How to Get Your Scuba Diving Certification in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
You’ve probably seen videos or pictures of unusual underwater worlds of corals and fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. Now it’s time to take the leap into the depths of the Cook Islands’ waters to find you’re own slice of underwater heaven. Find out where to learn this eye-opening sport in this guide on how to learn to scuba dive in the Cook Islands!
Scuba diving in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is truly amazing thanks to its wonderful array of coral and tropical fish among super clear water. For beginners, your first dives will be in the unintimidating and sheltered lagoon among its own array of colourful fish before moving onto more exciting dive sites with turtles, eagle rays and even humpback whales in the season! The Cook Islands has an abundance of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Dive Centres, as well as SSI (Scuba Schools International) and even the more elusive SDI (Scuba Diving International) Dive Centres. Dive schools in the Cook Islands are accredited to an international standard to ensure you get the best and safety training to learn how to dive.
5 Reasons to Learn How to Dive in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
As if you need a reason to learn how to dive in the Cook Islands! It’s the Cook Islands! But if you’re still sceptical that this island paradise is the right place to learn, then these points should help you see the light…
- The Cook Islands has a variety of PADI, SSI and SDI-accredited dive centres – giving you multiple options to choose where to learn and what certification to get
- The water temperature averages at a comfortable 24°C (75.2°F) and the visibility is usually around 30m (98ft), so there’s rarely a bad time to learn in the Cook Islands – just check out The Best Time to Dive in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands to see what we mean
- There’s so much to see underwater with thousands of fish and coral species, as well as sea turtles, eagle rays, moray eels, Napolean wrasse and much much more
- The variety of dive sites from such small islands is astounding not only while you’re learning but to explore after you’re qualified – just see The Best Scuba Diving in the Cook Islands: Top 10 Places to Scuba Dive for ideas
- Plus, there’s so much more to do in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands between dives – check out our 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List for ideas.
PADI, SSI or SDI/TDI in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International) are two of the world’s most recognised scuba diving organisations, while SDI (Scuba Diving International) along with TDI (Technical Diving International) are more for divers who know they will persist in a scuba career with technical diving. All have a presence in the Cook Islands, meaning that if you do a course with PADI, SSI or SDI-accredited dive centres, then your certificate will be recognised internationally.
PADI, SSI and SDI all have high standards when it comes to safety, which is absolutely essential for any diver, not just beginners. What’s more, if you don’t finish your scuba diving course at a dive centre in the Cook Islands, you can pick up where you left off at another dive centre worldwide, as long as it’s the same accreditation. In terms of the availability and popularity of dive centres around the world, should you want to go further with your accreditation, PADI is the most popular then SSI then SDI.
Where to Learn to Dive in Rarotonga: Rarotonga Dive Centres
Rarotonga is the island with the most dive centres teaching people how to scuba dive in the Cook Islands. You’ll find dive centres for PADI, SSI, SDI and TDI qualifications.
Pacific Divers is a PADI 5* dive centre with a wealth of dive courses on offer at the popular holiday hub of Muri. You’ll learn how to dive in nearby resort pools, as well as in the lagoon before doing ocean dives. Their learn-to-dive courses include:
- PADI Discover Scuba Diving – This is not a course but the perfect experience for those wanting to try scuba diving for the first time, i.e. see if it’s for them before committing to a course. Discover Scuba dives are in the Muri Lagoon with options to last two hours to half a day.
- PADI Open Water Diver – Sign up before your trip and you can do the online theory portion of the course prior to diving. It’s then four days: two full days and two afternoons, to complete your Open Water Diver course. Once you have your Open Water Diver, you are able to do most of the dive sites around Rarotonga and are certified to dive without a divemaster.
- PADI Scuba Diver – This is half of the Open Water Diver course, consisting of one morning of theory, one afternoon in the pool or lagoon and two ocean dives. It can be completed in 1.5 days and qualifies you to dive with a divemaster. You can then complete your full Open Water course with any other PADI operator.
Another very reputable PADI 5* dive centre, Dive Rarotonga is also well worth considering to gain your scuba diving certification in Rarotonga. Their diving courses, based in Arorangi, include:
- PADI Discover Scuba Diving – This course will help you decide if scuba diving is for you. You’ll first learn a few scuba skills at Dive Rarotonga’s training pool then it’s off on the boat for two different dives. It’s a particularly good intro to scuba diving due to its comprehensiveness.
- PADI Open Water Diver – Learn to dive in Rarotonga over four relaxed days with the online theory complete before arrival on the island. That way, you have less time in the classroom and more time learning the essential scuba skills, as well as doing four awesome dives in the process. On day one, you’ll go through the paperwork and theory quiz in the morning and do pool training in the afternoon. Day two, is pool training in the afternoon, then days three and four include a total of four dives from the boat in the afternoons.
- PADI Scuba Diver – This is half of the Open Water Diver course, consisting of one morning of theory, one afternoon in the pool and two ocean dives. It can be completed in 1.5 days and qualifies you to dive with a divemaster. You can then complete your full Open Water course with any other PADI operator.
Adventure Cook Islands
Adventure Cook Islands offers the most comprehensive range of courses for scuba diving qualifications with PADI, SSI and SDI/TDI. Their intro courses and learn-to-dive courses include:
- Intro Lagoon Dive – Whatever qualification you’re thinking about getting, the Intro Lagoon Dive with Adventure Cook Islands is a good way for you to see if scuba diving is for you by doing a 30-40-minute presentation then learning some scuba skills/diving in the lagoon off Aroa Beach for around 45 minutes. The benefit is that it is shorter and cheaper than doing a full Discover Scuba trip.
- PADI and SSI Discover Scuba – Continuing from the Intro Lagoon Dive, this is your opportunity to do some boat dives with an instructor at a beginner level – it is not a qualification. Again, it’s a good way to see if scuba diving is for you, using the knowledge and skills you gained from the Intro Lagoon Dive (see above).
- PADI Open Water Diver – The Open Water Diver course with Adventure Cook Islands offers two options: to do the theory online before you arrive in the Cook Islands or to do all the theory in the classroom with your instructor – the latter taking approximately 8 hours. You will do all your “confined” water training in the lagoon, instead of a pool, which is two half-day sessions or you can do these sessions in the pool with a PADI trainer prior to arriving in the Cook Islands. Finally, your open water dives are two half days consisting of four dives with Adventure Cook Islands.
- PADI Scuba Diver – This is half of the Open Water Diver course, consisting of one morning of theory, one afternoon in the lagoon and two ocean dives. It can be completed in 1.5 days and qualifies you to dive with a divemaster. You can then complete your full Open Water course with any other PADI operator.
- SSI Open Water Diver – This course is very similar to the PADI Open Water Diver but with fewer options to complete part of the course overseas except for the initial online theory. Your confined water training will be in the lagoon of the Aroa Marine Reserve for two half days, then you will do four open water dives over two half-days from the boat.
- SDI/TDI Open Water Diver – SDI is a good course to start with if you know you want to advance to technical diving, as it is the only learn-to-dive course which has you using dive computers from the get-go. Unlike other open water courses, it is only available to those over 18 years old.
Where to Learn to Dive in Aitutaki: Aitutaki Dive Centres
Aitutaki is home to only one dive centre, which primarily offers intro dives for newbies. PADI Open Water Diver courses are subject to availability due to the operation’s small team.
Bubbles Below are PADI and SSI accredited but only offer PADI intro dives and open water courses. These learn-to-dive courses include:
- PADI Discover Scuba Diving – This intro dive allows you to see whether scuba diving is for you, teaching you basic skills in the lagoon before taking you outside of the lagoon to a turtle dive site.
- PADI Open Water Diver – This is a four-day course providing you with the qualification to dive without an instructor. It runs much like the PADI Open Water Diver courses mentioned above. Note, however, that the course isn’t as readily available as at the dive shops in Rarotonga, so be sure to contact Bubbles Below for availability.
The Price of Scuba Diving Lessons in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
The cost of learning to scuba dive in the Cook Islands is pretty reasonable, with dive operators charging very similar prices for scuba dive courses. The typical cost for scuba diving certifications in the Cook Islands is as follows:
- PADI Discover Scuba (intro dive): NZ$200-$220
- PADI Scuba Diver (1.5 days): NZ$400-$440
- PADI Open Water Diver (4 days): NZ$550-$555
- SSI Open Water Diver (4 days): NZ$500
Note that the prices stated above have all the dive gear and any boat travel, etc. included but don’t usually include transfers.
More About Learning to Dive in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Now that you know where to learn to dive in the Cook Islands and the best places to get your scuba diving certification, check out places to stay and other things to do in the Cook Islands.
The good thing about the dive operators is that they are always close to where you are staying considering the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki are so small. Everything is no more than a 30-minute drive away but usually much much shorter. See Where to Stay on Rarotonga: The Best Rarotonga Accommodations and Where to Stay on Aitutaki: The Best Aitutaki Accommodations for ideas on places to stay.
These additional guides should help you work out the rest of the logistics for your scuba diving holiday in the Cook Islands:
- The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide
- Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands
- 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.