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Cook Islands


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Map of Cook Islands


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The Cook Islands, named after Captain James Cook who landed there in 1773,  are made up of fifteen small islands and two reefs located in the South Pacific Ocean northeast of New Zealand, between French Polynesia and American Samoa.  Altogether they have a land area of 92.7 square miles (240 kms). The fifteen major islands are divided into two groups, the Southern Cook Islands and the Northern Cook Islands.  


The Cook Islands are a self governing island country in free association with New Zealand who is responsible for the Cook Islands defense and foreign affairs.  Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand with Cook Island national status.   Approximately 20 000 people live in the Cook Islands (a July 2000 estimate) but many more Cook Islanders live in New Zealand.  Most people live in the Southern group of islands which due to volcanic activity are hilly and have more vegetation and wildlife than the Northern group which is mostly coral atolls.  The main population is on the island of Rarotonga with the next highest population on Aitutaki.  The capital of the Cook Islands is Avarua, the main town of Rarotonga. When you fly to the Cook Islands you fly into Rarotonga International Airport.

Travel information




The capital of the Cook Islands is Avarua, the main town of Rarotonga. When you fly to the Cook Islands you fly into Rarotonga International Airport.

You won’t find a tropical paradise so packed full of super-special slivers of beach and lagoons like Rarotonga. This popular island has an endless supply of natural wonders, and famous local establishments such as the Te Vara Nui Village, or the Mutatu Brewery. Experience a warm welcome from the island’s locals as you leave any worries from home behind on the plane as you step into one of the most beautiful islands in the southern hemisphere.

Popular activities in Rarotonga.



Get out and about on the beach in Aitutaki! With a bustling snorkeling and scuba diving scene, the island has no shortage fun to be had on the endless white sands and in the clear blue water. Take a tour around Aitutaki to learn of the history and ecology, be it in a seaplane or a relaxing boat tour with champagne. Be sure to check out the Lagoon, peppered with tiny islets waiting to be explored- find your own and claim your secret snorkeling spot! For those looking for a relaxing summer escape, Aitutaki is a must-visit.

Popular activities in Aitutaki.

About Cook Islands


Learn more about the most requested destinations and recommended activity options.



Weather in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands has a warm tropical climate all year round. 

  • November to February have the heaviest rainfalls and humidity.  Temperatures range from 71.6 F to 82.4 F with the average temperature sitting around 77 F.

  • April to November are the drier months with average temperatures of 78.8 F.

When is the best time to visit the Cook Islands?

With a consistent climate and warm water temperatures the Cook Islands makes a great year round destination.





The Cook Islands has one main time zone (CKT).

Cook Islands is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT -10). There is no daylight saving in Cook Islands.


How will I get around in the Cook Islands?

There are several transport options. Many people opt to hire a car, please note that they drive on the left hand side of the road.  The advantage of hiring a car is that you get to explore the island at your leisure.  Other options are using the regular bus service, taxis or bicycles. 


Do you need a visa to enter the Cook Islands?

US Citizens do not need a visa to enter New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji or French Polynesia.



What items can’t I bring into the Cook Islands?

You can’t bring any foreign fruit, vegetables or prohibited items into the Cook Islands.  There are disposal bins on the arrival area of Rarotonga Airport.  You can throw them in there before you go through customs and immigration.


Prohibited times include fruit, meat, livestock, drugs, narcotics, pornographic material, fireworks, firearms and gunpowder.

How much money can I bring into the Cook Islands?

You are required to declare on arrival if you are carrying more than $10,000 NZD in currency.

How much duty free can I bring into the Cook Islands?

Duty free allowances apply to any visitors 18 years and over.  These include:

  • 2 litres of spirits or wine, or 4.5 litres of beer

  • 200 cigarettes or 20 cigars or 250g of tobacco

  • Perfume for personal use only

  • A reasonable amount of gifts

  • Other goods not for resale up to $750 NZD


More information about Cooks Islands customs regulations can be found here.


What is the currency in the Cook Islands?

​The currency in the Cook Islands is New Zealand dollars NZD.  Notes have denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and coins $2, $1, 50c, 20c and 10c.  

What is the currency conversion for USD to NZD?

​You can calculate the conversion rate using XE Currency Converter

Should I get money out before I go to the Cook Islands and what is the best way to pay for things?

​​There are banking facilities at the Rarotonga International Airport and they are available to all international arrivals in the international arrivals terminal.  Westpac and ANZ banks are in downtown Avarua.  You can also find ATM’s for use at the banks and some stores.  On Aitutaki you can find limited banking and ATM’s.

Normal banking hours are 9:00am to 3:00pm, Monday to Friday.


What you need to know about Value Added Tax (VAT).

​There is a 12.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on all goods and services.  Usually this tax is included in the displayed price.

Do I tip for services in the Cook Islands?

​Tipping is not customary or expected in the Cook Islands.


​Can I bargain with retailers and in markets for a better price?

Bargaining can be considered an insult so it is recommended you play the asked price for goods and services.


What language is spoken in the Cook Islands?

There are three languages spoken in the Cook Islands; Maori, English and Pukapukan.  Each island has its own dialect of Maori and the islands of Pukapuka and Nassau speak Pukapukan. English has been the official language since 1915 and most Cook Islanders are bi-lingual.


Are there any etiquette or customs I should be aware of?

​The dress code in the Cook Islands is informal.  Men and women can wear shorts (of a respectable length) during the day.  Beach attire is for the beach only, nudity is illegal including topless sunbathing.

What is the power in the Cook Islands and will I need an adapter?

The voltage is 220 - 240V, AC 50 Hz.  It would be wise to pack an adapter to plug in electronics like laptops, ipads, iphones etc. What you need to get is a Type 1 plug like this one at World Standards. It is the same adaptor that would be required for New Zealand and Australia.

What is the emergency number in the Cook Islands?

The emergency number for police is 999, ambulance or hospital is 998, fire 996.  Non emergency policy number is 22-499.

What is the mobile coverage like in the Cook Islands?

​Mobile phone coverage is available in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.    For cellphone coverage areas you can use Open Signal.

Where can I find WiFi?

All accommodations will have internet access for their guests you can check this when making a reservation.  There are several internet cafes in Avarua.  You can also find Wi-Fi hot spots in various locations which can be accessed with a prepaid wireless access card available from Telekom and many shops.

Can I use a drone in the Cook Islands?

​You can fly a drone in the Cook Islands but you have to abide by the regulations.  More information can be found at the Pacific Aviation Safety Office


Facts about the Cook Islands

  • The Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands and are classified into either a Southern Island, Northern Islands or Other Island.

  • 2 of these islands are uninhabited.

  • The total land mass of the Cook Islands is just 92 square miles but the 15 islands are spread out over a huge area of over 690 000 square miles.

  • The Northern Islands are isolated, a cargo ships from Rarotonga resupplies the islands once a month.

  • Flights to the Northern Islands are 6 hours from Rarotonga and expensive.  Many locals on the Southern Islands have never visited this area (and vice versa).

  • Captain Cook sailed through the Cook Islands area and called them Hervey Islands but in the 1820’s a Russian cartographer and a Captain Cook fan named them after him in his honor.

  • The Cook Islands are named after Captain Cook but he didn’t actually ever set foot on them. 

  • Rarotonga is the most populated island with over 70% of the total population living there.

  • The total population of the Cook Islands is approximately 18 000.

  • The Cook Islands are governed in “free association” with New Zealand.  This means the Cook Island government can govern on all domestic matters, but New Zealand is responsible for foreign affairs and defense.

  • Cook Islanders are also citizens of New Zealand and can live and work there whenever they want to.  New Zealander’s are not however citizens of the Cook Islands.

  • More Cook Islanders live in New Zealand than in the Cook Islands.

  • Polynesians arrived in the Cook Islands in around 800 AD from what is now known as French Polynesia.

  • As early as the 5th century AD Cook Islanders migrated to New Zealand.

  • The currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) but there is some Cook Island currency in circulation.  This currency can’t be used outside of the Cook Islands and is now a collector’s item.

  • The capital of the Cook Islands is Avarua on Rarotonga.

  • The Cook Islands are the second largest producer of black pearls.

  • English is the most widely spoken language, but many people also speak Cook Islands Maori with 90% of islander reading and writing in both languages.

  • The Cook Islands are a popular destination for scuba-diving.

  • Not all islands in the Cook Islands have cars on them. In the Northern Group, Penrhyn and Pukapuka are the only 2 islands with cars.

  • Tourism is an important business for the Cook Islands. It is a great place to visit paradise and not be overrun by tourists.

Facts about Cook Island food

  • The Cook Islanders grow coconuts, pineapples, papaya, tomatoes, coffee, bananas, yams, taro, beans and citrus.  They also farm pigs, poultry and catch fish.  Many of the favorite dishes feature these foods.

  • There is no McDonald’s on the Cook Islands despite campaigns for the fast-food restaurant chain to set up there.

Facts about Cook Island Culture

  • The Cook Islands were settled by Polynesian people in the 6th century.

  • Much of the music and dance in the Cook Islands has a heavy Polynesian Influence.

  • Wood carving is very popular in the Cook Islands with the skill being passed down from older generations of wood carvers.  You can find many wood carvings during your visit and in the markets.

  • Rugby is the most popular sport and is widely played across the Cook Islands.

  • The culture and language in the Cook Islands is closely linked to that of Maori in New Zealand, the Maohi of French Polynesia, the Rapanui of Easter Island and Kanaka Maoli of Hawaii.

  • 87% of Cook Islanders are Polynesian Cook Island Maori.

  • It is common for Cook Islanders to live and work in New Zealand and send money back home to family in the Cook Islands.  There are more career opportunities in New Zealand than on the Cook Islands where tourism and black pearl production are the main income sources.

  • All Cook Island children learn traditional songs and dances in school as this is a very important part of their heritage.

  • Island Nights are popular, where evening shows on stage showcase legends and stories through song, dance and fire.

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