Vacation in the Cook Islands
If you’ve ever wanted a travel experience off the grid, a vacation in the Cook Islands would be a good choice. Scattered over an expanse of ocean the size of Western Europe, the 15 Cook Islands are a castaway’s dream come true.
The islands are largely unspoiled by tourism and offer a rare opportunity for people to experience a different type of vacation. The pace is in low gear and no resort is higher than the tallest palm tree. It’s here you’ll find a thousand years of Polynesian culture sitting side by side with some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the South Pacific. The Cooks Islands are ideal for travelers seeking more than the usual clichés associated with the South Seas, each island has its unique qualities and offer the visitor a special experience. The islands can be visited as a stand-alone vacation destination or as a stop-over from New Zealand.
The Cooks lie just south of the equator, roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and are serviced by Air New Zealand from the US. The islands are divided into two groupings and intra-island air services are taken care of by Air Rarotonga, which flies regularly to most of the Northern and Southern islands. The Southern group consists of Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Manuae, Takutea, ‘Atiu, Mitiaro, Ma’uke and Mangaia. While the Northern group is Penryhn, Rakahanga, Maniki, Pukapuka, Nassau and Suwarrow.
The Cook Islands are a year-round vacation destination with only slight seasonal temperature variations. Rarotonga (Raro to the locals), the principal and largest island of the Southern group, is where most of the tourist industry is centered. And while there are pockets of tourism on other islands, Aitutaki, the smallest island, is the next most frequented for its’ picture-postcard lagoon.
The Cooks are essentially independent and self-governing in association with New Zealand. Islanders hold NZ citizenship and the currency trades against the Kiwi dollar which makes a Cook Islands vacation a good value for North Americans.
The Cook Islands were first settled in the 6th century by Polynesians during their great migration around the Pacific. And islanders today, retain a deep sense of identity to their Maori ancestors expressed through the preservation of traditional arts and crafts practices, legends, songs and dances. They are a people who have successfully kept alive many of their traditions yet are fully conversant with modern life. Captain James Cook explored the islands in the late 1700s and they were subsequently visited by a succession of explorers. The name Cook Islands was eventually extended, in his honor, to the entire chain under New Zealand’s rule.
Today, Cook Islanders are renowned throughout the Pacific for their sensual grace and flair in their dance performances. During your Cook Islands vacation you will have the opportunity to attend “Island Nights” performances held at resorts throughout Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
If anything, the Cook Islanders are “festival happy” and there always seems to be a celebration of some sort. But the really big event is the Constitution Day celebration in late July/August. Advance planning is a must of you want to time a Cook Islands vacation and attend some of the week-long festivities. Other major events are the Dancer of the Year (April) and the Tiare Flower Festival (November).
Another major art form is Tivaevae – the art of quilting. Introduced by missionaries in the 19th century, the craft grew into a communal activity which is still practiced. Tivaevae with precious beads and gems woven through are a collector’s item for the cognocenti.
The Cooks are also famous for their lustrous grey/black pearls. The black-lipped mother of pearl shell is a native of the South Pacific and thrives in the clear, unpolluted waters of the lagoons of the Northern islands of Manihiki and Penrhyn. And with the favorable exchange rate, you can pick up a strand or two.
Don’t let all this laid-back atmosphere lull you into thinking the only activity is hammock hopping. Rugby, cricket, outrigger canoeing, sport fishing, diving, island trekking and mountain biking lead the list. And don’t be shy about asking in on a pick-up game, islanders are most welcoming.
In short, these English-speaking islands, are the South Pacific’s best kept secret. Let PacificIslands.com help you design a memorable Cook Islands vacation.