The Top Museums to Visit in the Cook Islands
Walk through Cook Islands‘ history and see an array of fascinating artefacts at the Cook Islands’ museums. All of the museums in the Cook Islands can be found on the nation’s most populated island, Rarotonga, so visiting them is easy – all within a 30-minute drive of each other! What’s more, the museums of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands are very affordable, costing between NZ$5 and $15 per person. Discover them all in this list of the best museums in the Cook Islands!
1. Te Ara Museum
This contemporary museum and cultural enterprise centre in Muri packs in key aspects of Rarotonga’s history through captivating displays. Te Ara Museum is an affordable activity that will only take an hour or so of your day. See grand exhibitions about the early Polynesian navigators who made it to Rarotonga and trace back their journey across the world, learn about European influence, as well as see displays on the present and future of the Cook Islands. You can stick around for light refreshments at the cafe and browse the 100% locally made gifts at the shop. The museum is open seven days a week from 9am (10am on weekends) until 4pm.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Muri (east side of Rarotonga).
2. Discover Marine Wildlife & Eco Centre
Stop for an extended lunch at the cafe and ice cream parlour then peruse the museum of the Discover Marine Wildlife & Eco Centre. A must-do for nature lovers and families, the centre might be small but it’s packed with all sorts of interesting displays, from seabirds and coconut crabs in rehabilitation to fascinating whaling and shipwreck artefacts. Browse the aquarium with its devilish stonefish and learn about how the Cook Islands were formed. Opening hours are from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm. Check out more exciting experiences for families in the 40 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands with Kids.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (west side of Rarotonga).
3. Cook Islands National Museum
As you can see, Rarotonga has no lack of museums, with the Cooks Island National Museum offering a quaint yet interesting option in the nation’s capital, Avarua. Browse carved artefacts, seafaring vaka replicas, traditional tivaevae linen and learn more about their cultural and historical significance through the information texts on the walls. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. See more experiences in the capital in the 10 Best Things to Do in Avarua.
Location: Sir Geoffrey Henry National Culture Centre, Corner of Constitution Avenue and Victoria Road, Avarua (north side of Rarotonga).
4. Cook Islands Library & Museum
Yes, this is a different museum in Avarua but it’s not too far away from the one previously mentioned. Set on park grounds surrounded by some of Avarua’s oldest buildings, the Cook Islands Library & Museum displays interesting ceremonial artefacts, cooking utensils, shells and weapons. Outside are the museum’s maritime displays such as vaka and an anchor. Their library also holds a collection of rare books. Find the museum open from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Saturday and on Tuesday evenings from 4pm to 7pm.
Location: Makea Tinirau Road, the eastern end of Avarua (north side of Rarotonga).
5. Pa Ariki’s Takitumu Palace Museum
Dive into the culture of the Cook Islands’ royal heritage at Pa Ariki’s Takitumu Palace Museum, the only palace on Rarotonga that is open to the public! The palace is that of the 48th Queen Pa Ariki whose line began in 1250 AD. Explore the museum with its various artefacts on display and trace back the history of the Cook Islands’ “ariki”. Guided tours of the museum are available at 10am and 2pm. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Avana (east side of Rarotonga).
More Museums in the Cook Islands
That’s it for the best museums in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, but wait, there’s more! Some might say that the Cook Islands is like one large outdoor museum, with historical sites complemented by information signs. Check them out in the following guides:
- 10 Best Historical Sites on Rarotonga
- 10 Best Historical Sites on Aitutaki
- 10 Best Historical Sites in the Cook Islands
Finally, you might also be interested in the 5 Best Art Galleries in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands and the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.