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Cook Islands Holiday

Updated on December 11, 2012

Relaxing at the Beach

Muri Lagoon View

Deep Relaxing!

Live Sport

Get Ready to Relax!

In our busy life schedules we need to find more time to relax and to get away from work, study and our hectic modern life. For me that means a once a year get away from Adelaide, jump on a plane and end up somewhere different. And there is no better place to relax in the world than the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands are in the middle of the south pacific near Tonga and Samoa, directly north of New Zealand. The nation was a NZ territory and still uses the New Zealand dollar as their currency. My wife and I have been to the Cooks three times, once as a couple (before children) and twice since with the kids.

My holiday starts from the time that I book the flights with my travel agent. I find it really inspiring to have booked a holiday as I have something to look forward to and to reward myself for the long hours or heavy workload that we all have from time to time.

Getting to the Cook Island capital, Rarotonga (Raro for short) is not easy. There are no direct flights from Australia, so all flights hub out of Auckland. For Adelaide residents this means a direct flight to Auckland with a connection to Rara or an east coast connection flight to Auckland, then on to Raro. At present just Air New Zealand or Virgin fly to this destination. The flight to Auckland is around 3.5 hours and the one flight to Raro is another 4-5 hours. Overall this can make it a bit of a long flight, but it is worth the effort.

From the US Air New Zealand has a direct flight a couple of days per week from LAX direct to Raro. I took this flight about a year ago on the return from Europe and it is about a 7 hour haul. My then 1 year old decided to scream for the final hour and only stopped once she saw the beautiful beaches as we came into land!

Once you have booked your flights go to the Cook Islands web site and find private houses for rental. Prices for these properties range from NZ$400-$2000 per week. I usually rent my properties from the Chambers family and have stayed at Muri Kite Moana right next to the lagoons at NZ$1050 for an entire week! Make the booking direct with the owners and remember in Raro they are on island time, so it may take a day or two to get back to you. The good news is that they will give you very clear instructions to you house so you can drive from the airport to home in under 20 mins!

The final thing that I do is rent a car or a scooter, Raro Rentals is a good company to buy from. They will leave the car or scooter for you at the airport which makes it very convenient.

With flights, accommodation and car hire sorted you just need to buy some travel insurance and wait for the departure day! A few days before departure make sure that you have plenty of books (I usually take 3-5 each), some sun screen and swimming shoes (due to the sharp reef rocks on some of the beaches).

Once you arrive after your flight you will feel a gust of clean tropical air as you walk on the tarmac to the arrivals hall. One of the locals will be playing his guitar and sings to the crowds on every flight arrival. Before you clear customs make sure that you buy any alcohol as it’s much cheaper than LA or Auckland.

Once you have finalised the formalities make your way to your hire car and follow the directions to you accommodation. If you have arrived during the day I recommend a quick swim to freshen up, put on a Hawaiian shirt and start relaxing.

I find that I get into a routine very quickly in Raro that goes something like this:

  • Get up leisurely and have breakfast while reading about 50 pages in a book
  • Do a morning activity, especially in summer – before it gets too hot
  • Have lunch and a beer or two
  • Go for a swim at a local beach
  • Back around 4pm for pre-dinner drinks
  • 6pm go out for dinner or cook a BBQ at home
  • 8pm put the kids to bed and spend the evening talking, reading and a have a couple of G&Ts!

The great thing about Raro is that you are isolated from our busy world. I am yet to get my mobile to work, the TV station is primarily NZ soapies and church services and the newspaper is about 6 pages long and comes out every couple of days. So you get a chance to deeply relax and you start to spend quality time with your family.

While in Raro there are a couple of must-do’s, which we usually do during our morning activities. These include:

  • Go shopping! You can visit every shop in Raro’s town centre within a couple of hours, so there is no need to rush. You will find stores selling ‘island’ shirts and women’s clothing, black pearls, books, paintings and the world famous stamps. While you are wandering around you can also find a couple of great cafes for really good coffee
  • Try the local coffee liqueurs and even buy a bottle of it in the shape of a local god
  • Try the jams and scones at the little shop on the south of the island
  • Visit the botanical gardens
  • Take the 60 minute drive/ride around the island
  • Walk across the island through the extinct volcano
  • Find the archaeological site near Muri beach which once was a meeting area
  • Visit the national museum

Cook Islanders are passionate about sport and on some afternoons (especially on Saturdays) you can see some top sport. I have seen a World Team Cup soccer qualifier and a u/16 International Rugby Union match at the ground.

In the afternoons we tend to go for a swim at one of the local beaches. By far our favourite is Muri beach with the protected lagoons making it very safe for children to swim. For the more adventurous the Southern beaches offer the best view of fish, the water appears to be teeming and for surfing the Western beaches are the best. Near black rock is one of the best surfing beaches with the added bonus of being right near the airport – when a big plane lands you can almost feel like you can reach up and touch it!

For the evening there are still plenty of activities. Dining at Trader Jacks or the Polynesian Café (in the middle of the town - $10 T-bones!) or the Flame Tree Restaurant at Muri are all musts. The local fish & chip shop also offers local fish which have the texture of chicken. Other activities at the resorts are also worth while, especially the Island nights. I went to the Edgewater Island night and we had a great time.

Otherwise after an exhausting day spent relaxing spending the evening at home with a bottle of wine and BBQ is just as entertaining. There are two supermarkets in Raro – CITC and Foodland. Both offer reasonable prices and will have fresh fruit and veg depending upon that week’s shipment.

If you are lucky enough to be in Raro during the weekend there are two additional attractions.

On Saturdays there will be live sport somewhere in the afternoon, but in the mornings the Market will be operational. The usual tourist souvenirs will be available including wood work, island crafts, shirts and t-shirts. There is also fruit and veg as well as takeaway food. On some market days there can also be live entertainment. This is worth an hour or two to simply see how the community interacts with each other and maybe to discover a treasure or two.

The other attraction is attending Church on Sunday. The Cook Islanders are deeply religious people and Sunday is a day of rest. Pubs and shops are closed on Sunday and most of the population will attend church. I recommend that you also attend as the singing is beautiful and you get a real insight into the culture of the Cook Islanders. The people take pride in their appearance and as guests you should also dress up for church. You will see the women in beautiful dresses, the men in suits and the children in pressed white shirt or beautiful dresses (usually white). For guests wearing a pair of shorts/chinos and a shirt (for men) is acceptable, for women a nice dress that is not too revealing is also acceptable. Attending a church service is one of the best aspects of the Cook Islands and I cannot recommend it too highly.

All good holidays come to an end and as you depart Raro I am sure that you will have fond memories of this little paradise on earth that helps you to deeply relax!


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      Jo 6 years ago

      Michael, you've got me in holiday mode now!