The Top Sightseeing Tours of Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke and Mangaia
Don’t just whip around the islands on a scooter missing all of the hidden gems. Join a sightseeing tour to get more out of the Cook Islands! That way, you’ll learn about the fascinating history behind the sights, sample edible plants that the locals use, visit local industries that other tourists don’t get to see, and so much more! The islands of Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke and Mangaia all have guided sightseeing tours taking you to the highlights. Discover the best in this list of sightseeing tours in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands!
1. Cook Islands Tours, Rarotonga
Locally owned and operated, Cook Islands Tours offers a few popular tours of Rarotonga. While their most popular tour is the “Progressive Dinner Tour“, their “Orientation & Sightseeing Tour“ is the best choice for sightseeing. The 2h30mins tour is a must for first-time visitors, where you will be pointed out to some excellent places to eat on the island, interesting activities to do, as well as stopping by some cultural attractions that you can tick off the list, such as Black Rock and the Rarotonga Brewery. Alternatively, Cook Islands Tours offers the sightseeing “Avarua Historical Walking Tour“, which you can find out more about in the 8 Best Guided Walks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Find out more about Cook Islands Tours, check out reviews and book tours on Viator and Tripadvisor. Plus, see how they compare to other sightseeing tours on the island in the 10 Best Tours of Rarotonga.
2. Tik-ebikes & Tours, Rarotonga
Hop on one of the most unique vehicles to tour around Rarotonga with Tik-ebikes & Tours! Their “Island Tour” takes you around Rarotonga in an environmentally-friendly tuk-tuk where you’ll stop by historical sites, such as the Tinomana Palace, stunning landscapes like the Mairie Nui Gardens and the soft sands of Muri Beach. You’ll get an insight into the history and culture of the island with an interesting stop at the Rito Organic Coconut Oil Factory and get some time to experience the local arts and shops of Avarua before you’re transported back to your accommodation. Tours last approximately three hours.
Guided e-bike tours are also available, which you can learn more about in the 5 Best Bike Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
3. Teking Lagoon Cruises, Aitutaki
The first of many sightseeing tours in Aitutaki that are lagoon cruises, Teking Lagoon Cruises offers a small-group tour on the breathtaking Aitutaki Lagoon. Their “Snorkelling Safari Tour” is the most popular tour they offer, visiting four of the lagoon’s motu (islands) and three vibrant snorkelling spots where the focus on ecology and conservation allows you to get more out of the experience. The tour lasts approximately five hours and transfers are included.
Private charters and two-hour sunset tours with Champagne are also available. Compare this lagoon cruise with others in the 10 Best Lagoon Cruises on Aitutaki.
4. Atiu Safari & Fishing Tours, Atiu
Timau from Atiu Safari & Fishing Tours offers three fantastic ways to experience the lesser-visited island of Atiu! The best one for sightseeing is the “Island Discovery Tour“, showing you the cluster of villages and their remarkable history and industries, as well as noteworthy historical and natural attractions across the island on a 3h30mins tour. Alternatively, his fishing charters around Takutea, a small island 23km (14 miles) northwest of Atiu, is just about the only way to see this uninhabited island.
A “Tumunu Tour”, taking you to the “bush beer bars” of Atiu, is also an option, which you can learn more about in the 5 Best Tours on Atiu.
5. Raro Tours, Rarotonga
Another spectacular orientation tour of Rarotonga, Raro Tours‘ “Island Discovery Tour” is an excellent way to get acquainted with the island, including its snorkelling spots. The three-hour tour also includes a few exclusive highlights of its own, such as stops and commentary at historical maraes (an ancient gathering place), visiting local industries like a perfumes factory and tasting locally-made liqueurs. You’ll also stop for a coconut husking demonstration to learn more about the “Tree of Life”.
6. Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours, Rarotonga
An alternative way to sightsee on Rarotonga is via bike with Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours. They have bikes 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. Whichever of the two tours you choose, your experience with conclude with a delicious local lunch. Transfers are included in this tour and morning departure times are organised with the operator. Depending on what tour you choose, they are available from Monday to Friday.
Learn more about Storytellers on Viator and Tripadvisor. Storytellers also operate sightseeing walking tours, which you can learn more about in the 8 Best Guided Walks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
7. Kia Orana Cruise, Aitutaki
One of the most comprehensive sightseeing lagoon tours in Aitutaki, Kia Orana Cruise is a fun and adventurous day out with “Captain Fantastic”. The lagoon tour makes seven exciting stops throughout the day. Visit where they filmed “Survivor” on Moturakau, stop by Aitutaki’s sandbank then the island of Tekopua then the famed One Foot Island. You’ll then cross the lagoon to Honeymoon Island, Tavake then, finally, Maina for lunch. In between, there are plenty of opportunities for snorkelling.
Discover more sightseeing tours of the lagoon in the 10 Best Tours of Aitutaki.
8. Raro Safari Tours, Rarotonga
Jump in a characterful safari Jeep and hit the Rarotonga coast road, back roads and dirt roads with Raro Safari Tours. This three-hour tour incorporates history and culture as you traverse the inland road seeking out historical sites, visiting plantations and – the highlight – racing up the dirt tracks of an inland mountain to a spectacular viewpoint of Te Rua Manga, a.k.a. The Needle. The tour also includes a stop at Papua Waterfall (Wigmore’s Waterfall), a local buffet lunch and lots of humour!
Raro Safari Tours has a morning and afternoon departure most days, otherwise, they will just operate their morning tour from 9.30am.
9. Guided Sightseeing Tours on Mangaia
Finally, as we get onto the sightseeing tours of the outer Cook Islands, it’s worth noting that there aren’t exactly “tour operators” on the islands, as such. Guided sightseeing tours are mostly offered by the accommodation hosts on the islands, such as on Mangaia, where guided tours are offered to caves and ancient marae (Maori gathering places) and other natural and historical attractions that are otherwise difficult to get to on your own.
Tours typically last two to four hours and include transfers. Check out the typical sights you’ll see on Mangaia in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mangaia and plan your trip using The Complete Travel Guide to Mangaia.
10. Guided Sightseeing Tours on Mauke
Mauke is another one of the outer islands of the Cook Islands where guided sightseeing tours are available, they are just usually organised with your accommodation host. One popular tour is to the Giant Banyan Tree! Covering an area of 4,000m² (43,000ft²), Mauke’s giant banyan tree is the largest in the South Pacific and can be accessed on a 15-minute guided walk that also includes seeing Vai Moti, a small cave with a swimming hole where you a take a quick dip. Finally, you’ll come across the tangled roots hanging from above and crawling across the ground that indicates you’ve reached the tree. Locals have made an awesome tree swing with the roots – so have a go! Continue on the trail a little further and you will reach Motuanga Cave, also known as “The Cave with 100 Rooms”.
More About the Best Sightseeing Tours in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Now that you have discovered the best guided sightseeing tours in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands, check out different types of tours in the below articles:
- 10 Best Tours in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Island-Hopping Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Boat & Sailing Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, check out all of the Cook Islands’ activities in our epic 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands.