Interesting Facts About the Cook Islands
Want to know something fun about the Cook Islands? We’ve compiled some of the quirkiest and at least mildly interesting facts about Rarotonga and the Cook Islands right here! Let’s not waste another second…
1. There are 15 Main Islands in the Cook Islands
That’s right, the Cook Islands is an archipelago of only 15 main islands scattered across 2,200,000 km² (850,000 sq mi) of ocean. No wonder you can hardly see it on the world map!
Check out each of the islands in What are the 15 Islands in the Cook Islands?
2. The Cook Islands Shares a Currency with New Zealand But Has its Own Triangle Coins
The official currency of the Cook Islands might be the New Zealand Dollar, but the country has also issued its own notes and coins, including the unusual triangle $2 coin and dodecagon $5 coin.
Find out more about Cook Island coins in What is the Currency of the Cook Islands?
3. … And a $3 Note with a Barechested Lady Riding a Shark (That’s Pretty Badass)
Speaking of Cook Islands money, one of the banknotes depicts the legend of ‘Ina and the Shark. Ask the locals about the legend, it’s a pretty “characterful” story about love and a shark’s revenge.
4. There are Dogs Everywhere on Rarotonga; And No Dogs on Aitutaki
That’s right, Rarotonga is full of “wandering dogs” that do, indeed, belong to people but are free to roam the island at their leisure. On the flip side, Aitutaki has no dogs! Dogs are banned from the island, although the reason why is unclear. One story tells of dogs being blamed for a leprosy outbreak in the 19th century, while another tells of a dog mauling the child of an “ariki” (high chief).
5. The Cook Islands are the World’s Second-Largest Producers of Black Pearls
… And the second of only two countries that produce black pearls. The Cook Islands’ leading export is black pearls, all coming from the same island, Manihiki, in the Northern Group.
Learn about where to buy black pearls in The Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
6. There are More Cook Islanders Living in New Zealand and Australia Than There are in the Cook Islands
There are around 17,000 people living in the Cook Islands, while there are around 65,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and around 30,000 living in Australia.
Learn more about population numbers in Who are the People of the Cook Islands?
7. Only Around 1,000 People Live in the Northern Group
Speaking of the population, only around 1,000 people live in the Northern Group, which makes up six of the 15 Cook Islands.
Find out more about the Northern Group in The Complete Travel Guide to the Northern Cook Islands.
8. No Building Can Be Taller Than a Coconut Tree
You read it right; there is a government mandate that states that no building can be taller than a coconut tree, of which there are plenty of in the Cook Islands. Just take a look at the 15 Exotic Fruits in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands You HAVE to Try!
9. Captain “Cook” Never Set Foot on Rarotonga
Despite the Cook Islands being named after the famous British explorer, Captain Cook only ever set foot on the island of Palmerston. In fact, Captain Cook named the islands the Hervey Islands. The current name for the Cook Islands was given by the Russian explorer and map-maker, Adam Johann Von Krusenstern who was a big fan of Cook.
Learn more about the history of the Cook Islands in A Brief History of Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
10. Cook Islands Maori and New Zealand Maori are Different Languages
One of the official languages of the Cook Islands is Cook Islands Maori, which has a few similarities to New Zealand Maori but is definitely not the same language. There is also another official language, Pukapukan, which is entirely different from Maori!
Discover more about languages in the Cook Islands in What is the Rarotonga & Cook Islands Language?
11. The Cook Islands Has a Combined Landmass of 236km (91 miles)
That’s half of Sydney or half of New York or a quarter of Berlin or a bit smaller than Manchester (Greater Manchester).
12. You Can Drive Around Rarotonga in 40 to 50 Minutes
Rarotonga is the largest island in the Cook Islands and it still only takes around 40 minutes to drive around the entire island (50 minutes if you get stuck behind the island bus!)
Check out Cook Islands Travel Times: How Long to Travel Around the Islands? for more fun facts about travel distances. Plus, get facts on how large the islands are in The 5 Largest Islands in the Cook Islands.
13. There are No Traffic Lights in the Cook Islands
Speaking of driving, there are no traffic lights in the Cook Islands. There are only a few roundabouts in Avarua, while the national speed limit is only 50kph!
Get more road facts from How to Drive in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands + 10 Road Rules.
14. Mauke Has a Church Where the Architecture is Literally “Divided”
On the island of Mauke, the island’s Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) was built in 1882. Once the outside was complete, however, the two villages that shared the church couldn’t agree on a design for the interior. A wall was built down the middle and the two villages decorated their own side of the church to their desired and flamboyant taste. When a new pastor convinced the villages that it wasn’t very “Christian” to segregate themselves from each other, the wall was removed, leaving a very obvious divide of decor right down the middle. Today, the church is commonly known as “The Divided Church“.
Learn more about visiting the church in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke.
15. Atiu Has 9 Tennis Courts for 400 People
In the 1990s, the villages of Atiu got into a tennis-court-building competition which resulted in a whopping nine tennis courts! Today, most of those tennis courts have been turned into other sports courts, but you can still play tennis at the grass tennis court of Atiu Villas.
Learn more about the quirks of Atiu in the 20 Best Things to Do on Atiu.
16. There are 9 Airports in the Cook Islands; Only 2 are Paved
Learn more about the airports of the Cooks in Airports in the Cook Islands: Where Can You Fly to in the Cook Islands?
17. Survivor Season 13 Was Shot in Aitutaki (And the Tribes Were Split By Race)
Fans of Survivor US will recognise the islets of Aitutaki as the camps of the season’s tribes that were, controversially, organised by ethnicity.
See more TV shows and films where the Cook Islands have featured in the 10 TV Shows/Movies Filmed in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
18. Tivaevae is the Art of Quilting in the Cook Islands
While other South Pacific Islands are more into tapa-making (compressing into a fabric/paper), the Cook Islands’ “mamas” are well into their quilting, locally known as “tivaevae”. The craft was introduced during the missionary period and has been going strong ever since!
See more popular crafts listed in A Traveller’s Guide to the Cook Islands Culture.
19. There are No Poisonous Snakes or Spiders in the Cook Islands
Unlike many of its South Pacific counterparts, there are no poisonous snakes or spiders in the Cook Islands. There are instead devilish stonefish that can leave a nasty bite and pesky mosquitos and red ants. Other than that, the animals don’t tend to want to kill you.
Learn more about the animals in Wildlife in the Cook Islands: Animals in the Cook Islands & Where to See Them, as well as any dangers in Is it Safe to Travel to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands? – Cook Islands Safety Tips.
20. There is a Stick Man on the Island of Atiu
If you look at a satellite image of the island of Atiu, there’s a stick man in the centre of the island. Can you see it?
21. Tangaroa is Famous for His Penis
Although we don’t want to lower the tone, we can’t go without mentioning the “elephant in the room” that is Tangaroa‘s penis. The god of the sea and fertility is the most popular inspiration for carvings right across the Cook Islands. Indeed his “strength” is always emphasised.
More Fun Facts About Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our list of fun facts about Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more interesting tidbits, check out more of our articles:
- Fun Facts About the Cook Islands for Kids
- 15 Rarotongan Words You Need to Know When Visiting the Cook Islands
- What is it Like to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Finally, learn more about the Cook Islands and a few quirks you need to be aware of when visiting in the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.