Travel Information for the Cook Islands
This page contains travel trips and maps of of the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands are comprised of 15 small islands spread out over about 2 million sq. mi.
Rarontonga is the main island with about 1/2 the country’s population and 90% of all tourist activity. Rarotonga is 25 sq. mi. in size, fringed by beaches and topped with a rugged mountain.
Aitutaki is the next populated and popular island and boasts the stunning Aitutaki Lagoon with tiny white sand beach fringed coral islands and secluded areas for romance. Aitutaki Lagoon is only a 45 min. flight north of Rarotonga.
Where are the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands are located south of Hawaii about the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north of the equator. Both the Cook Islands and Hawaii are in the same time zone.
The Cook Islands are surrounded by the Samoan Island and Kingdom of Tonga on the west while Tahiti, Bora Bora and the rest of the islands of French Polynesia lie to the east of the Cook Islands.
Flights to the Cook Islands
Air New Zealand offers flights from Los Angeles to the main airport of the Cook Islands which is located on the island of Rarotonga. All flights within the Cook Islands are operated by Air Rarotonga and depart from the airport on Rarotonga Island.
Note that there is an iInternational departure tax for all passengers leaving the Cook Islands by air.
Payment must be in New Zealand dollars. Pay at the airport of departure. Check with your travel specialist for current amount.
Travel Within the Cook Islands
Rarotonga is simple to navigate. The island measures 20 miles (32km) around, so it is impossible to get lost!
Rarotonga has only two main roads, a two lane coastal road and a very quiet older road located slightly inland.
Most resorts can arrange for your rental car or one of the car rental companies based in Avarua.
In the Cook Islands driving is on the left side of the road.
Perhaps the easiest way to get around the islands other than by walking, is to rent a moped (scooter). A scooter is a very common mode of transportation on Rarotonga and on Aitutaki.
Visit the police station in Avarua to obtain the required Cook Island’s Driver’s License which is a requirement to drive any motorized vehicle in the islands. A small fee is charged for the license and you must present a valid drivers license in order to obtain it. Note that if your drivers’ license doesn’t include motorcycles, you must first take a quick test to hire a scooter.
You can instead rent a bicycle! The Cook Islands are a great place for exploring by bicycle.
On Rarotonga, island buses operate a regular bus service around the island and will pick you up and drop you off any place you want along the coastal road. On weekdays buses depart every 30 min. from 7am to 4pm with less frequent night service until 10pm on weekdays, 11pm on Saturdays.
The official language of the Cook Islands is English and widely spoken. Maori is the local language.
Climate & Weather in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasant warm and sunny climate year round.
The southwest side of Rarotonga is the leeward side and is normally the driest side of the island. Aitutaki is noticeably warmer than the main island of Rarotonga.
April to November are the driest months with an an average maximum temperature of about 26 C. December to March is typicall warmer, more humid and damp with a temperatures ranging from 22 C to 28C.
Resort wear is appropriate when at the beach or at the resort and is very informal in the Cook Islands. More conservative dress is appropriate when visiting towns or villages. A respectable standard of dress is required when attending church services. Nude or topless sunbathing will cause offense.
Currency and Banking
The Cook Islands currency is the New Zealand dollar. The bank at the airport is open whenever there is an arriving or departing international flight. Australia and New Zealand Banking (ANZ) and the Australian owned Westpac operate in the Cook Islands. Both have branches in Avarua. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm, Saturday 9am to 12pm.
The larger shops, businesses, restaurants and resorts accept credit cards. Travellers cheques can be cashed for about 3% more than either exchanged cash or credit cards.
Entry Requirements for the Cook Islands
A bona-fide visitor (any person who enters the Cook Islands solely for recreation or vacation/holiday), does not require an entry permit, provided he/she possesses proof of onward passage (booked and paid) and must also prove that they have accommodations arranged for their stays of not more than 31 days.
Visitors to the Cook Islands must have a current passport that is valid for 6 months after their return date.
Extension permits must be granted for visitors wanting to stay over 31 days. All visitors are required to have a valid passport, proof of onward passage, adequate financial means of supporting stay, and suitable accommodation. Applications can be made upon arrival at the Immigration Department. Extensions are granted on a monthly basis, up to 5 additional months only.
Electricity in the Cook Islands is 220/240 volts. North American appliances will require a converter and an adapter.
There is a varied range of shops offering locally produced items at competitive prices. Open air markets are a great way to experience local shopping (expect to pay in cash). One item you should consider purchasing are the Cook Islands famous black pearls.
Tipping is not expected and contrary to Cook Islands custom.