Plan the Ultimate Couples’ Trip or Honeymoon to the Cook Islands
With unmatched island beauty to go with your unmatched other half, what better place to celebrate the rest of your lives together than the Cook Islands? Whether you’re newlyweds or simply seeking a romantic retreat, the little pieces of Pacific paradise that make up the Cooks offer romantic down-to-earth experiences and gorgeous adults-only boutique resorts. Start planning the ultimate couples’ escape with this complete romantic getaway and honeymoon 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 miles) 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 – 2,000mm/79″.
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 yachts. The most popular way to get to the Cook Islands for couples 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 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 102-174mm (4-6.9″). 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 for a Honeymoon in the Cook Islands
With warm temperatures and less rain than in the wet season but not the crowds of the dry season, the months of September, October and November are the best time for a honeymoon in the Cook Islands.
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.
Couples’ Cook Islands Packing List:
- 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 which we keep updated in What Documents Do I Need to Travel to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands? More info 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 couples, 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 is 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, you have enough time to see the highlights of Rarotonga. Check out our Rarotonga Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 3 Days for a romantic long weekend.
5 Days in the Cook Islands
5 days gives you more time to comfortably explore one of the Cook Islands’ most popular islands, either Rarotonga or Aitutaki. See either the Rarotonga Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 5 Days or Aitutaki Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 5 Days for trip ideas.
7 Days / One Week in the Cook Islands
Some couples will find that 7 days is ideal for a mix of adventure and relaxation on Rarotonga, while more intrepid couples might want to squeeze in a trip to Aitutaki. Get some inspiration on what to do and where to go from our Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance 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 Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 10 Days for our recommended trip for couples. Alternatively, do some island exploration with the Rarotonga & Cook Islands Island-Hopping Itinerary: 10 Days.
14 Days / Two Weeks in the Cook Islands
Adventurous couples can visit multiple atolls in the Cook Islands, or simply enjoy Rarotonga and Aitutaki for longer – there’s plenty to do! See Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 14 Days for a relaxing couples’ trip. Alternatively, head to the outer islands with our Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mauke & Mitiaro Itinerary: 14 Days or Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu & Mangaia Itinerary: 14 Days.
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 miles) 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 in the Cook Islands for Couples
Couples seeking romance will most definitely want to include Aitutaki in the itinerary. Renowned as the Cook Islands’ honeymoon hotspot, the atoll is characterised by its pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear lagoon waters. For couples who love the adventure of exploration, any of the outer islands, like Atiu and Mangaia reward couples with the “private beach” experience time and time again. For all of the best islands for honeymooning or romantic getaways in the Cook Islands, we’ve curated the following guides:
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Rarotonga
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Aitutaki
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Atiu
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Mangaia.
The Other Southern Cook Islands
If the recommendations above don’t inspire, browse what the other atolls of the Cook Islands have to offer starting with the other Southern Group islands:
- Mauke Travel Guide – Uplifted atoll with beaches and 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 couples to get around each of the islands, whether it’s for ultimate freedom or because 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 the islands of the Cooks, especially when you’re both snuggled on one together! 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 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 circumventing the island in opposite directions at the same time. 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: Couples’ Accommodation in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands has a broad and impressive range of holiday accommodations for couples, from five-star resorts to humble holiday homes. Most accommodations are boutique, with only a few large resorts on Rarotonga, while most are also for the mid-range to the luxury market. But there are a few budget options if push comes to shove.
Take a look at accommodation styles across the Cook Islands in The BEST Cook Islands Accommodations: Where to Stay as well as some of the most romantic in the 20 Most Romantic Honeymoon Resorts in the Cook Islands.
Resorts and Adults-Only Resorts
Lining the beaches of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, many of the Cook Islands’ resorts not only serve the greater crowd of holidaymakers but have special services for couples, whether it be a honeymoon suite, “his & her” spa treatments or private dining on the beach. A significant portion of Rarotonga and Aitutaki’s resorts are “adults only”, meaning that guests are no younger than 12, 16 or 18 years old, ensuring a more tranquil tone is set at the resort. Compare resorts in 20 Most Romantic Honeymoon Resorts in the Cook Islands, as well as adults-only resorts in the 20 Best Adults-Only Resorts in the Cook Islands.
For couples seeking a little more privacy, the Cook Islands’ boutique villa complexes or private holiday villas fit the bill. On Rarotonga and Aitutaki, you have luxury villas kitted out with a private pool and impressive design choices, and some on Rarotonga also have their own spa. Alternatively, private holiday villas are available, which are basically more upscale holiday homes. Compare both in the 25 Best Villas in the Cook Islands.
Boutique accommodation refers to small-scale accommodations, such as resorts with only a few rooms or properties with just a couple of bungalows on the beach. Villas or resorts can fall into this category, but boutique accommodations can also include self-contained beach houses, of which there are a few in Aitutaki and Rarotonga. The boutique accommodation is so appealing for couples seeking a romantic stay due to the serenity and exclusivity these accommodations provide. Discover some of our favourite boutique accommodations in the 10 Best Boutique Accommodations in the Cook Islands.
Things to Do in the Cook Islands for Couples
Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to do in the Cook Islands than drink cocktails and sit by the pool. 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 the most “romantic” experiences, here are our recommendations:
- Sunset cruise – A boat trip to an uninhabited islet for sunset
- Couples’ spa treatment – Get a “his and her’s” massage
- Uncrowded beaches – Surround yourselves in paradise
- Kayaking & SUP – Team up to explore the lagoons
- Private beach dinner – To celebrate a special occasion
- Hiking – Rarotonga’s interior is awash in jungle and mountain hikes to explore together
- 4WD tours – Ride together or race each other on a self-drive quad and buggy tours…
… And there’s a lot more where those came from in the 20 Most Romantic Things to Do in the Cook Islands for Couples!
More Activities in the Cook Islands
While not necessarily falling under the “romance” category, couples might also like to add some of the Cook Islands’ highlight experiences onto their honeymoon bucket list:
- Snorkelling – Snorkel in the lagoons or join sea scooter tours
- Swimming with turtles – Join snorkelling tours to prime turtle habitat
- Lagoon cruises – Visit uninhabited islets, snorkel and enjoy delicious local food
- Scuba diving – Choose from tens of dives sites, from drop-offs to caves
- Kitesurfing – There are flat lagoons and ideal trade winds
- Game fishing – The South Pacific’s largest pelagics can be caught
- Whale watching – Watch or snorkel with whales between July and October
- 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 all sorts of amazing 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 yourselves 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.
Private Beach Dining
Have a special occasion to celebrate? Celebrate it with a private dining experience on the beach. On Rarotonga, the adults-only Crown Beach Resort & Spa offers private dining under a gorgeous decorated gazebo on the beach, while Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort, Aitutaki Escape and Etu Moana all offer private dining experiences on the sands of Aitutaki. Trust us, this experience of dining with your toes in the sand while watching the sunset is readily available.
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 the 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 diets, 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 a Honeymoon in the Cook Islands
Every couple travels 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 Accommodation
- Guesthouse private room/night – NZ$60-$200
- Budget resort ensuite room/night – NZ$130-$220
- Mid-range resort ensuite room/night – NZ$230-$550
- Self-contained double room/night – NZ$160-$550
- Luxury villa/night – NZ$700-$2,000
You might also like to check out accommodation with honeymoon packages that include perks for newlyweds, check them out in the 10 Best Honeymoon Packages in the Cook Islands.
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 a Romantic Getaway or Honeymoon to the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete romantic getaway and honeymoon guide to the Cook Islands. For more advice for couples, check out these last few articles:
- How to Plan a Wedding in the Cook Islands
- Cook Islands Proposal Ideas: 5 Romantic Ways to Propose
- 10 Reasons a Wedding in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands is a Must!
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 romantic getaway and honeymoon guide to the Cook Islands!