One of the best-kept secrets in the South Pacific: the Cook Islands, a tiny island nation consisting of some of the most beautiful islands in the world. If the mention of vacationing in the South Pacific conjures images of thatched huts, white sand and crystal-clear waters of aquamarine, then the Cook Islands won’t disappoint. Upon arrival, visitors feel like they stepped back in time to a simpler era with the added convenience of modern amenities.
The local lifestyle is laid-back, the culture is rich and the scenery is pristine. With 15 islands to choose from, it’s difficult to decide where to start so take some time to explore the beautiful main island of Rarotonga. With an international airport, Rarotonga is the most populous island of the archipelago and the easiest to get to.
Spring and fall are the best times to visit this island paradise, when the temperatures are pleasant and rains are less likely, but its tropical location makes it prone to rainfall year-round so a light jacket is recommended. Getting around the islands is easy, especially on Raratonga where visitors can easily rent a car, bicycle or scooter.
The local language is Maori, but locals are well-versed in English, making communication for most tourists quite easy. Rarotonga prides itself on its simple lifestyle. There are no traffic lights on the island and it is one of the few places left in the world where you will not find a McDonalds.
Locals are friendly and hospitable, making visitors feel at ease and welcome. The island is free of poisonous snakes and insects, and the only native mammals are fruit bats, making it truly paradise as you are able to hike safely through the lush wilderness of the islands without fear of being bitten.
Families have numerous options for lodging on the Cook Islands. Rarotonga’s hotels around the island offer a variety of rates and amenities, while Airbnb is becoming increasingly popular on the islands to satisfy every family’s unique needs. The country’s tourism website offers great deals on local hotels, luxury resorts and home rentals.
The miles of beautiful seashore and crystal-clear waters make it ideal for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing under a palm frond umbrella while you relax on the white sandy beaches. Koka Lagoon Cruises offers a great way to enjoy the water and local marine life. The company’s glass-bottom boat takes guests on a tour through Muri Lagoon to the shores of nearby Motu Koromiri for a beach barbecue lunch. The tour entertains guests with an onboard musician playing ukelele and singing traditional island songs. Cruises, running daily at 10 a.m., cost about $51.55 for adults and $27.50 for children.
The island’s vibrant culture offers plenty of exciting activities for visiting families, such as the Te Vara Nui Village located on Muri Beach on the big island. This cultural center offers tours in the setting of a traditional island village that teach about local history, customs, legends and crafts. The tour is interactive, encouraging learning through fun. As the sun goes down, the real fun begins with a buffet dinner of local cuisine and a performance of native music and dance in a spectacular setting on an over-water stage — right in the middle of the center’s lagoon. Single person rates for the tour, dinner and show combo run about $89 for adults and $40 for children with special rates available for families.
The islands have plenty of opportunity for shopping the local wares. Local gift shops and open-air markets offer a variety of hand-crafted local souvenirs like wooden carvings, local musical instruments and jewelry. The Punanga Nui Cultural Market is an open-air market in the village of Avarua on the north shore of Rarotonga where it’s easy to find a wide variety of local handicrafts in one place. Popular clothing items include Rito hats, hand-woven from young palm fronds, and pareu, sarongs dyed in beautiful colors and designs. Tivaevae quilts are another local handicraft. Local women handcraft these beautiful creations that are more of an art form than a quilt. While there, make sure you pick up some of the country’s signature black pearls, harvested from the northern island of Manihiki, also known as “the island of pearls.”
From Raratonga the archipelago’s other islands are easy to reach by boat (some of the larger islands are equipped with airports and can be reached within just a short flight). The smaller islands are mostly underdeveloped, lightly populated and offer a unique travel experience for adventurous travelers who enjoy roughing it and taking the road less traveled.
Read This Next
MultigenerationalFeb 24, 2023
2023 Travel Trends Survey from VisitorsCoverage
Insurtech company VisitorsCoverage recently conducted a survey regarding travel habits. More than 1,000 frequent travelers were questioned about travel habits and plans for the coming year.
United Airlines Celebrates its First Class of United Aviate Graduates
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
CruisingFeb 23, 2023
Enjoy a New Kind of Cruising Experience with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Experiences at Sea Program
Norwegian Cruise Line kicked off 2023 by announcing a new style of cruising for family travelers with Experiences at Sea, a series of cruises designed to pair passengers with a uniquely immersive cruising experience catering to their specific interests. The program allows travelers to choose a cruise offering activities, performances, and special guests and hosts on a voyage taking them to some of the world’s most beautiful ports of call.
MultigenerationalFeb 22, 2023
Hilton, Norwegian Cruise Line Partner with PLAYSTUDIOS Gaming Platform
As the fastest-growing segment in the gaming market for 2023, mobile gaming takes its next step with new and renewed partnerships between casual gaming platform PLAYSTUDIOS and Hilton and Norwegian Cruise Line, allowing family travelers to enjoy games even when on vacation. PLAYSTUDIOS draws travelers through the brand’s innovative loyalty program and long-standing strategy for customer retention within travel and hospitality.
KidsFeb 3, 2023
African American Doll Line, Book Series to Improve Financial Literacy Launch
The greatest disparity in financial literacy exists among African Americans. To make changes in this area, Tomeka Purcell created a book series and corresponding dolls to help educate, entertain and inspire children and family travelers.
Travel TipsFeb 1, 2023
Camping Essentials for the Whole Family
Spring is right around the corner, making it the perfect time to start planning your 2023 spring family travel. With temperatures rising, the best spring vacations involve camping in the great outdoors. Make this next camping trip the best with these must-have essentials.