Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Trip to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is home to some of the most stunning natural underwater landscapes and islands in the world. If you’re not already environmentally conscious, then you certainly will be after you’ve seen some of the amazing wildlife and pristine pockets of paradise that are well worth protecting. The Cook Islands certainly has a way of awakening the inner eco-warrior! Get a headstart on treating the Cooks and the planet with a little more care by following our tips for travelling more sustainably in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
Sustainable Holiday Planning Tips
1. Travel in the Low Season to Prevent Overtourism
The low season offers a sustainable, cheaper and less crowded travel experience in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. Book your trip from January to March to save money and help preserve the Cook Islands. Check out more benefits of travelling in the low season in our 10 Reasons to Travel in the Low Season in the Cook Islands.
2. Head to Less-Visited Destinations
Most holidaymakers head to Rarotonga. Avoid spending too long at this hotspot to reduce the strain on their limited infrastructure. Check out some lesser-visited yet awesome destinations in The 13 Less-Travelled Islands of the Cook Islands.
3. Stay Longer to Make the Most of Your Carbon Footprint
It is no secret that your flight to the Cook Islands will have the largest carbon impact of your trip. Consider extending your stay (or waiting until you can) to make the most of the heavy environmental cost of your flight. Plan a longer trip with the help of The Best Rarotonga & Cook Islands Itineraries for 2 Weeks.
Low-Waste Packing Tips
4. Pack Reusable Items
Resuseables, such as metal straws, water bottles and shopping bags, can help save dozens of plastic from going into landfills. By packing your own (and making sure you use them), you’ll help reduce the need for single-use items during your trip and keep your waste to a minimum. By the way, check out reusable water bottles that make the Cook Islands’ tap water safe to drink in our guide, Is the Water Safe to Drink in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
5. Use Shampoo Bars Instead of Your Resort’s Shampoo Bottles
Shampoo bars are both a great way to save money on haircare (they last much longer) and reduce the amount of plastic used. Plus, this will also help you avoid the use of mini-toiletries in your resort that are extremely plastic-inefficient. We like New Zealand-made Ethique shampoo bars, but you’ll easily find brands all over the world.
6. Take Your Rubbish with You
When exploring the Cook Islands, avoid littering by packing a small bag to take your rubbish with you. Know that aerosol sprays, batteries and many plastics, for example, are not properly recycled in the Cook Islands, so take them back home where you are more likely to recycle them properly (or avoid bringing them at all).
7. Pass On or Return Brochures, Guides and Maps
Travel pamphlets and brochures are everywhere on Rarotonga and many of them are super useful. On departure, what about leaving them behind in your accommodation’s lobby, for example, so they are used a second time?
8. Use Reef-Safe Sunscreen
Standard sunscreens are made with oxybenzone and octinoxate which are harmful to the Cook Islands’ coral ecosystems. Use reef-safe sunscreen to enjoy the Cooks’ amazing coral reefs without damaging them. Check out our favourites in the 10 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens for the Cook Islands.
9. Use Natural Mosquito Repellent
DEET is the main component of standard insect repellents that contaminates soil and waterways and isn’t all that great for you either. Use lemon and eucalyptus sprays, cover your arms and legs, or use one of the other 12 Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites in the Cook Islands.
Sustainable Transportation Tips
10. Use Public Transport Wherever Possible
Rarotonga’s buses are truly a local’s experience and much better for the planet than, say, renting your own car or taking a taxi that only transports a handful of passengers. Public transport results in fewer carbon emissions per head. See all of your options for travelling in the Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.
11. Opt for Electric Cars, Scooters or Bicycles!
That’s right, there are more and more options for riding electric scooters, electric bikes and even EVs around the islands, some of which are solely charged by solar power! Find out more in the 6 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in the Cook Islands.
12. Use Shared Airport Transfers Instead of Taxis
Not only will using shared airport transfers save you money, but it will reduce the amount of gas used per passenger. Most shared airport shuttles offer quick door-to-door services. Learn more about your airport transfer options in the 8 Best Airport Transfers in the Cook Islands.
13. Offset the Carbon Cost of Your Flight
Pretty much every airline offers options to offset the carbon footprint of your flight. It’s only a few dollars but can do miracles! If you are after a more comprehensive carbon offsetting solution, however, look into myclimate.org or flygrn.com which offer great options.
14. Non-Stop Flights are Less Impactful
It is no secret that flying direct can save you a lot of time. But did you know that it also results in a lower carbon footprint? Making your total flight time shorter reduces the carbon footprint of your trip and we’re all better for it. Check out where you can take direct flights to the Cook Islands using Which Airlines Fly Directly to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Eco-Friendly Tips for Staying in Rarotonga and Cook Islands Resorts
15. Pick Eco-Resorts and Accommodations
A small selection of resorts and accommodations in the Cook Islands make a significant effort to offer their clientele a more sustainable stay. By picking accommodations that positively impact their surroundings, you’ll turn your trip into something good for you, the local community and the planet. Check out some of our picks in the 9 Best Eco Resorts in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. Plus, get further advice from How to Choose Sustainable Accommodation in the Cook Islands.
16. Stay in a Guesthouse or Backpackers
It is no secret that having more people in one room or one smaller building creates less of an environmental impact, so what about giving a shot to guesthouses or backpacker accommodations? Check out some of our top picks in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in the Cook Islands and 10 Best Guesthouses in the Cook Islands.
17. Hang-Dry Your Towel to Save on Resort and Hotel Laundries
Resort laundries are notoriously heavy on chemical detergent and water usage, so consider keeping your towel for a few days. All you’ve got to do is to hang your towel to dry instead of leaving it on the floor; the housekeeping staff will get the message.
18. Turn Off the Light, TV and A/C in Your Resort Room
Resort rooms can be cooled in a matter of minutes so there’s no need to let the air-con work all day. Before heading out, do a quick check around your room and turn off all the appliances to help decrease the power consumption of your stay.
19. Close Your Windows When Using the A/C in Your Resort (Or Avoid Using the A/C at All!)
Air-conditioning machines have to work extra hard when set in larger spaces… And there is no larger space than the Cook Islands outdoors! Make sure to keep your doors and windows closed when cranking up the A/C in your room. It will significantly reduce your power usage. Better yet, switch off the A/C, open the doors and windows at the front and back of the bungalow and use nature’s A/C: the ocean breeze!
20. Use Your Room’s “Do Not Disturb” Sign
Avoid unnecessary cleaning and chemicals by placing the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your room’s door. This way, your room will not be cleaned daily. Some resorts even offer rewards for guests doing this, such as food discounts!
21. Bring Your Own Soap and Travel Soapbox
Instead of using mini-toiletries in resorts that are extremely plastic-inefficient, use your own soap (and reusable soapbox for easy travel)! Not only will it reduce waste, but it means that you can stick to your loved and trusted brand and avoid any nasty surprises.
22. If Using Resort Consumables, Take Any Leftovers with You
If you choose to use the mini-toiletries included in your resort’s room, take them with you when you leave. No matter how much of it you have used, it will be discarded by the housekeeping staff and that’d be a shame.
Ecotourism Activities in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
23. Choose Eco-Tours
Many Cook Islands tour operators make a significant effort to offer travellers a more sustainable experience. By picking tour operators that positively impact their surroundings, you’ll turn your trip into something good for you and the planet. Check out some of our top eco-tour recommendations in the 10 Best Eco Tours in the Cook Islands.
24. Think About the Impact of Your Souvenirs
Some souvenirs found in the Cook Islands are not local and have been shipped from all over the world to be packed and transported back into your country. Pick locally made souvenirs and sustainable gifts rather than, well, plastic tatt. Check out some local gifts in the 12 Best Souvenirs from the Cook Islands.
25. Take in the Scenery
Going on a walk, snorkelling and relaxing by the beach are not just some of the most memorable experiences in the Cook Islands, but they are also some of the most sustainable. The scenery above and below the surface is, arguably, the country’s biggest selling point so why not enjoy it without the fluff of, say, a scenic flight or a motorboat tour?
26. Do Not Stand on Coral
Speaking of snorkelling and relaxing at the beach, another thing to be mindful of when looking to travel more sustainably in the Cook Islands is how you impact coral. Try not to stand on coral or break any with your fins; it takes years to regrow. Enjoy coral from a safe distance. Besides, there is some marine life you will not want to touch anyway, as outlined in Cook Islands Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
27. If You See Some Litter, Pick It Up
Not all travellers and locals are mindful. If you see some litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly. This will help keep the Cook Islands safer and potentially save some curious wildlife from choking.
Sustainability Tips in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for Food and Eating Out
28. Do Not Be Afraid to Say “No” to Plastic in Restaurants
While most restaurants and cafes on Rarotonga are using biodegradable plastic takeaway containers (which still need to be put in the normal landfill waste, by the way, as they only degrade in landfill settings), some cafes and restaurants still use plastic straws and utensils. Don’t be afraid to say no to them and use your own reusable alternative (or, you know, simply drink from the cup). Our team does this regularly and we never receive as much as a bad look.
29. Eat Local
When travelling, there’s no need to have the same imported treats from home. Try something local! Fresh locally sourced ingredients are better for the planet. Plus, you’ll hardly regret trying some of the local delicacies. We guarantee it! Check out some local eats in the Traditional Rarotongan Food: 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands and 15 Exotic Fruits in the Cook Islands You HAVE to Try!
30. Try Vegetarian or Vegan Food
Travelling is a great opportunity to try new things. You may have heard that plant-based food is easier on the planet, so why not give a shot at a vegetarian meal or two during your trip? You may discover something new and delicious. Plus, it will help reduce your impact in a multitude of ways. See some fantastic options in the Cook Islands for Vegans & Vegetarians + 10 Best Restaurants.
More About Travelling Sustainably in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our epic list of ways to travel more sustainably in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more eco-tips, check out the following guides:
- The Guide to Ecotourism in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 8 Best Eco Resorts in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Eco Tours in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, get even more tips for your trip using the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.