How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands©
How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands

How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands


Advice on Choosing Eco-Friendly Accommodation in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands

Having a low impact when we travel is something more and more of us have on our minds, especially when travelling in the South Pacific, often dubbed as being on the frontline of climate change. The Cook Islands might be a bit behind when it comes to sustainable stays, but more and more accommodations are establishing environmental initiatives for a lower impact holiday. Learn about how to choose an eco-resort, as well as alternative but sustainable accommodation choices, in this guide to choosing sustainable accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.

3 Things You Need to Know About Eco-Accommodations in the Cook Islands

  1. Accommodations that brands themselves as “eco-friendly” tend to be at the higher end of the price range. Those on a budget, however, may want to consider guesthouses and hostels as more sustainable options compared to resorts
  2. Consider how the accommodation is making the rest of your stay more sustainable, such as transport, food, etc. Otherwise, organise this yourself with the 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car
  3. Some resorts in the Cook Islands have the “eco-resort” tagline but might not necessarily promote a comprehensive eco-friendly policy, check what resorts are actually doing for the environment before booking.

For more sustainable tips, check out the 30 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in the Cook Islands.

How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands©

Types (and Cost) of Sustainable Accommodations in the Cook Islands

What type of accommodation can you stay in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands without making too much of an environmental impact? Eco-resorts are starting to crawl out of the sands of Rarotonga (as well as a little in Aitutaki), providing a complete island getaway experience with modern amenities and luxuries presented in a low-impact way.

Eco-Resorts in the Cook Islands

Eco-resorts are resort-style accommodation which implements an eco-friendly policy through using renewable energy and other environmentally-friendly features like composting toilets, providing guests with electric vehicles or bicycles to get around, using no single-use plastic, etc. Most of the Cook Islands’ eco-resorts can be found on Rarotonga, but there are also a couple also in Aitutaki. Eco-resorts in the Cook Islands cost between NZ$300 and $1,100 per night for a room.

Check out all of the eco-resorts in the Cook Islands and what sort of environmental initiatives they’re taking in the 9 Best Eco Resorts in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

Guesthouses and Homestays

When it comes to supporting local businesses, staying at guesthouses and homestays is a more ethical and environmentally friendly accommodation than a large resort. However, with most guesthouses and homestays only really available on the outer islands of the Cook Islands, there is an obvious carbon impact of getting there. If looking at accommodation alone, however, guesthouses and homestays are run by locals typically using more sustainable methods of living due to the limited infrastructure on these islands, while the food provided is almost always locally sourced.

Learn more about where you can find guesthouses in the 10 Best Guesthouses in the Cook Islands and homestays in The Best Homestays in the Cook Islands.

Backpacker Hostels

Ok, so the Cook Islands isn’t exactly brimming with backpacker hostels; there are only a couple on Rarotonga. Nevertheless, as they are able to host a larger number of people in a small space, hostels are typically much more sustainable than a resort by using much fewer resources per guest. Plus, by typically hosting younger travellers, the hostels on Rarotonga have good recycling initiatives in place.

Learn more about hostel accommodation in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands©

How to Tell if an Accommodation is Sustainable

Unfortunately, there are quite a few hotels and resorts in the Cook Islands that claim to be “green” and “environmentally friendly” yet only provide the bare minimum. We’ve seen quite a few resorts claim to be environmentally friendly when, in fact, all they do is have doorknob signs to tell housekeeping you don’t need your towels changed or plant-based toiletries that are still in tiny plastic bottles…

Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Practices to Look for When Choosing Accommodation in the Cook Islands

If you want to make sure that an accommodation is more sustainable, look for a range of environmental and social initiatives that they do (not just one), such as:

  • Housekeeping uses non-toxic cleaning agents and laundry detergents
  • Uses renewable energy sources, like solar power – the more they rely on renewable energy than the grid, the better
  • Provide bulk biodegradable soaps, shampoos and conditioners rather than individual bottles
  • There’s a recycling program that both guests and staff can use
  • Rooms have composting toilets
  • The construction of the accommodation has been made with more sustainably sourced or local materials
  • They provide green transport options, such as electric vehicles, e-bikes or bicycles
  • Greywater recycling programs are in place, such as reusing water for landscaping, laundry, etc.
  • Treated and filtered water is available for guests
  • Reusable drinking bottles, shopping bags and takeaway coffee cups are provided for guests
  • They have airy room designs so there’s less need to use the air-conditioning
  • Swimming pools are saltwater or ocean water – no chlorine
  • Night lighting is minimal to not disrupt views of the night sky
  • Offer vegan and vegetarian options in their restaurant and/or use locally sourced ingredients.

The accommodations that use a range of these initiatives can be found in the 9 Best Eco Resorts in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

Other Facilities to Consider

Once you’ve ticked off the sustainable factors the accommodation provides, you’ll also want to make sure the accommodation offers the appropriate facilities that you are looking for to complete your holiday. For instance, self-catering facilities, use of kayaks or paddleboards, snorkelling gear, a swimming pool or babysitting services might be important factors to you.

Check out How to Pick the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more advice on the subject.

How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands©

Location, How to Get There and What is Nearby?

A major consideration for environmentally conscious travellers is the location. Eco-resorts can only be found in the tourist centres of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, while sustainable styles of accommodation such as guesthouses and homestays can be found on the outer islands of Mitiaro and the Northern Group.

All of these destinations offer different experiences, so check out their travel guides to learn more about them:

Of course, a downside to travelling to the outer islands of the Cook Islands is the extra carbon required to get there. But by contributing to the local economy of these islands that rarely get tourists and staying for a while (i.e. none of those overnight or day tours to the outer islands, thank you!), the journey is at least more justified.

When it comes to specific locations to stay on Rarotonga, luckily, there is not too much of a consideration here since public transport is available and affordable to get you around the island quickly and more sustainably. Plus, check out the 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more ways to get around.

More About Sustainable Accommodation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

That’s it for our guide to finding and choosing sustainable accommodation in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands, but that’s by no means the end of our eco-advice! Check out our other guides to help you make more sustainable choices when holidaying:

Finally, if you haven’t yet found the perfect place to stay, start from square one with Where to Stay in the Cook Islands: The Best Cook Islands Accommodations.


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 the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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