How to Plan a More Eco-Friendly Trip to the Cook Islands
While climate change can seem like a distant issue, the impact of global warming is certainly present on the islands of the South Pacific. Although the Cook Islands has some marine reserves and conservation areas to protect its flora, fauna and reefs from overfishing, the nation has had its issues with balancing environmental and social sustainability while trying to grow its tourism industry. As is a common theme for anyone trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, it’s up to us travellers to be mindful of the tourism operators used, as well as be careful with the environment and respectful of communities in order to travel more sustainably. Nevertheless, ecotourism in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is alive and we’re here to guide you through it.
Quick Tips for More Eco-Friendly Travel in the Cook Islands
Although our guide to ecotourism in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands will go into much more detail on eco-friendly and ethical travel in the Cook Islands, here are some quick sustainability tips to get you started.
- Stay in one of Raro’s eco-resorts to reduce your environmental impacts
- Join an eco-tour for a tourism operator doing good things for the environment and/or local people
- Minimise your waste by packing a reusable water bottle, plastic-free toiletries, shopping bags etc.
- Use public transport or bicycles where possible
- Take the most direct flight to Rarotonga
- Use reef-safe sunscreen and natural insect repellent
- Be careful to not stand on or damage coral.
And there’s more where that came from over in the 30 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in the Cook Islands.
Eco-Resorts and Accommodations in the Cook Islands
Resorts and villas play a huge part in a Cook Islands getaway. Choosing an eco-resort or accommodation can help reduce your environmental impact tremendously. Typical aspects of these environmentally focussed accommodations include sustainable energy sources, usually solar power, wastewater treatment to use in the resort’s gardens and to protect the coral, cleaning products that are biodegradable, and many other initiatives that you can read in detail in How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands.
The Best Eco-Friendly Resorts in Rarotonga and Aitutaki
- Magic Reef Beachfront Bungalows
- Etu Moana
- Motu Beachfront Art Villas
- Ikurangi Eco Retreat
- Muri Beach Resort
- Nautilus Resort
- Ocean Escape Resort & Spa
- Rainbow Villas
- Kuru Club Aitutaki
Find out much more about what these resorts and accommodations are doing for the environment in the 9 Best Eco Resorts in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Ethical Guesthouses and Homestays
When it comes to supporting local businesses, staying at guesthouses and homestays is a more ethical and environmentally friendly accommodation than a large resort owned by some distant overseas corporation. However, with most guesthouses and homestays only really available on the outer islands of the Cook Islands, there is an obvious carbon impact of getting there. If looking at accommodation alone, however, guesthouses and homestays are run by locals typically using more sustainable methods of living due to the limited infrastructure on these islands, while the food provided is almost always locally sourced and packaging-free.
Eco-Tours and Attractions in the Cook Islands
Rarotonga and the Cook Islands are home to several eco-friendly and ethical tourist attractions. These businesses use sustainable practices, educate on conservation and have a low impact yet allow you to encounter amazing aspects of nature. Some of the top eco-tours in the country include:
- Ariimoana – reef and hiking tours on Rarotonga
- Birdman George Eco Tours – bird and conservation tours on Atiu
- Storytellers Eco Cycle & Walking Tours – see Viator and Tripadvisor for more information
- Maunga Tours – nature hiking tours on Rarotonga
- Ariki Adventures – see Viator and Tripadvisor for more information
- Explore Rarotonga – Electric bike scavenger hunt on Rarotonga
- Snorkel Cook Islands – see Viator and Tripadvisor for more information
- Tumutoa Tours – low-impact culture tours and dinners on Rarotonga
- Tik-e Bikes & Tours – electric tuk-tuk and bikes island tours on Rarotonga
- Aitutaki Marine Research Centre – giant clam nursery on Aitutaki
- Discover Marine Wildlife & Eco Centre – wildlife rehabilitation centre and museum on Rarotonga
- Arore Mountain Adventures – low-impact hiking and nature tour on Rarotonga.
And learn much more about these operators and what makes their tours environmentally friendly in the 10 Best Eco Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Tips for Sustainable Transport in the Cook Islands
More often than not, our biggest environmental impact when travelling is, well, the travelling part. There are, however, some ways to reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to transport in the Cook Islands.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint on Your Way to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
While carbon offsetting programs aren’t an excuse to fly more, they can help toward neutralising the associated danger to the planet. Most airlines have an option to pay a carbon offsetting organisation for the amount of CO2 you will emit on your flight. However, you can always do your own research and choose a reputable company with a proven program that invests in renewable energy.
Take the most direct flight to the Cook Islands. Nonstop flights generally require less fuel than flights that need to land and take off again. Check out Which Airlines Fly Directly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands? for details on how to fly more directly.
How to Travel Around the Cook Islands More Sustainably
Use public transport. Taking the bus on Rarotonga has much lower carbon emissions per head than, for instance, flying or renting your own car.
If renting a car is preferred, however, choose one of Rarotonga’s hybrid rentals with Rarotonga Rentals or stay at Magic Reef to rent one of their EVs.
It’s also important to note that Rarotonga and the other Cook Islands are all pretty small, so sometimes a bicycle or an e-bike is all you need.
For more advice on the subject, check out the 6 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in the Cook Islands.
Eco-Friendly Packing Tips for the Cook Islands
Mindful packing not only means that you may save a few bucks on excess luggage fees, but it also can help you be less wasteful while visiting Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
- Only take reef-safe sunscreen with you to the Cook Islands to protect the reefs from harmful chemicals found in traditional sunscreens
- Only use natural insect repellents to protect your skin and the environment from harmful chemicals
- To avoid having to buy bottled water, take a reusable water bottle, such as the Lifestraw Bottle, that removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria
- Pack plastic-free toiletries, such as Ethique shampoo bars, to avoid using plastic-heavy resort toiletries. Plus, no shampoo explosions from your flight!
- Choose luggage that is durable and made with recyclable materials, such as Herschel’s Eco Collection.
And, as we are sure from someone reading this guide about sustainable travel in the Cook Islands, we don’t need to tell you to skip wrapping your luggage in plastic film at the airport…
For more sustainable packing tips, head to the 30 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in the Cook Islands.
More About Ecotourism in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide to ecotourism in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more sustainability advice, check out the following guides:
- How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands
- 6 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 9 Best Eco Resorts in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, get even more tips for your trip to the Cooks using the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.