Planning your Beach Holiday in the Cook Islands
The majority of tourists visiting the Cook Islands do so for a relaxing beach holiday. There are plenty of gorgeous Cook Islands beach resorts on both Rarotonga and Aitutaki with the largest resort having just over 200 rooms and most being small boutique resorts or a small collection of beach bungalows with a friendly and very laid back atmosphere. Rarotonga is the main island to visit with over 80% of the country's rooms; a beautiful sand beach extends along the west and south coast dotted with small resorts with the main cluster at Muri Beach on the south east side of the island and fringed by four tiny uninhabited islets. Aitutaki is a 40-minute flight to the north and has a good beach with snorkelling lagoon on the main island and some of the most picturesque white sand beaches backed by swaying palm trees on the fringing uninhabited islets which make a popular day cruise.
Rarotonga has a coastline only 50-km long so exploring different beaches is easy. The coastal road has direct access to much of the coastline and it's easy to stop off at one of the larger resorts and walk to the beach. The most popular beaches are at Muri on the south-east corner of the island and at Aroa on the south-west, with the quietest stretch along the south coast.
Muri Beach, Rarotonga
Muri Beach is roughly a kilometre long curved sandy beach with a lagoon protected by four uninhabited islands along the reef's edge making it the most picturesque beach on Rarotonga. Muri Lagoon has a sandy bottom making it great for swimming and is considered the best beach for kids and also for watersports. The Muri Beach Sailing Club has kayaks, Hobie cats and snorkel equipment for rent with some good coral heads for snorkelling around the islets, and there's a lagoon cruise along the coast offering half day cruises. Muri Lagoon is generally calm in the morning making it a great time for exploring by kayak and in the afternoon the winds generally pick-up making it a great spot for windsurfing, sailing or kite-surfing. On the northern edge of Muri is a small passage with body-surfing, and if the waves are favourable, for light surfing. There's plenty of accommodation along Muri Beach as well as a half dozen independent restaurants and two small grocery stores.
The south coast has a long expanse of white sandy beach stretching unbroken from the village of Titikaveka to Vaima'anga and this is the quietest region with small bungalow properties, private houses and a couple of excellent beachfront restaurants making it a great choice for couples. The lagoon here is wide and has the best snorkelling reefs on the island.
A more coarse white sand beach (a mix of sand and coral particles) runs the entire length of the west coast. In the north, close to the airport and opposite the golf club is the spiritual Maori icon called Black Rock which local kids use as a launching pad for jumping into the lagoon at high tide whilst tourists swim and snorkel in the turquoise lagoon. South of here, the lagoon is patchy coral making it less practical for swimming or snorkelling although at low tide it's a great spot for reef walking. With a westerly aspect, the greatest charm for beach-lovers are the beautiful sunsets. On the south west corner is Aroa Beach where the lagoon widens and the sand becomes finer and softer and generally better for swimming and kayaking. The west coast has the largest concentration of accommodation outside of Muri with several large and mid size resorts and a handful of smaller bungalow properties.
Aitutaki has some of the best beaches in the Cook Islands, although these tend to be on the uninhabited islands fringing the lagoon and accessible only on a day tour. For those looking for a beach holiday in Aitutaki there are three options.
The Main Island of Aitutaki
The west coast of Aitutaki mainland has very pretty long stretch of sandy beach with a mix of fine white sand and coral particles, all backed by coconut palms and ironwood trees. This is where the majority of beach resorts and beach villas are located with the added attraction of facing the sunset. The lagoon here has patchy coral reefs making it good for snorkelling, with the best snorkelling spot at the northern end of the west coast (by the government fisheries).
Ootu Point on the southern tip of the main island has a couple of small beaches with accommodation. The lagoon here though is very tidal and the beach not as nice as the west coast, although the shallow lagoon exposes sand banks which make great exploring and photo opportunities. Kayaking in this sheltered part of the lagoon is excellent and there are good snorkelling reefs around the passage between Akitua Island although currents can be tricky to handle.
The motu islands have the most breath-taking beaches in the Cook Islands with gorgeous fine white sand backed by towering coconut palms and fronted by unbelievable turquoise swimming lagoons. The most popular of these to visit are One Foot Island at the southern end of the lagoon, and Maina Island on the western side. Both have sand bars to walk along with Maina also boasting a huge population of sea birds.