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12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Cook Islands

Compared to some of the better known South Pacific Islands, the Cook Islands are still relatively new as a tourist destination - while that definitely adds to the charm and laid back feeling on the island, it also makes for a sense of mystery! This tropical paradise has so many hidden secrets, so we have decided to uncover some. Here are 12 interesting facts about the Cook Islands that you might not know!

1. It only takes 20 minutes to get to anywhere in Rarotonga:

The main island of Rarotonga, home to the Cook Islands’ capital Avarua, is only 32 kilometres around – so nothing is ever very far away! The main road circumnavigates the whole island which means you can get almost anywhere in a maximum of 20 minutes. Say goodbye to traffic jams, google maps and spending hours in the car!

2. It’s one of the only countries in the world where they encourage you to smile in your driver’s licence photo!

The Cook Islands are known for their friendly, welcoming people – so it’s probably no surprise that it is one of the only places in the world that actually encourages you to smile when you get your driver’s licence photo! A happy Cook Islands’ licence is a nice little souvenir to take home, and let’s be honest, it’s hard not to smile when you are in paradise.

3. No building is allowed to be taller than a coconut tree:

Plenty of other island nations have been influenced by the western world and large concrete buildings are not uncommon next to beautiful crystal clear lagoons or amongst lush tropical forests. The fact that there is a law restricting the height of buildings is one of the amazing things that makes the Cook Islands so unique. There is no such thing as a ‘high rise’ in this island nation and the locals like it that way!

4. There are no poisonous snakes or spiders:

Tourists coming into Australia are often told horror stories of gigantic venomous spiders and killer snakes – the Cook Islands are bliss for those who aren’t a fan of these creepy crawly creatures! You will be relieved to know you won’t find a single venomous snake or spider anywhere. Leave your phobias at home and walk comfortably through the rainforest, explore waterfalls and take grass tracks down to the lagoon without a fear in the world!

5. The maximum speed is 50km per hour:

Due to the small size of these island and the relaxed nature of island life, there is no need to drive anywhere in a hurry. The speed limit in built up areas is 30km per hour, while you can go up to 50km on less populated stretches of road. Turn up the Bob Marley and feel the breeze in your hair as you coast around at a leisurely pace.

6. There are no fast food chains:

Another way this nation has remained authentic is by staying away from fast food chains like McDonalds and KFC! Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry - Local cuisine is truly delightful & Rarotonga is a foodie’s paradise. Fresh fruit, local vegetables and seafood are readily available and if you do still feel like a burger, Palace Burger offers the Rarotongan alternative to a drive through. Still not satisfied? Head down to Vili’s Burgers near the night market in Muri Beach to bust your burger cravings!

7. There are no dogs on Aitutaki Island:

Encountering furry friends on your beach walk in many South Pacific destinations is common place, so it’s interesting that the island of Aitutaki has no dogs! While no one knows exactly why - local legend has it that the Chief’s daughter was bitten by a dog, so he prohibited them.

8. Cook Islanders are amazing dancers:

While the Hula was made famous by Hawaii, the Cook Islands are home to the fast and sensual Ura. Dancing is a very prominent part of local culture and dance competitions and events are held regularly. Locals proudly claim to have the second fastest hula in the South Pacific, only beaten by the Tahitian Hura.

9. Cook Islanders have New Zealand Passports:

Most people know that the Cook Islands have a close relationship with New Zealand and use NZ Dollars as currency. However a lot of people don’t know that they also have New Zealand passports! There is a way to check if someone is a true local, as they are issued with a “Cook Islander” status stamp inside their passport!

10. Second Largest Producer of Black Pearls in the World:

The Cook Islands have been commercially cultivating black pearls since the 1970’s and are the second largest producer globally, after Tahiti. The majority of production comes from farms in the remote island of Manihiki, which is about 1,299 kilometres north of Rarotonga.

11. The island of Pukapuka has its own language:

While most Cook Islanders speak English and/or Cook Island Maori (Te reo maori o Kuki Airani), the small island of Pukapuka has its very own language. Pukapukan is spoken by the local community and only approximately 2,000 people globally are able to speak this Polynesian language.

12. You can walk through the middle of the main Island:

Rarotonga is somewhat mountainous in the centre, with the highest peak (Te Manga) reaching 653m above sea level – so it is no surprise that a lot of people don’t realise you can actually walk through the middle! The “Cross Island Trek” is a breathtaking 3 hour walk which takes you from one side of the island to the other, ending at a nice cool waterfall. The views are truly spectacular from the top, this is definitely one not to be missed!

So if you are looking to escape the traffic, relax with friendly locals and enjoy fresh island cuisine – the Cook Islands are perfect for your next holiday!

For more information, or to plan you dream Cook Island getaway – call the team at Spacifica Travel on 1800 800 722.

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