Can You Take Food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
The self-catering holiday is a surefire way to reduce your travel budget for the Cook Islands. Some travellers even like to go a step further and bring their own food from back home! But, with strict biosecurity rules at the borders of Rarotonga, you will be required to declare all of your food items and likely have them inspected. Many food items require an import permit, while some are even banned from the country. See what food you can take to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands in this guide and find out if it’s really worth it.
For more tips on a self-catering holiday, check out A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in the Cook Islands and the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in the Cook Islands.
Do You Really Need to Take Food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
Before you start filling your “chilly bin”, maybe you should consider if you really need to bring food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
Some 10 to 20 years ago, it was popular for visitors, especially New Zealanders, to check in a chilly bin (cooler/coolbox) onto their flight to Rarotonga. Food was much more expensive in comparison to New Zealand back then and of lower quality. Today, however, Rarotonga is well supplied with multiple large supermarkets stocked with New Zealand and Australian brands with prices that are either on par or just a bit more expensive than New Zealand. There is even a deli, Prime Foods, selling high-quality international and local meats, produce and dry goods – so even if you’re a bit of a connoisseur, there’s high-quality food available on Rarotonga. Check out typical food prices in The Cost of Food in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Restaurant & Grocery Prices.
In short, unless you have snacks that you can’t live without or a special diet that is usually difficult to manage when overseas (although, check The Cook Islands for Vegans & Vegetarians and The Gluten-Free Guide to the Cook Islands may help you out), we don’t recommend going through the hassle of bringing food to the Cook Islands.
Tips for Taking Food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Whatever food you decide to take to the Cook Islands, here are some tips we recommend for taking it:
- Declare on your Passenger Arrival Card if you are taking any food to the Cook Islands, even if you think it is allowed
- Write a list of all of the food you are bringing into the Cook Islands, so you can show it to Customs and Biosecurity officers on arrival – this makes for a much quicker and easier process
- Pack food in your check-in luggage; not your carry-on, as many foods are not allowed through airport security.
For some general tips for your trip to the Cooks, check out the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Food You Can Bring to the Cook Islands
Arrival passengers can bring a wide variety of food into the Cook Islands. However, most food must meet conditions, which include being commercially prepared and packaged, while many food items can only come from New Zealand and sometimes Australia. Although you can legally bring the below list of food into the Cook Islands, you still must declare it. Biosecurity officers may still inspect the food mentioned.
- Beef jerky commercially packaged from New Zealand or Australia
- Cheese commercially packaged from New Zealand
- Corned beef commercially canned
- Egg cartons from New Zealand (new)
- Fish meat
- Meat canned – see conditions on the Import Specification List
- Meat cooked – see conditions on the Import Specification List
- Meat salted, dried and preserved from Australia and New Zealand – see conditions on the Import Specification List
- Milk products from New Zealand or Australia commercially prepared and packaged
- Pies from New Zealand or Australia commercially prepared and packaged
- Salmon from New Zealand commercially prepared and packaged
- Yoghurt from New Zealand or Australia commercially prepared and packaged
- Chestnuts (dried/cooked)
- Fruit (dried/freeze-dried)
- Herbs (dried)
- Mushroom (dried)
- Potato chips from New Zealand, Australia and the EU
- Vegetables (dried/freeze-dried/frozen)
- Honey from New Zealand as long as it’s not in bulk.
Food That Needs the Be Inspected/Certified on Arrival in the Cook Islands
Most meat, whether frozen, chilled or vacuum-packed, will be inspected on arrival. It is recommended that meat is frozen or vacuum-packed for smoother processing. For most meat products, the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture states:
“Zoosanitary Cert or NZ Export Food Standard needs to meet the following conditions: 1) Meat must be certified as reared and killed in the country of origin 2) Country of Origin must be certified as free of Aujesky’s Disease 3) The meat has been
inspected and is fit for human consumption 4) The animals were killed in a plant under government supervision.” – See the Update Import Specification list on the Ministry of Agriculture website for more details.
- Bacon from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Finland
- Beef from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji
- Chicken (frozen/chilled) from New Zealand, Australia and USA
- Dairy products (not from New Zealand) commercially prepared and packaged
- Ham from New Zeland, Australia and Canada commercially prepared and packaged
- Lamb (frozen/chilled/vacuum packed) from New Zealand and Australia
- Meat (fresh/chilled/frozen) from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, USA and Canada
- Mussels and oysters from New Zealand commercially prepared and packaged
- Poultry (frozen) from New Zealand, Australia and USA
- Sausages from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
- Salami from Australia and New Zealand commercially prepared and packaged
- Saveloy from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji
- Shellfish from New Zealand and Australia commercially prepared and packaged.
What Food is Banned From Bringing into the Cook Islands
What food should you not take to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? Some foods are just not worth bringing to the Cook Islands, as they are banned from import and it’s likely they will be confiscated anyway. Such foods include:
- Animal products from French Polynesia
- Fruit (fresh)
- Pork from China and all Asian countries
- Vegetables (fresh).
Frequently Asked Questions About Taking Food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
What are the most asked questions about taking food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? We have the answers!
Can You Take Cheese to Rarotonga?
You can take cheese to Rarotonga which is commercially packaged and from New Zealand. Just make sure to declare it on arrival! Cheese from other countries may require a zoosanitary, phytosanitary certification or cleaning certificate.
Can You Take Milk to Rarotonga?
You can take milk to Rarotonga which has been commercially prepared and packaged in New Zealand or Australia. Dairy products from other countries may require a zoosanitary, phytosanitary certification or cleaning certificate.
Can You Take Alcohol to Rarotonga?
Yes, you can take alcohol to Rarotonga if you are 18 years old and above and the alcohol does not exceed the duty-free allowance of 2 litres (67.6oz) of wine or spirits/liqueurs or a mixture of wine, spirits and/or liqueurs not exceeding 2 litres (67.6oz) or beer not exceeding 4.5 litres (152oz). See The Duty-Free Allowances for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more details.
Can You Take Food From NZ to Rarotonga?
Yes, you can take food from New Zealand to Rarotonga apart from fresh fruit and vegetables. Food must be commercially prepared and packaged. Some food, such as meat, requires inspection and a zoosanitary certification or NZ Export Food Standard.
Can You Take Frozen Meat to Rarotonga?
You can bring frozen meat to Rarotonga providing that it meets the conditions set out by the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture and comes from approved countries. See the “Food That Needs the Be Inspected/Certified on Arrival in the Cook Islands” section above.
More About Taking Food to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Now that you know what food you can take to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, here are more guides about what else you can bring to the Cook Islands.
- What to Declare When Arriving in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 20 Essentials You Need to Pack for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- Arriving in Rarotonga: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process
Finally, make the process of arriving in the Cook Islands as smooth as possible following our Arriving at Rarotonga Airport, Cook Islands: A Step-by-Step Guide.