a little adventure. And, with a bus that circles the coast in both directions, it’s very easy to get from place to place. Rarotonga is the stepping stone to the outer islands – these are scattered across two million squares of the Pacific, and while some lie less than an hour’s flight away, the most isolated and pristine are accessible only by sea. Among those easily reached by air and catering for visitors are Aitutaki with its astoundingly beautiful lagoon, Atiu, Mangaia and Ma’uke. Wherever you are you’ll experience the Cook Islanders’ deep sense of hospitality and you’ll quickly become accustomed to the relaxed pace. Explore, enjoy the ambience, have a drink with the locals and join them to sing hymns on a Sunday: unforgettable. We can’t imagine anyone failing to fall in love with these friendly, gentle and very beautiful islands. They are one of the most charming places on earth. Rich in Polynesian culture, they are also closely linked with New Zealand – and our dollar is used there, so there’s no currency exchange to worry about on arrival.
Just under four hours away this idyllic paradise is super close to us here in New Zealand. Many Kiwi’s have already cottoned
on to this fact and the Cook Islands continues to be one of our most popular travelling destinations in the South Pacific.
The main island of the Cooks, Rarotonga, is not only a holiday destination in itself but the gateway to more far-flung isles. Not that you have to leave its sandy shores. Rarotonga is almost completely encircled by a lagoon, so water-based activities are everywhere. (Image: ©Cook Islands Tourism)
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Aitutaki and its lagoon captivate visitors from that first glimpse out the aircraft window. Startlingly white swathes of sand contrast with the deep azure of the encircling Pacific Ocean and the remarkable turquoise of its lagoon studded with tiny islets. (Image: ©Cook Islands Tourism/Craig Owen)
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Authentic island life flourishes on the three remote volcanic and coral islands of Atiu, Mangaia and Ma’uke, all less than an hours flight from Rarotonga.
Atiu is a gorgeous emerald isle and the 'eco' capital of the Cook Islands, with plenty to offer those in search of something different. Take a tour of some of the coral limestone caves, with wonders such as the Tiroto Tunnel formed by fresh running water. Wade through this tunnel almost to the sea for a real adventure. Then there's the Anatakitaki Cave, which is home to the special Kopeka bird, native to Atiu. The Rima Rau burial cave is a surreal experience, with a number of differing local legends accounting for the bones found here. If you want to try swimming in some of the caves, visit Nurau and Vai Akaruru. These feature exciting sinkholes, underwater passages and other thrilling features. Remember to always go with a guide so as not to get lost. This island is also a wonderful destination for hiking, with a number of nature trails. Take the Captain Cooks Trail, which passes through pristine jungle and beach. A highlight is the land bridge over an impressive 4 metre-wide cleft.
It's tempting to sink into island time and linger poolside, but if you want to venture out, Rarotonga has heaps to offer. Here are three of our top sightseeing options to get you started. A fun and exciting way to see Rarotonga is with a Raro Buggy Tour. You’ll spend a couple of hours motoring through roads less travelled, stopping off at a few points of interest while experiencing the islands incredible beauty. Be prepared to get muddy! Want to explore nature on foot? Join Pa, a delightful Cook Islander as he takes you on a trek across paddy fields, lush tropical bush covered mountains and through crystal clear streams to show you ancient villages where his ancestors once lived. For something different at night head out on a Fire on Water Night Paddle Tour. LED lights are attached to the boards as you paddle out on Muri Lagoon under a starry sky. A highlight is a special fire dance performance at the end of the tour.
With Rarotonga being so close to us Kiwi's (just under a 4 hour flight) it’s the perfect excuse to round up the mates and head over for a few days of ultimate fishing with Akura Fishing Charters. Akura is known for the best catch rates on the island. Fishing around Rarotonga is fantastic. You have warm water, great visibility and the expectation of ‘catch’ is endless. The fish life here is varied and depending on the season mainly includes blue marlin, sailfish, wahoo, barracuda, mahi-mahi and yellowfin and skip-jack tuna. The 40 foot vessel ‘Akura’ is perfect for game fishing and large groups, with full toilet facilities onboard and a game chair located in the centre for your convenience, its suitable for a wide range of activities including game fishing, spearfishing and reef fishing. For a fun day out look no further than the friendly team at Akura Fishing Charters.
Pacific Resort Aitutaki is a wonderful choice for a romantic honeymoon in paradise. Treat your loved one to a magical intimate dining experience on the soft white sands of Amuri Beach, surrounded by soft candle light and a scattering of tropical flower petals at your toes. Take in the stunning Aitutaki sunset while sipping champagne from your exclusive beachfront location. The staff can organise a range of bespoke romantic dining set up locations to suit your needs. Pair this with luxury accommodation, world-class cuisine and 5-star service and you will find this blissful resort is the perfect escape, where you can focus on what matters most – each other.
Get the most out of your Cook Islands getaway and discover the best of both worlds with this island combo including stays in both Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Rarotonga, the hub of the Cook Islands has so much to see and do with markets, island feasts, a range of tours, delicious restaurants and more. Aitutaki is often referred to as having the world’s most stunning lagoon. Secluded and romantic it offers a more relaxed holiday experience and is the top of any bucket list in the South Pacific. We recommend three nights at the 4-star Little Polynesian Resort – a boutique resort perfect for those seeking a romantic picturesque escape followed by three nights at the 5-star Pacific Resort Aitutaki. With 27 luxurious rooms all absolute beachfront this gem of the South Pacific is an idyllic haven for couples and honeymooners alike.
With its warm, welcoming and friendly people, the Cook Islands is the perfect holiday destination for those seeking a taste of traditional Polynesian culture. Te Vara Nui Village is Rarotonga’s leading cultural attraction located in Muri Beach. On arrival you will be met by the local Maori people who will share their stories, knowledge and heritage with you during the tour. Sit back and enjoy the dancers and musicians as they perform by flaming torchlight on floating stages. Venture out to the villages to experience true Cook Islands cuisine, hospitality and lifestyle with a progressive dinner. You’ll enjoy three sumptuous courses while listening to the sounds of the local ukuleles. Each course is served in a different local home. The Cook Islands will capture your heart with its vibrant culture and spirit.
Rumours multi award-winning Waterfall Spa has been selected by the World Travel Awards Group as the winner for the “Best Resort Spa in the Cook Islands” for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. This beautifully designed Waterfall Spa will have you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated for your tropical island holiday in Rarotonga. The spa uses Ayurda products and there are a whole range of treatments on offer including facials, body masks, body scrubs, massages, manicures and pedicures, so you’re sure to find something to soothe the body, soul and mind. So escape the everyday worries and stresses of life and take some time out to indulge and pamper yourself. The professional and welcoming staff at Rumours will ensure you have one of the best spa experiences to be had. Honeymooners that stay 5 nights or more will receive two 60 minute relaxation massages at the award-winning Spa facility.
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Don’t get caught in a Raro downpour, hire a car and follow the coastal road come rain or shine. With only 32 kilometres of road it only takes about an hour to get around. Discover deserted beaches, villages and yummy eateries along the way. You can now drive in the Cook Islands for up to six months using your full overseas license. Scooters are available too. If you have a motorcycle class on your overseas license you do not need to take a test to acquire a Cook Islands license, you just need to pay $20 at the police station for a visitor license. If you do not have a motorcycle class on your license you’ll just need to head down to the Cook Islands Police Station in Avarua and take a test riding up and down the street without falling off! It is now compulsory to wear a safety helmet while driving a scooter.
From giant trevally to reef fish, Rarotonga’s underwater odyssey is replete with curiosities. Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve offers safe snorkelling and zero coral. Then there’s Tikioki - ‘Fruits of Rarotonga’, which is one of the island’s permanent marine parks, with a nearby café for post-snorkelling refreshments. Blackrock, which is considered one of the calmest places to snorkel in Rarotonga is great for families with kids, it also has a BBQ area.
This little paradise is becoming more and more popular for Kiwi’s. We’re already seeing resorts book out much earlier than usual, particularly over Easter and school holidays. Make sure you book early to ensure you get into your favourite resort and don’t miss out.
When we live such busy lives, planning some time to be together with the ones we love most has become essential so why not book a multi-generational holiday in Raro with the in-laws, and grandparents in tow. It’s a good opportunity to reconnect and create memories and let’s be honest, the extra help with child care is a bonus! Ask us about super-sized villas, two and three bedroom apartments and holiday homes, we’ll help you find the right fit.
Punanga Nui Market is a must-do for unique and well-priced Pacifica pieces, clothing, handicrafts and black pearls. Although open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm, Saturday is the main market day with more stalls and live music performed on the stage. For a delicious selection of food, Muri Beach night market boasts island specialities at very reasonable prices. From curries to locally baked cakes, entertainers and stage singers.
For an even slower pace of life, fly from Rarotonga to the laid-back islands of Aitutaki, Atiu, Ma’uke or Mangaia in just under an hour. The romantic island of Aitutaki is home to the most pristine turquoise, sun-kissed lagoon. Untouched and unspoiled Atiu offers secluded caves, rare tropical birds and coral sand beaches. Mau’ke known as the garden island is abundant with flowers, deep underground caves, fresh water pools and lakes. Estimated to be 18 million years old Mangaia encompasses rugged beauty, ancient artefacts and lush landscape.
Current time in Cook Islands
New Zealand is 22 hours ahead of the Cook Islands
New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Current is 240V, 50HZ. Plug is a 3 point rectangle-pin adaptor
English and Cook Island Maori
ANZ Bank is located in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. ANZ ATM’s are located at Avarua
Hospital is located in Rarotonga
If you’re travelling on a NZ Passport a Visa is not required, however if you intend on staying longer than 32 days a visa will be required
4 hours from Auckland top Rarotonga, 6 hours and 20 minutes from Wellington to Rarotonga and 6 hours and 40 minutes from Christchurch to Rarotonga
From May – October. This time of year falls in the middle of a tropical winter, but winter is dry in Rarotonga and these months are best for sunshine and warm weather. You’re looking at temperatures of highs of 23°C to Lows of 21°C. There’s never a bad time to visit the tropical island paradise that is Rarotonga, embodying a warm tropical climate all year round.
Air New Zealand and Jetstar
Are you planning your next trip to the Cook Islands? Want to learn more about this destination? Or looking for ideas and inspiration for your next holiday? Here is where you can find our featured articles on the Cook Islands.
This is just a taste of the information and advice we have available through our House of Travel consultants.
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