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 has to offer with 9 things to do in the Cook Islands. For more vacation inspiration, see these tropical islands.
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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. Find yourself 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. So it’s pretty easy to find a quiet, if not deserted beach to soak up the scenery in blissful solitude.
6. Try a local beer
Matutu are a local Cook Island brewery that make Kiva, a pale ale and Mai, a lager.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
If you are looking for a more off-the-beaten-track version of Hawaii, Tahiti or Fiji, the Cook Islands is worth the extra travel time.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,