Need expert help?

Teresa Nelle   Meet Teresa, one of our travel experts for The Cook Islands.


Teresa is a Certified Tahiti Travel Specialist and works with the Tahiti Tourism Board making sure her guests enjoy a fabulous holiday in Tahiti. Teresa lives on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. She's been a Travel Advisor for 20 years, specializing in tropical islands around the world but her true love is the South Pacific. Teresa has traveled throughout the South Pacific Islands and is on a first name basis with many of the resort owners. She has visited Fiji 7 times as well as Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand. Her speciality is multi-country holidays. Her agency, Luxury Hideaways, is rated A+ with the Hawaii Better Business Bureau.


Best Time of Year to Visit the Cook Islands

Explore > Travel Planning Articles > Best Time of Year to Visit the Cook Islands

Date published:
2024-4-22


When's the best time to go to the Cook Islands?  Shown is the east coast of Rarotonga
Rarotonga beach, photo courtesy Nick Paulsen and Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.



Michael  

About the author, Michael Cottam


Founder of Visual Itineraries, Michael lives in Bend, Oregon. He's an avid traveler, scuba diver, photographer, and a private pilot, and also the founder of Bright Yonder. He's been to Fiji, Thailand, Vietnam, Seychelles, Kenya, France, England, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belize, Costa Rica, Turks & Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Mexico, and the major islands in French Polynesia.

He's been a Rotarian for 21 years, currently on the board of the Greater Bend Rotary Club.

Follow Michael on LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter.

Skip to:

Overview of the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. They were originally discovered and settled by Polynesian voyagers in the late 1300s to early 1400s. The islands were named after British navigator Captain James Cook who visited the islands in the late 1700s. In 1901, the Cook Islands became a British protectorate.

The Cook Islands are a group of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Tonga, west of Tahiti, and northeast of New Zealand, near the international date line. The two main islands are Rarotonga (where the international airport is) and Aitutaki. Rarontonga feels a bit like one big resort, ringed by boutique hotels, resorts, homestays, restaurants, gift shops, galleries, cafes, beach bars and convenience stores.

The islands remain undiscovered by most Americans, unlike Fiji or Tahiti. It's the same time zone as Hawaii, and with the new non-stop flights from Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines, they're more accessible than ever. Currency used is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Tipping is not customary in the Cooks.

Mountains of Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Mountains of Rarotonga, photo copyright Alexandra Adoncello.


TRAVEL SPECIAL: Little Polynesian Resort


Little Polynesia 5 nights from 2,294 per person
Little Polynesian ResortTheir location, on one of Rarotonga's finest beaches, will truly provide you with lasting impressions of natural South Pacific living. With a marine protected lagoon that offers 24 hours a day of deep-water swimming, the lagoon is perfect for splashing about and snorkelling. The water teems with an abundant variety of colourful fish while a mild reef-break a few hundred meters out provides a constant hypnotic delight for your visual and audio senses.

Learn more about Little Polynesian Resort

Prices include: Items selected, government taxes and fees and Pleasant Holidays' service fees. Unless specified otherwise, rates are quoted in USD.





Weather in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands have a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. There are two main seasons: the wet season from November to April, and the dry season from May to October. During the wet season, you can get tropical storms and heavy rainfall, while during the dry season you'll mostly have clear skies and light sea breezes. Trade winds provide a pleasant cooling breeze, making the weather in the Cooks generally very pleasant year-round.







Polynesian cultural show
Island night cultural show, photo courtesy Cook Islands Pocket Guide.



Things to see and do on Rarotonga

Rarotonga is the largest and most populous island of the Cook Islands and offers a range of activities for visitors to enjoy. It's also the only island with the international airport, so when you fly to the Cooks, you're going to start here.

Some of the best things to see and do on Rarotonga include:

  • Visit the beaches: it's surrounded by stunning beaches, with clear turquoise waters and lush tropical vegetation. Some of the most popular beaches include Muri Beach, Aroa Beach and Avana Beach.
  • Take a scenic drive: rent a scooter or car and take a drive around the island to discover its stunning natural beauty.
  • Visit the cultural village of Punanga Nui: this open-air market is a must-visit for anyone interested in local culture and arts.
  • Snorkel or scuba dive: the waters around the island are teeming with marine life, and there are several great snorkeling and diving spots around the island.
  • Explore the interior: the middle of the island is a lush tropical jungle with a range of hiking trails that offer stunning views of the island and its surroundings.
  • Visit the Rarotonga Cook Islands Christian Church: this historic church is one of the largest structures on the island and is an important part of local culture.
  • Experience a traditional dance performance: the island is home to several cultural centers that offer traditional dance performances and other cultural activities.

Rarotonga virtual tours, courtesy Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.


TRAVEL SPECIAL: Little Polynesian Resort


Little Polynesia 5 nights from 2,294 per person
Little Polynesian ResortTheir location, on one of Rarotonga's finest beaches, will truly provide you with lasting impressions of natural South Pacific living. With a marine protected lagoon that offers 24 hours a day of deep-water swimming, the lagoon is perfect for splashing about and snorkelling. The water teems with an abundant variety of colourful fish while a mild reef-break a few hundred meters out provides a constant hypnotic delight for your visual and audio senses.

Learn more about Little Polynesian Resort

Prices include: Items selected, government taxes and fees and Pleasant Holidays' service fees. Unless specified otherwise, rates are quoted in USD.







Aerial view of Aitutaki and lagoon, Cook Islands
Aerial view of Aitutaki and lagoon, photo courtesy Cook Islands Tourism.



Things to see and do on Aitutaki

Aitutaki is a small atoll, located about 160 miles north of Rarotonga. It's got an airport, and the flight there takes about an hour.

Some of the best things to see and do on Aitutaki include:

  • Explore the Lagoon: the turquoise waters of Aitutaki Lagoon are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding coral reef and small islets.
  • Visit One Foot Island: this tiny island is located at the southern end of the Lagoon and is accessible by boat. Enjoy a picnic, relax on the beach or take a snorkeling excursion.
  • Tour the main island: it's home to several traditional villages, ancient Polynesian ruins, and coconut plantations, which can be explored on a scenic drive or guided tour.
  • Experience local cuisine: Aitutaki is known for its delicious seafood and tropical fruit, which can be enjoyed at one of the island's dozen+ restaurants or local markets.
  • Explore the lagoon by boat: you can take a guided boat tour of the Lagoon, which provides an opportunity to see the stunning coral formations and marine life up close.
Aitutaki virtual tours, courtesy Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.
TRAVEL SPECIAL:


5 nights from 1,590 per person


Beachfront villa | welcome beverage | daily breakfast | happy hour drink specials | Island Discovery excursion | airport transfers






 

Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, Cook Islands
Overwater bungalows at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, photo courtesy Cook Islands Pocket Guide.


TRAVEL SPECIAL: Sunset Resort


Sunset Resort 5 nights from 1,082 per person
Sunset ResortSunset Resort is the Cook Islands' leading intimate resort property. Located on one of Rarotonga's premier beaches and fronting a crystal clear lagoon, Sunset Resort offers personal attention from our friendly, local staff. Delivering all the services you would expect from a large resort, but in an intimate, beachfront environment.
Learn more about Sunset Resort

Prices include: Items selected, government taxes and fees and Pleasant Holidays' service fees. Unless specified otherwise, rates are quoted in USD.





To compare all resorts in the Cook Islands, click here.

Typical airfares from LAX to Rarotonga, Cook Islands




Airfares vary by season, but also day of week, and are definitely affected by holidays. The chart above shows the typical average fares for a economy class ticket from Los Angeles (LAX) to Rarotonga International Airport (RAR), by month.


 


Aitutaki lagoon
Aitutaki lagoon, photo courtesy Island Love Photography & Alisha Street.


Culture

The culture of the Cook Islands is distinct from that of Fiji and Tahiti, although it shares similarities with both. The Cook Islands are part of the Polynesian cultural sphere, and the local culture is deeply rooted in Polynesian traditions, beliefs, and values.

In comparison to Fiji, the Cook Islands have a more traditional and rural feel. The island culture is more focused on family and community, and the pace of life is generally slower. The Cook Islands also have a strong Christian influence, with many local customs and practices reflecting this influence.

In comparison to Tahiti, the Cook Islands have a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. The island culture is less commercial and more focused on preserving local traditions and customs. The Cook Islands also have a smaller tourist industry compared to Tahiti, which has helped to maintain the authenticity of the local culture.



Cuisine of the Cook Islands
Picnic platter, photo courtesy Cook Islands Pocket Guide.



Cuisine in the Cooks

The cuisine of the Cook Islands is a blend of Polynesian, European, and New Zealand influences. Local ingredients include fresh seafood, tropical fruit, and locally grown vegetables.

Popular dishes in the Cook Islands include:

  • Ika Mata: a raw fish dish made from cubed fish marinated in coconut cream and lime juice, served with vegetables and breadfruit.
  • Rukau: a traditional dish made from taro leaves, cooked in coconut cream and served with meat or seafood.
  • Taro: a staple root vegetable that is often boiled, baked or mashed, and served as a side dish with meat or fish.
  • Poke: a dish made from diced raw fish mixed with coconut cream, onions, and spices.
  • Fresh seafood including tuna, mahi-mahi, and marlin is widely available and often grilled or baked with a variety of herbs and spices.
  • Tropical fruit such as papaya, mango, and passionfruit are often served for breakfast or as a dessert.
TRAVEL SPECIAL: Sea Change Villas Rarotonga


Sea Change Villas: Idyllic Retreats Collection 5 nights from 1,692 per person
Sea Change Villas RarotongaWhite sands, azure seas and blue skies as far as the eye can see. This is the stuff that dreams are made of - but here at our luxury resort you can experience that perfection every day. The ideal villa accommodation for your romantic getaway, unforgettable Cook Islands wedding, or breathtakingly peaceful holiday or vacation.
Learn more about Sea Change Villas Rarotonga

PRICE INCLUDES:
Goway welcome on arrival with a lei greeting and glass of sparkling wine
Private arrival and departure airport transfers
5 nights first-class accommodation
Private-guided Scenic Island Tour
Unlimited use of beach equipment
Breakfast starter kit, bottle of wine and beers in your fridge






Scuba diving in the Cook Islands
Scuba diving in the Cook Islands, photo courtesy Charlotte Piho.



Water temperature and SCUBA diving in the Cook Islands

You can dive year-round in Vietnam, but the primary diving season is March through October for the southwest coast (before the monsoon season), or November through March for Phu Quoc Island and the Con Dao archipelago. Water temperature is typically around 82F. It's a relatively new destination for divers, but it's growing in popularity with both new and seasoned divers. Undersea life you might see includes black frogfish, sting rays, eagle rays, manta rays, bamboo sharks, barracuda, and dugongs.

For a list of the top dive sites in the Cook Islands, check out PADI's page.



How we work with you to plan the perfect trip:

  • We'll talk with you to find out what you're looking for, what you like/don't like, etc.
  • We'll use our first-hand knowledge of the destination to pick out a handful of resorts we think you'd like
  • We'll create a custom mini website for you, with photos, videos, maps, etc. of the resorts we are recommending
  • We'll follow up with you to help you make your decision
  • We'll go to work with our suppliers to get you the best deal available on what you've decided on.



 

Map of our favorite resorts in the Cook Islands


X

abc

xyz

X

abc

xyz