Rarotonga has excellent lagoons fringed by white-sand beaches and living coral reefs, making swimming and snorkelling safe and enjoyable. Inland areas have a dramatic rugged profile with a lush rainforest cover, valleys feature small plantations and colourful village gardens of vibrant tropical flora. The local people take pride in keeping their homes and and villages clean and tidy. The natural environment is unspoiled and unpolluted. Several cultural events and various festivals are held throughout the year. Restaurants, bars, cafes and social clubs are plentiful. The Rarotongan offers guests a different theme dinner buffet complete with varied live entertainment every night, and the island’s only authentic Island Night complete with genuine umukai feast and top island dance troupe.
The Cook Islands lies in the centre of the Polynesian Triangle in the South Pacific Ocean and is spread over 850,000 square miles (2.2 million square kilometres). The Cook Islands is virtually in the same position south of the equator as Hawaii is north. New Zealand is a 4-hour flight to the south, and Honolulu is a 6-hour flight to the north. The Cook Islands is made up of 15 islands broadly falling into two groups, one to the north and one to the south. The Southern Group is nine ‘high’ islands mainly of volcanic origin although some are virtually atolls.
The majority of the population lives in the Southern Group;
Southern Group: Southern Group: Rarotonga, Mangaia, Mauke, Atiu, Mitiaro, Takutea, Manuae, Aitutaki and Palmerston.
Six atolls make up the Northern Group;
Northern Group: Suwarrow, Nassau, Pukapuka, Manihiki, Rakahanga, Penrhyn (Tongareva).
Rarotonga is the capital and also the largest (67 sq. km.) and the highest (658m above MSL). The international airport for the Cooks Islands is on Rarotonga. Air New Zealand is scheduled carriers, operating several flights from New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Hawaii, Los Angeles and Fiji. Canada 3000 flies a popular charter service between Vancouver, Rarotonga, Auckland and Sydney between November and April.
The climate is pleasantly tropical throughout the year; Rarotonga has a mean temperature of 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and an average annual rainfall of 2010mm (79 inches). The ‘summer’ (November - April) is wet and humid; the ‘winter’ (May - October) is predominantly dry. Overall Rarotonga enjoys a fairly even climate with few extremes, and there is no rainy season as is usual closer to the equator. For the latest forecast around the Cook Islands, visit out Cook Islands Meteorological Service Web Page address: http://www.met.gov.ck/
The people are Polynesian of the Maori race with close ethnic affinity to the indigenous people of Tahiti (Maohi), New Zealand (Maori), and Hawaii (Kamaina). Most Cook Islanders are bilingual - speaking both Maori and English. The northern islands were most probably settled around 800AD by migrants from the west - Samoa and Tonga. The southern group inhabitants are largely descended from voyagers from the Society Islands and the Marquesas. The total population of the Cook Islands is 15,000, of whom 8,000 live on Rarotonga - the business and economic hub, with 70,000 visitors coming each year. The people of the Cook Islands are naturally friendly, easy going and sociable. They are also resourceful and hold pride in their ethnic identity. The islanders are a fairly conservative and generally religious people, the lifestyle is fairly relaxed, casual and informal. Serious crime is not a major problem in the Cook Islands. On the capital island of Rarotonga, the lifestyle is more varied and the standard of living is of a higher standard than in the smaller, more remote, outer islands.
Most major credit cards are accepted at many restaurants, hotels, and boutiques. Cash advances on your Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Diners Club cards can be arranged at Western Union or one of the three banks on the island; ANZ, Bank of the Cook Islands, Bank of the South Pacific. Credit cards are also generally accepted on Aitutaki but are not commonly accepted in the other Outer Islands of the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands unit of currency is the New Zealand Dollar. This is supplemented by some Cook Island coins: $1, $2 and $5. The coins are not negotiable outside the Cook Islands, but make for interesting souvenirs. New Zealand dollars may be purchased at the airport, ANZ, Bank of the Cook Islands, Bank of the South Pacific or Western Union in downtown Avarua. There are numerous ATM machines at various locations around the island. Money transfers may be sent to the Cook Islands from anywhere in the world via Western Union Money Transfer Service.
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Departure Taxes from the Cook Islands are now incorporated into your airline ticket, so no additional tax is required.
A visitor's visa is not required for stays of 31 days or less. An onwards airline ticket and prior accommodation bookings are required. Extension of visitor stays may be granted on a monthly basis at the discretion of the Immigration Department.
All information subject to change without notice.