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The Cook Islands are 15 tiny specks in the South Pacific, between Samoa and French Polynesia. The inhabitants are Polynesian and the islands are both volcanic and what's known as "near atolls"—landmasses made up mostly of a lagoon fringed by little islands (motus). Rarotonga is a mini-Tahiti with jungle-covered peaks, fringing reef and lagoon; Aitutaki is the archetypal tropical paradise and appears in the majority of travel brochures. Muri Lagoon (Rarotonga) and One Food Island (Aitutaki) are dreamy spots with warm water, powdery sand, and swaying palm trees.

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