How To Plan
Planning a trip to the Cooks? You can easily visit several Islands while on vacation. See the most popular options below.
Rarotonga is the vibrant center of the Cook Islands. Its circular shape is dominated by high mountain peaks from which lush rain forests cascade to a palm-fringed shore. The island is almost completely encircled by a reef, which harbors a lagoon of clear turquoise waters and many inviting white sand beaches. Beyond the reef, the indigo blue of the ocean provides a vivid contrast and a bountiful supply of fish.
Visitors are welcomed at Rarotonga's International Airport. This is where most people choose to stay, with increasing interest being expressed for outer island excursions. You will find an excellent choice of accommodation sprinkled around the island's perimeter.
Avarua is the main town on the island and the commercial center of the Cook Islands. During business hours, it has a friendly, bustling atmosphere combined with a good selection of shops, banks, cafes and visitor facilities. It is also the main port on the island and host to many cruising yachts. Rarotonga's Visitor Centre is located in downtown Avarua. Visitors are made most welcome and can drop in for any information, souvenir clothing, or guidance between the hours of 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday; or on Saturday, from 9am till noon.
A visit to the Cook Islands is not complete without seeing the beautiful island of Aitutaki. The breathtaking allure of its crystal clear turquoise waters and sparkling white beaches is an essential ingredient in any Cook Island holiday. This is a place of unsurpassed natural beauty and tranquility, providing a simple tonic to sooth away the pressures of the outside world.
Aitutaki is 220 kilometers north of Rarotonga and less than an hour's flight away. It is partly volcanic and partly of atoll origin. Its highest hill, Maungapu is said to be the top of Rarotonga's Raemaru Peak, brought back by victorious warriors. The spectacular lagoon (45 kilometers around) is abundant with colored fish of many varieties, its perimeter sprinkled with many small and charming uninhabited islands (motus). In years gone by, Aitutaki lagoon was a re-fueling stop for TEAL (now Air New Zealand) flying boats travelling the renowned 'Coral Route' through the South Pacific. Visitors who stay should set their watches to "island time". In this laid-back atmosphere you will find a variety of accommodation facilities, an assortment of different shops scattered throughout the villages and a number of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. As on Rarotonga, the popular mode of transport is the motor scooter. Because the island is just a short flight away, you can visit Aitutaki and enjoy the “must-do” lagoon cruise on a day trip from Rarotonga. Space is limited, so advance bookings are necessary.
Atiu is over eight million years old, and the third largest island in the Cooks. This island is an ecologist’s dream – and a magnet for the adventurer. The island is a volcanic mass that has risen out of the sea to be surrounded by a raised coral limestone reef named makatea. Its utter peace and harmony with nature certainly belay the island’s reputation of having harbored some of the fiercest warriors of the Southern Cooks, who constantly laid siege on their smaller neighbors in Mitiaro and Mauke.
Sandy beaches on Atiu are scattered and secluded - but there are many to discover tucked like little secrets into the coast. Unspoiled and lush with dense rainforest and an unexpected central plateau – according to legend when the Polynesians landed on Atiu’s white crested shores, birds and insects were its only life. With no nightclubs, virtually no township, around 400 people and a couple of cafes and precious little traffic – this is a true island escape.