Discover a Polynesian Paradise
Cook Islands Holidays
Fifteen specks of land scattered across two million square kilometres of wide, blue Pacific, the Cook Islands barely register on a world map but will make a big impact on your holiday. Drop in for a stopover to or from New Zealand, or plan a more in-depth South Seas island experience.
Steeped in Polynesian culture, yet with a contemporary buzz, the main island of Rarotonga has plenty to keep you occupied for three days or more, from food, music and crafts in the capital of Avarua to snorkelling on the fringing reef and exploring the forested interior. A short flight north, Aitutaki is one of the gems of the South Pacific. Take a boat trip across its stunning lagoon, snorkelling on pristine coral reefs and stepping ashore on uninhabited, palm-covered motu (islets). Atiu is different again. A rocky ‘raised reef’ island, it is covered with forest and honeycombed with limestone caves – a paradise for naturalists and bird lovers.
The Cook Islands in pictures
With a choice of idyllic resorts, we recommend a minimum 3 night stay in order to fully immerse yourself in island life and explore your surrounds, however longer itineraries are encouraged, particularly when combining multiple islands.
When is the best time to visit the Cook Islands
Enjoying a tropical climate, there’s not much variation in temperature in the Cook Islands making it a year round destination. It’s slightly cooler from June to August, but even the 30-degree-plus highs of the hottest months (January to March) are tempered by ocean breezes.
Like most South Pacific islands, it can rain any month, usually in short-lived downpours, bringing relief to high humidity. The highest rainfall occurs in summer between November and March.
What is the sea temperature in the Cook Islands?
Put simply: idyllic. Sea temperatures fluctuate from a low of around 25°C to a high of around 28-29°C – perfect if you’re contemplating a spot of snorkelling or diving.
July/August: Te Maeva Nui – cultural celebration marking self-rule
November: Vaka Eiva – outrigger canoe festival and competitions
Where to visit in the Cook Islands
You’ll touch down on the main island of Rarotonga, about 3,400km north of New Zealand. An extinct two million-year-old oceanic volcano, its mountainous interior of forest-clad peaks and ridges looms 650m above a narrow, reef-fringed coastal plain. Home to around 5,500 people, the main town of Avarua has a thriving artisan food scene and is well worth a visit, while the 32km road encircles the island makes exploring easy.
Admire the stunning lagoon ideal for snorkelling, kayaking or diving
Take a 4WD safari into the highlands or explore the ring road by scooter
Visit the bustling local market to purchase traditional arts and crafts
Learn about local history and culture on an Island Discovery Tour
When volcanic islands in the South Pacific grow old, their once mountainous interiors are worn down and eventually vanish beneath the surface leaving a ring-shaped coral reef. A 45-minute flight from Rarotonga, Aitutaki beautifully demonstrates this transition from ‘high island’ to coral atoll. A 74-square-kilometre triangle of bright turquoise, its lagoon is dotted with motu – little sandy slithers of paradise, topped with flouncy coconut palms and lapped by dazzlingly clear, warm water.
Snorkel in the pristinely clear waters of the lagoon
Watch incredible sunsets from the beach with a glass of wine
Take a lagoon cruise and get your passport stamped on One Foot Island
Try kayaking, scuba diving, kite surfing or even game fishing
A raised reef island, Atiu’s original fringing reef was forced out of the sea to form a kilometre-wide coastal plateau known as makatea. Sheer cliffs of ancient coral, up to 18m in height, are gnawed by Pacific breakers, while the island’s cave-riddled interior is covered with a dense tangle of trees and ferns. Home to beautiful birds and plants, Atiu is an ecologist’s dream, indeed its traditional name “Enuamanu” means ‘land of the birds’.
Join Birdman George on a nature tour showcasing the fascinating variety flora and fauna
Visit organic coffee plantations coaxed by locals from the rugged terrain
Explore a myriad caves and white sandy beaches tucked into the coastline
Relax in a private villa at Atiu Resort surrounded by tropical gardens