Wherever you are you’ll experience the Cook Islanders’ deep sense of hospitality and you’ll quickly become accustomed to the relaxed pace. We can’t imagine anyone failing to fall in love with these friendly, gentle and very beautiful islands.
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.
OUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO EXPLORE IN THE COOK ISLANDS
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)
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)
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 over 8 million years old, the third largest island in the Cooks. With its taro gardens, forests and tiny secluded sandy coves, it is steeped in legend and rich in rare birds. The island is famed for its handmade quilts and ukuleles. Mangaia is estimated at 18 million years old and said to be the oldest island in Pacific. Explore caves, take a 4WD safari or go deepsea fishing. The market sells shell necklaces, handwoven pandanus bags, and succulent fresh fruit. Ma’uke has caves with freshwater pools to swim in, amazing fishing, and little stretches of white sand beaches to explore.