The Complete Guide to Flights in the Cook Islands
Thinking about doing some island-hopping in the Cook Islands? The jewels of turquoise blue lagoons sparkling among the deep blue Pacific Ocean are an awesome sight but how do you get between them all? Aside from an unreliable cargo service or having your own yacht, domestic flights are just about the only way to experience interisland travel in the Cook Islands. With that, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to domestic flights in the Cook Islands, including how it all works, airfares, routes and more. Get scrolling!
5 Quick Tips for Scheduled Flights in the Cook Islands
- Although flights will still go ahead on a rainy day, occasionally, flights are cancelled or diverted due to dangerous weather – with this in mind, it might be a good idea to travel back to Rarotonga at least a day before your scheduled international flight departure
- Travelling to the Northern Group? Be aware of the tiny baggage allowance and the fact that you might be there for a couple of weeks before the next flight!
- Baggage excess charges don’t start applying until you’re at least 1kg (2lbs) over the limit
- Check in for your domestic flight at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Domestic airport transfers are cheaper than international arrivals (and free outside of Rarotonga with your accommodation) – check them out in The Cheapest Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
For elaboration plus more tips, head to the 10 Things You Need to Know About Flying in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Air Rarotonga Flight Schedule: Where Can You Fly to in the Cook Islands?
Travellers can fly to six different islands in the Cook Islands from Rarotonga on scheduled domestic flights and to eight different islands via charter flight. Flights from Rarotonga operate daily (including Sunday).
Flight Routes in the Cook Islands
Here’s a quick overview of the flight routes in the Cook Islands, their duration and how many flights there is a day. Note that the number of flights operating per day is a rough indication, as this changes with the demand for flights:
- Rarotonga – Aitutaki – 45-50 minutes – 3 flights daily and one flight on Sunday
- Rarotonga – Atiu – 45 minutes – 3 flights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
- Rarotonga – Mangaia – 45 minutes – 3 flights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
- Rarotonga – Mauke – 50 minutes – 4 flights a week on Monday and Friday
- Rarotonga – Mitiaro – 50 minutes – 1 flight a week on Friday
- Rarotonga – Mitiaro (via Mauke) – 90 minutes – 1 flight a week on Friday
- Mauke – Mitiaro – 20 minutes – 1 flight a week on Friday
- Rarotonga – Manihiki – 3h20mins – 1/2 flights every 2 weeks, Tuesday and Wednesday
- Aitutaki – Atiu – 40 minutes – Available in the high season.
For more information on the arrival airport on each island, check out our guide to Airports in the Cook Islands: Where Can You Fly to in the Cook Islands?
Cook Islands Domestic Flight Formalities
How do domestic flights work in the Cook Islands? Domestic flights depart from Rarotonga International Airport at the domestic terminal, which is directly next to the check-in counters.
For domestic flights in the Cook Islands, you are required to check in at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. When you check in, you will receive a ticket which is simply a receipt with your name, date and time of your flight, flight number and seat number. Show this to the attendant before crossing the tarmac to your flight.
In some instances, you may be requested to show personal identification, for example, as proof of age for child or infant fares.
If you or anyone you are booking for has special needs, make sure that you contact Air Rarotonga to make special arrangements – see more advice in Accessibility in the Cook Islands: Travellers with Disabilities, Wheelchair Access & More.
Refunds and Changes to Domestic Flights
Note that there are different types of fares available allowing with different terms and conditions for refunds and extra baggage allowance:
- Fully Flexible Fares (Southern Group) – Fully refundable up to 2 hours from flight departure and no change fee required
- Seat + Bag Fares – Non-refundable and a NZ$50 change fee
- Seat Only Fares – Non-refundable and no baggage allowance can be purchased
- Northern Group Flights – Fully refundable and changes permitted up to 14 days prior to departure.
Baggage Allowance for Flights in the Cook Islands
Your baggage allowance for flights with Air Rarotonga is dependent on what type of ticket you have purchased:
Seat Only Fares Baggage Allowance
- Carry-on bag only with an allowance of 7kg (15.4lbs)
Seat + Bag and Fully Flexible Baggage Allowance
- Carry-on bag allowance of 7kg (15.4lbs)
- Checked-in bag allowance of 23kg (50.7lbs) with dimensions not exceeding 158cm (62″) in linear measurement (width+height+length)
- Excess baggage is NZ$3.50 per additional kilogram.
Oversize baggage and sporting equipment are permitted subject to space. The maximum weight per piece is 32kg (70.5lbs) with a maximum length of 2m (6.5ft). Excess baggage rates apply to oversized items.
Northern Cook Islands Baggage Allowance
- Carry-on bag allowance of 3kg (6.6lbs)
- Checked-in bag allowance of 10kg (22lbs)
- Excess baggage is NZ$7 per additional kilogram.
What is the Cost of Flights in the Cook Islands?
Like most places in the world, air travel is expensive in the Cook Islands – even more so than your flight to the Cook Islands, if flying to the Northern Group. Take a look at the list below to see typical prices for domestic flights in the Cook Islands.
Typical Airfares for Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands
The following prices are one-way adult fares for Seat + Bag tickets only. Note that prices are approximate and are subject to change.
- Rarotonga – Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke or Mitiaro – NZ$250-$275 per person one-way
- Rarotonga – Manihiki – NZ$1,595 per person one-way.
The Cost of Charter Flights in the Cook Islands
Alternative to scheduled flights is charter flights which are specially curated to your schedule and allow you to access some of the islands that scheduled flights are not available for, such as Penrhyn and Pukapuka. Note that prices are approximate and are subject to change.
- Southern Group one-way charter: NZ$4,500-$5,000
- Northern Group one-way charter: NZ$11,000.
Learn more about chartering a plane in our complete guide, How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters.
Charter Flights and Plane Tours
Alternative to scheduled flights in the Cook Islands, charter flights and plane tours offer other ways to fly between islands.
Charter Flights in the Cook Islands
Air Rarotonga offers four different planes for charter flights in the Cook Islands, including a private jet for up to seven passengers and a 34-passenger plane. Not only do they fly to all the destinations that scheduled flights fly to, but they also offer a way to get to the lesser-visited Northern Group islands, like Manihiki, Pukapuka and Penrhyn. Air Rarotonga can also organise in-flight catering, ground tours, overnight accommodation and a concierge/tour guide, so you can truly make the experience your own.
Again, find out more about how to charter a flight in our guide, How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters.
Plane Tours in the Cook Islands
Aside from scenic flights around Rarotonga, which you can find out more about in The Best Scenic Flights in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands, Air Rarotonga works with Island Hopper Vacations to provide itineraries of the Southern and Northern Groups of the Cook Islands. Plane tours include:
- Southern Group Adventure Package – A tour of the Southern Group’s lesser-visited islands: Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro and Atiu. It includes round-trip flights, two nights on each island, as well as all meals, a tour guide and more. The tour takes place on fixed dates around five times a year with 11 spots available on each tour.
- Trailblazers of the Northern Atolls – A journey to Pukapuka, Manihiki and Penrhyn over five days, the tour includes round-trip flights, all accommodation, as well as all meals, a tour guide and more. Trips take place on fixed dates around four times a year for up to a maximum of six people per trip.
- Aitutaki by Private Jet – Fly from Rarotonga to Aitutaki on a private jet for up to seven passengers. The day tour includes a private island tour and lagoon cruise, while the overnight tour also includes a stay at the five-star Pacific Resort Aitutaki.
- Mitiaro by Private Jet – The package includes return flights in a private jet, a guide to accompany you throughout, airport transfers, one night at the Divine Retreat, a private guided island tour, all meals and a crafting demonstration.
- Aitutaki Day Tour – Operated by Air Rarotonga, this tour is a complete island package from Rarotonga including return flights, a six-hour lagoon cruise with The Vaka Cruise and transfers both on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Learn more about plane tours in the Cook Islands in the 10 Best Island-Hopping Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
More About Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete guide to interisland flights in the Cook Islands. For more about domestic flights and ways of getting between islands, check out the following guides:
- Airports in the Cook Islands: Where Can You Fly to in the Cook Islands?
- 10 Things You Need to Know About Flying in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- Cook Islands Cargo Ship Guide: How to Use the Ferry for Interisland Travel in the Cook Islands
Finally, see all of the ways to travel in the Cook Islands listed in our Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.