Despite being one of the most remote places on the planet, Cook Islands are among the most desirable travel destinations on the global map today and loved by people who like privacy. Located in the midpoint between Hawaii and New Zealand the journey itself is a great experience, though you may need a city break on your way; let’s say in Auckland or Sydney. Aitutaki and Rarotonga are the most visited islands but there are other secluded islands packed with attractions. The largest island in the Cook Islands is the Rarotonga, which is a gradient of a volcanic cone.
Let’s see what you can do in this dream destination.
15 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands
Explore the capital city of Cook Islands
Due to the popularity and beauty of the islands in the Cook Islands, its capital, Avarua, is almost unknown to many people. Nevertheless, it is a laidback city with a friendly vibe that is worth exploring. It is located on the north shore of the largest island, Rarotonga, and is compact enough to explore it on foot. You will find beachfront restaurants, shops, and numerous attractions.
The main attraction in the city is perhaps the Punanaga Nui Outdoor Market, which is located on the waterfront.
Stroll and relax at Titikaveka Beach
Titikaveka Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Cook Islands. It is located on the southwest coastline of Rarotonga and offers perfect waters for snorkeling or swimming. The water here is very clear and you can spot a colorful fish from the lagoon.
Don’t miss the Cook Islands Christian Church, which is built from coral stone and dates back to 1841.
Bask and snorkel at Muri Beach
Also located in Rarotonga, Muri Beach is quite picturesque. Though its water is not as clear as Titikaveka Beach, it is still one of the most popular spots on the island.
You can also snorkel into the shallow waters and discover plenty of marine species. There are also four offshore islets that make for great views.
What you will like about this beach is the many dining options lining the waterfront.
Participate in Te Vara Nui Village Tour and Cultural Show
Since the island doesn’t boast plenty of museums and galleries, the best way to learn a little history about the Cook Islands is by visiting the Te Vara Nui Village. This is an expedition that starts with two hours of a guided tour of this beautiful village. The package also includes learning such things as cooking the islands’ delicacies, coconut husking, fishing, caving, fishing, making Maori bush medicine, and weaving. It is an interactive and fun tour that you just have to not miss.
Explore the Rarotonga’s opulent scenery
Rarotonga Island features jagged hills covered in the lush tropical forest that is ideal for hiking. Thankfully there are several trails that allow you to do cross-island hiking and explore the beautiful vegetation layering the island.
The popular trail starts at the north shore and leads to the famous Te Rua Manga or The Needle and through the Widmore’s Waterfall, which is located to the south of the island.
The hike is medium in terms of easiness and can take around four hours but that depends on your energy levels
Discover marine life at Aroa Marine Reserve
Located on the west side of the island is this little paradise called the Aroa Marine Reserve. The waters of the reef are crystal clear and ideal for snorkeling. Among the fish species, you can find here include angelfish, Moorish idols, wrasse, and parrotfish.
The water is also safe for children since motorized boats are prohibited. Kayaking is also another popular watersport here.
Enjoy flora at the Maire Nui Gardens in Rarotonga
Just a few minutes from Titokaveka Beach, you will find this charming organic garden that offers a dramatic change of scenery from the usual sand and water activities. The seven acres Maire Nui Gardens is dotted with flowers and many insects. It is a wonderful place to stroll and enjoy the fresh air as you get in touch with your inner horticulturist.
Climb up Mount Maungapu in Aitutaki
Standing at 124 meters, Maungapu is the tallest mountain on the island of Aitutaki. A hike to the summit will take you about half an hour but is totally worth it. The vista over the cove and opulent, palm-speckled scenery is a sight to behold.
The trail is marked on complimentary maps provided.
Try sashimi pizza at Trader Jack’s
Although there are several varieties of pizza at Trader Jack, I recommend you try the sashimi pizza. This unique pie comes with avocado toppings instead of the usual tomato sauce on the crust. It also has pieces of tuna sashimi cuts and a spicy sushi miso mayo paste. It is simply a must-try!
Take a picturesque plane tour
There is no breathtaking experience like flying over a scenic island surrounded by turquoise seawaters. The best way to view the Rarotonga Island is perhaps from the above. The small plane flies around the island for about 30 minutes and carries 2 people. The flight is also affordable with $88 per person of 126 NZD in Cook Islands’ currency.
The affordability of this flight is however blessing in disguise as it usually books out even in advance especially during high season.
Tour the Arutanga settlement in Aitutaki
The quiet Arutanga is the main village on Aitutaki Island. The reason you need to visit this sleepy settlement is so that you can buy some souvenirs to take home. There is also the popular Cook Islands Christian Church that was built in 1828. This makes it the oldest church in the whole of the Cook Islands.
The main point of attraction at Aitutaki Island is the large stunning inlet with gleaming turquoise waters surrounding the 21 small islands that are scattered on the outward edge of the creek. Make sure you explore all these small islands by kayaking or booking tours and cruises.
Visit a shipwreck
Located on the north edge of the island, “The Boiler” shipwreck is a must-visit before leaving the Cook Islands. You can actually see the top of the ship sticking out of the blueish water from a distance. The bottom of the ship is embedded in the seabed.
The wildlife the ship attracts is essentially the highlight of the visit to this hulk.
Try ATV and buggy adventures
If you are tired of beach and trails, take an ATV or buggy on a scenic tour around the islands. This is quite expensive though!
Marvel at the island nightlife
Many restaurants and hotels in Rarotonga Island organize an island night that includes live performances and buffet. The island night is staged every night except on Sunday, across the island.
My personal recommendation is the Highland Paradise Sunset Cultural Show and Feast, which hosts the event every Wednesday and Friday.
To help you plan out your visit to the Cook Islands, we listed places to visit and other amazing activities to do in the Cook Islands. We also listed some of the best travel and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation.
Searching for the best hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Cook Islands hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.