Bask on sun-soaked beaches and embrace the laid-back local lifestyle in the Cook Islands. Comprised of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands were formed by ancient volcanic activity. Snorkel in the shimmering blue waters, swim in natural swimming pools and observe age-old traditions and deep-rooted rituals during a cultural show.
The tourism industry plays a large part in the economy here and visitors are usually greeted with smiles and plenty of local advice. Learn a few words of the native language, Maori. Most locals also speak English.
When you travel to the Cook Islands you will most likely first arrive on the largest island, Rarotonga. For an introduction to Cook Islands culture, take a tour of the Te Vara Nui Village. After, enjoy a buffet dinner and watch a choreographed dance show. For some outdoor adventure, hike the Cross-Island Track, which leads past picturesque waterfalls and lagoons.
If you are seeking a remote haven, visit the island of Atiu. Here you can explore Anatakitaki, a beautiful cave surrounded by thick jungle roots. Listen for the clicking sound of the rare kopeka bird, which is native to this island. Brave visitors can venture inside the spine-tingling Te Ana O Rakaniu, a narrow burial cave filled with skeletal remains.
In between planned activities, relax on one of the Cook Islands’ many stunning beaches. Head to Muri for barefoot strolls on the sand and lagoon cruises, during which you can spot tropical fish. Another good beach option is the Aitutaki Lagoon, known for its chalk-white sands and waters that are great for snorkeling.
Fly into Rarotonga from a few international destinations, including Sydney, Los Angeles and Tahiti. Inter-island travel can be by air or by ship, though weather conditions frequently disrupt boat schedules. To get around the islands themselves, do as the islanders do and rent a scooter from a local shop. Visit in August for the annual independence festival. This is during the cooler months (April to November) when conditions are the driest but are still warm.
Consider a trip to the Cook Islands for a unique stay in a beautiful island paradise.