14-Day 4-Island Trip to the Cook Islands: Including Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia!
Most visit the Cook Islands and only spend their time on Rarotonga and/or Aitutaki… And they’re missing out! If you’re more intrepid, however, 2 weeks gives you plenty of time to experience the “real” Cook Islands. We’ll show you how in this Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia itinerary for 14 days!
With 14 full days to explore, you can certainly afford to experience the many different sides of the Cook Islands, from the classic resort experience of Rarotonga to the serene lagoon of Aitutaki to the eco-paradise of Atiu to the ancient rocky atoll of Mangaia. So pack your bags and get ready for 2 weeks in paradise with this itinerary specially curated for travellers with a sense of wanderlust.
While you’re here, don’t forget to open The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide, which is your bible to a getaway to the Cooks!
Overview: Cook Islands 2-Week (14-Day) Itinerary
- Day 1 – Arrive on Rarotonga
- Day 2 – Relaxation or adventure on Rarotonga
- Day 3 – Explore Rarotonga
- Day 4 – Rarotonga to Aitutaki
- Day 5 – Experience the Aitutaki Lagoon
- Day 6 – Explore Aitutaki
- Day 7 – Fly to Atiu
- Day 8 – Eco-day on Atiu
- Day 9 – A day of culture on Atiu
- Day 10 – Fly to Rarotonga then Mangaia
- Day 11 – Explore Mangaia
- Day 12 – Tour the caves of Mangaia
- Day 13 – Fly to Rarotonga
- Day 14 – Last day on Rarotonga.
How to Get Around the Cook Islands in 2 Weeks
This Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia itinerary for 14 days (2 weeks) includes travel on various islands, as well as between islands. Here’s a quick rundown on how to get around the Cook Islands in two weeks.
Road Transport in the Cook Islands
The first road transport you’ll encounter on each of the islands you visit is your airport transfer. On Rarotonga, this must be booked in advance with your resort or with one of the airport shuttle companies, as outlined in the 8 Best Airport Transfers. On the outer islands of this itinerary – Aitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia – airport transfers are provided free of charge.
For travelling around the islands, car and scooter hire will be your best options on Aitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia. Get advice on car hire from What You Need to Hire a Car in the Cook Islands and for scooters, 10 Tips for Riding a Scooter in the Cook Islands. On Rarotonga, however, you also have the option of taking the bus, which is definitely doable with this itinerary. Find out more about the bus in our guide, The Bus in Rarotonga: Bus Fares, Timetable & More.
Interisland Transport in the Cook Islands
The only manageable way to get between islands in the Cook Islands is via domestic flights. Flights to each of the Southern Group islands mentioned on this itinerary are approximately 50 minutes from Rarotonga, while flights are also available between Aitutaki and Atiu during the high season, taking approximately 40 minutes. Check out the approximate airfares and more in our guide, Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands.
For all of your transport options, however, check out the Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.
Day 1 – Arrive on Rarotonga
Welcome to Rarotonga! After the arrivals process of going through customs and biosecurity, you’ll step outside of the arrivals hall to the sounds of “Kia Orana” while a floral ‘ei goes over your head. It’s the customary Cook Islands greeting that most of the airport transfers supply with enthusiasm!
Since it’s your first day in the Cook Islands, take it easy and get settled at your chosen accommodation. After check-in, relax by the pool, have a paddle with the kayaks provided at your resort, sip on cocktails and transition to “Raro time”. We’ll go over a few things you can do on Rarotonga tomorrow.
Rarotonga Budget Accommodation
Rarotonga Mid-Range Accommodation
Rarotonga Luxury Accommodation
… And that’s just a handful of accommodations and resorts available! Check out the Where to Stay on Rarotonga: The BEST Rarotonga Accommodations for a complete comparison.
For your first night, if you’re staying at an accommodation with a restaurant on-site, like Edgewater Resort & Spa, Club Raro Resort, Little Polynesian, Manuia Beach Resort, Crown Beach Resort & Spa, Nautilus Resort or Castaway Resort, make things easy for yourself by eating at their very reputable restaurants. You’ll have enough time to explore the rest of Rarotonga’s dining scene later.
Day 2 – Relaxation or Adventure on Rarotonga
It’s time to explore Rarotonga your way, whether you prefer to spend your time seeking adventure or getting some much-needed R&R.
Ways to Relax on Rarotonga
For a day that hones in the relaxation, treat yourself to an island massage at one of Rarotonga’s spas or boost your zen with a stand-up paddleboard yoga session at Muri Beach. See more details and examples in the 10 Most Relaxing Things to Do in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Adventure Experiences on Rarotonga
If you’re looking for something more active, today could be a great day to hit the Cross-Island Trek (weather permitting). Alternatively, join an exhilarating quad bike tour or explore the deep with a scuba diving trip. For more details on all of these activities and more, check out the 10 Best Adventure Activities in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
It’s time to explore some of Rarotonga’s delectable eateries. For South Pacific cuisine done superbly, head to The Anchorage Restaurant. Alternatively, try some fine dining at Antipodes or Tamarind House – bookings are essential! If you’re on a budget, don’t miss the Muri Night Market (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday) for its food truck festivities.
Get more inspiration for where to eat from The Food Guide to Rarotonga.
For drinks with friends or loved ones, the beach bars have an awesome vibe, such as Shipwreck Hut or the classy Sunset Bar of OTB. Wilson’s Beach Bar is always a fun time and even has a menu of Cuban cigars, should you be so inclined. If you’re looking for a party, however, hop on one of the “party buses” taking you around the bars and clubs of the island, returning you to your accommodation at the end of the night.
Find out more about all of the above in The Ultimate Guide to Rarotonga Nightlife + Happy Hour List.
Day 3 – Explore Rarotonga
If there’s anything that you missed yesterday, then you have another chance to do it today! Otherwise, how about exploring the island via car/scooter rental or the island bus?
Road Trip Around Rarotonga
Explore Rarotonga’s main road and scenic back roads today to discover historical sites like Arai-Te-Tonga Marae, awesome snorkelling beaches like Tikioki Beach, natural attractions like Black Rock and much more. We detail how to visit these sights and much more in our complete day trip itinerary, A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Rarotonga.
Of course, there’s a lot more to do on Rarotonga, which we cover extensively in the 50 Best Things to Do on Rarotonga.
For your final night before heading to Aitutaki, Sandals Restaurant & Barefoot Bar at the Pacific Resort and Nautilis Restaurant at Muri Beach are highly recommended. Charlie’s Cafe in Titikaveka offers reasonable prices for their unreasonably sized sandwiches. Or keep things simple with a food truck takeaway, such as the gourmet cuisine of The Kai Guy.
Otherwise, check out The Best Places to Eat on Rarotonga: 10 Best Restaurants for more details and recommendations.
Day 4 – Rarotonga to Aitutaki
Return your rental car/scooter if needed then take an airport transfer to the domestic terminal of Rarotonga Airport where you’ll take your flight to Aitutaki – see our Aitutaki Transport Guide for more details.
After a scenic 50-minute flight, you’ll meet your accommodation representative at Aitutaki Airport who will shower you in flower ‘eis and transfer you to your chosen accommodation for check-in.
Aitutaki Budget Accommodation
Aitutaki Mid-Range Accommodation
Aitutaki Luxury Accommodation
Compare accommodations further in our guide, Where to Stay on Aitutaki: The BEST Aitutaki Accommodations.
You’ll have plenty of time to explore Aitutaki in the next couple of days, so relax at your resort. Pacific Resort Aitutaki, Etu Moana, Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort, Aitutaki Village and Tamanu Beach Resort each have delightful dining options.
Otherwise, for self-catering, your best to have a car rental delivered to your accommodation so you can pop into Amuri or Arutanga to pick up supplies. Find out more about self-catering in The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki.
Day 5 – Experience the Aitutaki Lagoon
It’s your first full day in Aitutaki, so experience the “must-do”, the Aitutaki Lagoon!
Aitutaki Lagoon Cruises
Daytime lagoon cruises offer an easy way to reach awesome snorkelling spots, visit uninhabited “motu” (islets) and indulge in an island barbecue. There’s quite a broad range of lagoon cruises, so compare their point of difference in the 10 Best Lagoon Cruises on Aitutaki.
Otherwise, you might like to experience Aitutaki’s famous bonefishing scene, go kitesurfing at Honeymoon Island or enjoy a private sailing excursion with Sailing Aitutaki.
For more things to do on the lagoon, browse our 20 Best Things to Do on Aitutaki.
For a sophisticated vibe, head to the Rapae Bay Restaurant of the Pacific Resort Aitutaki or the Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill of the adults-only Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort. Otherwise, alternative yet fantastic dining options include the casual alfresco ambience of the Avatea Cafe and the seafood specialists and local watering hole of The Boat Shed Bar & Grill.
Learn more about these eateries and get more recommendations in The Best Places to Eat on Aitutaki: 10 Best Restaurants on Aitutaki.
Day 6 – Explore Aitutaki
Relax this morning at your Aitutaki accommodation. Then, do some exploration on dry land today – you’ll need a car or scooter rental for this.
Road Trip Around Aitutaki
Save A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Aitutaki on your phone, grab a rental car, scooter or bicycle and hit the road with its scenic lookouts like Maunga Pu, stunning beaches and historical sites. Everything you need for an awesome day exploring Aitutaki is in the day trip itinerary linked above.
For breakfast or lunch, enjoy the sustainably sourced meals spruced up by the fabulous Koru Cafe. Or if you prefer a quiet night in at your self-catering accommodation, they offer barbecue packs too.
If it’s Thursday night, make sure you hit the Tamanu Island Night at the Tamanu Beach Resort, complete with a traditional Cook Islander buffet and cultural dancing!
Check out more dining experiences in The Food Guide to Aitutaki.
Day 7 – Fly to Atiu
Check out of your accommodation and a representative will transport you to Aitutaki Airport. It’s a 40-minute flight straight to Atiu if flights are running. Otherwise, it’s a 50-minute flight back to Rarotonga where you can catch your connecting flight to one of the Cook Islands’ most adventurous atolls to visit. See all of your transport options to Atiu in our Atiu Transport Guide.
On arrival in Atiu, your accommodation provider will greet you at the “airport” (get ready for more flower ‘eis!) and then perhaps give you a quick orientation tour of the island. Finally, you’ll be transported to your accommodation for check-in.
Accommodation on Atiu
There are two accommodations on Atiu. Atiu Villas is a popular choice with a selection of timber chalets, a swimming pool, tennis court, restaurant and self-catering facilities (with a fully-stocked larder included). Otherwise, Kopeka Lodge offers more private self-catering lodges. Compare the two further in our guide, Where to Stay on Atiu.
Book yourself into Kura’s Kitchen at the Atiu Villas (everyone on the island is welcome, no matter where you’re staying). Meals are either a set two-course dinner or a buffet, depending on the numbers. Find out more about your dining options on Atiu in The Food Guide to Atiu.
Day 8 – Eco-Day on Atiu
Atiu is often described as an eco-paradise, so see what all the fuss is about by joining one of the bird-watching and/or cave tours.
Cave and Bird-Watching Tours on Atiu
A highlight on Atiu is joining a guided tour to Anatakitaki Cave with its impressive limestone formations, a cave pool to swim in and rare birds only found in this cave. Alternatively (or additionally, if you can do one tour in the morning and the other tour in the afternoon), join Birdman George’s Eco Tour for an interesting journey to historical sites and conservation areas where you’ll see the Cook Islands’ rare and endearing bird species.
For more details on these tours, as well as alternative activities, check out the 20 Best Things to Do on Atiu.
If it’s Sunday, join “Birdman George” for his “Restaurant on the Beach” with authentic Atiuan cuisine. Alternatively, pick up a takeaway or grocery supplies from Super Brown. Again, more dining options can be found in The Food Guide to Atiu.
Day 9 – A Day of Culture on Atiu
One of the main advantages of island-hopping in the Cook Islands is experiencing the differences in each island’s culture. Atiu has activities to help you discover this further…
Cultural Experiences on Atiu
Delve into the history of Atiu’s fierce warriors and even have a hands-on foodie experience today with Punarea Culture Tours! Their signature “Culture Tour” has you seeing how Atiuan cuisine is prepared before you’re weaving plates to indulge in the “umukai”. Alternatively, join their pig hunting tour where you’ll learn how to set traditional pig traps. Whatever tour you choose, you’ll be treated to a substantial traditional Atiuan meal.
Alternatively, join either Andrew for the traditional food gathering experience of reef fishing or Atiu Safari & Fishing Tours for a fishing charter. Either way, you’re likely to come back to your self-catering accommodation with fresh fish to fry!
… For elaboration on each activity, head to the 20 Best Things to Do on Atiu.
Your day’s activity will likely have filled a hole for dinner, so spend the evening with the locals at a “tumunu“. Otherwise known as a bush beer bar, tumunu are the Atiuan version of “kava circles” that are popular across the South Pacific. Instead of drinking kava, however, locals drink potent banana, orange or papaya bush beer. Either go independently or join a guided tour. Find out more about the experience in The Food Guide to Atiu.
Day 10 – Fly to Rarotonga Then Mangaia
It’s time to leave the rocky atoll of Atiu behind, as your accommodation provider transports you back to the airport. There are no connecting flights between Atiu and Mangaia, so you’ll need to fly to Rarotonga and then to Mangaia (1h40mins flight time). See the Mangaia Transport Guide for more details.
On arrival to Mangaia, you’ll get the traditional Mangaian greeting either with a floral or “pupu” (shell) ‘ei from your accommodation host. You’ll likely get an orientation tour of the island before arriving at your chosen accommodation.
Accommodation on Mangaia (+ Dining Recommendations)
Travellers have two contrasting but both equally fantastic accommodations to choose from on Mangaia. Babe’s Place offers excellent value with its budget accommodation including three meals a day! Alternatively, Mangaia Villas offers more upscale accommodation with a kitchen and ensuite for up to four people. Compare the two accommodations in our guide, Where to Stay on Mangaia.
Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll have the option to be treated to authentic Cook Islander meals using ingredients harvested from the island!
Day 11 – Explore Mangaia
You have two full days to explore the oldest island in the Cook Islands (and one of the oldest in the South Pacific), so begin with a self-guided tour to its secluded beaches, lakes and more.
Road Trip Around Mangaia
Hire a vehicle through your accommodation provider and explore the island’s gorgeous beaches lined with coral cliffs. You have shipwrecks to discover, lookouts to gaze upon and Lake Tiriara makes for a stunning picnic spot complete with its shelter. If you’d rather spend more time in the water, head to the Tuaati Rock Pools at low tide with its amazing swimming holes and snorkelling spots.
Check out A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mangaia for a full itinerary of places to visit around the island.
Tonight is likely to be another delightful spread at Babe’s Place or those staying at Mangaia Villas can either make the most of their fully equipped kitchen by grabbing supplies from town – see The Complete Travel Guide to Mangaia for tips on self-catering – or order a meal delivered right to your deck!
Should you have a bit of energy left in you, you can join the locals to watch the sunset from the Mangaia Fishing Club or even watch whales during the season. You never know, you might be able to wiggle your way onto a fishing boat in the morning?
Day 12 – Tour the Caves of Mangaia
You have more time to relax or explore Mangaia today. If you haven’t had the chance to do some of the above suggestions, now is your chance! Alternatively, we have more recommendations for Day 12 of your 14-day itinerary of the Cook Islands…
Cave Tours on Mangaia
If you’re the adventurous type, don’t miss a cave tour of either Tuatini or Te Ruarere caves, famous in the Cook Islands for their glittering walls, amazing limestone features and eerie burial chambers.
Alternatively, if it’s a Sunday, the harmonious acapella echoing through the historical Tamarua CICC Church at 10am is not to be missed!
Again, find more details on these activities and much more recommendations in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mangaia.
You know the deal now, enjoy the spread that your accommodation treats you to or make your own. The simplicity of Mangaia is all part of its charm!
Day 13 – Fly to Rarotonga
If it happens to be a Friday, there’s one last thing you want to do on Mangaia before you leave: the Friday Morning Market. Wake up early (7am is a good time to go) and sample the treats that the locals have spruced up for the event.
Then, say goodbye to the quieter side of the Cook Islands as you fly back to Rarotonga today. We recommend making your way back to Rarotonga a day before departure, not just to spend more time on Raro but just in case there are cancellations or rescheduling of your flight back to Raro – you wouldn’t want to miss your flight back home, would you? Wait, would you?!
Alternative Rarotonga Accommodations
- Magic Reef Beachfront Bungalows
- The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
- Muri Beachcomber
- Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa
- Ikurangi Eco Retreat
Why not try somewhere different for your final night in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? Otherwise, check in at the same accommodation as your first stay on Rarotonga, if you really loved it! Compare some of our favourite resorts in the 20 Best Resorts on Rarotonga.
Make your last night on Rarotonga extra special with the Progressive Dinner Tour with Cook Islands Tours. You’ll be transported to three different local homes for entrees, mains then dessert. It’s a truly local and uplifting experience for the palate and the soul. Find out more about the tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Alternatively, there will be an island night going on somewhere in Raro, whether it’s the overwater show at Te Vara Nui (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or at the archaeological site of Highland Paradise. Compare all of the island nights in the 7 Best Island Nights in Rarotonga.
Day 14 – Last Day on Rarotonga
It’s time to say goodbye to the azure lagoon waters and silky sands of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands as you depart for your next destination.
If you want something to remember the Cook Islands by, have one last browse of the craft and gift shops of Avarua and Rarotonga International Airport’s duty-free stores with black pearls, rito earrings, local perfumes, coconut soap and more. Check out the 12 Best Souvenirs from Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for ideas.
Remember to arrive at Rarotonga International Airport a couple of hours before your scheduled departure so that you have enough time to check in, go through security and browse the duty-free. Airport transfers are a little cheaper for your departure flight, so check them out in the 8 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga.
And it’s “ka kite” from the Cook Islands!
Alternative Cook Islands 2-Week Itineraries
Is this 14-day food itinerary for the Cook Islands not quite speaking to you? How about checking out our alternative itineraries for 14 days/2 weeks:
- Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mauke & Mitiaro Itinerary: 14 Days
- Cook Islands Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 14 Days
- Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 14 Days
- Cook Islands Family Itinerary: 14 Days
- Cook Islands Luxury Itinerary: 14 Days
- Cook Islands Food Itinerary: 14 Days
- Cook Islands Adults-Only Itinerary: 14 Days
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed from this Cook Islands itinerary, you’re likely to find it in The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide.