The Cook Islands


Aitutaki has some of the best beaches in the Cook Islands.


Nine hours from the West Coast, in the center of the Polynesian Triangle, the Cook Islands are flanked to the west by the Kingdom of Tonga and Samoa, and to the east by Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia. There are 15 islands sprinkled over 850,000 square miles of the blue Pacific, many offering paradise-style rest for the wearied business bones and the family holiday maker alike. Brimming with laid-back Polynesian hospitality, the countries of these true tropical paradises are being experienced in greater numbers by the discerning traveler who hankers for relaxation, style and unmatched friendliness. 

When you say South Pacific, most people have heard of Hawaii, Tahiti or Fiji, but few know of the Cook Islands.

Typically tranquil Rarotonga seascape.

Only Rarotonga and Aitutaki are truly set up for tourists. All you need is a swimsuit, flip-flops, shorts and a pareu (sarong). On my first visit I took a suitcase full of clothes and never wore any of them. Suggest your clients buy a pareu when they get there; they’ll find a beautiful selection reasonably priced.

I recommend a few days on Aitutaki and the rest on Rarotonga. The magnificent Aitutaki Lagoon, renowned as one of the most beautiful island lagoons in the world, sits in the middle of the South Pacific surrounded by wonderful coral reefs and small islets. One of the seasons of Survivor was filmed here.

Rarotonga is the most populated of the Cook Islands. It boasts a Parliament building, an international airport, and palm-studded white beaches as far as the eye can see. Snorkel, scuba dive, bike, hike or horseback ride during the day and at night, dance, take in a show or feast at one of the fine restaurants. A must is church service on Sunday. Even if your clients aren’t particularly religious, the a cappella singing will lift their spirits before they embark on another adventurous day in paradise.

For getting around, there’s the island bus, which stops when anyone waves. Scooters are also available for rent. (Note: The only road is 20 miles around island and driving is on the left.) A great day out is a cruise on a glass-bottom boat around the lagoon with an outstanding picnic lunch.

Here are some more facts and tips to pass on to clients who are potential Cook Islands customer.

* There are good shopping opportunities, especially for black pearls, which are farmed in the islands. 

* This is definitely a destination for relaxing, wonderful diving and snorkeling and a great destination for a honeymoon or an anniversary vacations.

* The Cook Islands currency is the New Zealand dollar; your clients will get about NZD$1.20 for their dollar (check exchange rates before they leave on their trip).

* Tips are not accepted. 

* Great deep-sea fishing is good value.

* A good tour is to the island cultural center, to see how crafts are made. 

* There are no posh resorts or high-rises here; it’s mostly simple but good properties, mostly bungalows, located in wonderful locations on the beach. 

* There were very few American tourists when I have been there; most visitors are New Zealanders.