Located between French Polynesia and Samoa, the Cook Islands is a stunningly beautiful archipelago in the South Pacific. It comprises 15 islands that include the cultural hub of Raratonga (home to the capital Avarua) and the honeymooning getaway of Aitutaki. While volcanic peaks and dense forests dominate their interior, the islands are surrounded by coral reefs teeming with marine life.
Things to do in Cook Islands
Whether you want to immerse yourself in the local culture or experience a castaway adventure, the Cook Islands are what a Polynesian vacation is all about.
Explore Raratonga. The largest of the Cook Islands, Raratonga is also the country’s cultural and political hub, with palm-fringed beaches and breezy restaurants ringing its shores. You can learn about traditional life on the Cook Islands at Te Vara Nui Village, which hosts cooking, dancing and weaving demonstrations. Snorkel amidst parrot fish and Moorish idols in the Aroa Marine Reserve or enjoy the fragrance of tropical flowers at the Maire Nui Gardens.
Hike to Te Rua Manga. One of Raratonga’s most distinctive landmarks is Te Rua Manga (“The Needle”), a striking rock formation that offers magnificent views across the surrounding coastline. It can be accessed along a cross-island track that takes in the island’s lush forests, with a swim at the base of Wigmore’s Waterfall always a highlight.
Relax on Aitutaki. Famed for its picture-perfect lagoon, Aitutaki is surrounded by crystal clear waters dotted with 21 idyllic motus. You can kayak between the islets to find your own piece of paradise or take a day trip to one of the most visited islets, Tapuaetai. If you’re feeling energetic, follow the trail that leads to the top of Maunga Pu for elevated views across Aitutaki.
Getting around Cook Islands
Rarotonga International Airport is the main aviation gateway to the Cook Islands and has flights to destinations across Oceania and the United States. Buses travel around Raratonga while flights are the main means of getting to the other islands. Bicycles are a popular way of exploring the islands.