Kia Orana and welcome to the beautiful Cook Islands!
An idyllic island paradise in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands enjoys a perfect tropical climate and showcases an impressive landscape of rugged mountains, crystal clear lagoons and pristine secluded beaches. With so much to offer, the Cook Islands is the perfect destination for family fun, action and adventure, or rest and relaxation.
When to visit
The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasant, warm and sunny climate all year round and the best time to visit depends on your personal preference.
- December to March - marks the warmer, more humid season, with occasional tropical showers. The temperature ranges between 22 degrees and 30 degrees.
- April to November - These are the drier months with an average temperature of 26 degrees. June to August period experiencing slightly cooler temperatures.
Whale watching season generally starts in July and finishes around October. Often seen from the Raratonga foreshore, whales seek the warm waters of the Cooks to mate, give birth and rest.
Kitesurfing is possible year-round due to passing low pressure systems on the tropical belt however the trade winds provide the best experience from May to October.
Learn more about the 2 most popular islands of the Cook Islands:
Australian passport holders do not currently require a visa for a stay as a tourist of up to 31 days but must hold a passport with at least seven days validity beyond the intended period of stay in the Cook Islands. A confirmed on-ward or returned ticket is also required. If you are a non-Australian passport holder, please check your visa requirements with the appropriate Embassy or Consular office.
As modern Pacific people, high-spirited Cook Islanders are a cosmopolitan blend of western influence and ancient Polynesian heritage. Like any true blooded Maori, they enjoy pomp, splendour and big ceremonies with traditional customs and much feasting. Hospitality, smiles and a warm welcome come naturally.
The natural, unspoilt beauty and charm of the Cook Islands is matched by the friendliness of its people who think nothing of offering a lift, striking up a conversation or inviting visitors on a night out. Part of their culture and outgoing spirit involves engaging with travellers and sharing their little paradise lifestyle.
The inherent traits of genuine care for others and love of family are apparent, no matter the island background. The bond of family is vital and extended family is an integral part of life. Children often live with grandparents and nephews and nieces live with aunts and uncles. Adoption of family members is widely encouraged.
Festivals are an important part of life, with fierce competition between the islands to produce the most outstanding performers.
Closely linked in culture and language to the Maori in New Zealand, the Maohi of French Polynesia, the Rapanui of Easter Island and the Kanaka Maoli of Hawaii – about 87% of Cook Islanders are Polynesian Cook Island Maori.
- The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar, supplemented by local coins. The unique local coins and notes are not negotiable outside of the Cook Islands, but are keenly sought by collectors worldwide.
- ATMs are conveniently located around Rarotonga and Aitutaki and credit cards are accepted at most hotels and stores. Western Union has an office in Avarua offering money exchange and transfers.
- Electricity voltage is 240 AC/50 cycle, the same three pin plugs as used in New Zealand and Australia. Some hotels have outlets for 110 volt AC electric razors.
- Although the dress code is informal, it is recommended to dress modestly when visiting town, villages and church. Nude or topless sunbathing will cause offence. A light sweater may come in handy for the cooler evenings.
- Cook Islands Maori is the local language but everyone also speaks English.
When shopping in the Cook Islands you’ll find an exquisite array of unique handicrafts, jewellery, art and clothing for sale in an excellent choice of retail outlets.
- Rito hats are intricately woven from stripped coconut fronds, and the pareu, a colourful fabric printed in a variety of colours and patterns like a sarong. Both are a vital part of everyday life.
- Wooden carvings such as clubs, spears, canoes, different drums (pate) and ukulele are popular. The hand-stitched quilts known as tivaevae are highly valued. Manihiki in the north exports cultured black pearls to Rarotonga, where they are set into high fashion jewellery pieces. Like the rest of the Cook Islands, the black pearl is small, but perfectly formed. There are small stores around the island but the highest concentration of shops is in Avarua.
- Local arts and crafts are available throughout the islands. Pupu necklaces, hand printed pareus, local therapeutic oils and fragrances, coconut anything from the finest rito hats to bikini bras, fans, pandanus mats, carved wooden bowls, spears and paddles and above all the prized black pearls. If this is on your list of “must haves” make sure you buy in the Cooks. The quality is superb and the price is right.
Discover more about the Cook Islands culture by exploring the local markets on offer.
- The Punanga Nui Market in Avarua, Rarotonga’s main town, offers free entertainment, fresh food stalls, organic coffee, and authentic souvenirs like pearls, artwork, crafts and hats made of coconut frond. While the market is open until midday, early Saturday morning is the best time to go for locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as homemade treats like poke. Also make sure to head over to the main stage from about 10am to enjoy live music and dancing. The Punanga Nui Market also features a night market on Thursdays from 5pm to 9pm, offering a wide range of cuisine options.
- The Muri night markets in the Muri Beach Village are a great way to curate your own dinner from the various food trucks, stalls and stands all while mixing and mingling with tourists and locals alike. Open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5pm, the night markets offer a variety of food from local BBQ meals, seafood, fresh drinking coconuts, chicken curries, wok fried noodles, pizza, desserts and more.
Few Helpful tips:
- Go early to have the widest selection of food on offer.
- Remember to bring your New Zealand Dollars or Cook Islands coins as stalls are cash only.
- Get to the markets by bus or if you are driving, park just off the road.