About the Cook Islands

Kia Orana

Welcome to our necklace of islands in the sun.

We extend the hand of friendship and invite you to share in the warmth of our hospitality.

Quality of life here is measured in languid days, majestic sunsets, inviting azure-coloured reefs and warm smiles. Imagine awakening to a caressing breeze, spending the day exploring pristine beaches where yours are the only footprints, or floating among jewel-coloured fishes in one of the calm lagoons protected by reefs that encircle the islands.

The Cook Islands nation consists of 15 islands scattered over 1.85 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean (see map). They lie in the centre of the Polynesian Triangle, flanked to the west by the Kingdom of Tonga and the Samoas’ and to the east by Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia. The islands are geographically split into 2 groups - the Northern Group (Manihiki, Rakahanga, Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Nassau, Suwarrow and Palmerston) - and the Southern Group (Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, Mauke, Mangaia, Manuae and Takutea).

Rarotonga, principal island of the Cook Islands, lies 700 miles (1130 kilometres) southeast of Tahiti, its closest neighbour. The island is almost 20 miles (31.6 kilometres) in circumference with a population of around 9,000. It’s a magical place. The island is lush green, with a dense tropical rain forest in the centre on rising mountain peaks. Flat coastal land is covered with tropical trees and flowers.

The Cook Islands are a safe comfortable place to visit and relax where most of the population speak English as well as their natural tongue of Cook Islands Maori. The local greeting is “Kia Orana” (may you live on), while other useful words are “Meitaki Maata” (Many Thanks), “Ka Kite” (See Ya), “Aere Ra” (farewell or goodbye), and “Kia Manuia” (Cheers or Good Luck).

Getting Here  Accommodation  Transport


A visit to the Cook Islands is not complete without seeing the beautiful island of Aitutaki. It’s breathtaking allure of crystal clear turquoise waters and sparkling white beaches is an essential ingredient in any Cook Island holiday. Unsurpassed natural beauty and tranquillity, provide a wonderful tonic to sooth away the pressures of the outside world.

Just 220 kilometres north of Rarotonga (see map), Aitutaki is less than an hour’s flight away. It is partly volcanic and partly of atoll origin. A spectacular lagoon (45 kilometres around) is abundant with coloured fish of many varieties, and it’s perimeter is sprinkled with many small and charming uninhabited islands (motus).

Aitutaki Island Day trips from Rarotonga can include an island tour and a lagoon cruise to visit Tapuaetai (One Foot Island). Lunch is prepared for you, whilst you relax and work on your tan, explore the beaches, go snorkeling or hand feed the fish - an unforgettable experience.

Air Rarotonga operate regular schedules daily. One Day Excursions [Day Tours] operate Monday to Saturday, depart from Rarotonga at 8am and return at 6:30pm. Included are hotel transfers, airfares, Aitutaki Island Tour taking in the entire main island, lagoon cruise, snorkeling and lunch.


The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm and sunny climate year round. The drier months from April to November have an average maximum temperature of about 26 degrees centigrade with lower humidity levels. A sweater is sometimes needed in the winter evenings June through August. During December through March the humidity is higher with temperatures ranging between 22 degrees centigrade and 30 degrees. Cyclone season is between November and March, however, severe weather is rare and infrequent.


The Cook Islands unit of currency is the New Zealand Dollar. This is supplemented by some Cook Island coins: 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2 and $5. These coins are not negotiable outside the Cook Islands, but make great souvenirs. New Zealand dollars may be purchased at the airport, ANZ or BSP bank, or the Western Union Office, downtown Avarua. A Cook Islands $3 note is also available & is legal currency here, but has souvenir value only in your home country.

There are 15 ATM machines available on Rarotonga and two on Aitutaki Island operated by ANZ, Bonk of South Pacific [BSP] and Bank of the Cook Islands [BCI] Banks. The ANZ machines are located at the Main Branch Avarua [2], Cooks Corner, Foodland Supermarket, Muri MiniMart, Wigmores Super Store Vaimaanga and The Rarotongan Resort & Spa and one on Aitutaki.

BSP ATMs are situated at their main branch [2], Rarotonga Airport, Oasis Energy Centre, Wigmores Superstore Vaimaanga, and TEM Store Muri plus one on Aitutaki.

BCI have 2 ATMs at their building in Avarua.

Money transfers may be sent to the Cook Islands from anywhere in the world via both banks and Western Union Money Transfer Service.

Credit cards

Most major credit cards are accepted at many restaurants, hotels, and stores; and Cash advances on your Visa, MasterCard, or Diners Club cards can be arranged at either bank or the Western Union office.

Please note: The use of Credit cards in the Outer Islands is less common, and is mainly restricted to larger accommodators in Aitutaki.


Most stores and businesses are open between 8:00am and 4:00pm allowing ample time for relaxed shopping. There are a few outlets open beyond these times and a couple of 24 hour places too. Many small stores in villages open about 7:00am, and are often open till 8:00pm or later.


You may drive in the Cook Islands on your current drivers license, subject to any restrictions applying to that license. If you wish to drive a vehicle of a class that in NOT included in your current license, then you will need to obtain a Cook Islands Drivers license from the Police Department. i.e. You have a car drivers license but wish to drive a scooter.

You will need to present your current license and undergo a practical test. If you have no existing license you will need to pass a written as well as practical test before a license is issued.

Driving is on the left-hand side and the speed limit is 50km/hr except in defined Reduced Speed zones.

Motor Cyclists under the age of 25 years MUST wear a Helmet. Other Motor Cyclists NOT wearing a Helmet are restricted to 40km/hr.

Special events

Several annual events during the year provide a great opportunity to appreciate Cook Islands Culture.

The events include:

  • Constitution Celebrations early August.
  • National Gospel Day pageant (Nuku), 26 October.
  • Tiare Week Festival - Mid November
  • Dancer of the Year competition

Cultural activities are also provided all year round at the renowned Highland Paradise and all major resorts

Medical services

A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga. This includes a hospital and emergency services, as well as an optometrist. Various pharmacies are available for prescription medicine.

Water and Electricity

Voltage is 220 AC/50 cycle, the same as New Zealand and Australia. In some cases, a two pin adapter may be required. Some hotels and motels have provisions for 110 volt AC electric razors. Although some visitors prefer to boil water before use, it is not necessary. Bottled water is available from the local shops for those who wish to purchase.


International Telephone, Facsimile, E-mail, Internet connections and services are available to 11:00pm daily from the telecommunications office (Bluesky Cook Islands) in the main township of Avarua. Most accommodation properties have IDD facilities. Click Here to view Bluesky Cook Islands for more detailed info

Internet Access is available through an increasing number of WiFi Hot Spots scattered around Rarotonga and also through Cyber Cafés.Bluesky Cook Islands refer to these as Bluezone locations. View a list of Bluezone Wi-Fi Hot Spot locations here

Mail and telegrams are available from the Post Office, open Monday to Friday 8:00am to 4:00p


Dogs are free to roam, and from time to time are a nuisance to drivers. If possible, the best thing to do is pull to the side of the road, however, if this is not practical, hold your driving line and let the dog do the maneuvering.


Mosquitos are more common inland than by the beach. However, insect repellent is readily available, or you may bring your own.


Although the dress code is informal, we do ask that brief attire not be worn when visiting town or villages. Nude or topless sunbathing will cause offence. A light sweater may come in handy for the cooler evenings during July and August.

If you go to church, ladies, please show respect by wearing a dress or skirt.


Rarotonga boasts a large number of restaurants - over 28 - catering for a wide range of tastes and styles. This gives adventurous visitors the perfect opportunity to dine out at a different place, and sample different styles of food, every night of their visit

More about the Cook Islands

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Customs  Legends  Arrive/Depart  Transport