17 Best Reasons You Should Go to the Cook IslandsWhy you need to visit the Cook Islands at least once in your lifetime
Are you wondering whether the Cook Islands should be on your bucket list? Or if it’s really worth visiting?
We stayed there for about a month and have now composed a list with all of our best reasons to visit the Cook Islands.
Table of contents
- Why you should travel to the Cook Islands
- 1. Warm temperatures year-round
- 2. The beaches are pristine
- 3. There’s an abundance of marine life
- 4. Have fun with water sports
- 5. The vibe is very chilled
- 6. It’s safe for tourists
- 7. English is widely spoken
- 8. Rarotonga is easy to explore
- 9. There’s no traffic
- 10. Hiking and trekking for everyone
- 11. Get an adrenaline rush
- 12. Learn about Polynesian tradition and culture
- 13. Munch on fresh fruits and coconuts
- 14. It’s green in more ways than one
- 15. Spot humpback whales
- 16. The locals are friendly
- 17. There are endless motives for photography lovers
- What to bring to the Cook Islands
- More information about the Cook Islands
Why you should travel to the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a tropical oasis in the South Pacific, a Polynesian archipelago made up of 15 islands.
People are friendly, the water is stunning and you can stay at some pretty amazing hotels and romantic resorts.
If the pictures don’t speak for themselves, read on to find out why you should put this little piece of paradise up on your dream board.
1. Warm temperatures year-round
Sunshine all 12 months? Yes, please!
The best months to travel to the Cook Islands are between April and November but the islands have a truly tropical climate and can be visited year-round for sun and warm waters.
The temperatures generally go down to about 22°C (71.6°F) when it’s “cold” and all the way up to 30°C (86°F) – warm but not too warm.
The yearly average is between 25°C and 28°C (77°F and 82.4°F).
2. The beaches are pristine
Hello tropical paradise!
The beaches in the Cook Islands have pure white sand, blue lagoons, coconut trees and great snorkelling. What else do you need?
Pictures of the beautiful beaches were definitely a big part of what originally convinced us to travel to the Cook Islands (and stay for about a month!) and we were not disappointed.
3. There’s an abundance of marine life
There are plenty of opportunities to explore the underwater world in the Cook Islands – and you should!
The marine life is amazing and you can go snorkelling or scuba diving with green turtles, hawksbill turtles, rays, giant trevallies and many different kinds of reef fish.
We went on a tour with Snorkel Cook Islands and saw more turtles than we could count plus eagle rays, blue starfish, a moray eel and lots of fish. We can’t recommend it enough!
If you aren’t a great swimmer or don’t like being in the water much yourself, you can always go on a lagoon cruise and see the underwater action through a glass-bottom boat.
4. Have fun with water sports
In addition to exploring life underwater, you can also enjoy being on the water.
We spent some time stand-up paddleboarding in Aitutaki’s lagoon ourselves. With no waves, it’s the perfect place for beginners.
Other popular water sports are surfing, kite surfing, kayaking, canoe paddling, sea scootering or body boarding.
5. The vibe is very chilled
Slow down and take it easy. As soon as you land on Rarotonga, you will feel the laid-back island energy.
All the Cook Islanders we met seemed genuinely relaxed and happy. No wonder when you live in a small island paradise!
We loved that there weren’t any commercial chains or big malls and the fact that no building is taller than a coconut tree.
The chill vibe here is just amazing.
6. It’s safe for tourists
The Cook Islands is a very safe place for travellers as there’s almost no crime.
We felt perfectly safe during our month-long stay and while you should always have common sense regarding valuables, you don’t need to worry about crime or general safety.
Also, there are no dangerous spiders or snakes either, so sunburn is most likely the biggest danger of visiting the Cook Islands. That, and never wanting to leave.
7. English is widely spoken
While Cook Island Māori is the official language of the Cook Islands, English is spoken by everybody making it effortless for all English-speaking travellers to get by on the islands.
8. Rarotonga is easy to explore
You can explore the entire island of Rarotonga easily as the road around it is only 32 kilometres in length (~20 miles).
Rent a scooter or jump on one of the two public buses going around the main road (one driving clockwise, the other anti-clockwise) to get to new points on the island where you can explore beaches, hikes, markets etc.
9. There’s no traffic
Whether you walk or drive, you will be happy to experience that there’s almost no traffic on Rarotonga – and even less on Aitutaki.
The pace is slow. Most of the time, the speed limit is 50 km/h except for areas around the towns where the speed limit is 30 km/h.
There are no traffic lights and only two roundabouts on the whole island!
10. Hiking and trekking for everyone
If you like to mix up your beach days with some hiking and trekking, you will be glad to know that there are some epic trails in Rarotonga as much of the island is covered with lush jungle and cool volcanic mountains to climb for incredible views.
There’s a famous (challenging) cross-island trek to the base of The Needle but there are also easier hikes that you can do by yourself or with a guide.
11. Get an adrenaline rush
Apart from the many water activities and cool hikes in the Cook Islands, there are actually quite a few adventure activities you might be interested in.
For an adrenaline rush, try one of the off-roading tours with buggies or quad bikes (if you aren’t afraid to get a little dirty) to reach some of the lesser-known places.
You can also rent an e-bike and explore the island by yourself or join a cycle tour for some extra guidance and bonding with other travellers.
We had a fun time with Storytellers Eco Cycle Tour cycling around Rarotonga’s back roads learning about the local culture and history as well as the plant life and fruits and vegetables that grow there.
We even stopped for a quick dip in a small waterfall.
If you are interested in caves, consider visiting the island Atiu and go on a cave tour to experience huge limestone stalactites and the unique Kopeka birds that nest deep within the caves.
12. Learn about Polynesian tradition and culture
Cook Islanders have a rich Polynesian culture with lots of interesting traditions and customs.
We went on an awesome Discovery Walking Tour with Tumutoa – a charming and entertaining guy who taught us all we needed to know about coconuts, the local land laws, Rarotongan culture and family traditions.
You can also learn to make the characteristic beautiful flower garland (ei), buy a colourful handmade quilt (tivaevae) or spend an hour or two visiting the Te Ara Museum. The museum gift shop also sells locally-made art, instruments and other unique crafts.
For more authentic souvenir shopping, swing by the vibrant Saturday morning Punanga Nui Markets in Rarotonga where you can try local produce too.
If you like to be entertained, consider attending a cultural “Island Night” show. Watch a troupe of dancers, drummers, musicians and fire dancers perform at different hotels on Rarotonga during the week.
Most Cook Islanders are Christian so every Sunday, you are most welcome to show up at a church service (wearing modest attire) in one of the many Christan churches for a more modern insight into the life of the locals.
13. Munch on fresh fruits and coconuts
There’s nothing better than a young coconut fresh from the palm tree when the sun is shining and you’re thirsty, right?
Tons of amazing fruits, vegetables and herbs grow in abundance on the lush islands and you’re spoiled when it comes to delicious, colourful food.
14. It’s green in more ways than one
One of the most wonderful things about the Cook Islands, in our opinion, is that the country and the people truly prioritize taking care of the environment as well as vulnerable and endangered animals.
More than 99% of the Cook Islands’ geography is ocean so it is obviously really important to them (and to all of us). Over 1.1 million square kilometres of the surrounding marine conservation area is protected which is quite impressive.
There are also a lot of sustainable initiatives and practices in place all over the islands like solar farms, electric transport options, recycling and zero waste efforts and much more.
The Mana Tiaki Eco Certification Scheme is encouraging local businesses to prioritize sustainable tourism and you will find that many of the tours offered are eco-friendly.
We would love to see both the Cooks and tourists eat less meat as it’s really bad for the climate, environment and the animals. Luckily, delicious fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in the Cook Islands so you can get lots of nourishing, tasty food. Read our vegan guide to the Cook Islands here.
15. Spot humpback whales
When whales migrate through the Cook Islands’ waters between July and October, you can go whale watching.
Go on a boat tour to see these majestic creatures up close and maybe even swim with them.
Should we ever be fortunate enough to come back to the Cook Islands, we would love to visit in the whale season.
16. The locals are friendly
Cook Islanders are renowned for their friendliness and happy demeanour.
Their high-spirited natural charm and big smiles are contagious and we’re sure you will feel welcome.
It’s also pretty normal for the locals (and tourists) to wear beautiful flower garlands around the neck or head – and if wearing colourful tropical flowers doesn’t put you in a good mood, we don’t know what will!
17. There are endless motives for photography lovers
If you like to take photos (and who doesn’t nowadays?), you will not be disappointed with the Cook Islands.
There’s always a new tropical scene waiting for your eye to find the perfect framing.
We promise you, you will be able to take postcard-worthy pictures on the islands to make your friends and family back home super jealous!
Remember to respect the locals (especially children) and don’t just snap a close-up without asking. Not everyone likes to be photographed without consent. But the stunning landscapes surely won’t mind.
What to bring to the Cook Islands
If you plan to go to the Cook Islands, make sure to bring a good camera!
We always bring our Panasonic GH5 and a few different lenses.
A few other things you might want to think about
- Travel insurance. Never travel without it! Read about the best travel insurance for digital nomads and long-term travellers here.
- Swimwear. You will want to use it daily.
- Bring a rain jacket if you travel in the rainy season.
- A sarong or a quick-dry towel for drying and chilling on the beach (or for covering up when not on the beach).
- Sun protection; a hat, sunglasses, light covering clothes and organic, reef-safe sunscreen.
- Mosquito repellent.
- Hiking shoes or sneakers if you want to hike or do other outdoor activities.
- Reef shoes and snorkel gear if you plan to spend much time in the water. You can also easily rent equipment on the island. Do not damage or stand on coral.
- Pack light! The weather is sunny and warm year-round. Get our best packing tips for travelling lighter in this guide.
More information about the Cook Islands
We stayed in the Cooks for about a month and have written all about our experiences in our Complete Travel Guide to Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
The guide includes what to do, the best areas and beaches, where to stay, how to get around, what to pack for your trip, our best tips for visiting Rarotonga and much more!
Aitutaki was the highlight of our time in the Cook Islands and here’s Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Aitutaki and Its Wonderful Lagoon.
We have also written a Review of Pacific Resort Aitutaki which is one of the best, if not the best resort on Aitutaki. You can also check prices and availability at Pacific Resort Aitutaki right here.
Want to eat healthily on your trip? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Finding Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Would you visit the Cook Islands?
We’re curious! What do you think of the tropical islands?
Have we convinced you to go to the Cook Islands? Or have you already been?
Let us know in the comments!