The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️
The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️

The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️

© Lara Hotz – Cook Islands Tourism

When to Visit Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands

As cliché as it might sound, there’s never really a “bad” time to visit the Cook Islands. It all depends on how important the weather, crowds, the cost of travel and certain seasonal activities are to you. The Cook Islands is a tropical country that experiences warm temperatures year-round. It only experiences two seasons: the dry season (winter) and the wet season (summer), which brings with them a set of conditions that makes certain activities, like kitesurfing and whale watching, better to do. There are also, of course, certain events and festivals that only occur at particular times of the year that you might want to coincide your trip with. We go through all of these factors and more in this guide to the best time to visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands!

The Best Months to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

For those who have the privilege of choosing any months to travel, the shoulder season months are the best months to visit the Cook Islands (see the “When is the High and Low Season in the Cook Islands?” section below).

To narrow it down further, September, October and November are the best months to visit the Cook Islands as they have warm temperatures leading into the wet season yet less rainfall than the other “shoulder season” months of April and May. September and October are also when you can do seasonal activities, such as whale watching and kitesurfing.

The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

When is the High and Low Season in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?

I.e. When is the Peak, Shoulder and Off-Season in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?

In terms of the tourist seasons, Rarotonga and the Cook Islands experience three: a high season, low season and shoulder seasons in between.

High Season (July – August & December)

The high season falls during the southern hemisphere’s winter season. This is when the New Zealand and Australia school holidays are, coinciding with it being the coldest months in these two countries where most travellers to the Cook Islands are visiting from. Being in the middle of the dry season, it’s also a favourable time for travellers wanting to avoid the rain as much as possible while temperatures are warm. December is also included in the high season months, as there is a lot of travel to the country during the Christmas period for locals and visitors alike.

Low Season (January – March)

After the Christmas holidays, the tourism industry in the Cook Islands is at its quietest in terms of tourist numbers. Although temperatures are at their highest, the higher likelihood of rain puts some travellers off. January to March, however, is a slightly more popular time for travellers from the northern hemisphere escaping their winter. Check out more benefits of visiting in the least-popular season in the 10 Reasons to Travel in the Low Season in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

Shoulder Seasons (April – June & September – November)

The shoulder seasons are all the months in between the low and high seasons. These months tend to experience the best of both seasons: weather that’s warm but not too humid nor too cold, less rain than in the wet season yet fewer tourists numbers than in the high season, etc. In our opinion, the shoulder seasons are the best time to travel to the Cook Islands.

The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️© Zhang Da Qiang - Cook Islands Tourism

The Best Months to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for the Best Weather

Weather plays a huge role in many of our minds for determining the best time to visit the Cook Islands. There are two seasons you need to be aware of: the dry/winter season (April to November) and the wet/summer season (December to March).

Skip the next bit and just check out Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month to get a full rundown on the weather. Otherwise here’s a quick overview of the Cook Islands’ weather month by month.

January Weather

Average temperature: 28°C / 82°F in the day, 23°C/74°F at night
Average sea temperature: 27°C / 81°F
Average rainfall: 267 mm / 10.5″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in January for a full guide.

February Weather

Average temperature: 29°C / 84°F in the day
23°C / 73°F at night
Average sea temperature: 27°C / 81°F
Average rainfall: 237 mm / 9.3″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in February for a full guide.

March Weather

Average temperature: 29°C / 84°F in the day, 23°C / 74°F at night
Average sea temperature: 28°C/83°F
Average rainfall: 220 mm / 8.7″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in March for a full guide.

April Weather

Average temperature: 28°C / 82°F in the day, 22°C / 69°F at night
Average sea temperature: 27°C / 81°F
Average rainfall: 231 mm / 9.1″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in April for a full guide.

May Weather

Average temperature: 27°C / 81°F in the day, 21°C / 70°F at night
Average sea temperature: 26°C / 79°F
Average rainfall: 205 mm / 8.1″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in May for a full guide.

June Weather

Average temperature: 26°C / 79°F in the day, 20°C / 68°F at night
Average sea temperature: 25°C / 77°F
Average rainfall: 120 mm / 4.7″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in June for a full guide.

July Weather

Average temperature: 25°C / 77°F in the day, 19°C / 66°F at night
Average sea temperature: 25°C / 77°F
Average rainfall: 102 mm / 4″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in July for a full guide.

August Weather

Average temperature: 25°C / 77°F in the day, 19°C / 66°F at night
Average sea temperature: 24°C / 75°F
Average rainfall: 152 mm / 6″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in August for a full guide.

September Weather

Average temperature: 26°C / 79°F in the day, 19°C / 66°F at night
Average sea temperature: 24°C / 75°F
Average rainfall: 132 mm / 5.2″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in September for a full guide.

October Weather

Average temperature: 26°C / 79°F in the day, 20°C / 67°F at night
Average sea temperature: 25°C / 77°F
Average rainfall: 121 mm / 4.8″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in October for a full guide.

November Weather

Average temperature: 27°C / 81°F in the day, 21°C / 70°F at night
Average sea temperature: 25°C / 77°F
Average rainfall: 174 mm / 6.9″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in November for a full guide.

December Weather

Average temperature: 27°C / 81°F in the day, 21°C / 70°F at night
Average sea temperature: 25°C / 77°F
Average rainfall: 174 mm / 6.9″
See the Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in December for a full guide.

Again, head to our Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month for a complete weather and climate rundown.

The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

The Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands for Seasonal Activities

If you’re visiting the Cook Islands with the intention of doing a particular activity, then be sure to research the best seasons to do it! Whale watching, scuba diving, surfing, fishing, events and festivals all have “seasonal” elements.

The Best Time to See Whales in the Cook Islands

The whale season in the Cook Islands is between July and October. It is possible, however, to see humpback whales as early as May and as late as November. See our complete guide to the Cook Islands Whale Season: The Best Time to See Whales in the Cook Islands for more details on the best time for spotting whales.

The Best Time for Kitesurfing (Kiteboarding) in the Cook Islands

The best time for kitesurfing in the Cook Islands is during the trade wind season between May and October. With steady low-pressure systems on the tropical belt, however, kitesurfing can be enjoyed all year round in the Cook Islands. Head to The Guide to Kitesurfing in Rarotonga, Aitutaki & the Cook Islands for our full guide!

The Best Time for Scuba Diving in the Cook Islands

There’s good scuba diving in the Cook Islands all year round, but winter (April to November) tends to be more favourable due to less rainfall and therefore less surface runoff that might affect water visibility. Plus, the prevailing winds in winter are less likely to cut off access to particular dive sites. See The Best Time to Dive in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for a comparison between diving in winter and summer.

The Best Time for Fishing in the Cook Islands

Again, there’s never a bad time to go fishing in the Cook Islands. There are, however, better months than others if you are targeting a particular game species:

  • Yellowfin Tuna – October to May
  • Dogtooth Tuna – October to February
  • Skipjack Tuna – October to March
  • Wahoo – May to September
  • Mahimahi – September to March
  • Blue Marlin – November to April
  • Giant Trevally – October to April.

Anything that is not on the list is safe to assume it can be caught year-round. Check out The Best Time of Year for Fishing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for our full fishing analysis.

The Best Time for Events and Festivals in the Cook Islands

To attend cultural or sporting events in the Cook Islands, you’ll need to time your trip at particular times of the year. Of course, dates change yearly, but the approximate months for popular events and festivals are:

  • Te Maeva Nui – End of July to August 4
  • Te Mira Ura – Changes yearly – see The Top Events in the Cook Islands for upcoming dates
  • Te Mire Tiare – November or December
  • Te Mire ‘Atu – March
  • Manureva Aquafest – August
  • Golden Ukulele – March
  • Vaka Eiva – November
  • Round Rarotonga Road Race – September

Learn more about each of these events in the 10 Biggest Festivals in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. Plus, check out the upcoming dates for this year in The Top Events & Festivals in the Cook Islands [2022].

The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️© DK - Cook Islands Tourism

The Cheapest Time to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

If you’re on a bit of a budget, travelling in the right season can help reduce the costs.

The Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands for Cheap Accommodation

The biggest saving you can make is on the nightly rate of accommodation if you stay during the shoulder or low season – usually anywhere between November and March. Not only will you see prices change across the months on platforms like Booking.com and Expedia, but many accommodations offer special low season deals on their websites. We’ve seen the difference between low and high season rates as much as NZ$500! Plus, low season deals such as “stay five nights, pay for four” are very common in the low season.

The Best Time to Fly to the Cook Islands

The best time to fly to the Cook Islands for cheaper flights is late-January to March if coming from the southern hemisphere – typically for the direct flights we list in Which Airlines Fly Directly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands? If coming from the northern hemisphere, you’re more likely to find cheaper airfares to Rarotonga between September to November or March to May. All of this is explained in more detail in How to Book a Cheap Flight to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.

The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit 🗓️© Sean Scott - Cook Islands Tourism

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Time to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

Finally, what are the most common questions that people ask about the best time to visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? We go through some of them here!

If we have to choose, the best month to go to Rarotonga is September due to the warm and dry weather, the likelihood of seeing whales and avoiding the high season. See the “The Best Months to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands” section above for more details and similar months to visit.

The rainy season in Rarotonga runs from December to March. Learn more about the rainy season in our guide, Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month.

The hottest months in Rarotonga are February and March. Learn more about the temperatures during these months in The Cook Islands Weather in February and The Cook Islands Weather in March.

What is the Worst Time to Go to Rarotonga?

The worst time to go to Rarotonga depends on your holiday preferences, but some would argue that July is the worst time to go to Rarotonga because it’s the Australia and New Zealand school holidays when prices are at their highest and the country is at its busiest.

More About the Best Time to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

That’s it for our guide to the best time to visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands but by no means the end of our advice! Check out the following guides for more tips concerning the best time to visit the Cook Islands and when to travel:

Finally, for anything else you need to plan for your Cook Islands getaway, The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide has all of the answers!

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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