A little like Hawaii 50 years ago (except no crowds and many more modern conveniences). A bit like Tahiti except much more affordable. A big slice of paradise. Yet largely undiscovered by North American travelers.
This would be the Cook Islands.
15 beautiful and lush islands make up this Polynesian archipelago, with stunning white sand beaches, volcanic peaks, turquoise lagoons, beautiful coral reefs, laid back lifestyle and some of the friendliest, if not the friendliest, people in the world.
The islands remain unspoiled, with no chain restaurants and no buildings higher than the tallest coconut tree! In fact, that's the law.
How can you go wrong?
You really can't if you are seeking a relaxed, down to earth destination with ample opportunity to enjoy the sun, sand and sea. Top activities include easy strolls along beautiful white beaches, snorkeling, diving, fishing, kayaking, whale watching, guided nature hikes or venturing in to town to try the local restaurants, hang out with the locals or visit some of the attractions. You can even get married here. Plenty to do.
The 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands cover over 2.2 million square kilometers., and are broken up into the Northern and Southern groups. Most visitors go to the Southern islands of Raratonga and Aitukaki.
International flights arrive and depart from Raratonga, the main island in the "Cooks", with weekly flights from Los Angeles and daily flights from Auckland. This makes for a great one or two week vacation or stopover to and from New Zealand.
One main road goes around the entire island, which takes about 45 minutes to drive - easy to do since there are no stop lights and only one stop sign. You can also take one of the two local buses - shouldn't be too difficult to find the right one!
Raratonga is home to over 30 hotels and resorts, from luxury to family and budget friendly. Beach front villas, private pools, family resorts, the Cooks offer something for every type of traveler - singles, couples, families.
Accommodations are located primarily on the western, southern and eastern shores. Muri Beach sun rises and Arorangi sunsets are exceptional!
Aitutaki, the second most visited island, is a 45 minute flight from Raratonga. This island is one of the most beautiful coral atolls in the world.
More secluded and romantic, this island is perfect for honeymooners, anyone looking for some tranquility and serenity or simply wanting to unwind and reconnect with loved ones. The resorts have lovely private and family bungalows, beach front decks even a property with over water bungalows.
Lots of water activities are available - you can do everything or do absolutely nothing. A massage, a spa treatment, private dinners and of course plenty of other romantic options too.
When to go? Every day is a beautiful day in the Cooks! A year round destination, any time is a good time. The summer months, November through April will be a bit warmer (71-82F), more humid and a higher chance of tropical rain. The winter months, May through October, are cooler (66-77F) with dryer weather.
The Cook Islands are a great destination - for those looking for a romantic getaway, anyone needing time to recharge and reconnect and for families looking for a different adventure. Perfect all around!
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Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder