How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters© Sean Scott - Cook Islands Tourism
How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters

How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters

© Sean Scott – Cook Islands Tourism

The Complete Guide to Plane Charters in the Cook Islands

Everyone loves Rarotonga. But there’s so much more to the Cook Islands, some of which can only be explored by hiring a plane. From the pristine lagoons of the Northern Group to the rugged uplifted atolls of the outer Southern Group, there’s enough Pacific paradise to feed your wanderlust. What’s more, plane charters via private jet can ensure a special getaway for intimate groups or even a larger 34-passenger plane can give your wedding party an experience out of the ordinary. So, find out how to charter a plane in the Cook Islands with this complete guide!

5 Things to Know About Charter Flights in the Cook Islands

Before we jump into the details of chartered flights in the Cook Islands, here’s a quick summary of the things you need to know:

  1. All charter flights depart from Rarotonga International Airport (RAR)
  2. Charter flights are available to take you not just around the Cook Islands, but around the neighbouring South Pacific Islands
  3. Charter flights are the only way to fly to the islands of Penrhyn and Pukapuka
  4. Planes from jets to larger 34-passenger planes are available for hire from Rarotonga
  5. The price to charter a plane in the Cook Islands starts from around NZ$4,500.

For more tips and things to know, head to the 10 Things You Need to Know About Flying in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters©

What are the Charter Planes Available in the Cook Islands?

All planes available to charter in the Cook Islands are provided by Air Rarotonga. They have four types of charter planes available:

  • Cessna Citation II Jet – 7-passenger twin jet ideal for small groups for flying to the far-flung Northern Cook Islands quicky
  • Embraer Bandeirante – 12-passenger for the Southern Group or 8-passenger for the Northern Group or neighbouring South Pacific islands
  • Saab 340B+ – 34-passenger aircraft available to hire outside of normal scheduled flight arrangements, in-flight catering and attendant is also an option
  • Cessna 172 – 2-passenger single-engine aircraft available for scenic flights, aerial filming, photography, etc. around Rarotonga – see The Best Scenic Flights in Rarotonga.

There are options to include in-flight catering for an added fee. Tour guides and overnight accommodations packages can also be arranged – more on that in the section below.

How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters©

What Sort of Trip Can You Arrange via Private Plane?

Private charter flights can be as simple as transporting you to the outer islands. However, the Cook Islands is also home to a wealth of private plane experiences, from overnight island tours to multi-day island-hopping adventures.

Day and Overnight Private Jet Tours

Working with travel agencies/tour guides like Island-Hopper Vacations, Air Rarotonga offers overnight tours to the islands of Aitutaki and Mitiaro via private jet.

Aitutaki by Private Jet

Fly from Rarotonga to Aitutaki on a private jet for up to seven passengers. The day tour option includes a private island tour and lagoon cruise, while the overnight tour also includes a stay at the five-star Pacific Resort. Itineraries are customisable to include fishing or whale watching in the season.

Mitiaro by Private Jet

Private jet packages are also available from Rarotonga Airport to Mitiaro. 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.

Multi-Day Charters

Air Rarotonga offers lucky travellers the option to curate their own special itinerary around the Cook Islands and even to neighbouring South Pacific Islands. They can arrange ground tours, overnight accommodation and a concierge/tour guide. You can also join small-group plane tours, as listed in the 10 Best Island-Hopping Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

Rarotonga Scenic Flights

In Air Rarotonga’s Cessna 172, scenic flights are available for two passengers to take in the sights of Rarotonga. The standard tour is 30 minutes, but chartered options may be able to take longer. Find out more in our guide to The Best Scenic Flights in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters© Taniera - Cook Islands Tourism

Where Can You Fly to via Private Plane?

Charter flights are available to fly anywhere in the Cook Islands that has a landing strip, as well as any of the surrounding South Pacific countries.

Islands in the Cook Islands That You Can Charter a Plane to

The islands you can charter a plane to in the Cook Islands include:

  • Aitutaki – A lagoon with a range of resorts and accommodations
  • Atiu – Birds, beaches and beautiful reefs define this uplifted coral atoll
  • Mangaia – The oldest island in the Cook Islands is made up of rocky coral terrain, beaches and caves
  • Mauke – A small uplifted coral atoll with the largest banyan tree in the South Pacific, interesting villages and secluded beaches
  • Mitiaro – Has caves with beautiful swimming holes, lakes and secluded beaches
  • Manihiki – A lagoon with pristine beaches where they produce black pearls
  • Penrhyn (Tongareva) – A large lagoon with shark feeding, expansive beaches and impressive arts and crafts
  • Pukapuka – Friendly sustainable villages on the islands of a gorgeous lagoon.

Compare the islands further using The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands and The 13 Less-Travelled Islands of the Cook Islands.

South Pacific Islands Where You Can Charter a Plane from the Cook Islands

Not only can you charter a plane within the Cook Islands, but you can travel from Rarotonga to one of the neighbouring South Pacific islands, as long as they are within a 2,000 nautical mile radius. South Pacific destinations include:

  • Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia (2 hours)
  • Niue (1h55mins) – See
  • Apia, Samoa (2h20mins)
  • Nuku’alofa, Tonga – See
  • Auckland, New Zealand (includes a refuelling stop in Tonga) – See
  • Christmas Island, Kiribati (5 hours – includes a refuelling stop on Penrhyn).

Note that most charters to countries outside of the Cook Islands are only available in the Cessna Citation II Jet. The Embraer Bandeirante can be used for flights to Tahiti, Niue, Samoa and Tonga. The Saab 340B+ is available for flights to Tahiti.

How to Hire a Plane in the Cook Islands: A Guide to Plane Charters©

How Much Does a Charter Flight in the Cook Islands Cost?

So how much does it cost to hire a plane in the Cook Islands? Due to the customisable nature of charter flights, quotes are made on a case-by-case basis.

But if you were wondering how much it costs to simply charter a flight one-way from Rarotonga to one of the other outer islands, the prices are as follows:

  • Southern Group one-way charter: NZ$4,500-$5,000
  • Northern Group one-way charter: NZ$11,000.

To compare this with the cost of domestic flights in the Cook Islands, head to our guide, Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights.

More About Flights in the Cook Islands

That’s it for our guide to charter flights and how to hire a plane in the Cook Islands. Want more ways to fly around? Check out the following guides:

Finally, find more ways to get around other than flying in the Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.


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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