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17 Best Reasons You Should Go to the Cook Islands

17 Best Reasons You Should Go to the Cook Islands

Why you need to visit the Cook Islands at least once in your lifetime
Alexander & VictoriaHi! We're Alex & Victoria - a digital nomad couple from Copenhagen escaping 9-5 to chase adventures in our beautiful world. Learn more about us here.
Kia Orana!

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.

Alex & Victoria in Rarotonga
Rarotonga is the main island and where most people spend most (if not all) of their time in 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.

Aitutaki, drone shot of the lagoon
It would be a shame to miss visiting the small island of Aitutaki, home to what is often called the world’s most beautiful lagoon.

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).

Back road in Rarotonga
The climate of the Cook Islands is very pleasant.

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.

We especially liked Muri Beach, Black Rock Beach, Aroa Beach and Titikaveka Beach on Rarotonga and of course the stunning beaches on Aitutaki.

Aitutaki couple shot
The beaches of Aitutaki and Rarotonga are truly world-class.
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You might be interested in:A Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki, Cook Islands: The Pacific Paradise Everything you need to know about visiting Aitutaki and its wonderful lagoon Read more

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.

Alex and Victoria swimming with turtle
Swimming with turtles was surely a highlight of our trip!

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.

SUP'ing in front of Pacific Resort Rarotonga
The Cook Islands is perfect for SUP’ing.

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.

A small stall at the market selling local produce

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.

Beach in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
You won’t want to leave the Cook Islands!

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.

Fresh coconut

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.

Main road in Rarotonga
The main road in Rarotonga is generally in good condition and it’s very quick to get around.
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You might be interested in:A Complete Travel Guide to Rarotonga, Cook Islands: A Pacific Dream Come True We stayed for a month to give you all of the best tips for visiting this Polynesian paradise Read more

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!

Road on Aitutaki
The roads on Aitutaki are pretty quiet. So are they on Rarotonga.

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.

Rarotonga, the Cook Islands.
Hiking across Rarotonga’s lush interior is a must if you like tropical hiking.

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.

Alex on a mountain bike
It was super fun mountain biking on Rarotonga.

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.

Tumutoa tour
Tumutoa is super knowledgeable about the local fruits and plants.

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.

Read about the best meals we had on Rarotonga here.

Fruit in Rarotonga
The fruit in the Cook Islands is so tasty!

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.

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You might be interested in:A Vegan Eating Guide to Rarotonga, Cook Islands: The Best Restaurants & Cafés Here’s everything you need to know about finding vegan and vegetarian food in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

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.

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You might be interested in:Review of Pacific Resort Aitutaki: A Secluded Getaway in the Cook Islands We review our stay at Pacific Resort Aitutaki, Cook Islands Read more

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!

Punanga Nui Market

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.

Drone shot of beach in Aitutaki
We especially couldn’t stop taking pictures in Aitutaki’s lagoon.

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.

Here’s our guide to lightweight photography gear for high-quality travel content.

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You might be interested in:What’s in Our Camera Bag? Lightweight Photography Gear for High-Quality Travel Content What camera, drone and accessories we use to capture life on the road

A few other things you might want to think about

Rarotonga, Cook Islands
You don’t need to pack much for visiting the Cook Islands. Bring swimwear and you’re almost there.

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.

For more accommodation options, check out hotels in Rarotonga here and hotels in Aitutaki 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.

Flying into Aitutaki from Rarotonga
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!

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