In this Article by South Pacific travel expert Ian Osborn
Cook Travel Guide — Five Things to Know about the Cooks — Cook Islands Travel Details
The Cook Islands is one of top travel destinations in the South Pacific and certainly one the safest in the world to explore. Apart from its beaches and relaxed holiday ambience, the islands offer a peaceful village environment to immerse in, particularly on Aitutaki and Atiu, whilst Rarotonga has exotic rainforest walks to enjoy and beautiful beaches to kick-back on. Otherwise, compared to other South Pacific Islands, there is little scope for adventure travel in the Cook Islands and for seasoned travellers, unless you're prepared to explore some of the remotest islands by cargo boat, or rent a house and really unwind, then there's not a great deal to keep you here longer than two weeks.
Cook Islands Travel Guide
The Cook Islands is a Polynesian nation in the isolated eastern region of the South Pacific Islands - its closest neighbours are Tonga roughly 1,500km to the west and French Polynesia, about 800km to the east. The island nation is a self-governing state operating in free association with New Zealand. There are 15 small islands in this country with a total land area of only 240 sq km, but the Cook Islands actually covers more than 2.2 million sq km of ocean. The islands are separated into two groups: the Northern Cook Islands and the Southern Cook Islands.
Cook Islands travel destinations are a favourite amongst New Zealanders for the two countries have very close ties sharing a common ancestry, using the same New Zealand dollar currency, and with Cook Islanders holding New Zealand passports. There are around180 ,000 annual visitors to the Cook Islands each year, over half being from New Zealand, and it is the second most popular holiday destination to visit in the South Pacific.
The majority of travellers visiting the Cook Islands stay on delightful Rarotonga, a high island with picturesque tropical mountains surrounded by white sandy beaches and lots of locally owned beach bungalows and independent restaurants. he main island with its international airport, happy-go-lucky atmosphere and great beaches. Rarotonga is the youngest of the volcanic islands, so has experienced less erosion than the others and makes for an exciting, adventurous hike through the various elevations and landscapes.
The highlights of many Cook Islands travel journals is exploring the beautiful lagoon surrounding Aitutaki with its uninhabited islets and pristine beaches. Aitutaki has fewer tourists than Rarotonga as you need to take a domestic flight to reach there, but it's only 40-minutes and some tourists visit purely on day tour to enjoy a stunning cruise around the dazzling lagoon and sunbath on an uninhabited sand caye.
Atiu Island, an uplifted coral atolls is the eco destination appealing to nature lovers and those looking to experience genuine Cook islands hospitality and explore unusual limestone caves. The remaining twelve islands of the Cooks offer traditional fishing villages, most of these being extremely remote atoll islands in the north where black pearls are farmed in the lagoons and visitors cause something to gossip about amongst the locals.
Five Things to Know about The Cook Islands
1) If you want to hire a car or moped, you need to get your driving license endorsed at the Police station in Avarua Town
2) Cook Islanders greet each other in the street, or on the road with the upward nod of a head
3) Flowers are commonly worn behind the ear by both sexes - left means you're single, right married
4) Sunday is a strict day of rest and virtually everything is closed except for the churches
5) Dogs on the roadside may seem as laid back as the locals but often bite, especially if on a moped
6) And if you are looking for great places to stay, check out our favourite
Cook Islands Beach Resorts
Cook Islands Travel Details
The best way to get around on Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu is by moped; you must have a local driving license which you can get at the police station in Avarua Town on Rarotonga. Driving is on the right, and road rules are strict and best adhered to, including the 40km/h speed limit. Otherwise, on Rarotonga, two local buses travel around the island in each direction all day long and you can buy day or weekly passes.
If travelling to Aitutaki or Atiu, you're only reasonable option is to fly with Air Rarotonga. The only other option is the twice-monthly cargo boat. There are regular daily flights between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, daily flights between Rarotonga and Atiu and two weekly flights connecting Atiu and Aitutaki. Flights to the Northern Group are infrequent and made typically by special request only. There's also a monthly cargo boat that connects the northern islands and takes passengers but schedules are erratic. You'd need to head to the wharf in Avarua Town to find out details, and even then things change last-minute.
Click a region to visit in the Map of the Cook Islands below to view our interactive pictures of the islands along with hotel locations and reviews - it's a fun way to plan your holiday ...
The Cook Islands has a very pleasant year-round climate where temperatures seldom fall below 20 Celsius (it's slightly cooler and less humid than Fiji), with English widely spoken and the currency being the New Zealand dollar although living costs in the Cook Islands are a little on the high side. All in all, the Cook Islands is undoubtedly one of the great destinations for a relaxing beach holiday