Destination Guide: Cook Islands
Want to get away? The Cook Islands just may be the remote tropical paradise you’re looking for. Made up of 15 tiny islands — just 240 square kilometres of land, total — spread across the South Pacific between Tahiti and Samoa, the Cook Islands are a perfect honeymoon hideaway. With all the time it takes to get there (most flights require you to stop over at Auckland), you’ll want to plan at least a seven-day stay, but trust us — once you’ve arrived, you won’t want to leave.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Flight time: About 6 hours direct from Sydney or 17 hours with a stop over in Auckland.
Currency: New Zealand Dollars (NZD)
Getting around: Rent a car, moped, or bicycle, or hop on the public buses — the capital island of Rarotonga’s only 32 kilometres around, so they’re all viable. Flights from Rarotonga International Airport are available to most of the other 14 islands.
When To Go:
Best weather: The Cook Islands enjoy year-round balmy, tropical weather. Even in the height of summer (that means January and February, just like Australia), highs are in the 80s. Though warmer, December through April is also the rainy season, but rain generally comes in bursts and doesn’t last all day.
Best prices: The Cook Islands are considered a steal compared to other destinations in Polynesia. Reasonably priced accommodations (and a great variety available), eats, and activities can be had year-round.
Why to go:
The entire island is your resort: Rarotonga is so small, no matter where you’re staying you can take advantage of the whole island. The beaches are pristine and clear blue water surrounds the island; while Muri Beach is a favourite, you can rent snorkelling gear, kayaks, or go scuba diving from many of the island’s beaches. Other must-dos: Hitting up Punanga Nui market (Saturday’s the biggest day; Sunday is the only day it’s closed) for souvenirs, including the Cook Islands’ famous black pearls; and taking in an evening dance show (offered at many of Rarotonga’s larger resorts).
Almost-deserted islands: Definitely make time to see at least one of the outer islands. Most popular is Aitutaki, which is surrounded by a shallow, brilliantly blue lagoon ringed in by spectacular coral reefs. If you’re a snorkelling fanatic, you’ll want to stay a few days (lodging is available on Aitutaki, though many of the other islands are virtually uninhabited), though if you just want to take a peek, a day trip is completely doable.
There’s more than just the beach: Though noted for its beautiful coastline, definitely plan an excursion through inland Rarotonga. Hire a guide for hiking the tropical trails (though gorgeous, navigating the jungle-like island centre can be difficult on your own). “The Needle,” a striking rock formation smack in the middle of the island, is a must-see. Not up for a trek? You can also find tour outfitters who will take you through Rarotonga’s mountains in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
> Contact The Cook Islands to start planning your honeymoon or destination wedding