I didn’t know the Cook Islands existed until a couple months ago when one of my colleagues, Paul, suggested I go there on my way to New Zealand. I think I politely told him, “Oh it’s alright we are going to stop in Tahiti or Fiji.”. He stopped me right there and told me that going to either place would be a mistake. Paul claimed that they were over priced and over run with tourists. Then he told me that his family is from New Zealand and the Cook Islands and that he had lived on Rarotonga (one of the Cook Islands) before he moved to China. He now had my attention and I started firing off questions at him about the beaches, weather, food, was it expensive or non expensive, and things to do on the island. I don’t think Paul realized that he had just become my very own personal travel agent (Thanks Paul!).
I got home and told David everything I had learned about the Cook Islands. He said he was in (David is an easy sell) and then we began our search for the perfect/cheapest flight to get to our destination. We had to find a flight home to Los Angeles where we would visit our families for a week for Christmas and then find a flight to the Cook Island of Rarotonga for four days, and then off to New Zealand for the rest of our winter holiday. The most amazing thing happened during our search…we found a flight to New Zealand with a layover in Rarotonga! On the Air New Zealand website , you can choose how long you want your layover. We of course made our layover last four days. Just enough time to soak in some sun before our New Zealand road trip.
While we were reserving our flight I kept thinking to myself, “Why don’t people on the West Coast go to the Cook Islands more often?”. It is closer than the Caribbean (when you factor in layovers on the East Coast) and it is a nonstop flight to your destination. It was just as expensive to fly to the Caribbean as it was to fly to the Cook Islands. The accommodations on Rarotonga were way cheaper than in the Caribbean. (Before moving to China, David and I frequented the Caribbean islands several times.) I felt like we had discovered some magical destination and I now I feel it is my duty to share it with you.
Cook Islands Facts
- The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands
- They lie in between Hawaii and New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean
- Rarotonga is the Capital and the largest of the islands
- Rarotonga is only 32 km in circumference (we rode around the island many times on our rented motorbike)
- Maori culture and pride is abundant
- They consist of pristine white beaches and turquoise clear water full of tropical fish species
- Click here for more facts about the Cook Islands
Things To Do
Te Vara Nui – A cultural dance place with a restaurant. The show is very good (there are 2 on the island, the other is called Highland Paradise, and is also good).
Try a glass bottom boat cruise, there are 2 to choose from: Captain Tama’s and Koka Lagoon cruises.
Muri Outlet has reasonable island pricing for beer, wine, and snacks. Pick up something and have a picnic somewhere.
There are car and scooter rental places in Muri too, Polynesian Rental (aka Budget Rentals) and Island Car & Bike Hire, Budget is normally better maintained.
Places To Eat
- Rickshaw – This is an amazing Vietnamese asian fusion place
- Le Bon Vivante – They have good pastries, coffee and now do dinner
- Sails – Good for a drink and an okay meal
- The Moorings – The wife cooks, the husband fishes and it is excellent for fresh fish sandwiches; pricey, but delicious
- Nautilus- Amazing drinks, food, and views!
- Trader Jacks- The location is perfect for a couple beers and breathtaking views of the ocean. The pizza and fish & chips are good too.
- Muri Beach Hideaway – (Where we stayed and we loved it! Thanks for the recommendation Paul.)
- Rumors Luxury Resort and Spa – (Where I would love to stay if, no when, we go back…)
- Pacific Resort – (Great location and beautiful grounds.)
We were at Rarotonga for New Years Eve and it was a blast! The weather started off nice, but then a tropical storm blew in from the ocean. Even though it rained off and on during our stay, we were never bored or cold. We still rented a motorbike and explored the island. I am almost thankful it rained because if it had not we probably would have spent the entire time on the beach and would not have had so much motivation to roam around the island. If you are looking for a sunny vacation just look up the weather for that time of year to ensure that you are not going in the middle of a storm season. Happy travels!