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The Cook Islands are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand, located in Polynesia, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, between French Polynesia (Society Islands) to the east and Tonga to the west. It is an archipelago with 15 islands spread out over 2.2 million km2 of ocean. Though quite far, there's no land between the Cook Islands and Antarctica. With the same time zone and latitude (disregarding north and south) as Hawaii, the islands are sometimes thought of as "Hawaii down under". Though smaller, it reminds some elderly visitors of Hawaii before statehood without all the large tourist hotels and other development. (less...) (more...)
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About Cook Islands
Named after Captain Cook, who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965 residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. New Zealand handles defence, foreign affairs (including passports), and currency; otherwise the islands are self-governing. This includes immigration, which is strictly controlled—even for non-Cook Island New Zealanders.
Tropical, moderated by trade winds. Rarotonga has average maximum temperatures of around 25C in winter (May–October) and 29C in summer (November–April), temperatures in the northern islands are several degrees higher. Rainfall mostly occurs in summer, usually in the form of afternoon storms. Cyclone season is November to March, although the islands are hit by a big one only once every five years or so.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling, Rarotonga The Cook Islands is a beautiful place to explore both on land and in water. Scuba diving & snorkeling is available inside the calm protected waters of the lagoon as well as outside the reef in the open ocean. There are dive sites all around the island of Rarotonga which host an incredible amount of tropical reef fish as well as larger animals such as turtles, eagle rays, eels and reef sharks such as White Tips, Grey Reefs and Hammerheads, in addition to the beautiful hard coral formations, sand passages, swim-throughs and drop offs. Pacific Divers is a PADI 5* Dive Center located in Muri Beach on the South-East side of Rarotonga and offers snorkel trips & scuba diving 7 days a week for all levels of diving, from beginners to advanced divers and professionals. Various options are available, from half day excursions to 3 day courses to become a fully certified diver. They also offer a professional internship where they train divers up to the professional Dive Master level over the course of a few months.
Cook Island Christian Church, Rarotonga The CICC is a fine old white-coral building, much in the same mould as other CICCs in the Cooks. It was built in 1853, when Aaron Buzacott was the resident missionary. Travellers are welcome to attend services but are expected to dress respectfully.
Beachcomber Gallery, Rarotonga One of the best arts and crafts galleries on the island, the Beachcomber Gallery has a great selection of jewellery, carvings, pearls, craftwork and paintings locally sourced in the islands. You can sometimes visit the workshop behind the main building to see how the black-pearl jewellery and shell carvings are made.
Muri Beach, Rarotonga Muri Beach, on Muri's lagoon on the southeast side of the island, is particularly beautiful. The shallow water has a sandy bottom dotted with countless sea cucumbers and some coral formations.
Cooks Larger Brewery, Rarotonga See the brewing process first hand and enjoy a sample testing of Cook Island brews. As one of only two breweries on the island, the brewery tours are a truly unique tourist attraction.
Sir Geoffrey Henry National Culture Centre, Rarotonga Conceived by former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Henry, the National Culture Centre comprises six cultural divisions: the National Auditorium, the National Museum, the National Library, the National Archives, Performing Arts, and the Anthropology Unit. A number of government ministries are also based here.
Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruizes, Rarotonga Join the crew of the famous Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruizes on glass bottom boats for a memorable fun day you will never forget.
Aitutaki Lagoon, Aitutaki Aitutaki's marvelous lagoon, dotted with sand bars, coral ridges and 21 uninhabited motu (lagoon islets), is colourful and full of life. Maina Motu offers great snorkelling on the coral formations near its shore and around large powder-white sand bars.
Teking Lagoon Cruises, Aitutaki Teking Lagoon Cruises are small and intimate, ensuring a more personal experience. Local guides share their knowledge of the islands, their history and the culture that is Aitutaki, Cook Islands.
Anatakitaki, Aitu The most famous of the many caves on Atiu, which is riddled with limestone caverns complete with stalactites and stalagmites, is Anatakitaki, also known as the 'Kopeka Cave'. A hauntingly large and beautiful cave, it is the home of the kopeka, a rare bird, similar to a swift, which lives only on Atiu.
Don't eat pizza in the Cook Islands before you have tried the local stuff (which is admittedly hard to find):
- ika mata (raw fish) with coconut milk, finely chopped vegetables. It is delicious!
- umu food (prepared in the traditional earth oven)
- curried eke (octopus in coconut curry)
- rukau (Taro leaves, usually cooked with coconut cream)
- poke (cooked fruit pudding) (banana, pawpaw,...) with coconut milk.
Some of these are availlable every day at the market in Avarua. Every 2 weeks there is a "Go Local" market where locals sell their products.
There are two microbreweries in the Cook Islands – Matutu and Cook Islands Brewery, located in Rarotonga, both of which produce a range of delicious beers. Imported beer, spirits and wine are available from major supermarkets Foodland and CITC Liquor, both located in the main town of Avarua – expect to pay a premium price. There are a number of bars and restaurants in Rarotonga and, to a lesser extent, in Aitutaki serving up beer, wine and delicious fresh cocktails. Options are extremely limited on all other outer islands.
Black pearls, these can be found in the main town and some resorts.
The Cook Islands use the New Zealand dollar (NZD, universally symbolised as just "$") and also issues their own banknotes and coinage, including the unusual $3 notes and the triangular $2 coins. Cook Islands money can only be used within the Cook Islands.
There are a handful of ATMs in Rarotonga and two on Aitutaki. There are no ATM facilities on any of the other islands.
Like many other South Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands' economic development is hindered by the isolation of the country from foreign markets, the limited size of domestic markets, lack of natural resources, periodic devastation from natural disasters, and inadequate infrastructure. Agriculture and tourism provide the economic base with major exports made up of copra and citrus fruit. Manufacturing activities are limited to fruit processing, clothing, and handicrafts. Trade deficits are offset by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid, overwhelmingly from New Zealand. In the 1980s and 1990s, the country lived beyond its means, maintaining a bloated public service and accumulating a large foreign debt. Subsequent reforms, including the sale of state assets, the strengthening of economic management, the encouragement of tourism, and a debt restructuring agreement, have rekindled some investment and growth.
Overall, much cheaper than nearby Tahiti, although anything imported will be expensive. This especially applies to fuel and milk. There is no fresh milk made on the islands, and the only fresh milk available is air-freighted from New Zealand daily, and costs around $7.00 for 2 L. Locals generally get by with powdered or UHT milk.
Calling home can cost a bundle, due to the need of having a large satellite dish and related equipment on each sparsely populated island. Don't expect significant savings by Skype-in or VOIP callback, as the rates using these services tend to be the most expensive anywhere in the world. However, some hotels and resorts have free direct Skype connections (in addition to a regular telephone number) which can be used for reservations.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Cook Islands on Wikivoyage.
Cities in Cook Islands
41 hotels in this place
Rarotonga is by far the most populated of the Cook Islands and is the capital, located in the southern group of islands. Locally known just as Raro.
- Muri Beach
- Para O Tane Palace
- Cook Island Christian Church (CICC)
- National Museum of the Cook Islands
- Aro\'a Beach
Points of Interest in Cook Islands
One of the cultural shows/dancing at one of the larger resorts.
Muri Beach - Rarotonga
One Foot Island Beach - Tekopua
Aitutaki Golf Club - Aitutaki
Anatakitaki Cave - Atiu
Para O Tane Palace - Rarotonga
Cook Island Christian Church (CICC) - Rarotonga
National Museum of the Cook Islands - Rarotonga
Aro\'a Beach - Rarotonga
Puaikura Beach - Rarotonga
Tikioki Marine Sanctuary - Rarotonga