Cook Islands

Travel Guide

Cook Islands2024-06-25T01:39:39-10:00

Cook Islands, a Made-to-Measure Paradise

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands are a self-governing island state freely associated with New Zealand. Scattered over a maritime territory of 2 million km², the 15 islands of the archipelago cover only a minor part of the total. Far apart, they are subdivided into two groups: to the north, Manihiki, Nassau, Pukapuka, Rakahanga, Suwarrow and Tongareva; to the south, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Manuae, Palmerston, Takutea and above all Rarotonga, home to the capital Avarua. Most are high islands, with mountainous landscapes, while others rise only a few meters above sea level. Ancestral lands of the Maori, the Cook Islands share a common cultural heritage with their New Zealand cousins. They are now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the South Pacific.

About Cook Islands

  • Location: Southern Pacific

  • Area: 240 km²

  • Population: 20,000 inhabitants

  • Main City: Avarua, Rarotonga

  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar NZD

  • International Airport: Rarotonga

Why Visit Cook Islands

Like the other territories of extended Polynesia, the Cook Islands boast an exceptional natural heritage, with fantastic landscapes and lagoons of a thousand colors. The dry season is an ideal time of year, with pleasant temperatures both on land and in the water. There are no particular health risks. With the exception of dengue-carrying mosquitoes and stonefish, the Cook Islands are a safe tourist destination, free from violence and venomous animals. This harmony is reflected in the warmth of daily relations with the local population, mainly of Maori origin.

Rapidly accessible by air from New Zealand, Australia, as well as Hawaii and French Polynesia, the island of Rarotonga enjoys excellent connections with the rest of the world. Rarotonga is becoming increasingly popular with travellers from the northern hemisphere and with cruisers looking for a comfortable tropical experience.

The Cook Islands are both a charming and adventurous destination. However, the development of tourism has been very uneven. With their excellent tourist infrastructure, Rarotonga and Aitutaki attract the overwhelming majority of the archipelago’s 170,000 annual visitors. The other islands, particularly in the northern grouping, hardly ever receive any.

The Essentials of the Cook Islands

1. Wonderful Landscapes

The Cook Islands have a breathtaking natural heritage. Most of them boast beautiful bluish lagoons, dotted with palm-covered motus paradise. The wonder is real, and the moment is ripe for contemplation and romance. The white sandy beaches are awe-inspiring, and give access to the many marine reserves to better appreciate the aquatic diversity. Once on land, the spaces give way to lush vegetation and rugged mountains and hills. Some islands also hide magnificent limestone caves and underground cavities overlooking basins filled with pure, crystal-clear water.

A trip to the Cook Islands is like returning to a fantasy paradise. The mere discovery of these landscapes is enough to fulfill all expectations, and it’s a real pleasure to explore the contrasts, colors and softness of a whole that is ultimately complementary and harmonious. Nature has been generous with these Polynesian islands, making the change of scenery all the more enjoyable.

2. The Perfect Tourist Destination

While travel to the outer islands can be complex and time-consuming, it’s quite the opposite for the main islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. They benefit from excellent air connections and top-quality hotels that meet all Western standards. Rarotonga in particular offers accommodation to suit all budgets and all types of stay. The island resembles a huge seaside resort, but preserves itself from the ravages of tourism by observing a discreet, charming urbanism perfectly integrated into nature.

A stay on Rarotonga and Aitutaki offers a wide range of activities. Excursions to the lagoon, mountain hikes and scuba diving are all organized by tourism professionals, with personalized tours and services. These organized tours are complemented by more individual and autonomous activities such as snorkeling, stand-up paddling and kayaking. And that’s not counting the cultural offerings, where dance and song performances are an almost daily occurrence.

3. A Warm and Accessible Culture

The local population mainly speaks Cook Islands Maori, sometimes called Rarotongian. Their linguistic proximity to Tahitian and Paumotu is a reminder of the kinship between the different territories of Polynesia. However, the country’s colonial heritage, fraternal relations with New Zealand and openness to international tourism have meant that English is still an official language. The population is generally polyglot, speaking several languages and dialects, the fruit of a cultural melting pot at the crossroads of the South Pacific.

This makes communication and exchanges much easier. All the more so as Cook Islanders are deeply attached to their traditions, and never miss an opportunity to recount the history and legends of their islands. Their kindness and affability are also legendary. In their company, international visitors will discover the identity of the peoples of the South Seas and perhaps the mana of the Polynesian islands.

La plage de l'hôtel Conrad à Bora Bora en Polynésie française

Cook Islands in a Nutshell

The Cook Islands are a multi-faceted destination where holidays can take the form of the perfect honeymoon, the perfect seaside vacation or an off-the-beaten-track adventure. Several itineraries are possible, although by far the most accessible islands are Rarotonga and Aitutaki. In addition to their unrivalled natural beauty, these islands boast the very best infrastructure and facilities for the ultimate holiday.

Travellers wishing to visit the outer islands, which are more remote and less well served, will need to plan for at least three weeks on site and a high budget. On the other hand, for those wishing to concentrate on Rarotonga, with a possible stopover on Aitutaki or Atiu, one week is sufficient.

Good to Know

  • Events: Every year on August 4, the Cook Islands celebrate their autonomy on Constitution Day. Te Maeva Nui celebrations are full of color, music and song. They take place over an entire week.

  • Royalty: The Cook Islands belong to the Kingdom of New Zealand, under the authority of the British sovereign. However, a possible republican victory in New Zealand could alter the institutional relationship between the two Polynesian territories.

  • Cyclones: Beware of the risk of hurricanes, which are unfortunately frequent during the austral summer. Most travelers prefer to visit the Cook Islands during the dry season, especially from June to October.

  • Inter-island flights: Air Rarotonga operates domestic flights between the islands, sometimes on a weekly basis. The company also offers all-inclusive packages to Atiu and Aitutaki.

Bancs de coraux face à l'île de Huahine

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