Named after the famous explorer Captain James Cook, the Cook Islands lie in the South Pacific northeast of New Zealand. The main island, and gateway to the region, is Rarotonga. Here you will find the mood relaxed and carefree with a strong cultural identity, and the people are some of the friendliest in the world.
The locals are Polynesian with close ethnic affinity to the indigenous people of Tahiti (Maohi), New Zealand (Maori), and Hawaii (Kamaina). Most Cook Islanders are bilingual – speaking both Maori and English.
The two main areas to travel in the Cook Islands are Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The island of Rarotonga is popular with families and couples, and has many restaurants, bars and cafes to visit. The inland areas have lush rainforest and valleys with plantations and village gardens. Rarotonga is fringed by white sandy beaches, and swimming and snorkelling is safe and enjoyable. Diving is on coral reefs and is suitable for open water and above. There are about 35 dive sites around the island, ranging from overhangs and swimthroughs to drop-offs, and even a river of sand. You can see many kinds of tropical reef fish, as well as sharks, rays and turtles.
A short flight from Rarotonga, Aitutaki is the idyllic “screensaver” tropical island with white sandy beaches, palm trees and crystal blue lagoons. Diving here is delightful. You are likely to see moray eels, spotted eagle rays, napoleon wrasse and big green turtles. It is mostly wall diving, with one wreck, the “Alexander” barge.
Australian passport holders require six months validity beyond your departure from the Cook Islands, an onward or return air ticket, and prior accommodation bookings. A visitor visa is not required for stays under 31 days. For more information and for holders of other passports, please refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for the latest travel advice.
The New Zealand Dollar (NZD) is the unit of currency. One Australian dollar buys approximately one NZD. There are three legal tender Cook Island coins – $1, $2 and $5 – which are not negotiable outside the Cook Islands, but make for interesting souvenirs.
Languages spoken on the islands are English, Cook Islands Maori (known as Rarotongan) and Pukapukan.
220-240V and uses the Australian plug type.
GMT-10 (14 hours behind Sydney). Tahiti is across the International Date Line so your flight itinerary may look a little strange.
Light, casual clothing is recommended. A light sweater may be required in the evening.
The climate is pleasantly tropical throughout the year with an average temperature of 24°C. The wet season lasts from November to April and the dry season runs from May to October. Overall, Rarotonga enjoys a fairly even climate with few extremes.
23°C in winter to 30°C in summer.
None at 1 July 2012.
Tipping is not encouraged in the Cook Islands. Tip with a smile and ‘meitaki ma’ata’ (thank you). Polynesian custom says that if you give something for nothing, the person receiving will owe you – and that’s how a tip is perceived. Bargaining can also be taken as an insult.