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COOK ISLANDS

Aitutaki      Rarotonga      OCEANIA

Palm Tree on One Foot Island, Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Palm Tree on One Foot Island, Aitutaki, Cook Islands, © Can Stock Photo / kwest19

The Cook Islands are composed of 15 islands.  Tourists reach the islands through the international airport on the island of Rarotonga.  Aitutaki is a popular island to fly to from Rarotonga.  The Cook Islands were first settled by Polynesians who are thought to have come from Tahiti.  In the early 1600s the Portuguese and Spanish began exploring the area.  Captain Cook arrived in 1773 and again in 1777.  The islands affiliated with Britain in the late 1880s and became predominantly Christian.  The Cook Islands gained independence from New Zealand in 1965 and are self governing today.  They have a permanent population of under 20,000 in total for all the islands.

Language:

Although English is the predominant language today, Cook Islands Maori (Rarotongan) is also an official language commonly spoken by the Maori ethnic base.  There are also a number of other dialects spoken among the islands.  Linguistically there are close ties to Maori and to Tahitian.

  • Kia Orana - hello ("Ia Orana" in French Polynesia).
  • Aere ra - goodbye
  • Meitaki - thank you

Visas:

A travel visa is not required for most countries whose citizens visit the Cook Islands for tourism.  Visitors from New Zealand do not have to prove that they have made arrangements to leave the islands.  Check your specific country at VisaHQ or search the Cook Island Foreign Affairs & Immigration department web page for further information.

Currency:

The Cook Islands use the New Zealand Dollar but they also have their own local currency which it is pegged at par with the New Zealand dollar.  Make sure you convert any local currency back to New Zealand dollars before you leave unless you are keeping it as a souvenir.

Weather:

The warm weather and isolation of the western South Pacific make the Cook Islands a popular tourist destination.  Although temperatures are consistently comfortable on a year round basis, the rainier season from November to May tend to make June to October the most popular time to visit.  In the rainy season there is high humidity and mornings are often clear.  The Cook Islands are actually south of the equator, so technically the slightly better weather months are in their winter.  Hotels in the Cook Islands are expensive but they tend to be competitive with French Polynesia because of the close association of the Cook Islands with New Zealand and its currency.

Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands:

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

 Aitutaki

           X  X  X  X  X    

 Rarotonga

           X  X  X  X  X    

Access:

Access by air to the Cook Islands is through the Rarotonga International Airport (RAR) on the island of Rarotonga.  Air New Zealand is the main airline providing service and it has regular flights to Tahiti, Los Angeles, Auckland and Sydney.  Most cruise ships don't visit the Cook Islands as Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesian are more accessible cruise destinations.  Paul Gauguin Cruises does visit Rarotonga and Aitutaki regularly though.

Savor the Tastes of the Cook Islands:

  • Ika Mata - raw fish marinated in salt, lemon or lime, coconut cream with some tomato or and veggies thrown in to make a salad.  This is the Cook Islands' version of French Polynesian poisson cru.

  • Moana Roa Mahimahi - fish poached in coconut cream and served on greens.

  • Matu rori - sea cucumbers cooked with sauted onion and garlic, served with bread or cooked root vegetables.

  • Kuru stew (breadfruit).

  • Cooked taro leaves.

  • Raro tarati salad.

  • Pawpaw fruit.

  • Pickled fish.


View the Cook Islands map