The Public Transport Network in the Cook Islands
If you have dreams of island-hopping in the Cook Islands, at least for a reasonable price, think again. The Cook Islands has a very tiny public transport network compared to other islands in the South Pacific. There are no ferries or even “cheap” cargo ships to take you between islands, while most of the islands in the Cook Islands don’t have any public transportation at all. Almost all of the transportation infrastructure is confined to the administrative capital of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, which has a very decent bus service.
To give you an idea of the public transport available in the Cook Islands, we’ve put together this complete albeit quick guide to public transportation and links to where you can find more information about each.
5 Tips for Using Public Transportation in the Cook Islands
Before we get into our public transportation guide to the Cook Islands, here are a few quick tips from the travel team at Cook Islands Pocket Guide.
- The Rarotonga bus is the cheapest way to get around the island that’s also reliable – use it if you’re on a budget!
- The only real way of getting between the islands in the Cook Islands is via domestic flight, however, you might want to travel to the outer islands only if you have time to make the most of it due to the high monetary and carbon cost
- Taxis are ultra-expensive for travelling just a few kilometres – use sparingly if you value your hard-earned cash
- Consider renting a vehicle for a day or two if you want to explore the island independently – see What You Need to Hire a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- Plan your airport transfer – it’s free with your accommodation on the outer islands, but you’ll need to book transfers on Rarotonga (unless you want to take a taxi) – see the 8 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
And to see all of your options for travelling across the Cook Islands, be sure to check out the Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.
Buses on Rarotonga
Rarotonga is well-connected with a local bus service that runs every day except Sundays. There are two buses that pick passengers up anywhere along the main road (Ara Tapu), one running clockwise and the other running anticlockwise. The buses take approximately 50 minutes to circumvent the island.
The public buses are by far the cheapest mode of public transportation in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. Remember to have cash available to pay the driver.
Note that there are no bus services in the Cook Islands outside of Rarotonga.
Find out more about how to take the bus, bus fares and more in our guide, The Bus in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Bus Fares, Timetable & More.
Taxis on Rarotonga and Aitutaki
Another type of public transportation found in the Cook Islands, but only on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, are taxis. Taxis on Rarotonga are part of the same association, the Cook Islands Taxi Association (CITA), which are identified as green vehicles. Taxis on Rarotonga are available 24/7. However, there are extremely expensive, especially if using a metre. It’s best to agree on a fare with the driver before accepting a ride.
On Aitutaki, there are only a couple of private taxi companies but they, at least, have more reasonable fares. Water taxis to the outer “motu” (islets) of Aitutaki are also available.
It’s best to book any taxi in the Cook Islands a little in advance. Note that there are no taxis in the Cook Islands outside of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Find out more about how taxis work from our guide, Taxis in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Taxi Fares, How to Use & More. Plus, learn more about water taxis in Water Taxis in Aitutaki & the Cook Islands: How to Use, Cost & More.
When it comes to interisland travel, the Cook Islands is pretty much limited to domestic flights (as many people, even locals, don’t consider the cargo boats a viable option). There are regular flights between Rarotonga and the Southern Group islands, taking approximately 45-50 minutes one-way, at around NZ$500-$550 per person return. Flights to the Northern Group are much less frequent and cost more than a flight to New Zealand! Wherever you want to fly to in the Cook Islands, it’s almost always the case that you’ll need to make a connection at Rarotonga first.
Note that the only islands you can fly to include: Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Manihiki, Penrhyn and Pukapuka. You cannot fly to Nassau, Rakahanga, Manuae, Takutea, Palmerston or Suwarrow.
Find out more about flying in the Cook Islands in our guide, Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights. You can also learn more about getting to the Northern Cook Islands in the Northern Cook Islands Transport: 9 Ways to Get There & Around.
More About Public Transportation in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide to public transportation in the Cook Islands. For more about transport, head to the following articles:
- Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands
- 9 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- A Travellers’ Guide to Hitchhiking in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, plan the rest of your Cook Islands journey using The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide and 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.