Visitor Information for The Cook Islands

The first Cook Islander most visitors encounter is Jake Numanga. He will be the chap with the ukulele in the airport arrival hall. He’s been meeting and farewelling flights for many, many years, no matter what time of day or night. The second will be the Customs Officer. With a stamp in your passport, you are now on ‘island time’.- The coconut will fall when it is ripe!.

The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar. You may receive strange shaped coins occasionally (Cook Island currency) – these can only be used in the Cooks – once you board the plane they become souvenirs. Banking facilities are available at the airport and there are Westpac and ANZ Banks in Rarotonga. Westpac is next to Island Craft and the ANZ is next to the Visitor Information Centre. Both have ATMs.

The climate is tropical, with the heaviest rainfall and humidity through November to February. The locals call rain ‘liquid sunshine’ and it can bucket down for 5 minutes and then be sunny again. The maximum temperature is around 28 Celsius. The water temperature is pleasant all year round.

The locals drink the water but those with sensitive stomachs may feel better with bottled water. You may want to get into the habit of boiling the jug in your room before bed so you have cold boiled water in the morning. You won’t contract any exotic tropical diseases but taking a small first aid kit is recommended with hydrogen peroxide in case of coral cuts.

Analgesics may come in handy, especially if you try to match the locals drink for drink on a Friday night and Imodium/Lomatil or similar can put a quick stop to an upset stomach (this can happen because of a change of time zone or diet). No matter where you travel, travel insurance should be taken out.

The Cook Islands will seduce you and it’s a place that needs little concerted exploring. It somehow unfolds before you. There are ‘around island tours’ with informative commentary or two modern public buses that loop the island. You can also hire a car or scooter – you will need to go to the police station in Avarua to get a licence.

There are very few footpaths so you will encounter pedestrians, dogs and chickens along the side of the road but the roads themselves are good. Be careful if driving/riding on Friday nights because there’s every chance that other vehicles on the road are being operated by drivers who are too drunk to walk. You can also hire pushbikes (no licence required).

For the energetic, there are a number of inland walks. Remember to take bottled water and mosquito repellent on walks. There’s game fishing and sailing and a number of scuba dive operators. The snorkelling is also excellent.

The size of Raro makes dining out easy and those willing to get outside the resorts will be rewarded. Good restaurants on Rarotonga include Trader Jacks, Portofino and The Flame Tree. Basically, a tip is considered getting money for nothing and the person receiving will feel as though he/she then owes you. In the Cooks ‘meitaki ma’ata’ (thank you) will be enough.

Air Rarotonga operates services to the other islands. If you only get to one, make it stunning Aitutaki and, if possible, make it longer than a day trip. Getting around Aitutaki is also easy – you can hire a scooter, bicycle, 4WD or take a tour.

For guidebooks, a good travelling companion is Moon Handbooks Tahiti Including The Cook Islands, written by David Stanley, is an excellent publication. Visit the Cook Islands section of David’s website, The South Pacific Organiser.

There is also our own Cook Islands A to Z for info – you have any specific queries, drop us an email and we’ll do the best to help you out.