The Cooks Islands have plenty of amazing places to stay from villas & resorts to self-contained apartments or homestays – but what are the top things to do while you are in this island paradise? Here are our 10 favourite activities, and which type of traveller they are best suited to!
10. Snorkel at Titekaveka
Rarotonga is surrounded by beautiful azure lagoons and clear warm water. If you like to snorkel (or want to try for the first time), Titekaveka is one of the best beaches to snorkel off and there are often times you can have the whole area to yourself!
Traveller: Due to the surrounding reef, the lagoon is calm and safe for all levels of snorkeler.
9. See more on a Raro 4WD Safari
The Cook Islands are well known for stunning beaches and beautiful water, but the island of Rarotonga also has a lush jungle interior that looks like it could be straight out of Jurassic Park! Take a Four-Wheel Drive Safari Tour on the inland roads for some breathtaking views and scenery. Enjoy the breeze in your open-top safari vehicle as you learn about history, culture and the traditional uses of flora and fauna as you drive!
Traveller: Due to the nature of the tour and the vehicles open air design, this option is best suited to anyone who enjoys soft adventure and doesn’t mind a few bumps on the road!
8. Take a Turtle Safari
Turtles are amazing creatures, calm and graceful with amazing speed and agility when they need it! The awesome team at Ariki Adventures in Muri Beach take you on a tour to get up close and personal! Ariki have sea scooters that allow guests to feel confident snorkelling the deeper channels to catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures. Definitely a highlight for anyone who loves to see animals in their natural habitat!
Traveller: Best suited to guests 12 and over who are confident in the water. Even though you have a sea scooter & plenty of guides, you are in a deep channel during the tour.
7. Visit the Markets
Rarotonga has two markets worth mentioning, first is the Muri Night Markets which run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights offering a selection of delicious food and entertainment. Sit at picnic style tables and enjoy a selection of traditional dishes, as well as lots of western options. Then there are the Punanga Nui Markets which are held every Saturday on the waterfront in town from 8am until 2pm. These local markets have a selection of local produce, hot food, traditional flower ei’s, clothing, fresh fish and local black pearls. This is where locals buy and sell their produce and has a very authentic island market atmosphere.
Traveller: Both markets are perfect for all travellers! Markets are especially good if you are traveling with fussy eater – as you can all choose from different vendors if you want to. Also perfect if you like to try lots of different things!
6. Catch a “Big One”
The Cook Islands are home to pristine waterways and a plethora of different fish species. This island nation is paradise for anyone interested in fishing. There are so many different types available - game fishing, bottom fishing, lagoon fishing, spearfishing or fly fishing! Your crew are experts in knowing exactly where all the hot spots are, and will make sure they provide lots of fun and entertainment to ensure you have a great day. There’s nothing better than catching a beautiful fresh fish and taking it home for dinner!
Traveller: Perfect for anyone from the novice fisherperson right through to your expert angler, you can do a private charter and even bring expert sunbathers who just want to tag along for the ride!
5. Do the Cross Island Trek
The interior of the island of Rarotonga is a beautiful lush tropical rainforest, with towering peaks and thick vegetation. One of the best views of the whole island is from the centre at the top of Te Rua Manga or “the Needle” – a tall pointy rock at the highest point of the trek. We recommend this activity be done with a guide, as there is a chance you can take a wrong turn if you aren’t with someone who knows the way. Having a guide also means you don’t have to organise transport to/from opposite sides of the island, which can be a bit tricky if you only have one car or scooter. Taking 3-4 hours to complete, the track goes through the centre of the island and ends at Wigmore’s Waterfall, which is a great spot to have a refreshing swim after your adventure.
Traveller: Due to the uneven nature of the trail, a level of fitness is required to do this tour. It is not recommended for clients with walking difficulties or health issues. Children are able to enjoy this activity, best suited to children 5 and over, however an adult could take a small child in a baby carrier if required.
4. A Rarotonga Lagoon Cruise
Being an island surrounded by lagoon, it’s no surprise that water activities are big in Rarotonga! Every visitor should jump on a cruise in a glass bottom boat with a crew of energetic local guides and take a tiki-tour around the lagoon. While underway, the crew play Ukelele & sing local songs and share information about the Cook Islands and the culture. You will arrive at a coral bommie in the ocean and have a snorkelling stop, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for Roger the giant Moray Eel that lives in this marine sanctuary! After your snorkel you will be taken to Motu Koromiri for a delicious BBQ Lunch, with plenty of time to explore and then a few fun activities such as a pareu (sarong) tying demonstration, coconut husking show and a coconut tree climbing show! Your crew will then take everyone back to Muri Beach after a fun filled day.
Traveller: This activity is fun for the whole family – anyone can take a lagoon cruise, snorkelling is at leisure or guests can sit and watch sea life through the glass bottom boat & the crew are sure to keep everyone entertained!
3. Dinner & a Cultural Show
Cook Islanders have a very strong culture and are very proud of their Pacific Island heritage, they celebrate their ancestry through many arts, but the most popular is through song & dance (Ura). For any visitor to the country, a Cultural Dinner and Show is an absolute must! The thrill of the drums, mesmerizing high energy dancers, elaborate costumes & overall theatrics make for an awesome night out. There are plenty of ‘Island Night’ options, whether it be at your hotel, the purpose built Te Vara Nui Village or more authentic Highland Paradise, there is something for everyone. Another draw card is the opportunity to try local cuisine, make sure to try:
• Rukau: which is mashed taro leaves cooked with onion and coconut milk, its looks a little like cooked spinach, but is delicious and a little sweet because of the coconut milk!
• Ika Mata: this is Cook Islands version of raw fish, which is popular throughout the Pacific. Fresh fish is marinated in lemon juice and served in coconut cream.
• Poke: A sweet banana dish which is a favourite among locals.
Traveller: This activity is great for guests young & old.
2. Watch a perfect Sunset
Every perfect holiday is made better by a perfect fiery red sunset! The ‘sunset side’ of the island of Rarotonga is the western side and goes roughly from Aroa Beach to Black Rock. If you aren’t already staying on the sunset side, there are plenty of dining options on the beach to enjoy sunset over a relaxed early dinner. Alternatively head to a resort bar and grab a cocktail while you take in the view!
Traveller: Everyone - who doesn’t love a sunset!
1. Visit Aitutaki Lagoon
It’s no surprise that a visit to Aitutaki Lagoon is number one on our list, this gorgeous lagoon is one of the most beautiful in the world & is a place not to be missed! If you have time, we highly recommend staying on Aitutaki for a few nights. Even though the island is small there is plenty to do, fishing, kiteboarding, island hopping, snorkelling, and hiking or just making the most of the beautiful water! However, if you are short on time there is also the option of booking a day trip from Rarotonga. This amazing day includes return flights, all transportation in Aitutaki, an island tour, Lagoon Cruise and BBQ lunch. The day trip will set you back approximately $500 per adult, but this is amazing value, as often return flight alone are the same price!
Traveller: Like most activities in the Cook Islands – everyone will appreciate Aitutaki Lagoon. A few nights on the island is a perfect accompaniment to any Rarotonga stay. If you are going with the day trip option, just bear in mind that is a long day for young ones. You leave Rarotonga at 8am and arrive back at 5.30pm approximately.
What to do in the Cook Islands 2019:
This is just a few of our favourite things to do in the Cook Islands. If you would like more information about any of these or would like to discuss other options, please get in touch with our team of specialist travel consultants on 1800 800 722.
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