Paradise on Earth: A Guide to Visiting the Cook Islands with Family

Are you looking for a small piece of paradise to explore with your family for your next vacation?  If so, then you might want to consider traveling to the Cook Islands. These extraordinary islands have everything you need for an incredible family vacation filled with relaxation, adventures, and much more.  

Where are the Cook Islands?

When you are trying to determine where Cook Island is, all you need to do is look at a map of the Pacific Ocean to the northwest of New Zealand.  The distance between these two areas is a little more than two thousand miles. When you arrive at the Cook Islands for vacation, you will quickly realize that other than the multiple islands, there is no other land for miles.  This won’t be a problem though, because paradise awaits.  

Cook Islands Map
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Different Cook Islands

There are fifteen islands within this archipelago, and during a Cook Islands vacation, you must spend some time on more than one of them.  The islands as a whole were named after Captain Cook, who was a British explorer. He sailed through this part of the Pacific Ocean back in 1773 and was the first person to notice these gorgeous islands.  

When you look at a map of Cook Islands, you will see the names of the fifteen islands are:

  • Mangaia
  • Rarotonga
  • Mauke
  • Atiu
  • Mitiaro
  • Takutea
  • Manuae
  • Aitutaki
  • Palmerston
  • Suwarrow
  • Nassau
  • Pukapuka
  • Manihiki
  • Rakahanga
  • Penrhyn

The capital of Cook Islands is Avarua, and it is on the northern section of the island of Rarotonga.  The Cook Islands people are citizens of both Cook Islands and New Zealand, which is a designation that has them belonging to both countries.  The same does not hold true for New Zealanders though. Those locals are only citizens of New Zealand and not the islands.  

How to Travel to Cook Islands

Travel to Cook Islands is much easier than you think, and you can even find some amazing vacation packages to Cook Islands.  The Cook Islands airport is on Rarotonga Cook Islands and it is called the Rarotonga International Airport. There are other Cook Islands airports, but they serve all the flights that go between the islands.  This is perfect for when you want to check out the other islands during your Cook Islands vacation.  

Travel to Cook Islands

When taking a Cook Islands vacation, you can easily fly into the Cook Islands airport from New Zealand every single day of the week.  Flights from Tahiti go there twice a week and a convenient once a week non-stop flight is available from both Sydney and Los Angeles.  

Cook Island Weather

Cook Island weather is almost always sunny and beautiful, so you can take a family vacation there at any time of the year.  There are basically two seasons associated with Cook Island weather and they are cooler and dry and warmer and slightly wet.  

There is a better chance of showers from November, December, January, February, and March, while the rest of the months of the year are very dry.  The months of June, July, and August are the cooler months on these islands, while the rest of the year brings warmer temperatures.  

Now, when we say cooler and warmer, that is all relative on Cook Islands.  The cooler temperatures rarely reach below sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit, while the warmer temperatures rarely go over eighty-four degrees Fahrenheit.  

Cook Island Resorts and Hotels

Since the Cook Islands count on tourism, there are many Cook Islands hotels and resorts for you to choose from.  Most of those hotels and resorts are on Rarotonga and Aitutaki and you will find yourself staying in accommodation that is directly on the water.  

luxury resort - Visiting the Cook Islands with Family

You can choose to stay in a basic hotel, luxury resort or villa, or even a holiday home for your Cook Islands family vacation.  While there are a few adult-only accommodations on Cook Islands, there are plenty that are very family friendly. Those family friendly destinations sometimes include full kitchens, laundry areas, kids’ clubs, and even babysitting services.  

A few of the favorite family resorts and hotels on Cook Islands include the Edgewater Resort and Spa, the Rarotonga Beach Resort and Lagoonarium, and the Pacific Resort Rarotonga.  

Things to Do While Visiting Cook Islands

The list of things to do while visiting Cook Islands is plentiful, so do not think for one moment that your family will be bored during your visit.  Yes, you will have ample beach time, but the rest of your days and nights will be full of thrilling adventures.  

A sample itinerary might look like beach time in the morning, followed by a little crab racing, jungle trekking, and snorkeling within one of the lagoons.  

Things to Do Avarua Cook Islands

When you are in Avarua Cook Islands, you will definitely want to take the time to relax and play on the beach.  Nikao Beach is an excellent option for families, because there is a BBQ area and multiple activities everyone can participate in.  We do not recommend venturing over to Sanctuary Rarotonga-on the Beach, because that is a secluded area that is only for adults.  

If you are looking for a way to explore Avarua Cook Islands, you may want to consider renting a bicycle for the day.  You can ride along the streets and along any trails, making discoveries along the way.  

Things to Do in Rarotonga Cook Islands

One of the must-do items in Rarotonga Cook Islands is taking a lagoon cruise.  You simply get onto a pontoon boat for half of a day to explore the nearby islands, swim and snorkel, and eat BBQ upon your return. 

Of course, you can go out on the water in other ways too, so make sure you take the time to do a little kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, or diving on your own when you are on a Cook Islands vacation.  

You must go shopping when you are in the Rarotonga Cook Islands, because they are famous for their sarongs and oils.  There are so many sarongs to choose from, and while you may be tempted to purchase the cheaper printed ones, I recommend splurging on a hand painted one too.  As for the oils, they are all one hundred percent natural and you definitely won’t be able to walk away with just one.  

Rarotonga Cook Islands

If you are interested in seeing everything Rarotonga has to offer, then a cross island trek is your best option.  There is a path that begins at the northern end of the island, goes through the jungle, and ends at a waterfall. You will want to take a guide with you for this hiking adventure, because you won’t want to get lost in the middle of the jungle.  

Not every family loves to hike, so if you are more of a water person, you may want to consider taking a boat ride out to the Boiler shipwreck.  The top half of this ship rises out of the water, so it is easy to spot and the marine life that hangs out nearby will have you snapping pictures like crazy.  

Before you leave Rarotonga Cook Islands, you must stop at Wigmore’s Waterfall.  This waterfall is amazing, because you can basically drive right to it, so no hiking is required!  Simply park your vehicle and walk down a short path to the rushing water. Once you reach the falls, you can do a little swimming and enjoy a picnic lunch.  

Things to Do in Aitutaki Southern Cook Islands

Cruising the Aitutaki Lagoon is a favorite amongst past tourists, basically because it is a day filled with sunshine, water, snorkeling, BBQ, and a visit to One Foot Island Beach Cook Islands.  If you happen to have your passport with you when you visit this infamous beach, you can get it stamped as proof you were there.  

There are plenty of lookout locations in Aitutaki Cook Islands, but you must hike up to the summits to reach them.  These hikes are best done in the morning, before the heat of the day, but that time also rewards you with stunning sunrises.  If you do not want to hike at all, then make the drive to the top of Piraki Lookout. Maungapu Lookout only requires a few minutes’ walk, so that might be another option.  

If you are more of a night person, or just prefer watching the sun set in the sky, then you must make sure you are on the western side of this island at the end of the day.  While you can just travel over there for a visit, I recommend booking your hotel on that side of the island if sunsets are really your thing! 

One of the best ways to explore the entire Aitutaki Southern Cook Islands is by scooter, so rent one and see what you can find.  It won’t be long before you come across an ancient temple or two and you can always take a break under the shade of a coconut tree.  

Cook Islands Cuisine

You know your family will be hungry while taking a Cook Islands vacation, but you never need to worry about what you will be eating.  Most of the Cook Islands resorts and hotels have their own restaurants, which is perfect when you don’t want to venture too far at the end of the day.  If you have a kitchen in your room, you can stock up on many favorite foods at the local market. Don’t forget to grab some fresh tropical fruits when you are there, though, because your entire family will love the juicy flavors.  

Cuisine - Visiting the Cook Islands with Family

When you are looking for a unique experience on Cook Islands, you needn’t look any further than Island Night.  This special event is a show with a traditional umu cooked dinner and is held at Highland Paradise or Te Vara Nui, which are cultural villages.  During the show, there is music, dancing, and singing, which will keep your entire family occupied as you eat the traditional Cook Islands cuisine.  

Your entire family will enjoy the paradise that is known as Cook Islands for your next vacation.  A little planning ahead will have you experiencing more than one of these islands and you will never hear anyone say that they are bored or ready to go home.  In fact, this may be the first vacation where everyone asks you if you can all stay a little longer!

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