A must-see stop over destination
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.
About 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. A 32km road encircles the island making it easy to explore on a four-hour Island Discovery Tour. Other popular excursions include lagoon cruises, a 4WD safari into the highlands and a nature walk delving into Polynesian fauna, flora and folklore. Home to around 5,500 people, the main town of Avarua has a thriving artisan food scene and is well worth exploring.
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. A lagoon cruise is a must.
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. Local islanders have coaxed organic coffee plantations from the rugged terrain and we can arrange for you to visit them. But the highlight of a visit to Atiu is a nature tour with Birdman George, venturing deep into the makatea jungle in search of fruit doves, red lorikeets, kingfishers and the kopeka cave swiftlet.