The Cook Islands is a sovereign territory of New Zealand and a state which comprises 15 islands and atolls (coral islands) in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean in Oceania.
The Cook islands have a marine tropical climate with heavy rains from November to April. The dry season starts in May and lasts until October. Trade winds blow all the year round, but in summer, they are not so strong as in winter. The average annual temperature is +23-+28°C. The best time for visiting the Cook Islands is summer.
The indigenous people on the Islands are the Maori, they comprise about 90% of all the population. The people living on the Islands belong to one ethnic Polynesian group and speak the Cook Islands Maori language. This language and English are two official languages. The people on the Islands are the Christians.
The Cook Islands are ideal for underwater hunting, diving and other water activities. The Islands can offer everything and anything for active tourism from helicopter flights to hiking and mountain trekking.
Rarotonga Island and the capital city of the country Avarua is known for its welcoming beach resorts. There are many clubs, discos and restaurants for those who love the nightlife. If you like city entertainments, visit the museums, exhibitions and the library. The market in the capital city is the best place to buy interesting souvenirs.
A very beautiful lagoon on the Aitutaki Island attracts the tourists who like snorkeling and diving. You will love a boat trip and riding on catamarans. On the Aitutaki Island, there are interesting hiking routes. You will surely enjoy the trip to the Atiu atoll or the Mauke atoll.
There are no direct flights from Russia or other CIS countries to the Cook Islands. It will take you about two days to get to the Islands with a stop in a hub airport in Europe or the United States of America.
The most popular airline offering the flights to the Cook Islands is Air New Zealand. It offers everyday flights from Auckland to the Rarotonga Island. Once a week, the airline offers a flight from Los Angeles to the Rarotonga Island.
The citizens of London can take a transit flight to the Rarotonga Island with a stop in Los Angeles.
The travelers from EU and CIS countries can stay on the Islands for 31 days visa-free. The tourists must have the following documents:
- international passport (valid for, at least, 6 months);
- confirmation of financial sufficiency 70 NDZ per day (cards, cash, traveler’s checks, account statements);
- booking confirmation;
- return tickets with the date.
If you want to stay on the Islands for a longer time, you can apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration. You can pay 75 NZD and stay for 1-3 months on the Islands or pay 120 NZD and obtain a permit to stay for 4-6 months.
If you are planning to travel to the Cook Islands, make sure you know all the rules concerning import and export of the goods. The travelers are allowed to import foreign and national currency (New Zealand dollars) in any amount. The export of New Zealand dollars is limited to 250 NZD.
Adult tourists can bring in alcohol and tobacco for personal use. The total cost of imported goods must not exceed 250 NZD. Clothes and sports equipment are free of customs duty.
It is prohibited to import guns, drugs, food, fruits or seeds. It is allowed to bring in canned and vacuumed food, but you should notify the Customs officers about it.
The tourists should have the documents confirming their purchase of flora and fauna objects under the state protection and products made from sea shells and corals. Otherwise, these objects will be taken away.
All the wooden handmade crafts, fruits and vegetables, plants and seeds are subject to inspection.
The traditional cuisine of the Cook Islands was developing under a great influence of the Polynesian people and only recently the Europeans brought their cooking traditions.
The staple food is seafood, edible roots (breadfruit), vegetables, grains and spices. Due to the fact that the islands were in isolation for a long time, unique recipes of the local people survived to our days.
Umukai is the dish the locals eat most often. This is seafood or meat cooked in the umu (an earth oven) with edible roots and turmeric.
The locals jokingly say that paw paw is the stuff of life. Indeed, paw paw is the most important fruit on the islands. They add it to the salads and appetizers. The coconut water and flesh are a bit less popular. Coconut and paw paw flesh with lemon and mint is the most popular appetizer and a side dish.
Kuru or breadfruits is the main ingredients for many traditional dishes. Fruits turned into flour are used for making cakes and puddings. We recommend trying Tiopu Kure (meat stew with breadfruits prepared in an earth oven) and Pea Kham (a national soup with Kuru and beans).
For a dessert, you will be offered Poke. This is a banana or any other sweet fruit boiled in the coconut milk.
The local alcoholic beverage Tumunu is a crazy mixture of sugar, fermented oranges, malt and yeast. Its taste reminds of sweet beer.
The official currency on the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar (NDZ). However, in some places, people still pay with the money that existed until 1995, namely, the Cook Islands Dollars.
The banks on the Islands work six days a week. In the capital city Avarua, there are the offices of two international banks ANZ and Westpac. The office of the international bank is also located at the airport and on the Avarua market.
The tourists can exchange the currency at airports, banks in the capital city, in hotels and at banks in Aitutaki. It is better to exchange the currency on the Rarotonga Island. On the outlying islands, the functions of banks are performed by the post offices.
There are ATMs EFTPOS and ATM on the islands Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
The credit cards American express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted on the Rarotonga islands.
Be aware that traveler’s checks on the Cook Islands are accepted only in some shops and hotels on the Rarotonga.
Details of interest
Maori have almost forgotten their pagan origin, but despite a strong European influence, the locals still observe their traditions in everyday life. A tribe is still the main social group of people related by family ties. Normally, people of the same tribe live in the villages. The locals respect women and elderly people, they do not punish children in public and men must provide for their families.
Sightseeing on the Cook Islands
Wonderful beaches and cozy lagoons, untouched jungles and the chain of volcanoes covered with green forests are the main sights on the Cook Islands.
A village near the Arorangi is an open-air ethnographic museum. The tourists will be amazed by the magnificent Uingmor waterfall and the volcanic archipelago the highest peak of which is 658 meters.
You will not miss the capital city of the Cook Islands and it is the city of Avarua. The Seven-in-One Coconut Tree is the symbol of the city. The trees are arranged in an ideal circle. Visit the Avarua local market and buy funny souvenirs. On Saturdays, anyone can take part in a weekly dancing festival. In the suburbs of Avarua, there is a place sacred to all the Maori people. This is Koutu or the Royal Court.
Souvenirs on the Cook Islands
A very popular craft and a souvenir is Touri. It is a bright natural fiber blanket. On the Aitutaki Island, the locals gather and process a unique type of coffee, so coffee will be an ideal gift for coffee lovers.
A New Zealand mint on the Rarotonga island makes the money of very unusual shapes. The travelers can buy a triangular dollar or the coins with Mickey Mouse or Sherlock Holmes.