29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids
29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids

© Craig Owen – Cook Islands Tourism

Travel Advice for Families Visiting Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

What is supposed to feel like your special time away with the family can have the opposite effect when it comes to planning. Is everyone going to enjoy themselves? Are there enough things to do for the kids? Is there going to be enough time to relax? Can I bring my baby food to the Cook Islands? If you’re thinking about taking a family holiday to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, then the answer will be a resounding yes! Rarotonga is one of the best places in the South Pacific to travel with children. Resorts and activities are well-catered to family travel, with things to do for the whole family. Regardless, every parent could do with a few extra tips for a family Rarotonga and the Cook Islands vacation with kids and we are here to provide with a whopping 29 of them!

While you’re here, be sure to also open up The Complete Travel Guide to the Cook Islands for Families, which is our complete bible for family travel in Rarotonga and the Cooks.

1. Look for Accommodation Where Kids Stay Free

Our first batch of travel tips for families in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands cover accommodation! First up, have a look for places to stay where kids stay for free. Some of Rarotonga’s largest resorts, such as The Rarotongan and Edgewater Resort & Spa have regular deals like this, while even some of the smaller guys from our list of the 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations in the Cook Islands have kids-stay-free deals, especially in the low season. Just know that these deals do exist and are well worth looking out for.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

2. Double-Check That Kids are Allowed at Your Chosen Accommodation

On the other hand, there are many accommodations across Rarotonga and the Cook Islands that are exclusively for older guests, even if it’s not made obvious at first glance. A popular age restriction is “no 12 years and under”, so if it’s not completely obvious that your accommodation allows younger children, just be sure to double-check.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Alisha Street - Cook Islands Tourism

3. Book Early if Visiting During School Holidays

The New Zealand and Australian school holidays are when the Cook Islands, especially Rarotonga, are at their busiest. If you’re aiming for a school holiday escape, be sure to book accommodations and tours as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. FYI, the school holidays are the second half of April, essentially the whole month of July, the first half of October and the end of December through January. Note that the July (winter) holidays are the busiest and when flights and accommodation are at their most expensive.

Check out The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit for our advice on when to visit!

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Pixabay

4. There is No Fencing Around Swimming Pools

A little bit of a safety tip, note that there are no fences around any swimming pools in the Cook Islands, neither at holiday homes or resorts. You’ll want to keep an extra eye on little ones around the pool.

For more safety tips, head to Cook Islands Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

5. Travel with Another Family to Save on Costs

One of our 20 Tips to Save Money in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands, travelling as a group allows you to split more costs to save money. Renting a people-mover or minivan with another family is only a fraction of the cost of hiring two family cars, while more costs can be saved on group tours, supermarket shopping, holiday home hire and more.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© DH - Cook Islands Tourism

6. Stick to Rarotonga if You’re on Limited Time and Budget

With not much discount on child fares for flying to the outer islands of the Cook Islands, flying the tribe from Rarotonga to any one of the outer islands is a major expense. If you’re on a tight budget and/or on limited time (5-7 days), then we definitely recommend sticking to the main island, Rarotonga. There’s plenty to keep you occupied; just check out our Rarotonga Family Itinerary: 5 Days and Rarotonga Family Itinerary: 7 Days.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© David Kirkland - Cook Islands Tourism

7. Educate the Kids About the Cook Islands

While your kids are bound to learn a lot about the Cook Islands from cultural tours and perhaps the kids’ clubs (more on that later), get them excited for their trip away by educating them on the Cook Islands before you go! Use a map and show them where you’re all visiting and pull out some trivia from our Fun Facts About the Cook Islands for Kids.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

8. Assign Roles

It’s important to assign roles between parents or between the whole family before jetting off to the Cook Islands. Who is going to be in charge of the food? Who is going to choose the activities? Who is going to book the activities? Who is going to handle the airport check-in while the other watches the kids? Communicate these roles early so you avoid hick-ups in the Cook Islands, giving more time for everyone to enjoy themselves. Plus, assigning small roles to the children is a great way to teach responsibility.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© DH - Cook Islands Tourism

9. Prepare for the Flight with Entertainment

There’s always a bit of downtime when travelling, especially at the airport if you’ve been savvy enough to check in on time (or during any stopover if you’re coming from far). Games are an essential boredom-buster while getting the whole family bonding, so pack some travel-size games, like Uno and Connect 4 Grab & Go. They’ll also come in handy when you’re enjoying some downtown at your accommodation after a day full of adventures.

You may also want to pack a few snacks but just note that once they are opened, you probably won’t be able to pass them through Biosecurity once you land, so don’t go too overboard.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

10. Plan Some Family Fun Together

Moving onto some activity tips for the Cook Islands, of course, you’ll want to plan some family fun together. A holiday to the Cook Islands is the perfect opportunity to bond and reconnect. Head on a lagoon cruise together, enjoy some snorkelling off the beach, be captivated by an “island night” and much more. Plan your adventures using our whopping 40 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands with Kids!

Bonus Tip: Always ask if there’s a family discount on tours; they usually work out a bit cheaper than paying for adult and child tickets separately.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

11. Take Some “Me” or “Us” Time if You Need it

If parents have scuba diving on their bucket list, a spa treatment or anything else that you typically can’t bring kids along to, then consider using one of the babysitting or kids’ club services on Rarotonga. Kids’ clubs feature fun and interactive Cook Islands-related activities, especially relating to marine life and Cook Islands arts and crafts. Therefore, there’s a lot for children to get out of the experience while in safe and capable hands. Although there are some resorts with kids’ clubs exclusively for their guests, others are open to any child no matter where they are staying. Compare them all in The Best Kids’ Clubs in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands + Top 10 Babysitting.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Craig Owen - Cook Islands Tourism

12. Split Up for Some Activities

Ok, so there may be some experience that half the family aren’t too keen on, and that’s fine. Instead of booking spots (and paying the extra bucks) for tours for the whole family, make the decision to split, for example, mum and the kids or dad and one kid, etc. In the meantime, the rest of the family can do something else they’d rather do and, likely, make sure their travel budget is better spent!

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

13. Don’t Try to Fit in Too Much

On the flip side, packing your itinerary to the brim with activities is probably just going to exhaust everyone. Allow a free day or two in your holiday to relax and enjoy more the simple pleasures; a day at the beach is plenty (and kids love hermit crab hunting)!

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Craig Owen - Cook Islands Tourism

14. Prepare for a Rainy Day (and for Sunday)

With a tropical climate and rain being a possibility no matter what time of the year you visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, it’s a good idea to have one or two rainy-day backups. There are some fantastic museums and eco-centres, super fun 4WD buggy tours and much more. Head to the 20 Things to Do in the Cook Islands on a Rainy Day for ideas! Also on the subject, you’ll notice that Sundays are a little quieter in the Cook Islands, so have a look at what attractions are open in the 10 Things to Do in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands on a Sunday.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

15. Rent a Car for Only Part of Your Trip

Renting a car for the whole duration of your trip might seem like the easiest way to go, but with most vehicle rental companies in the Cook Islands offering free delivery of vehicles to any accommodation, it might make more financial sense to just get a vehicle delivered when you’re ready to use it! There are plenty of airport transfer options for your arrival on Rarotonga. Then, spend your first couple of days experiencing the restaurants and attractions closest to your accommodation. Once you’re ready to explore the rest of the island, get your vehicle delivered and you’ve just saved a couple of days (and an airport delivery fee) on car rental.

For more advice on car rentals, check out the 10 Ways to Save Money on Car & Scooter Rental in the Cook Islands.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

16. Check That Your Vehicle Rental Company Has Child Seats Available

It’s true, not all car rental companies on Rarotonga (and none on the outer islands) have baby seats or child seats available. If you have younger ones, be sure to double-check that baby seats are available with your chosen car rental. We mention the ones that do in the “Inclusions” sections of the 8 Best Car Rentals in Rarotonga: The Top Car Rental Companies. Alternatively, baby seats can be hired from Baby Hire Cook Islands but are more expensive than through a car hire company.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

16. Consider Using the Bus

We’ve talked a lot about car hire, but if you truly want to save your family travel budget for more of the fun stuff, consider using the Rarotonga buses! With the island being so small, a bus trip is never a long or painful journey with kids. In fact, it’s a fun experience where you’ll get elevated views from the road and spend more time concentrating on your kids than having to concentrate on driving. All in all, certainly don’t turn your nose up at the cheap and frequent island bus! Find out more in our guide, The Bus in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Bus Fares, Timetable & More.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

17. Save on Food By Cooking for the Tribe

The self-catering holiday is extremely popular for families in the Cook Islands! Not only is there a wealth of stays with kitchen facilities – see the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in the Cook Islands – but there are plenty of supermarkets scattered around Rarotonga for an easy grocery shop! If you’re coming from New Zealand, there will be a lot of brands you’re familiar with. Plan a self-catering holiday using A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & Cook Islands.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

18. Bring Baby Food and Snacks for the First Few Days

But if you’d rather jump into holiday mode rather than “supermarket chore” mode, then bring a few snacks for the first couple of days in the Cook Islands and combine that with eating out. You can bring food to the Cook Islands as long as it’s commercially prepared and packaged and you avoid fresh fruit and vegetables – see Taking Food to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: What You Need to Know.

On the subject, if there’s a particular brand of baby food that you want to stick to in order to avoid any stomach upsets, it’s best to bring it with you. Rarotonga has a few brands like Watties and Only Organic in the supermarkets, but the outer island grocery stores are more limited.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

19. Kids’ Menus aren’t Always “a Thing” in the Cook Islands

That’s right, kids’ menus are not available are every cafe and restaurant in the Cook Islands, even on Rarotonga, so you sometimes have to get quite creative with what younger kids can eat. Look out for “snack menus” or “smaller plates” instead, which are usually good portions for kids. If push comes to shove, you can always just order then a side or an entree.

For more tips about children’s menus and the cost, head to The Complete Travel Guide to the Cook Islands for Families.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

20. Be Discreet When Breastfeeding in Public

The Cook Islands is quite a conservative and religious country. With that in mind, it’s best to be discreet and respectful of the local culture when breastfeeding. Using a breastfeeding cloth is recommended when out in public or perhaps feeding back at your accommodation will allow you to avoid some dirty looks, as some mothers have reported having while breastfeeding in public places.

For more cultural etiquette, take a look at Cook Islander Etiquette: Rarotonga & Cook Islands Customs & Traditions.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Pexels

21. Know What Water is Safe to Drink

Safe drinking water is pretty easy to come by in Rarotonga and Aitutaki; there are public filtered water stations and many accommodations have their own UV-treated treated water. It’s important to note, however, that not all tap water is safe to drink so you need to be 100% sure that the water has been properly treated before filling up your water bottles. So that there’s no stress over the issue, we recommend getting the family a few Lifestraw water bottles that remove 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria as you suck through its filtration straw.

Find out more about water safety in Is the Water Safe to Drink in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

22. Pack Diapers (Including Waterproof Diapers)

As mentioned, a core part of your Cook Islands family holiday is spending some time in the water so waterproof nappies/diapers are a must for the packing list! As for normal nappies/diapers, Rarotonga and the Cook Islands are very reliant on cargo ships to bring essential supplies, like nappies, so these can sometimes be the items that supermarkets run out of. With that in mind, don’t take any chances and bring your own. If you want to save on space, bring reusable diapers.

For more things to do pack, check out What to Pack for Rarotonga: FULL Cook Islands Packing List.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

23. Bring Their Own Snorkelling Gear

Snorkelling is a major part of a getaway to the Cook Islands, especially considering the lagoons make for some of the safest swimming in the Sout Pacific (except for passages, which are signposted and indicated on tourist maps – so please do avoid). Make sure your kids have the best experience possible by bringing their own snorkelling gear! Snorkelling gear is available to rent or to borrow from many accommodations, but picking the right size and something that hasn’t been too “overused” is tricky.

We highly recommend masks and snorkels by TUSA Sport, as they are made with high-grade pure silicone and have a high-flow purge valve that makes clearing your snorkel a breeze.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

24. Rashies and Reef Shoes are Highly Recommended

For an extra piece of protection while spending so much time in the water, we highly recommend that you get rashies (rash vest/swimming T-shirt) for younger ones that are more prone to sunburn, especially as sunscreen otherwise needs to be applied much more often when swimming (and no kid likes being pulled out of the water every couple of hours for a sunscreen slap-on). We like Sharkskin for their rapid-dry rashies which have SPF 50+ protection, come in fully recyclable packaging and is saltwater, chlorine and UV-resistant so can be used for many more holidays to come.

We also recommend packing some reef shoes, as there is a slight risk of dangers such as standing on stonefish or bits of coral that could lead to some very unhappy children. Speedo Kid’s and Toddler’s Water Shoes are a great choice for little ones.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

25. Know That You Can Hire Baby Gear on Rarotonga

Before you go paying for excess baggage items like strollers, baby seats and whatever else, know that you can hire baby and toddler gear on Rarotonga! Baby Hire Cook Islands has high chairs, car seats, 3-wheel strollers, portacots and more essentials for daily or weekly hire, while added extras like toys, beach boxes, bouncers and more are also available. You can even get them delivered and picked up from your accommodation (for an additional fee).

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Pexels

26. Go Heavy on the Sun Protection

Perhaps the biggest health and safety concern in the Cook Islands is the sun. While it makes for an awesome holiday by the beach, the UV levels are quite high and are especially harmful on unprotected sensitive skin. Make sure you are quite strict on sun protection with child-friendly (and reef-safe) sunscreen, cover exposed skin where you can, use sunhats, stay in the shade when UV levels are at their highest (around midday) and drink plenty of water. See The Best Sunscreens for the Cook Islands + Sun Protection Tips for more advice.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

27. Remember Their Insurance Too!

When buying your travel insurance, look for insurance that covers children too. Most travel insurance companies have policies to cover kids for free if travelling with an adult so always inquire.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© Zhang Da Qiang - Cook Islands Tourism

28. Get Your First Aid Kit and Medication Together

Note that not all creams (like nappy cream) and medications are easy to find in the Cook Islands. The only pharmacies are on Rarotonga and they are all quite small. Pack all the essential medication and toiletries you might need, including the original box of the prescribed medication (with notes and the name on the prescription). We have a whole list of things to pack in your travel first aid kit, just in case there are some accidents or illnesses, in What Medication to Pack in Your First Aid Kit for the Cook Islands.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

29. Do Your Research Using Our Family Guides

Finally, while this is a little piece of shameless self-promotion, make sure you do your research! A good place to start is right here on Cook Islands Pocket Guide where we not only have The Complete Travel Guide to the Cook Islands for Families but even complete guides to each of the islands that families like to visit, such as The Complete Travel Guide to Rarotonga for Families and The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki for Families.

29 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

More Tips for Your Family Rarotonga and Cook Islands Vacation with Kids

That’s it for our list of tips for your family Rarotonga and Cook Islands vacation with kids. Congratulations on making it this far! But, of course, our advice for families in the Cook Islands doesn’t end here. Check out more tips for a family trip to the Cook Islands using the following guides:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to the Cook Islands for Families.

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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