How To Travel: The Cook Islands

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Wild pacific blue, remote and accessible, modern and traditional; all at the same time – this is what makes the Cook Islands special. This paradise consists of only 15 major islands, being spread across 2 million sq km in the South Pacific Ocean. Here you can have the experience of a lifetime: The culture, traditions, arts and crafts are distinct from all others in the Pacific. And hey – where else might a government decide that no building can be higher than the tallest palm tree?

How to get there by plane?

There are several major airlines that service the Cook Islands. Direct flights to Rarotonga are available from Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland and Papeete.

How to get there by land?

Sorry, but there is no way you get to the Cook Islands by land. The 15 islands are spread over the Pacific, across an area of about 2 million sq km. Once you reach the hub of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, you most probably will be able to fly to one of the other islands. But note that some of the islands can still only be reached by ferry or boat.

Visa

A valid passport and a return ticket will allow you a stay of up to 31 days. Extensions may be granted on a monthly basis, for up to a maximum of 5 months. New Zealand citizens automatically qualify for a 90 day stay. For extensions make sure to apply 2 weeks before your permit expires.

Cuisine

Due to its location and the fact that the Cook Islands produce a wide array of fruits and vegetables, natural local products (especially coconut) and fresh seafood can be found in many of the dishes of the islands. They also seem to love fish’n’chips and fast food.

The hub of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, has a lot to see and do. And it is just 32 km to go around the whole island. So getting anywhere takes no time! Although the island is booming in tourism, it still remains quite unspoilt: No heavy traffic, no traffic lights, no McDonald’s and no building is taller than a coconut tree.

Visit Rarotonga!

Ringed by turquoise lagoons and swaying palm trees, Aitutaki is the perfect quiet place to let everything happen a little slowler and escape the busy everyday life. And – believe it or not – the lagoon and its beaches are even prettier than the ones you find in famous Rarotonga.

Visit Aitutaki!

13 more islands to explore!

Southern Group The southern group of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki and Rarotonga are part of it) is more accessible, with regular air services connecting Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mauke, Mitiaro and Mangaia. Other members of the southern group are:

Atiu This island is known for its spectacular limestone caves and great dive locations. Known as Enuamanu, the Island of the Birds, Atiu still has wild undisturbed tropical jungle and secluded beaches.

Mangaia This place is the southernmost and the second largest of the Cook Islands, with steep cliff faces, ancient caves and rare birdlife. Enjoy cave tours, rock climbing, snorkeling, trail bike riding or horse riding.

Manuae This island is uninhabited. It is a marine park and breeding ground for seabird and turtles.

Mauke and Mitiaro These two islands are renowned for producing fine woven mats, handbags, purses and hats. These islands offer many caves to explore, some of which have delightful frshwater swimming holes.

Palmerston This one is the most remote island of the southern group. Settled by Englishman William Marsters and his two Polynesian wives in 1863, their descendants still make up most of the population.

Winslow Reef (submerged) This shallow platform reef has been unspoilt so far. No major expeditons have taken place.
Northern Group The northern group of the Cook Islands rely on cargo ships to transport goods and visitors. So getting to these islands is not as easy, but your effort sure will be rewarded with the experience of a lifetime. Here you will find the following islands:

Manihiki This triangular atoll is renowned for its black pearls. The 4km-wide lagoon is laced with 40 tiny motu (islands), excellent conditions for swimming, snorkeling and offshore diving.

Nassau This island is located 55 km south of Pukapuka, and is covered with palms. It is the only island of the group without a lagoon. Inland there are rich taro swamps and fruit groves, and offshore good fishing.

Penrhyn This island is known for its natural golden pearls and for the finely woven rito hats, baskets, fans and mats made by local craftspeople.

Pukapuka This place has a small resident population whose language and customs are influenced by neighbouring Samoa. Excellent swimming, snorkeling, finely woven mats and kikau (coconut fond) brooms.

Rakahanga Accessed only from its sister island Manihiki by boat, Rakahanga is abundant with breadfruit, coconut and pandanus trees while the outer reef has some excellent fishing.

Suwarrow This island is abundant with birdlife and pristine marine areas. It was declared a national park in 1978. Uninhabited, with the exception of a caretaker, Suwarrow can only be visited on a chartered expedition or by private yacht.

Tema Reef (submerged) This submerged coral reef shows no coral or rock above water, but the sea breaks heavily over the reef.