The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scattered over an area of about 2 million square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are a paradise that invites you to come and get away from it all, to soak in the sun and thousands of years of Polynesian history and culture. Rarotonga is the largest and most visited island. However, I would definitely advise you to visit a few islands while you are here since once you leave the main island, you have miles of beaches virtually to yourself! We often think of the Pacific Islands as incredibly expensive and exotic destinations but this island, close to New Zealand, is actually very affordable. You get all the paradise benefits of a place like Tahiti but without the crazy prices!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in the Cook Islands
1. Take a Aitutaki Day Cruise
2. Go hiking
3. Watch traditional dance shows
4. Go diving
5. Muri Beach
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Te Vara Nui Village
Te Vara Nui Village is the cultural center where you can learn about the history of the native population. Ura Po is a popular thing to do. It is a dining and island night show on floating and fixed stages set in botanical gardens surrounded by waterfalls. Prices start at 30 NZD for adults and 20 NZD for children.
2. Tinomana Palace
The palace is a two-story formation of coral and lime. It is located in Arorangi village and was constructed by the British. The name means ‘The Peace Brought by Christianity’.
3. Take a fishing trip
The Cook Islands offer exceptional opportunities for deep sea game fishing. The currents, reefs and submarine topography foster ideal conditions for wahoo, barracuda, dolphin fish, yellowfin and skipjack tuna, sailfish, marlin and mahi mahi. Prices will vary depending on how long you fish for and whether you book a private charter. Expect to pay at least 150-200 NZD per person.
4. Go kayaking
Kayaking is an easy, fun, and relaxed way to explore the lagoon around Rarotonga island. The best place for kayaking on Rarotonga is around Muri Beach and the southeast coast near four uninhabited islands. Expect to spend around 30 NZD for a half-day rental.
5. Aitutaki Marine Research Center
This small research center is often working on some form of marine restoration and has green sea turtles which visitors are able to pick up. Admission is free, though they run on donations.
6. Punanga Nui Market
This market in town is filled with many locally made crafts, produce, baked goods, musicians, and people.
7. Arai-Te-Tonga Koutu-nui-Ariki
Not far from town lay the ruins of an ancient royal court. This particular area is where tribal feasts were held. There is a 10-foot platform and large stone pillars, though most of the area is overgrown.
8. Papua Waterfall
This waterfall is at the end of a beautiful hike and has a natural pool to swim in.
9. Brush up on your Marine Biology
The Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife museum is a tiny place, but offers lots of interesting displays of fossils and skeletons. It’s a good option for a stormy day, or if you just need to get out of the sun. Admission is 12 NZD for adults and 6 NZD for children.
10. Snorkel the Maitai Wreck
In 1916, a boat carrying a load of Model T Fords sunk off the coast of Roratonga. The wreck is only four or five meters underwater, and clear visibility makes it great for snorkeling.