How to Ride a Scooter in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands
The quintessential image of road tripping in the Cook Islands is on a scooter with the tropical breeze flowing through your hair (or around your helmet, as the case is likely to be). But if you haven’t ridden a scooter before, let alone in the Cook Islands, then there are a few things you definitely need to know before “hitting” the road (or else our figurative phrase might turn literal). Don’t worry, we’ve come up with some essential tips for riding a scooter in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the rest of the Cook Islands that will make you more prepared.
Where to Hire a Scooter in the Cook Islands
Scooter rental is available from vehicle hire companies in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Some accommodations on the outer islands also rent out scooters to guests that otherwise would not have any other transport alternatives. Check out where to hire your scooter from in the following guides:
- Scooter Hire on Rarotonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More
- Scooter Hire on Aitutaki: Where to Rent, Cost & More
- Scooter Hire on Atiu: Where to Rent, Cost & More
Now, onto our tips for riding a scooter in the Cook Islands!
1. Get Your Scooter License
Renting a scooter on Rarotonga isn’t as easy as it used to be. Due to increased accidents on the roads involving scooters, you’re now permitted to apply for a Cook Islands visitor scooter license complete with a theory and practical test at the Avarua Police Station! It’s quite the process, so make sure you head to How to Get a Rarotonga & Cook Islands Scooter License to learn how to get your license. Note that if you’re already licensed to ride a motorcycle in your home country, then you won’t likely need to apply for a visitor license – see Can You Drive in the Cook Islands With an Overseas License? for more details.
On Aitutaki and the other outer islands, however, you won’t need to go through the same ordeal. Just go to the Police Station with your overseas license and purchase a visitor’s scooter license (it’s only around NZ$2.50!) Bonus tip: this license is still valid if you take it back to Rarotonga.
2. Wear a Helmet (on Rarotonga)
On Rarotonga, it is mandatory to wear a helmet while riding a scooter. With this in mind, make sure that you factor in the cost of hiring a helmet, as they are not always included in the rental rate of your scooter. Note that a helmet is not mandatory on the outer islands, including Aitutaki, and you will unlikely be able to hire one.
Learn more about the cost of helmet rental and more in our guide, Scooter Hire in Rarotonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
3. Most Rental Scooters are Automatic and 125cc (So are Easy to Ride)
If you’re a little worried about whether you’ll be able to ride a scooter in the Cook Islands, don’t be. They are incredibly easy to ride, as almost all scooter rentals for tourists are a) automatic transmission so there are no changing gears and b) have only a 125cc engine so you’re unlikely to speed up too quickly to handle. You’ll have a short practical test at the Police Station on Rarotonga anyway, so if you really are a hazard to yourself, then at least they won’t give you a license…
When hiring a scooter on the outer islands, have a few practice laps of the car park, getting comfortable stopping, accelerating and controlling the bike, before hitting the road.
4. If You are Riding Scooters in a Group, Ride in Single-File
If there’s a couple or a bunch of you riding around the Cook Islands on scooters, then resist the urge to ride alongside each other for a chat. The done thing in the Cook Islands is to ride in single file in the middle of your lane; not riding side by side nor to one side.
5. Only Two People are Permitted on the Same Scooter
Scooters only fit one driver and one passenger, which equals two people in total! Both riders must be seated astride; not sideways. The pillion (the name given to a motorcycle passenger) must be sat behind the driver.
6. Don’t Burn Your Leg
A common mistake for scooter newbs is burning a leg on the hot exhaust pipe. Most rental scooters have a protective casing over the pipes now, but still, don’t go flinging your legs around after a ride, especially if you’re the pillion passenger.
7. Watch Out for Animals
There are quite a few hazards on the roads of the Cook Islands that you have to be extra careful of when riding a scooter. One of them (or many of them, should we say?) is animals. On all of the Cook Islands, chickens, roosters, pigs and crabs are often on the roads, while dogs are thrown into the mix on Rarotonga. Just take your time when riding your scooter anywhere in the Cook Islands – sticking to the speed limits helps – and you should have enough time to react when you approach a new friend on the road. Check out the speed limits and other road rules in How to Drive in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands + 10 Road Rules.
8. Be Careful of Potholes
A scooter rider’s worst enemy, potholes can mean the difference between you on your scooter and you on the ground. Luckily, the roads you’re going to use the most in Rarotonga and Aitutaki are well-sealed, but there are odd sections of roads (and most of the roads on the outer islands) that have potholes. Again, drive at a reasonable speed, pay attention and you should be able to avoid any pothole with ease.
See more tips like this in the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
9. Rethink Riding a Scooter Outside of Rarotonga and Aitutaki
Despite what those crazy mamas are doing riding scooters on the bumpy gravel roads of Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Atiu, etc, scooters aren’t exactly the most comfortable method for road trips around these outer islands. If your accommodation on these outer islands gives you a choice between a car or a scooter, seriously consider the car instead!
10. Respect the Same Road Rules as Other Drivers
Finally, you’re riding a scooter; not a bicycle, so you still need to follow the same road rules as if you were driving a car. Your theory test for obtaining your license on Rarotonga will remind you what road rules you need to know, but we cover the essential ones in How to Drive in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands + 10 Road Rules.
More About Riding a Scooter in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands
So, that’s all of our top tips for riding a scooter in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands, but by no means the end of our advice! Check out some more guides to help your Cook Islands adventure run smoothly:
- The Driving Times in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands You Need to Know
- Scooter Hire in Rarotonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More
- Scooter Hire in Aitutaki: Where to Rent, Cost & More
Finally, check out alternative ways of getting around in our Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.