I just got back from the Cook Islands. When I tell people I went there, I pretty much get a lot of blank stares. I think a lot of people don’t really know where that is, and I admit I didn’t either when I was pitched to visit.
WHERE IS COOK ISLANDS? Cook Islands is a bunch of small islands in the middle of the South Pacific ocean northeast of New Zealand between French Polynesia and American Samoa/Hawaii. There make up a compilation of a several small islands, and I visited the largest island of Rarotonga and a smaller island called Aitutaki.
FLIGHTS TO COOK ISLANDS: I went with the Cook Islands Tourism Board for one week. I flew direct on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles into Rarotonga, which is a 10 hour flight. There is only 1 direct flight a week on Air New Zealand. We took an 11:30pm flight on Saturday night and arrived in Cook Islands early Sunday morning. Because it was a sponsored trip flights were covered, but I got many questions how much flights cost to go there. I looked them up and they range from around $1200-2k, but depending on what time of year.
RAROTONGA: I spent 5 full days on the main island of Rarotonga. Rarotonga is the island you fly into, and is the largest of the Cook Islands. Even though it is the largest, it is still quite small. You can drive around the entire island in 45 minutes. Rarotonga is absolutely beautiful. Breathtaking and deserted beaches with crystal clear water, and jungle hikes up to mountain peaks with incredible views. We rented a car and had the luxury to stop and go as we pleased and had the freedom to explore wherever and whenever we wanted. There are so many dogs all over the island and they were all so cute and friendly. They hang around the beaches and are all over the streets, but they are harmless. You can find them fishing in the ocean, laying on the sand, walking the streets or just hanging around the local restaurants to be near people.
WHERE TO EAT: Charlie’s, Trader Jacks, Bamboo Jacks, and La Casita for Mexican are all popular dining destinations. Also the Muri night market is a happening spot for dinner, but it’s not every night so make sure to check before going.
WHERE I STAYED: I stayed at the Nautilus Resort on Muri Beach the whole time in Rarotonga. Rooms were really nice and spacious! You can also rent water sports equipment for free and explore the beaches and islands near by which is cool.
Te Vera Nui Cultural Experience- I did a cultural night at Te Vera Nui where I learned about Cook Islands history and culture, as well as saw an impressive Polynesian dance performance and had an authentic dinner with local cuisine. I also wore a set that was made by local designers. Always like to support local businesses.
-BlackRock- Great swimming area. Big black rock near the shore. Very picturesque.
Hospital Hill- Great viewpoint of the island
-Muri Beach- most famous and popular beach on Rarotonga for visitors
-Aro’A Beach- pristine white sand beach with crystal clear waters
-Papa’ Aroa Beach- beautiful beach lagoon lined with coconut palms
-Punanga Nui Markets- Great place to go on Saturday mornings for some fresh local produce
AITUTAKI: I took a one night trip to Aitutaki and stayed at the Pacific Resort, which is considered the nicest resort on the island, and it’s beautiful. Aitutaki is even smaller than Rarotonga, and I highly recommend taking a lagoon cruise for the day and sail around all the small islands around Aitutaki. This was one of my favorite days in Cook Islands! I got to snorkel and spend the day on the boat sightseeing all the islands, and I have never seen water so blue and clear! So many photo opps and picturesque moments. I went on the Vaka Cruise Tour which is a great option for the day trip with a really friendly staff and a delicious mid-day lunch on the boat. I took a Cultural Tour the next day where I cooked my own lunch in the earth, and learned how to weave my own plate from palm leaves. I also learned about the culture, traditions and history of the small island of Aitutaki and the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands is nowhere I have ever been. I kept saying how I felt at peace and so relaxed. It almost felt like you were at the edge of the universe, so far away from everything feeling so detached from the rest of the world. There were barely any tourists, in fact I didn’t come across another American the whole week I was there. Cell phone service and wifi were very limited, so I had no choice but to let go and just disconnect. It felt good. Although there is some night life there in the center of town, it’s a very quiet island at night for the most part. Even during the days it felt quiet, especially on the beaches. The only way I can describe it is you really feel like you are in another universe, it felt so different. I think what made it feel different and special is the fact that it is still so untouched. Everything is locally owned and passed down from generation to generation, and there is no western influence. Also the energy of the people is what made it special as well. They were very friendly, and the island itself felt safe and had good vibes. I would say Cook Islands is a less touristy and less expensive version of other places in French Polynesia like Fiji and Tahiti. Accommodations are cheaper as well, but the beaches seem just as beautiful. It’s a place definitely worth looking into for a relaxing beach vacation.
I will be posting a VLOG on the trip. Stay tuned!