Plan an Adults-Only Trip to the Cook Islands
The tranquil lagoon waters, pristine white sands, swaying coconut palms… Would you really want to spoil the ambience with a resort full of children? Us neither. Whether you’re planning a romantic escape or the ultimate getaway with the guys or girls, make sure the tone is set right by staying in adults-only accommodations and enjoying and balance of adventure and relaxation with like-minded travellers (or simply yourselves). We’ll guide you through it, piece by piece, in this complete adults-only travel guide to the Cook Islands.
An Intro to the Cook Islands
Location: The Cook Islands is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean in between Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and French Polynesia. It is approximately 3,000 km (1,864 mi) northeast of New Zealand. Find out more in Where are the Cook Islands Located?
Size: The Cook Islands’ land area is 261 km² (101 mi²) scattered across 2,200,000 km² (850,000 sq mi) of ocean.
Climate: Maximum average temperature – 27°C/81°F, minimum average temperature – 21°C/70°F and yearly average rainfall – 2,000 mm/79 in.
Find out more in The Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate.
Time zone: UTC/GMT-10.
Find out more in What is the Cook Islands Time Zone?
Find out more in Who are the People of the Cook Islands?
Languages: Cook Islands Maori, English and Pukapukan.
Find out more in What is the Cook Islands Language?
How to Get to the Cook Islands
What is the best way to get to the Cook Islands? The Cook Islands can be accessed by flight, cruise ship or private sailing yacht. The most popular way to get to the Cook Islands is by international flight, so let’s start with that.
Flying to the Cook Islands
Direct international flights to the Cook Islands come from New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and French Polynesia. If you’re coming from further afield, connecting flights can be made in New Zealand and Australia. See our guide, Which Airlines Fly Directly to the Cook Islands? for more advice.
All international arrivals land at Rarotonga International Airport on the island of Rarotonga, only a few minutes from the nation’s capital, Avarua. Find out more about the airport and what to expect in Which Airport to Fly into the Cook Islands.
Cruises to the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is on the itinerary of several South Pacific cruises from French Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia, as well as round-the-world cruises from the US and Europe. There are two main ports of call in the Cooks, one in Rarotonga and the other in Aitutaki. Cruises also occasionally stop at Palmerston. Find out about which cruise liners have the Cook Islands on their itinerary, as well as what to do at each port of call in 7 Best Cruises That Visit the Cook Islands and The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in the Cook Islands.
Sailing to the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is situated on the Transpacific journey between the US and New Zealand. The yachting season is between May and October. Learn about the sailing formalities and the ports of entry in our Sailing Guide to the Cook Islands.
A Note on Customs Declarations
The Cook Islands has strict biosecurity measures at the border to stop unwanted pests and diseases from entering the country. Therefore, anyone arriving in the Cook Islands has to declare any “risk items” they have packed in their luggage – even common items like food and sports gear. Be sure to read up on Arriving in Rarotonga: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & Arrivals Process so you are prepared.
Check out our complete guide on How to Get to the Cook Islands for even more tips on making your way to the islands.
When to Visit the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a tropical country and experiences warm temperatures throughout the year. It has two distinct seasons, a dry season which is drier and cooler, and a wet season which is hotter and more humid. Learn more about the climate in The Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month.
Dry Season (April to November)
The dry season is also known as the winter season in the Cook Islands, although many would not describe it as winter with temperatures around 19-28°C (66-82°F). The rainfall per month is an average of 102-174 mm (4-6.9 in). The dry season is also the time for seeing whales, kitesurfing/kiteboarding, clearer scuba diving conditions and catching wahoo.
Wet Season (December to March)
The wet season is hotter and more humid, with temperatures around 21-29°C (70-84°F) and an average monthly rainfall of 174-237mm (6.9-9.3″). This is also the Cook Islands’ cyclone season, which means there’s a risk of cyclones (but only a risk, which you can learn more about in A Guide to Cyclone Safety in the Cook Islands). The wet season is also the best time for catching Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna and Mahimahi, for catching some popular events, and for avoiding other tourists.
The Best Time to Take an Adults-Only Trip to the Cook Islands
An obvious go-to for an adults-only trip to the Cook Islands is anywhere outside of the New Zealand and Australian school holidays where the islands, particularly Rarotonga, get hectic with families. In other words, avoid the second half of April, especially July, the first half of October and the end of December through January.
Still can’t decide when the best time is to travel to the Cook Islands? Check out our complete guide, The Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit, which dives much deeper into the subject.
What to Pack for the Cook Islands
The main thing you need to keep in mind when packing for the Cook Islands is having a tropical wardrobe that includes some more modest items of clothing for going out for dinner and/or visiting a church. A packing list for the Cook Islands might look a little something like this:
- 5 Singlets/T-Shirts
- 1 Blouse/Shirt to cover the shoulders for dinner or church
- 2 Shorts/Skirts
- 1 Light evening dress to impress at dinner
- 1 Dress/Skirt below the knee for church
- 1 or 2 Light sleepwear if you’re against sleeping in your undies
- 1 Light jacket/Cardigan/Pashmina for cooler evenings
- 1 Sports shorts/Leggings for hiking
- 1 Sports T-shirt/Singlet for hiking
- 1 Outfit to travel between Rarotonga and home
- 3 Bras including strapless, sports and comfort
- 6 Underwear
- 4 Socks
- 1 Bikini for beach/pool
- 1 One-piece for watersports
- 2 Boardshorts for guys
- 1 Rash vest
- Light shirt to cover arms and back
- Light rain jacket
- Walking shoes
- Reef shoes/Water shoes.
And that’s just the clothes! For a full packing list of everything to take, including accessories and toiletries, check out What to Pack for Rarotonga: FULL Cook Islands Packing List.
With high UV levels and the presence of mosquitos, certain health products are essential to take to the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands also has a fragile marine ecosystem so natural sunscreens and repellents are a must. If going to the outer islands, a reusable water purification bottle is preferable to buying bottled water for obvious environmental reasons. See our health essentials packing list in What Medication to Pack in Your First Aid Kit for the Cook Islands.
The currency in the Cook Islands is New Zealand Dollars. Most vendors accept Visa and MasterCard, while there are ATMs and options for currency exchange on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Cash is the only way to go on the other outer islands. Get more money tips in What is the Best Way to Pay in the Cook Islands?
Note that the Cook Islands issues its own coins and banknotes that you won’t be able to exchange overseas, so make sure to use them all up unless you want a souvenir.
Travel Documents and Paperwork
Visitors to the Cook Islands do not need a visa but do need a passport that is valid for no less than six months after your intended date of departure (seven days for New Zealand and Australian citizens). There may be other current entry requirements, like vaccination certificates which we keep updated in What Documents Do I Need to Travel to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands? and can also be found on the Cook Islands Tourism Travel Advisory page.
How Long to Spend in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands might make for an idyllic boutique resort getaway to simply relax for a few days and that’s fine; we all need to R&R from time to time. More intrepid travellers, however, will find that the Cook Islands is an excellent country not only for minor island-hopping but especially road tripping around very small islands.
We’d recommend the minimum number of days to spend in the Cook Islands is five days if just visiting Rarotonga. However, 10 to 14 days are the recommended number of days for a satisfying trip to the Cook Islands, especially if you include at least two islands, such as Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
For those of you who want to explore, here’s what you can achieve in certain timeframes… (And don’t worry, we’ll get onto the destinations in the next few sections).
3 Days / A Long Weekend in the Cook Islands
Over 3 days or a long weekend with the girls/guys, you have enough time to see the highlights of Rarotonga. Check out Rarotonga Adults-Only Itinerary: 3 Days for an awesome couples’ or adults-only group weekend.
5 Days in the Cook Islands
5 days give you more time to comfortably explore one of the Cook Islands’ most popular islands, either Rarotonga or Aitutaki. See the Rarotonga Adults-Only Itinerary: 5 Days for our recommended trip idea.
7 Days / 1 Week in the Cook Islands
Some travellers will find that 7 days is ideal for a mix of adventure and relaxation on Rarotonga, while more intrepid travellers might want to squeeze in a trip to Aitutaki. Get some inspiration on what to do and where to go from Rarotonga & Cook Islands Adults-Only Itinerary: 7 Days.
10 Days in the Cook Islands
10 days is a comfortable amount of time to enjoy two islands in the Cook Islands, such as Rarotonga and Aitutaki or Rarotonga and either Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke or Mitiaro. Check out Rarotonga & Cook Islands Adults-Only Itinerary: 10 Days for our recommended adults’ trip. Otherwise, the Rarotonga & Cook Islands Island-Hopping Itinerary: 10 Days is a good alternative to take you to islands that are definitely not full of families on holiday.
14 Days / 2 Weeks in the Cook Islands
Adventurous travellers can visit multiple atolls in the Cook Islands, or simply enjoy Rarotonga and Aitutaki for longer – there’s plenty to do! See Rarotonga & Cook Islands Adults-Only Itinerary: 14 Days for our most recommended adults’ trip itinerary. Alternatively, there’s the Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mauke & Mitiaro Itinerary: 14 Days and Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu & Mangaia Itinerary: 14 Days taking you to more sensational islands away from the crowds.
How Long Can You Stay in the Cook Islands?
Visitors to the Cook Islands can stay up to a month! Visitor extensions are available, however, which you can learn more about in our guide, How Long Can You Stay in the Cook Islands on a Visitor Visa?
Which Island to Visit in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is made up of 15 islands split between two island groups, the Southern Group and the Northern Group. The most-visited islands and the easiest to get to are the ones in the Southern Group, which is where Rarotonga and Aitutaki are located. The Northern Group is some 1,000 km (620 mi) from Rarotonga, requiring a much pricier airfare or charter flight to get to. Nevertheless, those looking for a true South Seas adventure will be truly welcomed on these islands.
The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands for an Adults-Only Trip
There are only two islands in the Cook Islands with adults-only resorts and accommodations: Rarotonga and Aitutaki. With that in find, we’ve constructed the ultimate adults-only guide to these destinations outlining ways to enjoy a child-free getaway:
With that all said, the other islands of the Cook Islands are certainly not “full of kids”, apart from the small population of locals. In fact, the outer islands are not full of any type of tourist, as less than 1% of tourists to the Cooks visit these islands each year. This leaves their beaches, caves and lush rainforest blissfully uncrowded, if not secluded. How about that for an adults-only getaway?
The Other Southern Cook Islands
If you feel compelled to discover some of the lesser-visited pieces of paradise in the Cooks, here are the subsequent links to their travel guides starting with the other islands of the Southern Group:
- Atiu Travel Guide – Eco-paradise with caves, birds and beaches
- Mangaia Travel Guide – Ancient rocky island with caves and beaches
- Mauke Travel Guide – Uplifted atoll with beaches and giant banyan trees
- Mitiaro Travel Guide – Best cave pools in the South Pacific
- Palmerston Travel Guide – Lagoon islands with a tiny population
- Takutea Travel Guide – Uninhabited nature reserve
- Manuae Travel Guide – Uninhabited nature reserve.
The Northern Cook Islands
- Penrhyn Travel Guide – Cooks’ largest lagoon and best craftspeople
- Manihiki Travel Guide – Black pearl producers and stunning lagoon
- Rakahanga Travel Guide – Remote atoll only accessible by boat
- Pukapuka Travel Guide – Village life with sustainable practices
- Nassau Travel Guide – Only accessible by boat from Pukapuka
- Suwarrow Travel Guide – The Cook Islands’ only national park.
Again, be sure to check out The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands for more of a comparison.
How to Get Around the Cook Islands
The distance between islands in the Cook Islands is rather substantial, leaving very few options for island-hopping. Once you have arrived on each of the islands, however, getting around is made extremely easy, whether it’s the good public transport system and vehicle rentals on Rarotonga or your hosts on the outer islands simply renting out their car or scooter for you to explore at leisure.
Domestic Flights and Charter Flights
Renting a car is the most popular way for travellers to get around each of the islands, whether it’s for ultimate freedom or it’s the only choice on some of the outer islands. Find out everything you need to know about hiring in What You Need to Hire a Car in the Cook Islands.
A popular method for locals to get around, scooters are a more fuel-efficient way to travel around. Note that visitors without a license to ride a motorcycle will need to go through a quick test at Rarotonga Police Station to get their visitor’s scooter license. See the 10 Tips for Riding a Scooter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands to start your research.
Bicycles and E-Bikes
While it’s pretty tough going to ride around the whole of Rarotonga (32 km/20 mi), bicycles and e-bikes are an affordable option for riding from A to B with plenty of time on your hands. Check out Cycle Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Where to Rent Bikes & E-Bikes for more information.
Rarotonga is the only island in the Cooks with a bus service. It is a cheap and frequent service with two buses revolving around the island in opposite directions at the same time. It’s perhaps the least adults-only-friendly but great if you’re on a budget. Check it out in The Bus in Rarotonga: Bus Fares, Timetable & More.
While those are the main ways to get around the Cook Islands, you can dive into all of your options, including some eco-friendly transport, in the Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.
Where to Stay: Adults-Only Accommodation in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands has a broad and impressive range of adults-only accommodations, from adults-only resorts to villas and even glamping. All of the Cook Islands’ adults-only accommodations are for the mid-range to the luxury market, i.e. you won’t find anything for a tight budget.
Take a look at all accommodation styles across the Cook Islands in The BEST Cook Islands Accommodations: Where to Stay or stick to the best of the adults-only options in the 20 Best Adults-Only Resorts in the Cook Islands.
Adults-only resorts in the Cook Islands provide the complete holiday experience with various grades of room/suite usually containing an ensuite and basic hotel-like facilities, such as a TV and drink-making facilities. Some resorts also have in-room self-catering facilities. There are usually communal facilities, such as a swimming pool, restaurant and watersport equipment rental if on the beach. We have resort-style listings in the 20 Best Adults-Only Resorts in the Cook Islands.
Complexes of self-contained villas are very popular in the Cook Islands, usually consisting of bungalows with full self-catering facilities. They are very similar to resorts in that they usually have a swimming pool and watersports equipment for guests, but they tend to be much smaller complexes for a more intimate experience. We have villa-style listings in the 20 Best Adults-Only Resorts in the Cook Islands.
Private Holiday Rentals
You know how else you can enjoy an adults-only experience? By booking a private holiday rental! That way, you choose who you share your accommodation with. As long as you chose a private holiday home rental, rather than in a holiday home complex, you should be sweet. Check out some of our favourites in the 20 Best Holiday Homes in the Cook Islands.
Things to Do in the Cook Islands for Adults
Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to do in the Cook Islands than drink cocktails and sit by the pool – although, that’s pretty good too. The Cook Islands exceeds in adventure, relaxation and culture, providing a generous mix of water and inland experiences. There’s so much to do that we could hardly fit it all into our 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands!
When it comes to experiences that are less likely to be disturbed by a more “enthusiastic” crowd, this is what you could be getting up to:
- Private lagoon charters – Just you, your group and the Aitutaki Lagoon
- Spa treatments – Visit a day spa or get a massage in your villa
- Yoga – Try SUP yoga or join a yoga retreat in paradise
- Hiking – Rarotonga’s interior is awash in jungle and mountain hikes
- Quad bike tours – Self-drive quad tours for those with a driver’s license
- Scuba diving – Choose from tens of dives sites, from drop-offs to caves
- Nightlife – Jump on the party bus or kick back at one of the islands’ bars
- Swimming with turtles – Join snorkelling tours to prime turtle habitat
- Swimming with whales – Take boat tours to snorkel with whales between July and October
- Kitesurfing – There are flat lagoons and ideal trade winds for kitesurfing
- Game fishing – The South Pacific’s largest pelagics can be caught on fishing charters
- Surfing – Hit uncrowded reef breaks on Rarotonga
- Golf – Tee off at the Cook Islands’ tropical courses…
Other Activities in the Cook Islands
Of course, there’s a lot more to do in the Cook Islands, so if you don’t care that there may or may not be kids around, you can also enjoy these experiences:
- Snorkelling – Snorkel in the lagoons or join sea scooter tours
- Lagoon cruises – Visit uninhabited islets, snorkel and enjoy delicious local food
- Kayaking & SUP – Join tours or hire to explore the lagoons
- Culture tours – Learn how to make Cook Islander food and take part in traditions
- Island nights – Cultural show with local food
- Markets – Delight in street food and browse local handicrafts
- Shopping – Rarotonga provides the opportunity to buy black pearls and crafts
- Natural attractions – Explore caves, waterfalls, rock formations and more
- Historical sites – See the remains of ancient marae
- Island tours – Explore the island with a local guide
- Museums & art galleries – Inspire yourself or learn something new.
Again, start making your bucket list with the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands.
Food in the Cook Islands
All kinds of cuisine are represented in the Cook Islands, especially on Rarotonga which is best described as “island cosmopolitan”. What’s more, self-catering is easy to manage with grocery stores found on most islands that people visit.
Restaurants and Cafes
Restaurants serve international dishes, including Asian, European and American, while local dishes are best tried at “island nights” or on certain food tours. There are a few cafes and restaurants on Aitutaki, while food is experienced on the outer islands through your hosts’ homecooked meals. Browse restaurants and cafes in The Food Guide to Rarotonga and The Food Guide to Aitutaki.
Self-catering is made easy on Rarotonga and Aitutaki with plenty of accommodations with cooking facilities, as well as supermarkets, convenience stores and roadside fruit stalls to pick up supplies. Check out A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in the Cook Islands for everything you need to know about a self-catering holiday. Plus, check out The Cost of Food in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for restaurant and grocery store prices.
Vegetarian options are widely available across Rarotonga but less so on other islands. More specific dietary needs, such as veganism and coeliacs, are harder to cater for. Check out our advice in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for Vegans & Vegetarians, as well as The Gluten-Free Guide to the Cook Islands.
Food and Water Safety
Most tourist accommodations on Rarotonga and Aitutaki have access to safe drinking water, whether it’s tap water through a UV-filtration system or a jug of filtered water at reception. There are also filtered and treated public water stations on the roadsides. Finding clean drinking water on the outer islands is a little more challenging. See Is the Water Safe to Drink in the Cook Islands? for more advice. Food in the Cook Islands is generally cooked to safe hygiene standards, so there’s not much to worry about there, but check out Cook Islands Safety Tips for additional advice.
What Food to Try
And what are the foods worth trying in the Cook Islands? Look out for the items listed in Traditional Rarotongan Food: 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands and 10 Drinks in the Cook Islands You HAVE to Try!
For all things “food” in the Cook Islands, including markets to attend, foodie tours, restaurant recommendations and more, head to The Food Guide to the Cook Islands: Places to Eat, Food Tours & More.
Typical Costs and Budget for an Adults-Only Trip to the Cook Islands
We all travel very differently. Therefore, making a precise budget for everyone is an impossible task. Nevertheless, you can work out your own needs, thus budget, by simply looking at the typical prices listed below or in our article, How Much Does a Trip to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Cost?
The Cost of Adults-Only Accommodation
- Mid-range resort ensuite room/night – NZ$230-$550
- Self-contained double room/night – NZ$230-$550
- Luxury villa/night – NZ$700-$2,000
The Cost of Food
- Main breakfast meal – NZ$10-$29
- Main lunch meal – NZ$15-$35
- Main dinner meal – NZ$14-$49
- Island night buffet and show – NZ$60-$130
- Small coffee – NZ$5-$6
- Bottle of beer – NZ$6.50-$8
- Glass of wine – NZ$12
- Cocktail – NZ$11-$21
- Mocktail/Smoothie – NZ$7-$16
- Soft drink – NZ$5-$6
The cost of supermarket food can be found in The Cost of Food in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
The Cost of Tours and Activities
- Guided hike – NZ$25-$80
- Spa treatment/1hr massage – NZ$80-$150
- Buggy/quad bike tour – NZ$125-$150
- Guided island tour – NZ$60-$70
- Museum entry – NZ$5-$15
- Outer islands cave tour – NZ$30-$70
- Snorkel hire/day – NZ$0-$10
- SUP or kayak hire/1hr– NZ$15-$20
- Lagoon cruise – NZ$79-$160
- Swimming with turtles – NZ$80-$160
- Snorkel tour – NZ$60-$160
- Fishing charter/private – NZ$600-$1,600
- Scuba dive/intro dive – NZ$200-$220
The Cost of Transport
- Bicycle rental/day – NZ$10-$25
- Visitor’s Scooter Licence – NZ$40
- Scooter rental/day – NZ$24-$30
- Car rental/day – NZ$40-$80
- Rarotonga bus/one-way trip – NZ$5
- Taxi/kilometre – NZ$3+
- Airport transfers/person – NZ$0-$36
- Aitutaki water taxi – NZ$35-$80
- Flight/Rarotonga to Southern Group – NZ$250-$275
- Flight/Rarotonga to Northern Group – NZ$1,600
- Charter flight/Southern Group – NZ$4,500-$5,000
- Charter flight/Northern Group – NZ$11,000
Spending Money Budget for the Cook Islands
Here are a few averages for a daily budget for Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. These include food, activities, transport and miscellaneous expenses. Each price is per person per day:
- Budget daily budget: NZ$130
- Mid-range daily budget: NZ$250
- Luxury daily budget: NZ$460+
We break down the budgets further in How Much Spending Money Do You Need for the Cook Islands?
More About Planning an Adults-Only Trip to the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete adults-only travel guide to the Cook Islands. For more tips ideal for adult groups, check out the following guides:
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands
- The Complete Luxury Guide to the Cook Islands
- The Adults-Only Travel Guide to Rarotonga
And if you simply can’t get enough Cook Islands wisdom, head over to the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Happy travels and thanks for checking out this adults-only travel guide to the Cook Islands!