Where to Fly into the Cook Islands?
Dreaming of a tropical escape to the Cook Islands but don’t know which island the adventure starts? The Cook Islands is made up of 15 islands scattered across two different island groups. The only island with an international airport, however, is Rarotonga – home to Rarotonga International Airport (RAR). Luckily, the airport has a few connections to the outer islands of the Cooks, so you’re only a short flight away from wherever you need to go.
Find out more about which airport to arrive into the Cook Islands, as well as more details about the Cook Islands arrival airport in this guide.
Rarotonga International Airport (RAR)
The Cook Islands’ only international airport is called Rarotonga International Airport (RAR). It is located in the Avarua District on the northern coast of the island, approximately a three-minute drive from the town centre. For other driving times around the island, to Muri and Arorangi, for example, check out our guide to the Rarotonga Travel Times & Distances.
How Many Airports are on Rarotonga?
There is just one airport on Rarotonga, Rarotonga International Airport (RAR), which has both an international and domestic terminal.
Flights to Rarotonga International Airport
The Cook Islands is accessible to the rest of the world through New Zealand, Australia and French Polynesia (Tahiti) with a frequent international arrival schedule. Auckland (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia) have the most flight connections with the rest of the world, so consider making your stopover at one of these two airports if you’re travelling from further afield.
Learn more about flying directly to the Cook Islands in our guide, Which Airlines Fly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Rarotonga International Airport is also the main hub for travelling to the outer islands of the Cook Islands. It has a daily schedule between Rarotonga and the islands of Aitutaki and Atiu, with flights a few times a week to Mangaia, Mitiaro and Mauke. Flights to the Northern Group are less frequent, with scheduled flights only available for Manihiki, while charter flights are the only way to get to the other islands.
Find out more about flying domestically with our guide, Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights.
The Facilities at Rarotonga Airport
Rarotonga Airport might be a small airport but it has all the basic facilities that you would expect from an international airport. Note that facilities are only available when there are flights scheduled. Some of the facilities and amenities of Rarotonga Airport include:
Food and beverage – Food is available to purchase from the Ka Kite Cafe stand outside of the check-in area, the Are Kai Cafe between the domestic terminal and international arrivals, and from Reefside Rarotonga in the international departure lounge.
Shopping – Duty-free shopping is available in the international departure lounge once passed through security. There is also one liquor duty-free store in the arrivals hall before passing through customs – see The Guide to Duty-Free Shopping.
Car park – There is a small fee for parking in the car park during international flight movements. Otherwise, it is free.
WiFi – WiFi vouchers can be purchased from the Air Rarotonga office at the check-in area. Otherwise, Vodafone Cook Islands offers free limited WiFi if you have an access code – see How to Get WiFi in Rarotonga.
Lounges – Rarotonga Airport has a domestic departure lounge and an international departure lounge. Air New Zealand also operates a Koru Lounge for international departures.
Airport shuttle, taxi and accommodation transfers – There are kiosks outside of the international arrivals area where you can catch your airport transfer – see the 8 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga.
Baggage Storage – Air Rarotonga offers baggage storage for domestic flight passengers. Lockers are also available. The Islander Hotel across the road offers baggage storage even for non-guests.
ATM – There is a Bank of the South Pacific ATM located just outside of the international arrivals area.
Toilets – Toilets, including disabled access toilets, are also available at Rarotonga Airport.
Learn more about where these facilities are located and what to expect on arrival via an international flight using our guide, Arriving at Rarotonga Airport, Cook Islands: A Step-by-Step Guide.
The Arrival and Departure Processes at Rarotonga Airport
Rarotonga International Airport goes through an Immigration, Customs and Biosecurity process for arrival flights, as well as an airport check-in and security process for departures.
Rarotonga Airport Arrival Process
When you arrive in the Cook Islands, you will be required to pass through Immigration with your completed Cook Islands Passenger Arrival Card. You will then pick up your baggage from the baggage carriages at Baggage Claim before seeing a Customs and Biosecurity Officer where you will be asked to declare any risk items. Learn about the arrivals process in detail at Arriving in Rarotonga: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.
Rarotonga Airport Departure Process
Check-in for international departures opens two hours before scheduled international flights, which is at the same location as the domestic lounge. After you’ve checked in your luggage, it’s a short walk to security where your carry-on luggage will be x-rayed. Once through security, you’re in the large departures lounge with duty-free shopping, a cafe, charging stations, bathrooms, and charity bins to donate your remaining Cook Islands coins (they will not be accepted anywhere else in the world). For more tips for departure, check out Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips.
More About the Cook Islands’ Arrival Airport and Which Airport to Fly into the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete guide to the Cook Islands arrival airport. Now that you know which airport to fly into the Cook Islands, here’s more advice on ensuring a smooth arrival:
- Which Airlines Fly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
- What to Declare When Arriving in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- The Duty-Free Allowances for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Getting Here: How to Get to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.