Where to Stay in the Cook Islands
Scattered far and wide across the South Pacific, the archipelago of the Cook Islands might be made up of 15 islands but most only know of a couple. Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the hotspots on almost every traveller’s lips when thinking about a getaway to these pieces of tropical – yet vastly different – paradises. One is a large volcanic island fringed with sandy shores and a lagoon, while the other is mostly a vast turquoise lagoon. Both have a wealth of breathtaking holiday experiences in the form of gorgeous resorts, lavish villas and private holiday homes. We go through some favourites in this guide to the best Cook Islands accommodations.
But what about the other islands? Although less-visited, they are no less exceptional and are totally different again, with the rocky uplifted coral atolls of the Southern Group and the pristine lagoons of the Northern Group where life is lived as it always has. Intrigued? We also go through the best accommodations and where to stay on these less visited islands of the Cook Islands.
The Top 10 Accommodations in the Cook Islands
Before we dive into this complete guide on where to stay in the Cook Islands, we thought you’d find it helpful for us to list our top 10 Cook Islands accommodations and where to find them.
- Magic Reef Beach Bungalows – Rarotonga
- Etu Moana Boutique Beachfront Villas – Aitutaki
- Pacific Resort Rarotonga – Rarotonga
- Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort – Aitutaki
- Muri Beachcomber – Rarotonga
- Atiu Villas – Atiu
- Babe’s Place – Mangaia
- Tiare Cottages – Mauke
- Divine Retreat – Mitiaro
- Manihiki Lagoon Villas – Manihiki
The list continues in The Top 50 Resorts in the Cook Islands!
Where to Stay: Rarotonga
The largest and most populated island in the Cook Islands, Rarotonga is usually the go-to island for first-time visitors. It has the widest range of holiday accommodations, most of which are on the palm-fringed beaches, while a limited few are on the back hills of the island among verdant gardens and volcanic mountains.
The biggest appeal of staying on Rarotonga is that it has all of the tours, activities, restaurants, transport and more to make a tropical getaway effortless. There’s enough to do as much or as little as you like, as the case may be. And at a size of 67.39km² (26.02mi²), nothing is ever too far away on Rarotonga.
So whether you’re keen for a snorkel in safe lagoon waters, fancy a fun lagoon cruise, want to immerse in the culture with an “island night” and try delectable cuisine in styles from all over the world, Raro is the place to be for your first time to the Cook Islands.
The Best Resorts & Hotels on Rarotonga
- Pacific Resort Rarotonga – One of the best resorts in Rarotonga
- Nautilus Resort – Resort with luxury villas and restaurant
- Muri Beach Resort – Mid-range eco-resort
- The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium – One of the largest resorts on Rarotonga with tons of facilities at Aroa Beach
- Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach – Adults-only version of The Rarotongan
- Edgewater Resort & Spa – Largest resort on Raro, tons of facilities.
The Best Adults-Only Resorts on Rarotonga
- Little Polynesian Resort – Adults-only 5-star resort
- Ocean Escape Resort & Spa – Eco adults-only resort
- Manuia Beach Resort – Adults-only boutique, popular restaurant
- Crown Beach Resort & Spa – Adults-only with two restaurants
- Castaway Resort – Adults-only with a popular restaurant
- Moana Sands Lagoon Resort – Adults-only resort between Muri and Tikioki Beach.
Want to know more? Head to our complete 10 Best Adults-Only Resorts on Rarotonga!
The Best Family-Friendly Accommodations on Rarotonga
- Avana Waterfront Apartments – Self-contained accommodation
- Muri Beachcomber – Self-catering accommodation by the beach with bikes
- Mama Taras Bungalows – Inland holiday homes complex
- Coral Sands Apartments – Self-contained stay with shared pool
- Whitesands Beach Villas – Good-value villas for families
- Palm Grove – Family-friendly bungalows by the beach.
Learn about these stays and much more in the 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations on Rarotonga.
The Best Boutique Villas on Rarotonga
- Magic Reef Beachfront Bungalows – Eco-resort with EV rental
- Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa – Upscale villas with private pools and spa
- Motu Beachfront Art Villas – Eco-villas with e-bikes
- Sea Change Villas – Adults-only couple-centric villas
- Rainbow Villas – Permaculture garden villas
- Ikurangi Eco Retreat – Glamping tents with a pool.
The Best Holiday Homes on Rarotonga
- Muri Beach Villa – 3-bedroom home with a pool
- Casa Del Sol – Upscale holiday homes sharing a pool
- Nirvana Cottage – Character cottage for couples
- Mata Manea – Modern inland holiday home
- Pacific Palm Luxury Villa – Holiday home with a private pool.
Want your own piece of Raro paradise? Check out the 20 Best Holiday Homes in Rarotonga! You might also like the 25 Best Villas with a Private Pool in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
The Best Budget Accommodations on Rarotonga
- Club Raro Resort – Adults-only resort on Rarotonga
- Aremango Guesthouse & Cottage – Cheap private rooms
- Ariki Bungalows – Adults-only apartments with a shared pool
- Backpackers International Hostel – Dorm and private rooms
- Central Motel – Central Avarua location with cheap rooms.
Get more cheap stays from the 10 Best Budget Accommodations on Rarotonga.
The Best Side of Rarotonga to Stay
Where on the island should you stay on Rarotonga? Rarotonga’s main hotspots are Muri Beach on the east side, Arorangi on the west side and Avarua on the northern coast. Luckily we have a full guide all about the best places to stay on the island. Check it out: Where to Stay on Rarotonga: The BEST Rarotonga Accommodations.
Where to Stay: Aitutaki
Described as “the world’s most beautiful lagoon”, Aitutaki is the perfect atoll with a vast vibrant lagoon surrounded by tiny motu (islets) and one larger island. It’s paradise. And, it’s got a whole range of styles of accommodations so you can stay for longer…
The main attraction in Aitutaki is the lagoon itself, a hotspot for snorkelling, sightseeing and kitesurfing, where many operators are available to show you around. In between the excitement, you’re downtime on this island, which is much more laidback than Rarotonga (if you’d think that’s possible), can be spent at your chosen five-star resort, boutique bungalow on the beach, or even a guesthouse in one of the villages.
The Best Resorts on Aitutaki
- Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort – 5-star adults-only resort on a private island
- Pacific Resort Aitutaki – 5-star resort on the beach
- Tamanu Beach Resort – Resort on the beach with spacious villas.
Discover more about these breathtaking resorts in the 10 Best Resorts on Aitutaki.
The Best Boutique Villas/Bungalows on Aitutaki
- Etu Moana – Adults-only boutique eco-resort
- Abera’s Aitutaki Villas – Two villas with a pool and scooter included
- Tai Marino – Boutique beach bungalows
- Tai Roto Bay Beach Villas – Boutique adults-only accommodation
- Aitutaki Escape – Luxury villas with a private pool.
The Best Mid-Range Accommodations on Aitutaki
- Aitutaki Village – Bungalows for all travellers
- Rino’s Bungalows – Motel-style accommodation for all groups
- Paparei Beachfront Bungalows – Basic bungalows by the beach
- Reef Motel – Units surrounding a central swimming pool.
The Best Budget Accommodations on Aitutaki
- Matriki Beach Huts – Characterful bungalows on the beach with bikes and kayaks
- Ranginui’s Retreat – Affordable self-catering bungalows
- Gina’s Garden Lodges – Cheap loft-style self-catering lodges
- Aitutaki Budget Accommodation – Private rooms with shared facilities.
Find out more about these more affordable stays in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations on Aitutaki.
The Best Holiday Homes on Aitutaki
- Moana Villa Aitutaki – Hillside 3-bedroom house with a pool
- Are Kapakapa – Modern 2-bedroom house north of the airport
- Tavake Villa – One-bedroom beachfront villa sleeping four.
And more details on these private pieces of paradise can be found in the 5 Best Holiday Homes on Aitutaki.
The Best Side of Aitutaki to Stay
Accommodations on Aitutaki are split between Ootu Beach, stretching down the Sunset Coast, as well as between Amuri and Arutanga. Hell, you can even stay on a private island for a night or two! Find out more about the best places to stay on Aitutaki along with more accommodations to choose from in Where to Stay on Aitutaki: The BEST Aitutaki Accommodations.
Where to Stay: Southern Group
Not many people know this, but Rarotonga and Aitutaki are both in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands – and they are just two of nine islands in this island group! That means that there are more islands to explore just a short flight away from Rarotonga. Although these outer islands are much less visited, there are places to stay on a few of them, which is ideal because they are very different from Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Mangaia, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro are uplifted coral atolls made up of rocky ancient coral fossils, otherwise known as “makatea”, which make the islands look inhospitable from afar! But between the makatea are secluded beaches, while inside are glorious caves topped with rainforests and small villages of friendly locals. If you’re looking for more of an “adventure” holiday than a “relaxation” holiday, then set your sights on these southern islands.
Mangaia is the oldest island in the Cook Islands and one of the oldest in the South Pacific. It has a couple of places to stay:
- Babe’s Place – Cheap accommodation with all meals included.
Find out more about these stays in our guide, Where to Stay on Mangaia: The Best Mangaia Accommodations. Oh, and you can learn more about visiting in The Complete Travel Guide to Mangaia.
Atiu is an eco-paradise famous for its birdwatching, secluded beaches and caves. It also has one of the best places to stay outside of Rarotonga and Aitutaki:
- Atiu Villas – Attractive garden villas with a pool and restaurant
- Atiu Kopeka Lodge – Holiday home-style accommodation.
Discover more about these accommodations in our guide, Where to Stay on Atiu: The Best Atiu Accommodations and more about the island in The Complete Travel Guide to Atiu.
An interesting village church, the largest banyan tree in the South Pacific, caves with swimming pools and secluded beaches are the attractions that entice travellers to visit Mauke. This is where you can stay:
- Tiare Cottages – Budget units and a clifftop cottage
- Ri’s Retreat – Self-contained bungalows among gardens.
Get more details in our guide, Where to Stay on Mauke: The Best Mauke Accommodations, as well as how to visit in The Complete Travel Guide to Mauke.
Experience a more “locals” stay on Mitiaro with guesthouses and homestays to stay in between swimming in caves and exploring serene beaches. Choose from:
- Divine Retreat – Modern guesthouse with private rooms
- Nukuroa Guesthouse – Private rooms or a holiday home
- Nane’s Homestay – Communal guest room with all meals included
- Vivian’s Homestay – Traditional huts and concrete units in the garden.
Find out more about these abodes in our guide, Where to Stay on Mitiaro: The 4 Best Mitiaro Accommodations, as well as how to visit the island in The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro.
Where to Stay: Northern Group
Sparsely scattered, the Northern Group consists of six islands that are, in fact, closer to their South Pacific cousins of Tokelau, Samoa and Kiribati than they are to the Southern Group of the Cook Islands. As a result, the Northern Cook Islands all have their own distinct cultures and even their own language in one case.
Due to their remoteness, the islands of the Northern Group are rarely visited by tourists in comparison to the Southern Group. But for the lucky few that make it to these gorgeous atolls, there are guesthouses set aside for visitors, particularly on the islands of Manihiki, Penrhyn and Pukapuka. Otherwise, accommodation can be organised with local families in the form of homestays – more details on how to organise homestays can be found in The Best Homestays in the Cook Islands.
Northern Cook Islands Accommodations
- Penrhyn Guesthouse – Private rooms with shared facilities and all meals included
- Manihiki Lagoon Villas – Self-contained overwater bungalows with meals included
- Pukapuka Guesthouse – Four guest rooms with communal facilities and cold water.
Learn more about each accommodation, as well as alternatives, in each island’s respective travel guides: The Complete Travel Guide to Penrhyn, The Complete Travel Guide to Manihiki and The Complete Travel Guide to Pukapuka.
The Best Accommodations in the Cook Islands: Accommodation Categories
By now, you’ve probably realised that the Cook Islands has accommodations appealing to all types of travellers and that here, at Cook Islands Pocket Guide, we’ve ranked them all! Browse Cook Islands accommodations by category using the following links:
- The Top 50 Resorts in the Cook Islands
- 25 Best Villas in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Boutique Accommodations in the Cook Islands
- 20 Best Adults-Only Resorts in the Cook Islands
- 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations in the Cook Islands
- 20 Most Romantic Honeymoon Resorts in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Cook Islands
- 20 Best Holiday Homes in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Holiday Apartments in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Hotels in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Guesthouses in the Cook Islands.
More About Where to Stay in the Cook Islands + The Best Cook Islands Accommodations
Woah! Well done for making it this far in our guide to the best Cook Islands accommodations. By now, you probably have a good idea of where to stay in the Cook Islands, so plan the rest of your trip with these guides:
- 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List
- The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide
- 30 Tips for Travelling in the Cook Islands
Finally, if you’re still unsure where to stay in the Cook Islands, compare the islands further in The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands.