Is Rarotonga and the Cook Islands Worth Visiting?
A scattering of 15 tiny islands across 2,200,000 km² (850,000 sq mi) of ocean, the Cook Islands is barely visible on the world map. With that, you can be forgiven for thinking: What is it like to visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? In this guide, we’ll give you a quick rundown on the weather, culture and landscapes, as well as what it’s like to visit each of its diverse islands.
Rarotonga and the Cook Islands are Like…
… Modern Polynesia
… Picture-perfect islands
… A tropical New Zealand
… One big resort
The Cook Islands is a tropical country with a dry and warm “dry season” and a humid and hot “wet season”. Temperatures are an average of between 21°C and 27°C (70-81°F) all year round. This makes the Cook Islands a year-round destination of sunshine, warmth and, admittedly, a bit of rain.
Learn more about the climate in the Cooks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month.
The Cook Islander culture is a Polynesian culture with traditions in dancing, crafts and ceremonies usually involving extravagant feasts. Cook Islanders, however, are very well-travelled; more live outside of the Cook Islands than in the Cook Islands. They enjoy many Western cultural aspects of life, which is evident in the cosmopolitan ambience of the country’s main town, Avarua.
The Cook Islands is made up of mostly lagoon atolls and uplifted coral atolls. Rarotonga, itself, is the most unique in the Cook Islands in that it’s a larger volcanic island. However, there are no active volcanoes. Rarotonga has jagged mountain peaks reaching up to 413m (1,355ft) above sea level. The interior is mostly covered in lush rainforest, leading out to taro and tropical fruit plantations, then to a circular road around the coast where most settlements are. On the coast are mostly white-sand beaches, while a lagoon encircles almost the entire island.
Learn more about the landscapes and natural sights to visit in The Top 10 Natural Wonders in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
What is it Like to Visit Rarotonga
Rarotonga brings a contemporary face to Polynesia. The main town, Avarua is brimming with shops, cafes and a popular Saturday market, while the coast is lined with a variety of resorts and beach accommodations. Sharing a currency with New Zealand and while most Cook Islanders actually live in New Zealand, there are many cultural aspects and similarities with New Zealand Maori. With that, Rarotonga is like a tropical New Zealand.
With a 32km (20-mile) road around the island, everywhere is close on Rarotonga. This makes Rarotonga especially easy to get around, whether it’s to head to Muri Beach for some watersports, to Arorangi for a dinner on the beach, or Avarua for a night out on the town.
Find out more about what it’s like to visit Rarotonga in The Complete Travel Guide to Rarotonga.
What is it Like to Visit Aitutaki
The second-most visited island in the Cook Islands, Aitutaki is an atoll with a large central lagoon lined by one large island, home to all of Aitutaki’s villages, and around 15 uninhabited islets.
Aitutaki is rather sleepy in comparison to Rarotonga with only a handful of cafes and only the essential shops and services. There is still a good selection of accommodations, including resorts but are mostly boutique.
The best way to describe Aitutaki is that it’s like paradise; unspoiled islands, turquoise waters and certainly a place to get away from it all.
Find out more about what it’s like to visit Aitutaki in The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki.
What is it Like to Visit the Outer Cook Islands
Visiting the outer islands of the Cook Islands is unlike visiting Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The tourism industries on these islands are minuscule, receiving less than 1% of visitors to the country. Visiting these islands is really down-to-earth, like visiting the real South Pacific.
Islands like Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro have a couple of tourist accommodation options in the form of guesthouses, self-contained cottages and, in the case of Atiu, villas with a central swimming pool. Head to islands, such as Manihiki, Penrhyn or Pukapuka, and you’ll be assigned to the islands’ only visitor guesthouse or bungalow where locals will provide all the food for you and take you out on their boats to show you their lagoons. It’s quite literally the most authentic way to experience the Cook Islands, as detailed in How to Have an Authentic Cook Islander Experience.
Find out more about what it’s like to visit the outer Cook Islands, starting by browsing through The Complete Travel Guide to the Southern Cook Islands and The Complete Travel Guide to the Northern Cook Islands.
More About What it is Like to Visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide on what it is like to visit Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, but it’s just the beginning! Learn more about what it’s like to visit the Cooks through the following articles:
- The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands
- 21 Fun Facts About Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- What are the 15 Islands in the Cook Islands?
Finally, start planning the ultimate trip to the Cooks with The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide.