A long way from anywhere else, the Cook Islands invoke romantic pictures of tropical vistas, turquoise waters and idyllic beaches and those images are not far from the truth. Without doubt, this is a get-away-from-it-all paradise where 'time' takes on a whole new meaning.
The 15 islands of the Cooks lie halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii in the centre of the Pacific Ocean's Polynesian Triangle. A mix of volcanic islands and coral atolls, the cooks are a castaway's paradise with deserted powder-white beaches fringed by palm trees and warm, translucent lagoons that teem with tropical fish.
Rarotonga is the hub and main island of the Cooks, and while it may be the most commercialised of the 15 islands it still retains a Polynesian charm. Just over 20 miles in circumference the island is stunningly picturesque with a mountainous interior of verdant jungle which drops down to idyllic beaches trimmed by sapphire-blue lagoons and enticing coral reefs.
Hire a scooter, car or bicycle and explore, or alternatively hop on the island bus – whichever way you go there are villages, beaches and fields of fruit-laden trees providing an insight to island life. Take a lagoon cruise into Muri Lagoon and the surrounding reef, snorkel in crystal clear waters or dive into the warm waters where there's so much to see. For some adventure away from the beaches, the Cross Island Walk is a well beaten track that takes about four hours and is a great way to see the rainforest side of the island.
Rarotonga's main town, Avarua, is where most of the shops are located, but if you do explore the island, you'll discover colourful stalls on the side of the road selling local arts, crafts and local produce. There is also an excellent range of restaurants and cafes on Rarotonga, as after all this is a culture where food is an essential part of the hospitality. Many are situated in the most sublime surroundings with wonderful views of the amazing island sunsets.
Aitutaki, the Cooks' second most-visited island, curls gently around a vast turquoise lagoon which is enclosed by a ring of coral and scattered with dreamy uninhabited motus (islets). Explored either by snorkelling, scuba diving or glass bottom boat cruises, the lagoon and coral reef are by far the island's main attraction with one of the most bio diverse reef systems in the world and a kaleidoscope of vibrantly coloured fish.
Other experiences Aitutaki include the easy 30 minute walk to the summit of Mount Maunga Pu, for spectacular panoramic views, visiting the villages dotted around the island or perhaps having your passport stamped at the world's smallest post office on One Foot Island! As with Rarotonga, you'll discover roadside stalls and a good selection of restaurants with mouthwatering menus full of delicious local ingredients, particularly fresh seafood.
If you dream of remote tropical bliss and authentic culture, let Premier Holidays create the perfect Cook Islands holiday for you…
GMT -10 hours
New Zealand dollar, along with local notes and coins.
Rarotonga is approximately 25 hours from the UK (via Los Angeles). Aitutaki is around 45 minutes' flight from Rarotonga Recommended airlines flying to Rarotonga: Air New Zealand; British Airways; Virgin Atlantic.
There’s never a bad time to visit, with a warm tropical climate all year round. June to August are slightly cooler months, November to March marks the warmer season, with occasional tropical showers. The drier months are from April to November, while the warmer, more humid and damp season is from December to March.
Hop on a 4WD jeep for a thrilling half day safari into the lush tropical interior of Rarotaonga along inland tracks. Along the way, you will learn about the history, culture, flora and fauna, including taro plantations, an important food crop throughout the Pacific. Available Monday-Friday from Rarotonga (excluding selected dates).
This 4 hour tour is undoubtedly one of the best ways to discover Rarotonga’s protected lagoons. Cruise aboard a glass-bottom boat over Muri Lagoon to the inner reef which has an abundance of marine life. After snorkelling, head ashore for a fresh fish BBQ and entertainment from the crew. Available daily from Rarotonga (excluding selected dates).
Set off for an evening cultural extravaganza and enjoy a village tour, Marae Tapu lifting ceremony, Kia Orana cocktail, a traditional Umu feast and the pulsating show featuring the ‘E Matike’ dance troupe. The entire night is hosted by the descendants of the Tinomana tribe. Available Monday, Wednesday & Friday from Rarotonga.
A full day tour to discover the eastern side of the Aitutaki Lagoon to hopefully spot turtles and explore beneath the turquoise water with snorkels. Visit the famous Heaven Sand Bar, then cruise to One Foot Island. After a tasty BBQ lunch, there’s ample time for relaxing, swimming and soaking up the sun. Available daily from Aitutaki (excluding selected dates).
During this full day tour you will swim among tropical fish, giant clams and brightly coloured corals. Discover uninhabited islands with pristine white sand, enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch and your passport stamped at One Foot Island. Available Mon-Sat from Aitutaki (excluding 25 Dec & 01 Jan).
Fly with Air Rarotonga across to Aitutaki. On arrival enjoy a short island tour aboard ‘le truck’, then depart on a lagoon cruise over the spectacular Aitutaki Lagoon. Enjoy time for swimming and snorkelling before a tasty barbecue lunch on a motu (small islet). Return on an early evening flight. Available Mon-Sat from Rarotonga (excluding 25 Dec & 01 Jan).