8 Things to do in the Cook Islands – Art by Nature
July 24, 2018
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Snorkelling in Aitutaki lagoon

Lush tropical islands surrounded by the cerulean South Pacific, I can’t think of anywhere closer to paradise than the Cook Islands. These quiet achievers were formed through volcanic activity and have all the natural beauty of their better-known Polynesian cousins, minus the hordes of tourists. Accessing the captivating Cook Island atolls is slightly more awkward, but well worth the journey to their white sandy beaches and crystal waters. Here is a little taste of what the archipelago have to offer with ten things to do in the Cook Islands.

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Find your own slice of paradise on a deserted beach You will be amazed at how quiet the Islands are. Even the capital and most populated of the 15 Islands, Rarotonga, is home to roughly only 10,600 permanent residents.

1. Get accommodated in a boutique resort

There aren’t the tourist numbers to sustain the usual big chains and mega-resorts on the main island of Rarotonga. Instead, you’ll find beach-side boutique properties with plenty of character and friendly staff.

2. Take a day trip to Aitutaki

If you can’t afford to stay on the outer island of Aitutaki, make way in your budget for a day trip. A small plane will take you out there to snorkel in its pristine lagoon, walk the white sand beaches and visit the “set” of Survivor (USA) Season 13.

3. Hike Rarotonga’s Cross Island Track

This 3-4 hour hike isn’t for the faint-hearted but is well worth the views from 413m (1355ft) Te Rua Manga (The Needle). The track traverses Rarotonga North-South and can be very steep in places. The Pacific Ocean views from the top are spectacular.

4. Learn to make an ‘ei katu (flower garland)

An ‘ei katu is a traditional Cook Islands flower garland made from fresh flowers, foliage and shells. An ‘ei is generally worn on the head, neck or hips and adorns both men and women. They are used on occasions such as weddings, funerals and special ceremonies.

5. Try a local beer

Matutu are a local Cook Island brewery that make Kiva, a pale ale and Mai, a lager.

6. Watch a sunset or ten

We experienced spectacular sunsets every day of our Cook Islands trip. Time your evening cocktail or dinner for a little art by nature in South Pacific skies.

7. Eat your weight in Ika Mata

Seriously, if you like ceviche you are going to love this dish. I wrote more about it over in this Foreign Cuisine Finder post.

8. Witness a traditional dance

The Cook Islands were settled by Polynesian settlers from Tahiti in the sixth century. Dance remains an important part of the Islands’ culture and is performed by males and females from a young age. Though choreography ranges throughout the islands, the overall style can be compared to a Hawaiian hula or Tahitian tamuré.

Cook Islands beach
Find some space on the deserted beaches
Cook Islands boutique resort accommodation
Pool and beach views from our room in a boutique resort
Snorkelling in Aitutaki lagoon
Snorkelling in Aitutaki lagoon
Survivor (US) Season 13 location
Survivor (US) Season 13 location
Views from Te Rua Manga (Needle) during our hike of Rarotonga's Cross Island Track
Views from Te Rua Manga (Needle) during our hike of Rarotonga's Cross Island Track
Cook Islands
Hibiscus floating in a mountain stream
Cocktails in the Cook Islands
Learning to make a ‘ei katu (flower crown)
Learning to make a ‘ei katu (flower crown)
Cook Islands sunset
Watch a sunset or ten
Matutu Kiva, Cook Islands
Matutu Kiva, a pale ale brewed locally in the Cook Island
Pacific sunsets from the pool
Pacific sunsets from the pool
Cook Islands
This little cutie performing a traditional dance
Fire dancing in the Cook Islands

Find flights to the Cook Islands with Skyscanner.

Search for accommodation using Tripadvisor.

Don’t forget travel insurance, I recommend Seven Corners and World Nomads.

For more island destination inspiration, see the magic of the Maldives and beauty of Boracay, Philippines.

Peace, love & inspiring travel,

Madam ZoZo

Top things to do in the Cook Islands

About author

Madam ZoZo

Hi! I'm Madam ZoZo, aka Zoë, an Australian designer, creative consultant, blogger and digital nomad. I'm passionate about travel, design, dance and new experiences that fuel my creativity. I strive to travel in a style that is gentle on the earth and that contributes to the communities I visits, even if it is merely to take away a greater understanding of a different culture. Duende by Madam ZoZo, is where I share the stories of my travels and the duende (soul/inspiration) I find along the way.

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