Cook Islands

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Cook Islands - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Beaches

    Beach

    Visitors flock to Cook Islands to enjoy the slow pace and the glorious lagoon and beaches. As Rarotonga's only coastal road is just 32 km (20...

    Visitors flock to Cook Islands to enjoy the slow pace and the glorious lagoon and beaches. As Rarotonga's only coastal road is just 32 km (20 miles) in circumference, it's easy to visit many of its gorgeous beaches by rental car or local bus. The water is a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) most of the year and is stinger-free, making it safe for all to enjoy. On the west coast, Arorangi is a long sandy beach by day and the perfect sunset-viewing spot at dusk; the deepest and widest section of the lagoon that encloses Raratonga is at Muri on the southeast corner of the island. It has a lovely beach and several picturesque motu (islands), and it's where most resorts are located. Rather than to watch stunning sunsets, this is the place for mesmerizing moonrises. The south coast lagoon, especially around the village of Tikiaveka, has great snorkeling, as does much of the south coast.

    Rarotonga, Cook Islands
  • 2. Cross Island Walk

    Trail

    Rarotonga is a small island, just 67 square kilometers (26 square miles), but its jungle-like interior harbors ancient temples, called marae...

    Rarotonga is a small island, just 67 square kilometers (26 square miles), but its jungle-like interior harbors ancient temples, called marae, waterfalls, and dramatic rock formations. The best way to explore it is via the Cross Island Walk, which begins in the Avatiu Valley in the north and wends through rain forest past Te Rua Manga mountain, known as the Needle. The walk takes about four hours. It's best to tackle it as part of an organized tour such as those run by Adventure Cook Islands or Pa's Trek, the latter being a gentle nature walk led by an expert (Pa) in agriculture and nature's healing plants. Some tours include mountain climbing, and most visit the marae. The Cook Islands Vistor Information Centre in downtown Avaru, near the ANZ Bank, is the best resource for booking a tour and finding out more.

    Avatiu, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
    682-29435

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $NZ20 to $NZ 55
  • 3. Going Troppo Night Life Tour

    Tour–Sight

    Rarotonga has gorgeous natural scenery to savor by day and plenty of entertainment to enjoy at night. For a small island, it has an impressive...

    Rarotonga has gorgeous natural scenery to savor by day and plenty of entertainment to enjoy at night. For a small island, it has an impressive nightlife scene, with some 50 restaurants and a couple dozen bars. Friday is the big night out, with bars open until 2 am, compared with the usual midnight closure. A fun way to join the party and visit several spots in one evening is to take a seat on the Going Troppo Night Life Tour bus. "Go Troppo" in the Oceania region means having an "insane time," as troppo is slang for the tropical diseases that make people a little crazy. A 35-seater bus picks up patrons from their hotels and hits the nightclubs, pubs, and bars of Avarua for a fun time. Everybody is issued one free cocktail, and a few onboard games help get the party started. It's a six-hour tour, starting at 6pm and lasting until 1 am, so prepare by first enjoying an afternoon nap in the shade of a palm tree.

    Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
    682-25325

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NZ$35
  • 4. Punanga Nui Market

    Market/Bazaar

    The market in the little capital town of Avarua is a Saturday morning tradition for locals and tourists alike. Stalls abound with souvenirs...

    The market in the little capital town of Avarua is a Saturday morning tradition for locals and tourists alike. Stalls abound with souvenirs, including black pearls, tivaevae (appliqué embroidered homewares such as quilts), sarongs, crafts, clothing, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Food stalls are popular, with the one selling waffles and coconut especially recommended—also look out for crepes, fresh bread, dips, and smoothies. The market opens early (6 am), making it popular for breakfasts of coconut rolls and locally grown coffee. Some say the clothes and souvenirs are the same price as in the shops, but the atmosphere is what draws the crowds, along with the free cultural entertainment—singing, dancing, and drumming. You can get here by public bus, but be warned: they are often packed.

    Main Road, Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Open Sat. 6 am–noon
  • 5. Te Vara Nui

    Tour–Sight

    This popular new attraction presents a crash course in Cook Islands cultural life. The Te Vara Nui experience has two components: a late-afternoon...

    This popular new attraction presents a crash course in Cook Islands cultural life. The Te Vara Nui experience has two components: a late-afternoon village tour and an evening dinner and show—these can be combined. A warrior greets guests at the village gates and escorts them to a series of huts—the coconut hut, the witchdoctor's hut, and the carving hut, to name a few—along with the marae, an open-air sacred site. Here guests learn about the Cook Islands Maori history and culture. This 2.5-hour tour is followed by a delicious dinner buffet of local and western foods and a one-hour high-energy show, arguably the best cultural performance on the island, with hula and fire dancing. The village is a short distance from the Muri resorts.

    Muri Beach, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
    682-24006

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Cultural village tour NZ$35; night show and dinner NZ$89; combo tour NZ$109

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