Avarua is the commercial centre of the Cook Islands, but it retains the relaxed and friendly ambience of the rest of the country. Avarua is where youíll do most of your shopping for souvenirs, clothes and jewellery, and there is a bustling outdoor market and national museum. Just east of the main traffic circle is the Seven-In-One Coconut Tree, a perfect circle of coconut palms. According to local legend itís actually one tree grown from a single coconut with seven sprouts.
The island of Aitutaki receives the most visitors after Rarotonga, and although itís not considered as beautiful as Rarotonga, it has its own particular charms. The main town of Arutanga is a sleepy village with a worn but lovely old church and an outdoor market. Aitutaki also has a beautiful lagoon with many small islets scattered around the clear, turquoise water, and several operators run excellent cruises around the lagoon and its islands.
Both Rarotonga and Aitutaki have excellent swimming, snorkelling and diving, with warm water and good visibility all year round. Titikaveka Lagoon in South-Eastern Rarotonga and Aitutaki Lagoon have colourful reefs and calm water thatís safe for kids to explore.
In 2001, the Cook Islands declared a large economic marine zone a Whale Sanctuary. From July to October, Humpback Whales move into the inshore reefs and can often be seen right off the beach. Several tour operators in Rarotonga and Aitu offer whale-watching boat tours.
Because the islands are so small, cycling can be a great way to get around. Bikes can be hired quite cheaply on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
There are several great places in the Cook Islands for bushwalking and hiking. The Cross-Island Track on Rarotonga and the Vai Momoiri Track on Aitu both have spectacular views and shouldnít take more than a few hours to complete.
TOP TEN things to do.
- Take a whale watching tour and swim with giant Humpback whales.
- Take a sailing tour around the coral islets of Aitutaki Lagoon.
- Attend an Island Night and take part in the joyous islander culture of song and dance.
- Shop fo the famous black pearls at the many pearl shops in Avarua.
- Watch the sun go down at Sunset Beach, Rarotonga.
- Sample tropical fruit and shop for clothes and souvenirs an Punang Nui market, Avarua.
- Attend a Sunday service and hear beautiful choral singing in the Maori language.
- Do a walking tour of the capital of Avarua.
- Cycle from village to village on Rarotonga and Aitu.
- Walk the Cross-Island track on Rarotonga.
Several special events and festivals take place throughout the year and itís worth timing your trip to coincide with one of them as they offer a lively and fun introduction to island culture.
Cultural Festival Week Ė Held in the second week of February, this celebration of island life includes a tivaevae quilt making competition and arts and craft displays.
Island Dance Festival Week Ė This takes place during the third week of April, with the grand finale of a full week of dancing competitions being the crowning of the male and female Dancers of the Year.