Cook Islands travel guide

Cook Islands Tourism | Cook Islands Guide

You're Going to Love Cook Islands

Secluded in the vastness of the South Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands are an often untraveled Pacific gem. The country spreads across 15 islands and has some of the most immaculate sandy beaches imaginable. A thriving local population exhibits their Polynesian heritage with pride, as evidenced by Christian songs and woodcarvings. There are limestone caves to discover as well as spectacular coral reefs.

What to do in the Cook Islands

1. Lounge in Muri Lagoon

The crystal-clear blue waters have shallow depths and are ideal for snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Dense schools of fish navigate the lagoon, while tasty cocktails are served underneath coconut trees on the beach.

2. Hike Across Rarotonga

Taking roughly 3-4h, the Cross-Island track is a rewarding path that takes trekkers through much of Rarotonga's dense forest and passes by gushing waterfalls.

3. Discover the Divided Church

Located in the middle of Mauke, the 19th-century building was once split in two and had separate entrances for two villages on the islands.

4. Shop at Punanga Nui Market

The heartbeat of Avarua is open from Monday to Friday but really comes to life on Saturday mornings. Fresh smoothies and aromatic coffees are available among the jewelry and souvenir stalls.

5. Take a Tour Through the Limestone Caves

Anatakitaki Cave and Rimarau Burial Cave are the best spots, with guided tours that exhibit the razor-sharp limestone stalactites.

1. Lounge in Muri Lagoon

The crystal-clear blue waters have shallow depths and are ideal for snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Dense schools of fish navigate the lagoon, while tasty cocktails are served underneath coconut trees on the beach.

2. Hike Across Rarotonga

Taking roughly 3-4h, the Cross-Island track is a rewarding path that takes trekkers through much of Rarotonga's dense forest and passes by gushing waterfalls.

3. Discover the Divided Church

Located in the middle of Mauke, the 19th-century building was once split in two and had separate entrances for two villages on the islands.

4. Shop at Punanga Nui Market

The heartbeat of Avarua is open from Monday to Friday but really comes to life on Saturday mornings. Fresh smoothies and aromatic coffees are available among the jewelry and souvenir stalls.

5. Take a Tour Through the Limestone Caves

Anatakitaki Cave and Rimarau Burial Cave are the best spots, with guided tours that exhibit the razor-sharp limestone stalactites.

When to visit the Cook Islands

Due to its tropical climate, the best period to visit is during the dry season between May and October. Daily temperatures are warm (80-84°F) and any rain that does fall is rather brief.

How to Get to the Cook Islands

Entry requirements

Regardless of nationality, tourists can enter the Cook Islands visa-free for up to 31 days. This can be extended while in the country for a further 31 days, up to a maximum of 6 months.

Plane

All commercial international flights are directed to Rarotonga Airport. Direct services are available from Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand, Sydney in Australia, and Los Angeles in the United States. The 4h flight from Auckland costs between around 202-326 CKD (135-210 USD) and is operated by Air New Zealand, Jetstar Airways, and Virgin Australia.

Entry requirements

Regardless of nationality, tourists can enter the Cook Islands visa-free for up to 31 days. This can be extended while in the country for a further 31 days, up to a maximum of 6 months.

Plane

All commercial international flights are directed to Rarotonga Airport. Direct services are available from Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand, Sydney in Australia, and Los Angeles in the United States. The 4h flight from Auckland costs between around 202-326 CKD (135-210 USD) and is operated by Air New Zealand, Jetstar Airways, and Virgin Australia.

Popular airports in the Cook Islands

Popular airlines serving the Cook Islands

United Airlines
Good (4,988 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (932 reviews)
Qantas Airways
Good (556 reviews)
Virgin Atlantic
Good (488 reviews)
Air New Zealand
Excellent (315 reviews)
Hawaiian Airlines
Good (1,609 reviews)
Jetstar
Good (318 reviews)
Air Tahiti
Excellent (7 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in the Cook Islands

Most accommodation on the main islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki are resorts that have honeymoon suites and cozy villas. There is, however, a small collection of backpackers and lodges that have dorms rooms and budget-friendly prices.

Where to stay in popular areas of the Cook Islands

Most booked hotels in the Cook Islands

Little Polynesian Resort
5 stars
Excellent (9.4, Excellent reviews)
₹ 34,800+
Pacific Resort Rarotonga
4 stars
Excellent (9, Excellent reviews)
₹ 36,850+
Club Raro Resort
3 stars
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
₹ 11,738+
The Edgewater Resort & Spa
3 stars
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
₹ 12,321+
Crown Beach Resort & Spa
4 stars
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
₹ 18,112+
Kiikii Inn & Suites
2 stars
Good (7.9, Good reviews)
₹ 6,340+

How to Get Around the Cook Islands

Public Transportation

All of the towns are quite small, meaning there's no public transport as it's easy to walk from one location to another.

Bus

Two routes circle the island of Rarotonga, one in a clockwise direction and the other anti-clockwise. A single fare costs approximately 5 CKD (3.20 USD). Services run in each direction every hour from roughly 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The buses make stops at the airport, Muri beach, Raina beach, and Turoa beach, among others.

Car

Tourists can drive legally with the license from their home country for up to 6 months. Road rules are similar to Australia and New Zealand as cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Speed limits are capped at 50 kmph (30 mph) and are normally reduced to 30 kmph (20 mph) in towns.

Plane

Domestic flights are the preferred mode of transport between islands with Air Rarotonga offering services to Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Manihiki, Mauke, Mitiaro, Penrhyn, and Pukapuka from Rarotonga. The most common route is between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, priced at roughly 249-311 CKD (160-200 USD).

Public Transportation

All of the towns are quite small, meaning there's no public transport as it's easy to walk from one location to another.

Bus

Two routes circle the island of Rarotonga, one in a clockwise direction and the other anti-clockwise. A single fare costs approximately 5 CKD (3.20 USD). Services run in each direction every hour from roughly 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The buses make stops at the airport, Muri beach, Raina beach, and Turoa beach, among others.

Car

Tourists can drive legally with the license from their home country for up to 6 months. Road rules are similar to Australia and New Zealand as cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Speed limits are capped at 50 kmph (30 mph) and are normally reduced to 30 kmph (20 mph) in towns.

Plane

Domestic flights are the preferred mode of transport between islands with Air Rarotonga offering services to Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Manihiki, Mauke, Mitiaro, Penrhyn, and Pukapuka from Rarotonga. The most common route is between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, priced at roughly 249-311 CKD (160-200 USD).

The Cost of Living in the Cook Islands

A standard lunchtime meal out costs approximately 15 CKD (10 USD) and a domestic beer can be bought for around 9 CKD (6 USD). CKD is priced in alignment with the NZD, and NZD is also accepted throughout the Cook Islands. It is best to withdraw cash from ATMs as hotels and large retail outlets are generally the only places that accept credit card.