The Guide to Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© Cook Islands Tourism
The Guide to Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands

The Guide to Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands

© Cook Islands Tourism

Advice on Choosing a Resort in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands

You don’t get many opportunities to organise the perfect tropical getaway, so you’ll want to do things right! That means choosing the perfect resort for your desired holiday vibe and budget. Luckily, here at Cook Islands Pocket Guide, we know a thing or two about the resorts in Rarotonga and Aitutaki so we’ve put together a quick guide on how to choose the right resort in the Cook Islands for you. For seasoned tropical travellers, some of the points might seem a little obvious, but we’ve taken the mantra that no question about the resorts in the Cook Islands is too dumb. We’re covering it all!

If you’re new to the whole “Cook Islands” thing, make sure you also check out The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide and the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

5 Tips for Staying at a Resort in the Cook Islands

  1. The Cook Islands’ high season is between June and August, as well as Easter and Christmas, so book early if you plan to visit at these times – see the 10 Reasons to Travel in the Low Season for more tips
  2. Travelling with kids? Check that the resort allows for children under 12 years old. Plus, look out for resorts that allow kids to stay for free!
  3. Is it your honeymoon? Mention this when booking to potentially receive a gift
  4. Pick a resort with the best deal and facilities for you; remember, you can always visit other resorts for dinner or “island nights
  5. As per the law for entering the Cook Islands, you need to have your resort booked before you arrive – remember the name of your resort to write on your Passenger Arrival Card.
The Guide to Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands©

What are the Resorts Like in the Cook Islands?

In the Cook Islands, travellers tend to use the term “resort” to describe any type of accommodation. But those accommodations with “resort” in the name, typically follow a formula of 10+ rooms/villas/bungalows plus a swimming pool plus a restaurant and perhaps additional services like a spa, kids’ club, watersports equipment, bicycle rental, etc. Think of resorts as offering a whole holiday experience complete with food and entertainment, rather than just a bed for the night.

Resort Rooms

The Cook Islands’ resorts tend to follow the international standards for star ratings, ranging from three-star resorts to five-star resorts. Lower star ratings indicate perhaps more run-down or basic facilities while higher star ratings indicate more luxury aesthetics, high-quality facilities and services.

A typical resort is made up of several tiers of bungalows. The lowest tiers have the amenities of a hotel, such as beds, tea/coffee-making facilities and an ensuite bathroom and/or an outdoor shower. Some resorts also have a higher tier of bungalow/villa with self-catering facilities, multiple bedrooms and perhaps a private pool.

Another way resorts are graded is by location within the property. Typically, the pool or garden-view rooms are the lowest grades, while the oceanview or beachfront rooms are the highest grades.

Self-Catering and Dining

Self-catering is pretty popular in the Cook Islands, so you won’t struggle to find resorts with cooking facilities in your room. You can find some examples in the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in the Cook Islands. In addition, many resorts in the Cook Islands have their own restaurant, usually just one per resort, that is also open to non-guests. Check out the 10 Best Resorts for Foodies in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for the resorts with the best restaurants.

Resorts have a la carte menus; meal plans are not popular due to the proximity of alternative dining options around Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Find out more about said dining options in The Food Guide to the Cook Islands: Places to Eat, Food Tours & More.


Resorts in the Cook Islands offer a complete holiday experience including entertainment. Complimentary activities might include a swimming pool and use of watersports equipment, while the largest resorts also have something like an “Activities Hut” where there is a daily program of beach and cultural activities, such as traditional crafting, sarong-tying, drumming lessons and snorkelling tours, for example. These resorts are also likely to have a kids’ program, which you can read more about in The Best Kids’ Clubs in the Cook Islands.

Some resorts also offer paid activities, such as spa treatments or island nights (cultural performances). Any other tours that they sell you are likely to be from independent tour operators on the island, rather than in-house.

The Types of Resorts in the Cook Islands

There are many resorts in the Cook Islands that are exclusively for adults, known as adults-only resorts. They typically have a policy of accepting no guests under the age of 12, 16 or 18 years old. Other resorts may specialise in an activity, such as spa treatments, or appeal more to a certain style of travel, whether it’s budget, luxury, family, couples or business travellers.

Start diving into the many “types” of resorts in the Cook Islands in the following articles:

The Guide to Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands©

Location, What is Nearby and How to Get There?

A big part of choosing a resort in the Cook Islands is choosing a destination. First, decide between staying on the main island, Rarotonga, or going to the outer islands, such as Aitutaki. Resorts are only available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki while Atiu also has accommodation similar to a resort. Other islands, such as Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro and the Northern Group all have more basic accommodations, such as guesthouses, villas and cottages. Learn more about visiting these islands in The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands.

Note that travelling to the outer islands of the Cook Islands has its associated travel costs that you may want to take into consideration. Learn more about it in Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights.

Once you have chosen a destination, there are only minor considerations that need to be made in terms of where to stay on your chosen island. That’s because all of the Cook Islands are small enough to explore with the aid of car hire, scooter rental or even the public bus service available on Rarotonga. In other words, everything is close by! See how to get around in our Cook Islands Transport Guide.

As Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, you might want to dive deeper into the subject of “where to stay” in A Guide on the Best Side of Rarotonga to Stay.

And don’t worry, wherever you stay in Rarotonga or Aitutaki, your resort will most likely be on the beach.

The Guide to Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands©

Resort Prices and Inclusions

The final major comparison you’ll need to make between resorts is the value of the resort, which can be measured through its nightly rate, inclusions and facilities.

Any savvy traveller knows that it’s not a good idea to just go for the cheapest resort you can find, which typically means it has only the basic facilities and you might end up having to pay for extras to make the most of your holiday. If you’re looking for a complete holiday experience, then it might be worth paying a little extra. Then again, you don’t want to be paying a higher nightly rate for inclusions you’re not interested in, so it’s a fine balance.

The Cost of Resorts in the Cook Islands

The typical price for resorts in the Cook Islands are as follows:

  • Budget double private ensuite bungalow/night – NZ$190-$250
  • Mid-range double private ensuite bungalow/night – NZ$260-$390
  • Luxury double private ensuite bungalow/night – NZ$400-$1,300
  • Family bungalows/night – NZ$200-$2,000.

For more costs, see our guide, Cook Islands Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to the Cook Islands Cost?

Inclusions and Facilities

To really understand the worth of your nightly rate, it’s best to compare the facilities and services of a resort. Some inclusions to compare include some of the following:

More About Choosing the Best Resort in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

That’s it for our tips on choosing the best resort in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for you. If you need more advice, how about tips from our other accommodation-selection guides?

Now with a bit of research behind you, you can start selecting the perfect resort for you with The Top 50 Resorts in the Cook Islands or Where to Stay in the Cook Islands: The Best Cook Islands Accommodations.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, a local government body representing the tourism industry. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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