The Top Nature Tours in the Cook Islands
Immerse in the natural environment of a South Pacific paradise, whether it’s on land or in the turquoise lagoons, with the nature and wildlife tours of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. From swimming with majestic turtles and humpback whales to trekking through the jungle while learning about the local plants to eat or to use as natural remedies, the nature tours of the Cook Islands are vast and varied. This list of the best nature and wildlife tours in the Cook Islands will give you just a taste of what’s available, but be sure to follow the links for even more natural wonders.
1. Snorkel Cook Islands – Snorkelling and Turtle Swimming Tours
Experience the marine nature and wildlife of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands on a snorkelling or turtle swimming experience with Snorkel Cook Islands. Their three-hour private snorkelling tour is exclusively for you and up to two other people on a tour of healthy marine ecosystems where turtles and rays are a regular feature. Your guide will capture the key moments for you with their underwater camera then, when you’re ready, the snorkelling tour concludes with a banquet of island-style refreshments.
Learn more about the snorkelling tour and book tickets on Viator, Tripadvisor or check out all of the Cook Islands’ snorkelling tours in the 10 Best Snorkelling Tours in the Cook Islands. Alternatively, check out their turtle swimming tour on Viator, Tripadvisor or compare with the rest in the 10 Best Turtle Swimming Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Location: Transfers are included on private snorkelling tours. Otherwise, turtle tours are located on the Main Road (Ara Tapu), Vaimaanga, southern end of Rarotonga – the Snorkel Cook Islands logo is easy to spot.
2. Maunga Tours – Guided Walks
Take a nature tour inland with Maunga Tours where you won’t just do the famous Cross-Island Track, you’ll get more out of the journey with a hands-on nature experience. The 3-4-hour hike includes hiking to the summit of Te Rua Manga, a.k.a “The Needle“. You’ll be shown all sorts of unique flora and fauna that are otherwise easy to miss if you were hiking on your own. The hike ends at the Papua Waterfall where you can wash off your hard work. A tropical lunch with fresh fruit is also included.
Check out more nature walks and tours in the 8 Best Guided Walks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Location: Transfers are included, Rarotonga.
3. Wet & Wild – Whale Swimming Tours
Another amazing encounter with wildlife presents itself between the month of July and October when humpback whales migrate to the Cook Islands. That’s right, Wet & Wild runs amazing whale watching and swimming tours in Aitutaki. Choose from either shared or private tours where you’ll be provided with all the snorkelling gear, bottled water and the expertise of a company that has been taking tourists to swim with whales for more than 20 years.
Check out more whale encounters in the 7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands.
Location: Departs Arutanga Harbour, Aitutaki.
4. Birdman George Eco Tours – Bird Watching Tours
When it comes to the Cook Islands’ land wildlife, set your sights on the island of Atiu! See what makes the island an eco-lovers’ paradise on Birdman George’s Eco Tours. While the tour includes walking historic trails and visiting historically significant sites, the main focus is the ecology of Atiu where George will point out kakerori and colourful kura, as well as interesting Atiuan plants and explain their medicinal uses. At the end of the nature and wildlife tour, you’ll arrive at a picturesque beach where George will serve either a tropical spread for a picnic lunch or an “umu” – a Polynesian style of cooking where food is slow-cooked in an underground oven – on a Sunday.
Discover more amazing places to watch the birds in the 7 Best Places for Bird Watching in the Cook Islands, as well as similar eco-tours in the 10 Best Eco Tours in the Cook Islands.
Location: Transfers are included, Atiu.
5. Storytellers Eco Cycle & Walking Tours – Nature Tours by Bike
Explore Rarotonga on a relaxed and eco-friendly nature tour with Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours! They have bicycles for all ages, so there’s no excuse not to join them on their “Discover” tour suited to beginner cyclists or their “Explore” tour for the more experienced. Cycle past quaint villages, learn about the history along the old Ara Metua coral road, and stop for tastings of local fruit discovered along the way. There are also eco-walking tours available, like the “Afternoon Stroll” and “Walk About” tours where you won’t believe the insights you’ll get into the Cook Islander culture and what sights you’ll get to see on foot.
Location: Transfers are included, Rarotonga.
6. Atiu Eco-Adventure Anatakitaki Cave Tour – Hiking and Caving Tours
A must-see attraction on Atiu, Anatakitaki Caves are a series of caves with awesome limestone stalactites and home to a rare and fascinating bird. Join Ben from Atiu Eco-Adventure Anatakitaki Cave Tour for a three-hour guided experience taking you through the dense rainforest to three spectacular caves. Bring your swimwear for the cave pool and put on your best bird-spotting hats for seeing the kopeka, a swiftlet unique to Atiu, that uses sonar just like a bat. Ben will tell you more about these amazing birds or check out the 20 Animals & Birds Unique to the Cook Islands!
The Anatakitaki Cave is not the only cave that you can visit on a nature tour in the Cook Islands. Discover them right across the islands in the 10 Best Caves in the Cook Islands.
Location: Transfers are included, Atiu.
7. Teking Lagoon Cruises – Aitutaki Lagoon Cruises and Snorkelling Tours
Another way to experience the marine wildlife of the Cook Islands is on one of its many lagoon cruises, some of the best of which are in the Aitutaki Lagoon. With a focus on ecology and conservation, Teking Lagoon Cruises is a top choice for cruising the Aitutaki Lagoon on their “Snorkelling Safari Tour”. Visit four of the lagoon’s motu (islands) and three vibrant snorkelling spots on this full-day experience with an island lunch included.
Check out all of Aitutaki’s amazing lagoon cruises in the 10 Best Lagoon Cruises on Aitutaki.
Location: Transfers are included, Aitutaki.
8. Koka Lagoon Cruises – Rarotonga Lagoon Cruises and Snorkelling Tours
In Rarotonga, you won’t miss out on fantastic lagoon cruises thanks to Koka Lagoon Cruises (and the very similar Captain Tama’s). The half-day cruise from Muri Beach includes snorkelling at a marine reserve where you’ll be free to swim among the giant clams, angelfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish and much more. After snorkelling, the cruise on the glass-bottom boat crosses the Muri Lagoon to the uninhabited Motu Koromiri for a barbecue lunch combined with a fun yet informative coconut and sarong-tying show. The ukulele band entertains throughout the experience.
Check out reviews and book your tour with Koka Lagoon Cruises on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see how the cruise compares to Captain Tama’s and more in the 10 Best Day Cruises in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Location: Muri Beach, Muri, east coast of Rarotonga.
9. Tumutoa Tours – Culture and Nature Tours
Traditional life and nature combine in the tour offering of Tumutoa Tours! Their “Discovery Walking Tour” is an excellent nature tour where you’ll join the friendly island warrior, Tumutoa, for two hours walking the bush and gardens of Rarotonga to try local fruit and vegetables, learn about medicinal plants, try coconut tree climbing and husking, and listen to local legends. For those who are looking for more of an adventure, try the “Legends of Raemaru” tour which takes your discovery walk up a mountain!
Compare Tumutoa Tours with others that incorporate culture and nature in the 10 Best Cultural Activities in the Cook Islands.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (well signposted off the main road), west side of Rarotonga.
10. Dive Rarotonga – Scuba Diving Tours
Need another idea for wildlife tours in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? Cue scuba diving: one of the best ways to immerse in the underwater world of the Cook Islands along with its coral, anemones, turtles, starfish, eagle rays, reef fish, reef sharks and more – just check out the Wildlife in the Cook Islands: Animals in the Cook Islands & Where to See Them for more. Dive Rarotonga is one of the top dive operators in the Cook Islands, offering an array of dive trips for certified divers, trips for first-time to beginner divers, as well as PADI courses. Night dives are also available.
Check out some of the amazing dive sites visited in The Best Scuba Diving in Rarotonga: Top 25 Places to Scuba Dive, as well as other awesome dive shops in the 5 Best Dive Shops & Operators in the Cook Islands.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi on the west side of Rarotonga. They are the A-frame building next to the Crown Beach Resort & Spa.
More Nature and Wildlife Tours in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Need more inspiration for the perfect nature tour or wildlife tour in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? Check out the recommendations in these other guides:
- 10 Best Eco Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Guided Tours of Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Walks & Hikes in the Cook Islands
Finally, complete your bucket list using the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List and plan all the logistics using The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide.