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Things to do in the Cook Islands

Whether you’re someone who likes to keep an itinerary or a free spirit who wants to throw away all plans while on your Cook Islands escape, you won’t be disappointed by this diverse country. The various islands host an array of attractions that suit all styles of travel, from adventurous and high-octane, to relaxed and cultural. 

Punanga Nui Market

Open every Saturday almost as soon as the sun has risen, the Punanga Nui Market is one of the best places to discover the vibrant culture of the Cook Islands. As you browse through the stalls you’re guided by the sound and sight of drummers and dancers performing on the streets. The market sells a variety of local treasures, from black pearls and sarongs to fresh fruits and produce.

Aitutaki Blue Lagoon Fly Fish

Join Butch, the local authority on fly fishing, in casting a line out and snagging a big bonefish in the splendid water of Aitutaki Blue Lagoon. Imagine being knee deep in the water, reeling in a fighter while you're surrounded by picturesque tropical nature. Fishing adventures can last a half or full day and are available year-round. Along with bonefish, you may also encounter queenfish, snapper and barracuda. Butch’s knowledge and experience will help you become a fly fishing pro, so you can catch the big ones.

Pa's Trek

Pa's Trek is a walking tour through the interiors of Rarotonga with a fun and informative twist. Pa is a local celebrity and a true depiction of the charismatic nature of Cook Islanders. His extensive knowledge of the area’s history and love of old stories gives the tours a unique appeal as each trek is different from the other. Although there’s no climbing involved and most of the path is not strenuous, there are moments when you need to be able to navigate rugged terrain. The Cooks is a treasure trove of nature and you get to see a lot of the fauna and flora during the walk.

Takitumu Nature Sanctuary

Consisting of 155 hectares of forests and valleys, the Takitumu Nature Sanctuary boasts almost all of the Cook Islands nature in one place. You can take a leisurely stroll through the Sanctuary, where you can encounter the endangered Kakerori, along with three native land birds – the Rupe, Kukupa and I’oi. Featuring around 70 percent of all the flora found in Rarotonga’s inland, you’ll be seeing new and wonderful areas with every step you take.

Highland Paradise

The award-winning cultural attraction, Highland Paradise, takes you to a settlement where Cook Islanders used to live. Known as ‘the lost village’, Highland Paradise includes daily tours that show historical sites and entertain with re-enactments of crucial moments in Cook Islands history. If you attend a cultural night, you’re treated to expert guides, a tapu lifting, warrior welcome and a feast cooked in a traditional underground oven (umu). Entertainment is provided all throughout the night, from dancing and music to spectacular stage shows.

Explore The Ancient Caves On Mangaia

The island of Mangaia, one of the least populated in the Cook Islands, is steeped in rich history. A lot of this history resides in the intricate cave systems that exist on the island. The adventurous souls will enjoy stepping into these caves including Te Puta, a small cave where a recluse lived and which provides stunning views of the island’s plateaus. Some of the caves seem endless, stretching as far as three kilometres with a labyrinth of twists and turns. If you’re brave enough to venture through them, you may come across the human remains of past island residents.

Vaka Marumaru Atua

Few activities let you know how seaworthy you are better than a voyage out beyond the reef on a traditional sailing canoe (vaka). The Vaka Marumaru Atua is a large sailing canoe built using the same methods of ancient Cook Islanders. It can transport groups out into deep water, where you may need to brace for the occasional big wave. The cruises last about three hours and provide glamorous views of Rarotonga. If you want to increase the excitement, ask about the occasional night journey on the Marumaru Atua from Rarotonga across to Aitutaki.

Surfing Shallow Breaks In Rarotonga

Surfing off the island of Rarotonga is an epic event thanks to the shallow reefs. However, these reefs also provide some of the best tube rides in the Pacific. Known for being short and punchy, each ride gives you a quick dose of adrenaline as you cruise centimetres above the reef along crystal clear water. The most reliable surf breaks can be found off Avana Harbour, Rutaki and off Club Raro. Due to the hazardous combination of the shallow water and the sharp coral in the reef, surfing in Rarotonga is only recommended for experienced surfers.

Control The Wind With Kitesurfing

The Cook Islands has seen a recent rise in the popularity of kitesurfing, thanks to regular weather that is tailor-made for the sport. There are multiple companies that facilitate kitesurfing with lessons, professional equipment and boat transfers. The steady winds that blow across Aitutaki Blue Lagoon and Muri Lagoon provide the perfect conditions for kitesurfing, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.