The Best Adventure and Adrenaline Activities in the Cook Islands
Despite what many believe, the Cook Islands aren’t just about lazying on the beach with a cocktail in hand. From the depths of its coral reefs to the peaks of its volcanic mountains, Rarotonga and the Cook Islands host an array of epic adventure and adrenaline experiences. Off-roading, caving and pig hunting are on the cards for inland adventures, while catching some air on the kitesurf or snorkelling in the passages with turtles are just some of the water experiences.
Discover more epic stuff you’ll do during your “island time” in this list of the best adventure activities in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
1. Off-Roading Through the Jungle
One of the best adrenaline activities on land in Rarotonga and beyond, off-roading tours are an epic way to discover hidden gems and get to those hard-to-reach places. Raro Buggy Tours and Raro Quad Tours allow you to do the driving, racing around muddy plantations and derelict sites, while Raro Safari Tours takes you in the back of a flamboyant safari Jeep to the mountain tops of the island. Off-roading tours are also available on the lesser-visited islands of Mangaia and Atiu.
Find the perfect off-roading experience for you in the 5 Best Off-Road Tours in the Cook Islands.
2. Snorkelling with Turtles and Rays
This isn’t just your relaxing snorkel session from the beach. Turtle tours take you out to the lagoon passages where it’s not usually safe to swim but is prime turtle and ray territory. Experienced guides will handle all of the safety precautions while you enjoy this epic experience of swimming alongside majestic sea turtles and eagle rays. With professional photography being a feature of many of Rarotonga’s turtle tours, you can also come home with stunning underwater photos.
Compare all of your turtle tour options in the 10 Best Turtle Swimming Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
3. Kitesurfing on the Lagoon
The Cook Islands are home to some of the best kitesurfing grounds in the South Pacific. Honeymoon Island in Aitutaki becomes a hotspot in winter where water taxis and guides take you to and from the island with private lessons and gear rental readily available. Alternatively, try the sport on the Muri Lagoon in Rarotonga. We go through all you need to know in our Kitesurfing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Guide.
And kitesurfing isn’t the only kitesports available in the Cook Islands, with windsurfing and “winging” also being epic options. Check them out in our Windsurfing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Guide.
4. Surfing on the Reef
Ok, so you only want to surf in the Cook Islands if you seriously know what you’re doing. Those that do have an awesome adventure ahead with epic barrel waves found along the reef of Rarotonga. Breaks are fast, fun and not for the faint-hearted. Learn more about surf tours and breaks in The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
5. Caving Inside a “Makatea” Island
“Makatea” is the local term for ancient limestone coral that makes up much of the islands in the Southern Group (except, incidentally Rarotonga and Aitutaki). Those that are lucky enough to hit the lesser-travelled islands of Mangaia, Atiu, Mitiaro and Mauke can find some awesome caves to explore, some with swimming pools while others have burial chambers where skeletons remain. The gnarliest caves can be found on Mangaia, while the caves elsewhere provide a fun soft adventure activity in the Cook Islands.
Check out the best caves to explore listed in the 10 Best Caves in the Cook Islands.
6. Swimming with Whales
Between July and October, the warm waters of the Cook Islands attract humpback whales from Antarctica in order to mate and raise their young. A small number of boat tours on the islands can take you out to see or even swim with these gentle giants – a truly life-changing experience. Learn more about it in the 7 Best Whale Tours in the Cook Islands.
7. Scuba Diving Among Stunning Coral
Oh yeah, scuba diving is totally a thing here in the Cook Islands, which is home to astounding coral drop-offs, shipwrecks and coral canyon passages that offer amazing drift diving. Either learn to scuba dive, take an introductory tour or hit the best dive sites if you’re certified. We go into detail in The Best Scuba Diving in the Cook Islands: Top 10 Places to Scuba Dive and The Best Dive Shops & Operators in the Cook Islands.
8. Game Fishing for Pacific Whoppers
The Cook Islands is home to all sorts of fishing methods, the most adventurous of which include deep sea fishing and spearfishing. You have endless charter options to take you out to the deep water to reel in yellowfin tuna, wahoo and mahimahi. Alternatively, experience the thrills of freediving with spearfishing in the lagoon or at the FADs. It’s all outlined in The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
9. Pig Hunting on Atiu
Fishing isn’t the only way locals sustain themselves in the Cook Islands. Pig hunting is a necessary and favoured traditional pastime on the island of Atiu, where local guides like Punarea Culture Tours can teach you how to set traditional traps and conclude with an “umu” feast. Learn more about the tour in the 5 Best Tours on Atiu.
10. Whizzing Around on a Banana Boat or Inflatable Tube
For some high-speed thrills that’s suitable for adrenaline junkies of all ages, Rongohiva Watersports offers an exciting banana boat tour. The experience has you blasting across Rarotonga’s waters for one hour and 30 minutes of pure adrenaline fun. Alternatively, hit up Wet n Wild in Aitutaki for inflatable tube rides, wakeboarding or water skiing. See more kid-friendly adventures in the 40 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands with Kids.
More Adventure Activities in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our top picks of the best adventure activities in the Cook Islands. For more adventure tours, check out the following guides:
- 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- The Best Scenic Flights in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 5 Best Bike Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Finally, make sure you don’t miss anything off your bucket list by checking out the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.