If you’re searching for paradise, then Rarotonga in the Cook Islands just might be it. After scuba diving in crystal waters, lounging in a hammock on a white sand beach and taking in traditional Polynesian culture at night, you’ll never want to leave.
The Cook Islands are made up of 15 small islands scattered over two million square kilometres in the South Pacific. The Islands are renowned for their gorgeous beaches and relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. If you are looking to experience pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters and world-class diving and snorkeling, then the Cook Islands is likely on your list of places to visit.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
DID YOU KNOW?
- Foreign and international driving licenses are not accepted in the Cook Islands. You have to buy a Cook Islands license from the police station.
- Cell phone service has only been available since the end of 2003.
- There are no dangerous animals, poisonous insects or lethal viruses such as Malaria indigenous to the Cook Islands.
- Season 13 of the reality television series Survivor took place on the island of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands’ weather is that of a tropical climate. Summer is hot and humid with more rainfall than in the cooler months, while winter is cool and dry. Unfortunately, cyclones are also a fact of life in this part of the world. The cyclone season runs from November to March; at their worst, cyclones can bring winds of 200 kilometres per hour.
- Summer: November – April
- Winter: May – October
The Cook Islands were first occupied in the 6th century by Polynesians who had migrated southeast from Tahiti. Captain James Cook arrived in 1773 and named the area the Hervey Islands; it wasn’t until 1820 that they were referred to as the Cook Islands. In 1901, the New Zealand government decided to annex the country despite opposition from the country’s chiefs—many of the islands were self-sufficient and run by local chiefs. In 1948, under the New Zealand Citizenship Act, all Cook Islanders who were British subjects gained New Zealand citizenship. In 1965, New Zealand offered the Cook Islands self-governing status and that year, the country’s first Prime Minister was elected.
THE FAMOUS YELLOW SUBMARINE
The only semi-submersible sub in the Cook Islands, the Yellow Submarine offers a way to explore tropical depths without getting wet. On a sub tour, you will see huge fish, coral walls and even shipwrecks.
WHALE AND WILDLIFE CENTRE
If you are a fan of nature and wildlife, this is a great option. Here you will spend hours exploring different fish and sea creatures. The centre features live creatures that you might not see in your everyday life such as skinks, geckos and giant centipedes.
AITUTAKI LAGOON CRUISE
The breathtaking turquoise lagoon provides a surreal setting for swimming, snorkeling, and general beaching. Day trips leave from Rarotonga if you are pressed for time and can’t have an extended stay.
Rarotonga is famous for its nightlife and is home to many colourful bars and clubs. It is a place that offers great entertainment and local music. Bars are usually open until 2am on Fridays—the biggest night of the week on Rarotonga.
A highlight and can’t-miss experience on the Cook Islands is something called an Island Night. This blends together a traditional Cook Islands feast and traditional dancing. You’ll be amazed at the hypnotic rhythm of the drums and the excitement and sensuality of the dance.
How much luggage do you really need when your destination is a South Pacific island? A bit more than you’d think, Kat Tancock discovers.
Do you like the idea of snorkeling among reefs of exotic fish — but fear deep, cold water? Fret not. The Cook Islands offer the perfect conditions for “snorkel wimps.”