An Overview Of The Cook Islands: An Off The Beaten Path Traveler’s Dream
September 25, 2023
Want to visit a tiny island nation with a huge personality? The Cook Islands are a perfect choice. This country has no branded resorts, no buildings taller than a coconut tree, and its remote location makes it a dream for any adventure traveler. It’s easy to see why we fell in love with this location, and we want to share some of our favorite tips with you here.
Where Are The Cook Islands?
Tucked between Honolulu, Hawaii, and New Zealand, these South Pacific Islands are chock full of gorgeous green mountains, blue lagoons, and white sand beaches to explore. The islands are split into two groups: Southern Cook Islands and Northern Cook Islands. Most of the population lives in the Southern Cook Islands, with Rarotonga and Aitutaki having the highest density. Other islands have populations in numbers as low as the 50s.
When To Visit
These islands have a warm climate year-round and a defined dry (winter) and rainy (summer) season. From April through November, travelers enjoy the dry season with temperatures averaging a beautiful 79°F. In the summer months of December through March, travelers can expect tropical showers, high humidity, and temperatures averaging around 82°F.
What to Know
The Cook Islands use the New Zealand dollar, and oftentimes, the exchange rate is in favor of the American dollar. You can drive around the entire island of Rarotonga in about 45 minutes. Driving is on the left, but it’s a fairly easy place to drive. If you don’t feel like driving, there is a great public bus that goes around the island. You will see signs on the bus placard to advise if the bus is going clockwise or counterclockwise. Hop on in the direction you want to go or opt to take both routes to see the whole island!
Our Favorite Things To Do In The Cook Islands
Our team of travel designers has fallen head over heels for these islands and has had the pleasure of traveling to this stunning location several times. Here is a collection of our favorite things to do once you arrive.
Visit The Punanga Nui Market in Rarotonga
On Saturday mornings, the Punanga Nui Market comes alive with friendly locals offering hand-made arts and crafts, local fashion, jewelry, and food and drink to enjoy. It’s the perfect place to get souvenirs and catch live performances on the main stage. You can also enjoy the Muri Night Markets several days a week.
Embark on Pa’s Island Trek
For active travelers, Pa’s Island Trek is a must. Thousands of travelers have embarked on this cross-island hike alongside Pa, an herbalist and eco-tourism pioneer. After 33 years of guiding travelers, he led his last walk in 2018. Now, his nephew, Bruce, leads the way. This strenuous hike takes about three hours to complete, so a moderate fitness level is required. But, if you can do it, you will learn a ton about local culture and medicinal herbs and share in some of the best storytelling the world has to offer.
SUP or Kayak on Muri Beach
One of the best ways to experience the pristine lagoon is to rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard on Muri Beach. From your unique vantage point, you can see the vibrant sea life dancing below you. This is a great way to let your inner compass take you into the lagoon for a memorable day on the water.
Take A Lagoon Cruise and Snorkel
Whether you want to take a private lagoon cruise or join in on a glass-bottom boat charter, there are plenty of options for lagoon cruises on Rarotonga. Take a half day to explore the local waters, snorkel off the vessel, and enjoy live entertainment with your tour guide. Experiencing a cruise on this island is like no other and a must-do when visiting the Cook Islands.
Visit Aitutaki For A Day or Longer
Aitutaki is the second most populated island in this country. Just a 50-minute flight from Rarotonga, this destination is a must-see. On this small island, you can set your own pace. Relax on the stunning beaches for the duration, or snorkel and cruise the beautiful lagoon and take advantage of one of the many adventurous activities on the island. Be sure to bring your passport for a unique stamp at the one and only One Foot Island.
Our Favorite Cook Islands Resorts
These islands offer beautiful, secluded luxury resorts that will fit the needs of any traveler. Below is a list of our favorite spots on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
We love this island country and hope this article inspired you to embark on your next remote adventure to this destination. If you want help planning, our team of experts is here for you. Contact us today to see how we can put together the perfect itinerary for your travel style.