Things to See & Do in the Cook Islands

One of the best ways to spend a holiday in the Cook Islands is to simply discover and enjoy the culture, traditions, and lives of the residents. If you prefer organised tours then the main island of Rarotonga has plenty from quad bike adventures in the wilderness to bird-sporting in a forest reserve. For exploring on your own, hire a moped: there's a bustling fresh produce market, roadside galleries and craft stores to browse. If you prefer the water then head to Aitutaki which boasts a stunning lagoon with lots of small uninhabited islands which you can visit on day cruises as well as excellent kite surfing and kayaking around the lagoon and world-class bone-fishing.

Cook Islands

yacht in Avarua harbour, Rarotonga

The deep waters off Rarotonga are exceptional for game-fishing and there are some sheltered lagoons to kayak and snorkel although Aitutaki is better for these.

  • Muri Beach Rarotonga
    Popular spot for sailing small craft, outrigger boats, kayaking and windsurfing
  • Aitutaki Lagoon
    Head to Aitutaki Lagoon for exceptional bone-fishng and kite-surfing from June to Oct

Cook Islands
Land Activities

black pearls at the local outdoor market on Rarotonga

Rarotonga is the place to explore for land lovers with plenty of tours and some nice walking tracks, has good shopping, galleries and a couple of museums too.

  • South Rarotonga
    Majestic volcanic scenery with walking trails, forest reserves and bird-watching
  • Atiu Island
    Limestone caves, art galleries and villages to explore

Cook Islands
Tours & Cruises

couple stroll in the lagoon off One Foot Island in Aitutaki

Rarotonga has a good assortment of sightseeing tours from Quad biking along rainforest trails to visiting local homes for dinner. The best day cruises are those exploring the stunning lagoon of Aitutaki.

  • Aitutaki Lagoon
    Take a day cruise to One Foot or Honeymoon Island with snorkelling and picnic
  • Whale Watching
    You can watch humpback whales May-Oct from the coastline on West and North Rarotonga

Activities in the Cook Islands

shopping on rarotonga

If visiting the Cook Islands for a beach holiday and you enjoy watersports, then head to Muri Beach on Rarotonga which has a protected lagoon ideal for kayaking, snorkelling and windsurfing. Both Rarotonga and Aitutaki have excellent game-fishing with Tuna, Wahoo and Marlin commonly caught. Game-fishing charters are available from Avarua Harbour and around Aitutaki which is also becoming world-renowned for both bone fishing and kite-surfing. There isn't a great deal of surfing in the Cook Islands, only a few body-surfing breaks around Rarotonga.

Whilst scuba diving in the Cook Islands is not on the top of the list for serious divers, it is a great destinations for learning to scuba dive, especially within the protected waters of Rarotonga with its very accessible coral reefs. Aitutaki has more advanced scuba diving along the outer perimeter of the fringing reef with an abundance of large fish, turtles and rich coral reefs. Snorkelling in the Cook Islands is a little more limited, with the three best spots being on South Coast of Rarotonga and in Aitutaki Lagoon. There's good kayaking in Muri Lagoon on Rarotonga and also around Ootu Point in Aitutaki.

Find out more about Water Sports in the Cook Islands

Sightseeing & Tours

Sightseeing tours of Rarotonga include several tour companies exploring the lush interior on quad bikes or 4WD vehicles, walking tours into the forest and to mountain view lookouts, as well as general circle island tours exploring the historical sites along the coastal and inland road.

Small group cruises depart Muri Beach daily for snorkelling trips at several coral reefs off the south coast of Rarotonga and give offer decent sightseeing along the coast. You can also take a sightseeing tour or sunset cruise from one of several yachts departing from Avarua Town.

Despite having one of the more modern lifestyles of the South Pacific islands, the Cook Islands offers some unique cultural tours and insights. Perhaps the best known attraction in the Cook Islands is to experience a traditional dance performance.

Rarotonga is an excellent spot to witness the annual humpback whale migration between May and October when the whales come right up to the reef edge to rest - you can often watch the whales from your bungalow veranda or the resort sunset bar.

Both Rarotonga and Aitutaki are small islands so wherever you decide to stay, all activities are accessible. Most tour companies offer complimentary pick-ups from your accommodation and the majority of Cook Island tours can be arranged from your hotel reception. If you prefer to do your own thing, car and moped hire is cheap and easy to arrange and quite a few of the resorts have mopeds ready to drive away from the hotel car park. If you don't want the bother of hiring you can catch a bus which circumnavigates Rarotonga every hour in each direction and the sites are never far from the main road.

Find out more about Land Based Activities in the Cook Islands