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
Rarotongan Beach Resort 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.
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 of $NZ10.
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 Cook Islands have a population of less than 20,000. The people are predominately Polynesian, related to the New Zealand Maoris, with around 8% being mixed race European-Polynesian.
Cook Islanders are Christians, and most are devout followers of the Cook Islands Christian Church. Much of the community’s social life is centered around the Church, and Sunday is kept as a day of worship and rest.
Cook Islanders are exceptionally friendly and hospitable, and their lifestyle is laid-back and cheerful. They are reputed to be the best dancers in Polynesia, and singing and dancing can take place anywhere, anytime. One of the best times to see traditional dancing is during one of the many island nights that usually end in unsuspecting foreigners being coaxed up on stage to perform.
The official language is English, but many locals also speak Cook Islands Maori, of which there are a few dialects. The northern islands of Pukapuka and and Nassau speak their own, Samoan-influenced language.
The Cook Islands are 2 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. To view time zone information, click here.
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. For up-to-date currency conversion, click here. 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.
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 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