7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋
7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋

© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

The Top Whale Tours in the Cook Islands

The “winter” season marks an exciting time in the Cook Islands when the Antarctic’s humpback whales migrate to its warm waters. That means there’s a lot of action beyond the lagoons of Rarotonga and Aitutaki where you have the privileged opportunity to get up close to these gentle giants. While the watersports and fishing tours of Rarotonga allow you to get a closer look at these magnificent marine mammals from their boats, tours on Aitutaki actually enable you to swim with the whales – a truly life-changing experience!

So, plan your whale excursion today with this list of the best whale watching and swimming tours in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands.

Remember that whale tours are only available between July and October. Learn more about the whale season in The Best Time to See Whales in the Cook Islands.

1. Wet & Wild

That’s right, with Wet & Wild you don’t just watch the whales, you swim with them! Wet & Wild have been running whale watching and swimming tours in Aitutaki for more than 20 years so have a  wealth of experience approaching these magnificent creatures. Choose from either shared or private tours, with shared tours lasting around three hours and private around 2h30mins. Either way, you’ll be provided with snorkelling gear and bottled water. Transfers are available for an additional fee. Learn about more epic watersports on the island in 20 Best Things to Do on Aitutaki.

Location: Departs Arutanga Harbour, Aitutaki.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© Cook Islands Tourism

2. Raro Reef Sub

During the whale season, Raro Reef Sub offers a unique way to see whales in their natural habitat from a semi-submersible vessel! Cruise to the deep outer reef of Rarotonga and look out for large pelagic fish, turtles, sharks and, that’s right, humpback whales! The 1h25mins-1h30mins tour also takes you around the RMS Maitai shipwreck and to places that are otherwise a challenge to get to. If that wasn’t enough, a percentage of the trip goes toward local conservation! This is also a spectacular option with kids, as listed in the 40 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands with Kids.

Location: Tours depart from Avatiu Harbour, Avarua at the north side of Rarotonga.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© Reef Sub

3. Bubbles Below – Dive Aitutaki

Another exhilarating whale swimming tour in Aitutaki, the local dive operator, Bubbles Below, can take you out to see and swim with the humpbacks. Shared tours to cut the price and private charters exclusively for couples or your group are available, both including snorkelling gear, water and light refreshments. Tours last approximately two hours and transfers are available for an additional fee.

Location: Arutanga Harbour, Aitutaki.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

4. Wahoo Fishing Charters

One of a few fishing charters on Rarotonga doubling up as a whale watching charter in the whale season, Wahoo Fishing Charters is a good go-to to see the whales. Join the cheeky crew for a fun half-day (4h30mins) on the water watching whales and enjoying a homecooked lunch included in the tour. There are two crew members on board all of their charters ensuring extra safety and extra fun. Charters are either shared or private.

Location: Avana Harbour, Ngatangiia (just north of Muri) or Avatiu Harbour, Avarua at the north end of Rarotonga.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

5. Rongohiva

On board a comfortable speed boat with seats including backrests (?!), Rongohiva will take you out to see the whales between July and October. Swap their usual banana boat adventures for a trip to the deep blue where you can get up-close to humpback whales and, hopefully, see them breaching and diving! There’s very little shade on the boat, however, so make sure you bring sunscreen and a hat!

Location: Avatiu Harbour, Avarua, northern end of Rarotonga.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

6. Sakula Charters

Sakula Charters might primarily operate fishing charters but their large 16m (53ft) fishing boat is the most comfortable in Rarotonga, making it the ideal vessel for a relaxing whale watching tour. Join them either for a shared or private whale watching experience or combine whale watching with the multi-day fishing experience, sleeping to the whale songs in the onboard cabins! Find out more about their fishing tours in the 10 Best Fishing Charters in the Cook Islands.

Location: Avatiu Harbour, Avarua, northern end of Rarotonga.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

7. Akura Fishing Charters

Finally, the popular fishing operator on Rarotonga, Akura Fishing Charters, is also in on the humpback whale-watching action during the season. With multiple 12m (40ft) and 7.3m (24ft) boats on offer, they can charter the ideal whale watching tour for most group sizes. Whale watching tours include bottled water, sandwiches for lunch and a chilly bin for any drinks you want to bring on board.

Location: Avatiu Harbour, Avarua, northern end of Rarotonga.

7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands 🐋© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

More About Whale Tours in the Cook Islands

Now that you know where you can find whale watching and swimming tours in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, here are more ways to engage with these amazing marine mammals:

Finally, add more essentials to your Cook Islands bucket list drawing from the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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