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Cook Islands

Photo: The Blonde Nomads'

Capital: Avarua Population: 20,948 (2016) Religion: Christianity Official Language(s): English, Rarotongan Time zone: 20hrs in behind EST. UTC-10:00 Landmass: 240 km² Currency: New Zealand dollar, Cook Islands dollar Emergency Number: 999

Cook Islands

An unspoilt tropical paradise

The Cook Islands are one of the best kept secrets of the South Pacific � a place where the stunning white sand beaches and bountiful coral reefs are as unspoiled as its lively Polynesian culture. Close your eyes and imagine your ideal paradise filled with sun-kissed beaches, sparkling clear blue lagoons, gently swaying palms rustled by soft, fragrant tropical breezes, and everywhere warm-hearted people ready to welcome you to their island home. If that's the paradise of your dreams, then you've found it in the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands are at the centre of the Polynesian Triangle in the South Pacific Ocean. Among its close neighbours are Samoa and Tahiti. The Cook Islands consists of two main islands, Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and 13 smaller islands, spread over a vast 2.2 million square kilometres of ocean.

The main island is the gorgeously lush Rarotonga, with its skyline of jagged green mountain peaks, bountiful plains of pawpaw, coconut, taro, pineapple and mango, and brilliant blue lagoon encircled by a protective coral reef. The people are an intriguing blend of traditional and modern, having ready access to DVDs, satellite TV and internet, yet retaining many of their time-honoured traditions, their love of children and their passion for dance and music.


Avarua, on the island of Rarotonga, is small and laidback, despite development in recent years.

Where are the Cook Islands and how do I get there?

Air New Zealand and Royal Tongan airlines are the only carriers that fly to the Cook Islands, and you must stopover in Auckland before arriving in the Cooks. Generally that means flights are slightly longer and more expensive than other Pacific island destinations. There are several flights a week between New Zealand and Rarotonga.

When to go/weather

There’s not much seasonal variation in temperature on the Cook Islands, so any time is a good time to go, although there is more rain between November and April. The temperature averages around 24C year-round, however it can get considerably warmer.

cook islands

Photo: The Blonde Nomads'

Where to stay

There's a good choice of places to stay on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, but accommodation is limited on the other islands.

Resorts with kids' clubs/facilities offered

Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa is the Cooks' signature 4-star resort, offering modern comforts alongside the traditional charm of Polynesia. The kids will love the nature and culture discovery programme at the Moko Kids Club (Monday to Saturday), pool, ice cream parlour and the restaurant's kid's menu. Kids under 12 can share a room with their parents and join the Club for free. Day and evening child-minding is also available.

Food and Drink

The staple foods of the Cook Islands are fish and coconut. A variety of food is available in Rarotonga, with restaurants and cafes offering international and traditional fare. Umukai, the traditional Polynesian feast, is a must-try. Chicken, pork, fish and vegetables are baked in an underground oven and are presented as a sumptuous buffet. After eating you'll be treated to drumming and dancing in traditional island costume.


Shops are open between 8am and 4pm and are closed on Sundays.


Rarotonga Airport, about 4km out from the Avarua township, is the Cook Islands International airport. Among its facilities are a Westpac Bank and 24-hour ATM. There's an airstrip for internal flights on Aitutaki at the northern end of the island.

Transfers from airport

Most hotels and resorts provide a meet and greet service at the airport, complete with flowers and leis. There's no public bus service at the airport but there is a private bus company, Raro Tour Bus, although space is limited. Taxis from the airport cost $30NZ to get to the furthest point on Rarotonga.

cook islands

Photo: The Blonde Nomads'

Getting around for families

Air Rarotonga offers flights between Rarotonga and several of the islands, and you can also access most of the islands via passenger freighter or private yacht from Rarotonga harbour.

A bus originating in Avarua travels all the way around Rarotonga and back again. Be aware that it runs only during business hours during the week, half a day on Saturday and not at all on Sunday.

Cars are available for rent on Rarotonga, Aitutaki and a few of the other islands. If you want to drive a car in the Cooks, you must get a licence from the police station in Avarua, which is issued upon presentation of your Australian driver's licence and a payment.

What to wear

Brief swimsuits and short shorts are fine at beaches and resorts, but more modest dress should be worm when visiting towns and villages. Light sweaters may come in handy for cooler evenings.


The unit of currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar, supplemented by the Cook Island's own unique set of multi-shaped coins. There are not many places to change money outside the main islands, so it's best to do this in Rarotonga before you travel to the smaller islands.


Tipping is not practiced on the islands, but there is a value-added tax of 12.5%. Haggling is considered extremely rude.


240 volts, 50 hertz AC, the same as Australia. In some cases, a two-pin adaptor might be required.

cook islands

Photo: The Blonde Nomads'

Health precautions

Discuss vaccinations and health precautions with your GP at least 6 weeks before departure. There's no malaria on the Cook Islands but there is a risk of Dengue Fever so insect repellant is a must.

Tap water

Tap water in the Cook Islands is untreated, so drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled beforehand.

Passport and Visa Requirements

You won't need a visa if you have a current Australian passport and an onward/return ticket.

HWK Family Travel Tips

Kids can have a great time exploring the shallow reefs of lagoons like Aitutaki and Titikaveka. However, corals can cause serious injuries if they are stood on or brushed against, and the lagoons can also harbour venomous creatures like the Stonefish. When walking around the reefs, always wear reef shoes and strongly discourage the kids from standing on or touching coral and other marine life.

Click here for Things to See and Do in the Cook Islands


Cook Islands Tourism

tel: 02 9955 0446


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