7 Days in the Cook Islands

Paradise in the Pacific 

 

Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$

Time to Hit the Highlights: 7 days

Must See: Muri Night Market, Cross-Island Trek, Abandoned Sheraton, Snorkeling/Diving, Deep Sea Fishing, and Ootu Beach

Time of the Year to Visit: Spring and Fall

Audience: Everyone

 

Underwater at the Aroa Marine Reserve off the shores of Rarotonga

 

About the Cook Islands

  • The Cook Islands is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean just 3 hours northeast of New Zealand, making it a popular vacation spot for Kiwis.
  • The islands reminded us of the Caribbean with its beautiful flora, fauna, turquoise water, and island attitude.
  • You can learn more about the Cook Island’s on the country’s website here: https://www.cookislands.travel/node/133

 

Getting There

  • Air New Zealand has direct flights to the island of Rarotonga from LAX (USA), Auckland (NZ) or Sydney (AUS). There are not many a week, so you will likely be there for a minimum of 7 days, unless you’re flying off to other islands in the Pacific.
  • Once you’ve made it to Rarotonga you can fly Air Rarotonga to the smaller islands of Aitu and Aitutaki or Air Tahiti to Papeete.

 

Being There

Day 1-2 – Rarotonga

The big island

Looking out to the mountains of Rarotonga

 

Arrive in Rarotonga early morning and head through customs to meet a representative from your hotel (unless you have an airbnb or vrbo, then grab a cab!). Once you’re there is is easy to rent a car or bikes to get around, but you will need a motorcycle license on this island to rent a scooter (you can stop in the police station downtown Avarua for a temporary license).

Another great and easy option is to take the bus. It is 5 NZ dollars one way per person or 8 NZ dollars round trip (plus 2-3 NZ dollars if you have luggage with you!). You will need cash and you can even buy a bus pass on board. There is one bus that runs clockwise and one counterclockwise. Makes sure to ask your hotel about the schedule and even grab a bus schedule booklet on the bus so you know what time you need to jump on to get back!

 

Great places to stay:

While this is the largest island, it is still fairly small and therefore easy to get around. There is no superior location to stay on the island, it is more about how much you want to spend and what amenities are important to you.

  • Luxurious – Little Polynesian, Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Rumours Luxury Resort and Villas
  • Family – The Rarotongan, The Edgewater
  • Airbnb and VRBO rentals may also be available

 

Explore the creepy grounds of the abandoned Sheraton hotel

 

Spend your time exploring:

  • Every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night you can head to the Muri Night Market for a taste of the Cook Islands. This little market opens at 5pm and features local chefs on the island. You’re sure to find something delicious rain or shine.
  • See the inner beauty of the island and stretch your legs on Rarotonga’s Cross-Island Trek. You can find someone to guide you, but you can also conquer this trail yourself. It will take you 3 hours from one side of the island to the other passing the famous landmark, the Needle (a beautiful mountain peak).
  • Just before (or after) the trek’s trailhead is a large plot of land with abandoned building. This is the Abandoned Sheraton, a once popular hotel that shut down in the 80’s and has since fallen into disrepair. You’ll feel like you’ve walked onto the set of Jurassic Park and want to snap many photos. Make sure you pay you $5 NZD at the blue house before you start exploring!
  • The Cook Islands are all surrounded by beautiful blue water just begging you to go snorkeling or diving. It is easy to find spots right off the shore to jump in and explore with your snorkel (including right downtown next to Trader Jack’s!), but make sure you find a Padi certified boat to take you out to deeper water for scuba diving!

 

Day 3-4 – Aitu

Nature at its purest

Enjoy the nature of Aitu

 

Air Rarotonga will take you across to the other islands, including Aitu! You can either make Aitu your first stop with a direct flight from Rarotonga or head to Aitutaki first.

Great places to stay:

The smaller the island, the less options there are, and Aitu is pretty small. That being said there are still a handful of wonderful places you can stay!

  • Suggested Hotels – Aitu Villas, Kia Orana Bungalows

 

Spend your time exploring:

  • Aitu has many beautiful limestone caves just waiting to be explored. Hop on a Cave Tour for a safe exploration.
  • For a taste of local life and tradition, join on one of the Tumunu where you will meet the local people and share in their bush beer. This is a unique experience for the Cook Islands and one not to be missed.
  • Aitu is a bird lovers paradise. This island is perfect for bird watching. With a large variety of amazing bird species, you can spend all day chasing the calls and feathers of Aitu birds.

 

Day 5-7 – Aitutaki

Amazing shades of blue

Looking out on the blue lagoon of Aitutaki

 

Air Rarotonga flies between Aitutaki and Aitu on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from April to mid-December. You can hop on this 45 minute direct flight so that you don’t have to connect through Rarotonga.

Once you’re on the ground you can rent bikes, scooters or cars to get around on your own.

 

Great places to stay:

  • Luxury – Pacific Resort Aitutaki, Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa
  • Bungalows – Paradise Cove Lodges, Tamanu Beach
  • Airbnb and VRBO rentals may also be available and a great option for families!

 

Find your bungalow on the beaches of Aitutaki Pictured: Paradise Cove Lodges

 

Spend your time exploring:

  • If you don’t mind working for your meal and traveling out into the ocean then you will love Deep Sea Fishing. There are several operators who will take you out on the water, but for an authentic and successful trip reach out to Black Pearl Charters. You’ll walk away with more Mahi Mahi and Tuna than you know what to do with!
  • Ootu Beach is allows you to walk right out into Aitutaki’s beautiful blue lagoon. You can easily spend the entire day here just relaxing and enjoying the water. Just past the airport and past the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa, you’ll find a little “town” where you can relax all day.

 

End of Day 7 – Fly Home

Take off

Flight times vary throughout the year, but large haul flights take off later at night. You should be able to spend the full day exploring and enjoying vacation still. This means if you fly back to Rarotonga on your last day you can take the latest flight out and get as much out of your island hopping.

 

Hiking down Mount Maungapu on Aitutaki

 

Eating There

  • The local food is very delicious. With so much access to the ocean you’ll find seafood on almost every menu. Embrace the freshness!
  • That being said you can still find chicken and red meat at most places.
  • On the smaller islands, like Aitutaki and Aitu, it can be difficult to know what is open for lunch and dinner. Make sure you chat with your hotel’s front desk or host about what is open for the season and on what days. It will make it easier for you to plan your day!
  • A few of our favorite spots throughout the islands included:

 

More Information

  • There is no free wifi on the island, but you can likely purchase wifi (a very small, slow amount) from your hotel or from a Blue Sky post.
  • If you have an international phone plan it will work here! But providers like T-mobile that include international benefits from free will not have service here.
  • The local currency is the New Zealand Dollar. You can exchange money before you arrive or once you’re in country, we personally prefer to just take currency out of the ATM as we need it. Just make sure your bank won’t charge you extra for international cash withdrawals.
  • There are different size grocery stores and markets on each of the islands that tend to be in “downtown” areas. Don’t be surprised if they run out of items as they depend on shipments from New Zealand for supplies.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen!!
  • The islands are very safe and the locals are very friendly!!

 

 

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