OUR thoughts on the COOK ISLANDS

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Wearing of helmets is compulsory from 05 October 2016
for visitors riding motorbikes and scooters. 

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The Cook Islands is a group of 15 small tropical islands scattered over a vast area of the South Pacific and a more enjoyable holiday destination would be hard to find anywhere. The Island of Rarotonga is the main centre of population, government, commerce and tourism. Of the 15 individual islands only five others have regular air services from Rarotonga. Aitutaki enjoys several flights to and from Rarotonga every day and there are between 2 and 4 flights a week each way between Rarotonga, Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro and Mangaia. We really enjoy the wonderful laid-back lifestyle of the Cook Island people and this is reflected in the way all visitors get into the feeling of the place from the moment you step off the plane at Rarotonga's International Airport. We can help you find hidden valleys in the mountains with tropical gardens complete with romantic waterfalls, a buzzing town with supermarkets, restaurants, shops and local markets and many, many surprising little hamlets with a couple of shops and maybe a huge old church. Our experts know all about the accommodation options, from top-class secluded hideaways to family friendly resorts and locally-owned boutique properties and a surprising range of activities and restaurants. Cook Islands give you all of this in a background of perfect beaches, lagoons, tropical gardens, roadside flowering shrubs and trees and exceptionally hospitable people.

OUR RAROTONGA 
OUR AITUTAKI
OUR ATIU
OUR OTHER ISLANDS

OUR RAROTONGA
We are very fond of Rarotonga for a holiday - let us tell you why. The road that circles the whole island, the Ara Tapu, is only 32 kms long - that means that a non-stop drive right around the island at the designated maximum speed of 40kph can take just 45/50 minutes. We've never done the whole round trip all at once, it's almost impossible, as there are just too many distractions along the way. The main town, Avarua, is only 4 kms from the airport and nothing is more than 16 kms from anywhere else! It's this very size of the island that makes Rarotonga so different. No matter where you choose to stay, the whole island is yours to enjoy all the time. While having a home-base at our chosen resort, one of the many things we like, is the ability to hire a pedal bike, step-through scooter, motorbike or car with which we can go to town, a different resort, a restaurant or cafe or a different beach anytime we feel like it. Getting a local driver's licence is fun if you need one, although these days, you can drive on your Home Country Drivers Licence for up to 6 months as long as it covers the type of vehicle you wish to drive in Cook Islands. Don't overlook the Cook's Island Bus Service which operates right around Rarotonga up to 13 times a day from 7.00am to 10.00pm. Travelling on the bus you get to meet and swap experiences with other visitors and locals too. Within a day of arriving, you feel as though you are already immersed in the Rarotonga holiday scene - that's a great feeling. On your first morning in Rarotonga, try to get up and down to the beach just after sunrise. The tranquillity of the tropical early morning will charm and calm you as you wander along an almost deserted white-sand beach. Watching the various resorts along the beach stir to life is something you will remember forever.

There is a long list of activities you can enjoy on a holiday in Rarotonga and many of these have a nice cultural aspect to them. We have experienced the Cross Island Trek and thoroughly recommend it if you have a reasonable level of fitness - the view from high up is simply stunning. There is wonderful snorkelling in the designated marine reserves where fishing is not permitted, the scuba diving is great and there are plenty of opportunities to try sailing, kayaking and board paddling in the sheltered lagoons. Deep-Sea fishing is good too. There are many opportunities to participate in "Island Nights" at various resorts and it is almost inevitable that you will be called up on stage to participate. Here's a 'word to the wise' - don't look reticent or try to pretend "you are really not there" when the dance performer approaches your table with 'that look' in his or her eye, because if you do, they'll choose you every time!

You will find your own special places as you travel around Rarotonga. However, don't forget to explore the "back road" or Ara Metua. You can't go right round the island on this road, but it is worth the effort to go off the beaten track just to enjoy the more leisurely pace of life back there where you'll find plantations, farms and some interesting historic sights in the bush. Don't overlook the area around the Avatiu Harbour port area, especially on cruise ship days. Don't miss the market on the northern edge of town (Avarua) which is open daily except Sunday. There is a night market on Friday when there is hot food in the offing, but the main market time for locals and visitors is Saturday morning when things really hum.

Evenings are wonderful on Rarotonga. The sunsets can be absolutely stunning, Relaxing on the beach with a cold drink and watching the nearly hour-long sunset display is the perfect way to wind down from the day and perhaps to wind up for the night's entertainments. The sun setting over the reef can start with a blaze of red and orange, then as the sun almost disappears over the horizon and the show appears to be coming to and end; don't leave, as the best is yet to come. You can be treated to a beautiful show of gold as the last rays of the sun light up the lagoon in spectacular fashion. Will you get to see the fabled "green flash" as the sun finally sets?

Evening is a wonderful time for a wedding. Our experts can guide you through the whole process and weddings at sunset on a beach or on an island in the lagoon or in a secluded mountain valley or around a resort pool in Rarotonga are unforgettably romantic occasions.

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OUR AITUTAKI
You can do a day trip to Aitutaki from Rarotonga and it's a great day. However, our recommendation is that you stay at least 3 days - more is better. Aitutaki is only 50 minutes by air from Rarotonga and when you see the island as the aircraft descends to land, it's the enormous lagoon and the amazing colours of the water that first strike you. Aitutaki is amazing. The airport is located on the only island in the lagoon that is much more than a few metres above sea level. The other islands ringing the lagoon are low atolls, a couple of which house wonderful resorts although most of them are uninhabited. Each of these islands is what you would call a perfect tropical island. You know the sort of thing - a small flat island covered in coconut palms and surrounded by perfect white-sand beaches with the lagoon lapping on one side and the ocean on the other. You can access some of these islands on lagoon trips which include a BBQ lunch on the island (or in one case a lunch sitting with your toes in the water). Our specialists know the best trips and you must not leave Aitutaki without experiencing at least one day out amongst the lagoon islands.

Aitutaki has some of the best resorts in the Cook Islands, but there are accommodation types to suit all budgets. We can guide you. Aitutaki is famous for its fresh seafood and you can spend a very enjoyable morning out fishing. Even if you are not normally keen on fishing, this is the place to do it. In most instances you can take your fresh catch back to your resort and have it served up for dinner. The resorts usually have a restaurant and there are a few other eating places where the food is good, the views spectacular and where you'll have a chance to meet some of the local people. We won't go into details of the restaurants here because everyone you meet on holiday in Aitutaki will give you great advice on eating places. Most restaurants arrange transfers often by shuttle. Yes, scooters, motorbikes and cars are available to hire and plenty of people take this option. After a couple of nights on Aitutaki, even the leisurely pace of laid-back Rarotonga starts to look like a mad rush!

OUR ATIU
On a scale of 1 to 10 for a laid-back, relaxing holiday destination, Atiu would have to be close to a perfect 10. Atiu is not the place for upmarket luxury, but for those seeking the luxury of a totally natural environment, a small but super friendly local population and nothing to break the natural peace and quiet except nature itself, a holiday on Atiu will leave you wishing you had stayed longer.

Atiu is a raised coral island, so the coastline is mainly rugged low cliffs of coral rock, although, there are plenty of little white-sand beaches in coves dotted around the coast in sheltered places.  It is very rare to find anyone else on any beach. Everyone on Atiu works in together to provide services to visitors – the guy who runs one of the guesthouses may also be the guide to take you to the magnificent “bird cave” with its candle-lit swimming hole and the family island night at your little resort may well be enjoyed by guests from other properties on the island too.

On Atiu it is easy to get around on a hired motor scooter or car but a great way to enjoy the island is on foot while you enjoy the sounds of the birds in the unspoiled forest and bush.  Take the opportunity to visit a local Tumunu where the “Bush Beer” is well worth a try or two! Enjoy exploring the caves and tiny villages and whatever you do, make sure you partake of the locally grown and roasted coffee


OUR OTHER ISLANDS
Mauke, Mitiaro and Mangaia all have accommodation for holidaymakers and regular flights from Rarotonga. Ask our experts for advice. We have been asked about the availability of interisland shipping. The answer is that unless you have unlimited time (months rather than weeks) small cargo ship access to the other islands is not available, so it's not a tourist option.

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Currency:  New Zealand Dollars (NZD)

Electricity:  220 AC / 50 cycle

Flying Time:  approx. 3 hours from Auckland, New Zealand

Local Time:  10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Weather: 
April to November weather is cooler and drier with more humid warmer weather from December to March.

Entry Requirements: 
* Valid passport for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (NZ passport holders).
* A valid return or onward air ticket and sufficient funds.
Exemption - Cook Islanders travelling on New Zealand or other recognised passports or travel documents may be valid on arrival provided:
* The passport states the place of birth is Cook Islands, or
* The passport contains a wet stamp stating that the passport holder is a 'Cook Islander' with 'right of entry'.

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