Kia Orana from Beautiful Cook Islands Holidays

Holidays in the Cook Islands offer a truly laid-back tropical ambience boasting some of the nicest beaches in the South Pacific along with an enviable year-round climate seldom dipping beneath 20°C. With just 170,000 visitors arriving each year, mostly for a relaxing beach holiday on Rarotonga or Aitutaki, this tiny South Pacific island nation is one of the top destinations for New Zealand holidaymakers, especially during its winter (May-Oct).

Visiting the Cook Islands

Cook Islands
Travel Guide

uninhabited island in aitutaki lagoon

Find out about all the islands, what's unique, what to do, how to get around and where to stay.

  • Aitutaki Island
    absolutely stunning lagoon island with uninhabited islets
  • Rarotonga Island
    majestic volcanic scenery with buzzing holiday ambience
  • Atiu Island
    lesser-visited eco tourist destination with villages and caves

Cook Islands

reading a book on the beach

Holidays for loved-up couples, with your kids or just looking to unwind by the ocean with a book.

  • Romance
    beach villas, turquoise lagoons and candlelit dinners under stars
  • Families
    kids clubs, safe swimming lagoons and beach horse riding
  • Beach Holiday
    fun things to do, idyllic locations and best beach resorts

Cook Islands

visit atiu island

Things to do on the water or on the land as well as sightseeing, shopping and night-life

  • On the Water
    whale watching, snorkelling, lagoon cruises or learn to scuba dive
  • Land Activities
    rainforest hikes, hire a moped, local markets and art galleries
  • Tours & Cruises
    best sightseeing tours and snorkelling cruises

Holidays in the Cook Islands

map showing the cook islands location in the south npacific

The Cooks is small nation with just 15 islands, most of them low lying atolls and only two of these are developed for mainstream tourism.

a cook islands holiday accommodation on aitutaki

Rarotonga is the main island, circular in shape and taking just under one hour to circumnavigate, most vehicles are mopeds but there's a public bus service popular with tourists. Rarotonga rises steeply from the coast with lush mountains and volcanic peaks with sweeping white sandy beaches around the coast. There's plenty of accommodation, lots of independent restaurants and a whole heap of tours and activities both on the lagoon and into the interior to keep you busy and an excellent night-life with bars, nightclubs and island dance shows.

Aitutaki, the second most visited island, is a lot more laid back with sleepy fishing villages, palm fringed beaches and a stunning lagoon with great day cruises, fishing charters and kite surfing, as well as restaurants and a good variety of beach resorts and villas; Aitutaki is a 40-minute flight from Rarotonga.

A few eco travellers venture to Atiu for exploring caves and engaging with the local Maori culture, but accommodation here is limited.

Popular Things to Do on Holiday in the Cook Islands

Aitutaki Lagoon Cruise

Humpback Whale Watching

Learn to Scuba Dive

Nightlife and Polynesian Dance Performances

Muri Beach, Rarotonga

Cook Islands Tourist Information

island dancers at a beach resort in the cook islands

Cook Island holidays are most popular amongst New Zealanders with direct flights from Auckland and also from Wellington and Christchurch all taking roughly 4hrs. Air New Zealand is the only airline flying into the country at present, from New Zealand. The international airport is on the north side of Rarotonga. The islands are also becoming increasingly on the radar of Australian holiday-makers, although flights go via Auckland. The local currency is the NZ$ (New Zealand dollar).

Read our Cook Islands Tourism FAQs ...

Holiday Accommodation in the Cook Islands

view of the rarotonga resort

Spending a holiday at one of the beautiful Cook Islands resorts on Rarotonga or Aitutaki is a lifetime dream come true for many so selecting the right place to stay is crucial. Rarotonga has about 80% of the country's accommodation including a couple of large resorts and plenty of holiday homes ideal for families. Aitutaki is more popular with couples seeking a romantic holiday ambience and has a decent selection of small quaint properties with beach bungalows to suit all budgets, from backpackers to ultra exclusive.

The majority of accommodation in the Cook Islands host less than thirty guests at a time and so ensure a very intimate atmosphere. One of the unique charms of the Cook Islands is staying in one of the locally owned self-catering beach bungalows, luxury villas or holiday homes on Rarotonga or Aitutaki and these are ideal for both families and couples seeking an intimate holiday.

For families, there are several large beach resorts on Rarotonga and with kids clubs, lots of activities, night entertainment and for these we have some very good package holidays. Rarotonga has good sightseeing, beautiful beaches and plenty of boutique shops selling crafts and independent restaurants. The largest resort on Aitutaki has less than 40 rooms so don't expect anything more than very laid back! Aitutaki boasts a stunning lagoon and is the place to head for a romantic holiday in the Cook Islands or your honeymoon.

Read our Cook Islands Hotel Guide