"THE COOK ISLANDS - PACIFIC DREAMS REALIZED" Top 5 Page for this destination Cook Islands by mtncorg

Cook Islands Travel Guide: 450 reviews and 953 photos

These self-governing islands, freely associated with New Zealand, are little gems, glistening in the South Pacific at the same latitude - only south, instead of north - as Hawaii. On first impression, they seem an older more basic version of the US's 50th State, but that is only at first glance. Hawaiian culture has morphed into a Pan-Pacific creation. Here, in the Cooks, you are in the heart of the Maori world.

The Cook Islands consist of two groupings of islands: a northern and a southern group. The northern group is way off-the-beaten-path and you used to need to take a boat, but now Air Rarotonga does let you see these islands, too. The southern group are the islands most visited by tourists. Rarotonga, the small, verdant, mountain-filled island - remindful of the older volcanic island of Kauai, though a little smaller - is where you will touch down in the Cooks. There is a lot to see and do here. Your days in the Cooks may be limited to those spent upon Rarotonga - you could do a lot worse, indeed! Or you could hop onto one of the small planes and see some of the other islands in the southern group - Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro, Mangaia or Aitutaki - each different from each other and from Rarotonga.

The Islands were settled by Maoris by at least 1200 AD and probably before. Spanish vessels explored a couple of the islands in the northern group around 1600. It wasn't until the 1770's that the southern group was explored - by one Captain Cook, himself. The name of the 'Cook Islands' was bestowed upon them by a Russian cartographer. Early in the 19th century, missionaries from the London Missionary Society reached the Cooks and were very successful in changing about the cultural landscape of the Islands, casting a puritanical shadow over the tropical landscape. Britain declared a protectorate over the Islands in 1888 to keep the French out. The Islands were annexed to New Zealand under the British crown in 1900. Since 1965, the islands have been self-governing in free association with New Zealand, an arrangement that allows New Zealand to spend a lot of money up here on infrastructure and gives Cook Islanders New Zealand citizenship - highly valued and certainly a big advantage versus folks from Western Samoa. Much of the economy here, as elsewhere in the Pacific, is supported from the remittances of Cook Islanders living off-island - mostly in New Zealand, where there are more Cook Islanders living than live in the Cooks themselves.

Getting here used to be a little easier, but now you are pretty much limited to Air New Zealand, though Polynesian Air sometimes flies in from Apia in Western Samoa via Niue and Royal Tonga has been known to visit from Tongtapu, too. Hawaiian Air used to come down here from Honolulu, but no more. The Air New Zealand route comes from Los Angeles in the evening, stopping at Honolulu and Papeete, Tahiti, before reaching Rarotonga in the morning - then continuing on to Auckland. You can visit other islands in the southern group and the northern group by local air services. Coming into the Cooks, you also need to show you are staying at licensed accommodations, meaning you must prebook your hotels.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Incredible beaches, turqoise waters, warm welcoming culture
  • Cons:Long ways away, Sundays are very quiet
  • In a nutshell:You might not come back
  • Intro Written Dec 2, 2003
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Reviews (15)

Comments (36)

  • SWFC_Fan's Profile Photo
    Oct 1, 2008 at 3:34 PM

    Hi Mark. Thanks for dropping by my pages! Great page you've got here for this beautiful group of islands - wish I'd visited more of them when I was there! A return visit to the South Pacific is very much in my plans! :-)

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2006 at 9:55 PM

    All very tempting stuff. "How sports could be before television money and megamillion salaries jaded palyer, spectator, and owner" - you lost me there.

  • mim95's Profile Photo
    Apr 11, 2006 at 7:29 AM

    Beach and turquoise water...something that I look forward to...in Cuba in a couple of days. Great shots btw!

  • kid-keith's Profile Photo
    Mar 23, 2006 at 7:52 AM

    These islands look fantastic and are top of my wish list. thanks for the tips.

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2005 at 5:45 AM

    great photos as usual. i always had a craving to visit that little group of islands. the name sounds like something out of a pirate movie.

  • birchy99's Profile Photo
    Jun 29, 2005 at 8:33 PM

    Nice job on the Cook Islands. I plan to return someday. The Mrs. says she is running short of black pearls.

  • syllybabe's Profile Photo
    Apr 6, 2005 at 1:31 AM

    Looks really beautiful. Must be worth a visit. Thanks!

  • Andraf's Profile Photo
    Mar 29, 2005 at 4:31 PM

    So this is where you wanted me to go. I have to say it looks very beautiful. Maybe on my next trip. Nice page Mark, like always :)

  • enroute's Profile Photo
    Dec 29, 2004 at 7:02 AM

    It seems you're right! Thanks!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Oct 22, 2004 at 10:32 PM

    Hope you didn't get too stressed out on that bustling afternoon in downtown Arutanga. Great lagoon photos! Greetings from Frankfurt.


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