Planning a vacation to the Cook Islands. Then you need to read our helpful tips and useful visitor information to ensure you make the most of your upcoming holiday.

Visas & useful Visitor Information

Upon entering the Cook Islands visitors are issued with a a stay of max. 31 days. In order to receive this they need to have a valid passport (with at least 6 months left on it), a valid return or onward ticket and sufficient funds to finance your stay. You can demonstrate this with cash, travellers checks or a credit card. There are no special requirements regarding visas and mandatory vaccinations for tourists. Upon arrival, an “Arrival Card” be filled with personal data; This is already being distributed on board the aircraft.

Upon arriving in the Cook Islands, the traveler is asked for an explanation on any brought food, plants and products of animal origin.

International Departure in the Cook Islands
Check-in time for international flights from the Cook Islands is 120 minutes before departure. The airport tax is now incorporated in the ticket.

The electricity in the Cook Islands is 240V / 50Hz. The three-pole sockets are identical to those in Australia and New Zealand. For the connection of shavers, hair, etc., or an adapter-plug is needed.

Duty Free
In addition to items of a personal nature, visitors can enter the following tax items:

Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco or 50 cigars, respectively. a combination of tobacco products whose weight does not exceed 250g.

Alcoholic beverages: 2 liters of wine or spirits or 4.5 liters of beer.
Other items with a total value of NZ$250.

Entertainment & Night Life
In the larger hotels there is usually a Polynesian cultural show once per week. Friday night is “party night” on the island, the clubs are open until 2am. There are also party buses that operate on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights – great night out for locals and tourists alike.

Food & Drink
Most major hotels offer restaurant and room service. Ocean fish, shellfish (lobster) and tropical fruits are commonly served. In the main town of Avarua are some good restaurants. A popular spot is Trader Jacks serving fresh seafood and delicious pizzas on the harbour.

Also covered in Averua are fast food restaurants, local “takeaways” and small restaurants (such as bistros, pizzarias and indian and asian cuisine).

The dress code is typically informal “Casual”, although in upscale restaurants at resorts sometimes evening dress is appreciated.

Because the islands of the Cook Islands are surrounded by the ocean, you will often find on the menu fresh tuna and other large fish and shellfish and tropical fruit. In traditional cuisine sweet potato and cassava (both the root and the leaves) are used.

If you have your laptop or smartphone along on your trip, you can use it in certain places using a wifi connection which can be purchased. Please note that internet is still very costly in the Cook Islands, so perhaps use this as an opportunity to relax and detach from the outside world for a few days.

With many hotels and in Averua and Muri you will also find a number of Internet cafes.

Currency & costs

The currency in the Cook Islands is New Zealand dollar, although they also have their own Cook Island $2 coin (triangle shape) and $3 note.

There are two banks located in Avarua (the main town), ANZ Bank and Westpac Bank (opening hours: Mon / Fri 9:00 to 15:00 pm, also the Westpac Bank on Saturday, 9:00 to 12:00 hours). At the banks you will find a cash machine (ATM). On Aitutaki and Atiu will find (in the main town), a bank with cash machine (ATM). On other islands there are no ATMs avaliable.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)
On goods and services in the Cook Islands levied a sales tax of 10% (Tipping
In principle, tipping is not mandatory, but if you have received exceptional service then you can express your appreciation by giving a small tip. Service charges and taxes are generally included in the price.

When to go

The Cook Islands have a year round pleasant and sunny climate. The months of April / m November are the driest and coolest, with a temperature between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius. The months of December / March are the wet season, with temperatures slightly higher (between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius) and there is a slight risk of severe storms. Especially on the east side of Rarotonga is at this time a lot of rain. Also on the west side and on the other islands is the higher humidity in this period, but a continuous trade wind makes it enjoyable.

What to wear for the climate
When you plan your visit to the Cook Islands it is best to bring light summer clothing. When visiting a local village residents make sure not to show up in swimwear, but with shirt or t-shirt.

Consider a thin raincoat (for walks) and plastic sandals or reef shoes (for protection against coral). Bring a hat or cap to protect against the sun. The shops in Averua may otherwise provide virtually everything that you need to enjoy your holiday.

Festivals and Events
The following four major annual events are held:

Dancer of the Year (Polynesian dance show with competition between the islands) in April;
Miss Cook Islands election in September;
Round Rarotonga Road Race on a Saturday in October;
Tiare Week (Flowers festival on the first day the “food festival” and the last day the parade in November
Vaka Eiva – outrigger canoe paddling festival in November.

Getting there

The only international airport of the Cook Islands is located on the northwest side of the island of Rarotonga. The airport is located 4.5 miles west of the main town of Avarua. Both international and domestic flights are carried out at this airport.

These airlines conduct international flights:

Air New Zealand (Auckland and Christchurch (New Zealand)
Air Tahiti (Tahiti [French Polynesia], which provides connections on flights to Los Angeles and europe).
Qantas (Sydney [Australia])
Virgin Australia (Sydney [Australia])

All other airports and airstrips only serve the domestic air traffic.

The transport between the islands is done with Air Rarotonga. This company has an extensive route network and flight schedule. This allows you to fly daily between the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Several times a week from Rarotonga flying to Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro and Mangaia. The flight to Manihiki and Penrhyn is performed 1x per week.

There is a domestic Airpass available for tourists, so your ticket consists of a total of flight sectors. If a transition is to be made by a flight between two outer islands and the subsequent flight has the same flight number, this counts as one flight. In all other cases of transfer are two separate flights calculated. Sales tax is charged on airline tickets.

Getting around

On Rarotonga there is a bus that runs 7 days a week. The clockwise and anti clock wise routes.

On the outer islands is no regular public transport. You are dependent on transfers from the hotels, a few taxi or a rented scooter or bicycle. The distances are fortunately limited.

Health & safety

The climate in the Cook Islands is pleasant, therefore you usually do not need to take any special medical precautions. However, the best you can go to the GGD or your family doctor for specific advice.

The Cook Islands has almost no dangerous or poisonous animals. The most dangerous animal is probably the shark. Inside the reefs in the lagoon from time to time you will see small harmless reef sharks. The larger shark species – such as the hammer head, tiger shark and white shark – like deep water so you are only likely to encounter if you are scuba diving outside of the lagoon.

Remember that the coral is sharp. To prevent sores and possible infections, we recommend that you wear plastic sandals or reef shoes when you are walking or in shallow water over coral is swimming over the coral. If you have to cut the coral the risk of infection is very large, do not wait to long to use antibiotics.

Water in Cook Islands
Tap water is generally safe to drink on Rarotonga, but chlorinated. For safety, however, we advise you to boil your drinking water or buy bottled water.

Sunburn in Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are located in the tropics, the air is not polluted and pure. This brings strong solar radiation unhindered on earth. Head covering and a sunscreen with a high protection factor is so highly recommended.

History & culture

According to legends, the first Polynesians arrived in the Cook Islands by canoe from French Polynesia in 1200 AD. But excavations indicate that the Cook Islands as early as the sixth century it was first inhabited by Polynesians who migrated from the southeast from nearby Tahiti. Origin of the residents are also closely related to the Maori.

The first European who discovered the Cook Islands was the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendaña. The Spaniards at that time were more interested in a quick route between Peru and the Philippines, then in colonization of the islands. The Spaniards in the late sixteenth century moored a few times in the islands.

It was Captain James Cook who mapped the islands on his voyages of discovery through the Pacific in 1773 and 1777. He named the islands the Hervey Islands. Although Captain Cook a few weeks staying in the area, he missed Rarotonga.

According to tradition Rarotonga was later observed by Captain William Bligh of the Bounty (for the mutiny), and the islands were eventually visited by the mutineers of the Bounty (a few weeks after the mutiny). A Cook islander was time to board the Bounty and got upon returning to shore with some oranges. Kernels of these oranges have laid the foundation of the current citrus industry. Incidentally, the archipelago was only in 1824 the name Cook Islands Russian cartographer John von Krusenstern.

In the time of the first European explorers of the islands were ruled with an iron fist by a feudal chiefdom. Like other Polynesians they believed Cook Islanders in a hierarchy of gods and spirits. Many of these gods and spirits were depicted in carvings and drawings. At the beginning of the 19th century, the islands were visited by whalers and traders in Sandalwood.

Christianity was brought to the islands in 1821 by the English missionary John Williams. Often in appalling conditions built churches and missions from the 19th century can still be visited. Almost all Cook Islanders were eventually converted to Christianity.

Another remarkable person was William Masters, a farmhand from Gloucester -England. After arriving in Rarotonga, he married a local woman and settled on the remote island of Palmerston. Masters appointed himself minister of the Anglican Church. After 18 years stay in Palmerston he was the father of 60 children. Masters divided the island into three, one for each family member. Currently thousands of Cook Islanders decend from William Masters.

The Cook Islands became independent in 1965, with a democratic multi-party system was established. After the islands autonomy obtained Albert Henry (of the Cook Islands Party) was elected as the first Prime Minister. In 1978, Henry was succeeded by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party.

Country Profile

The population of the Cook Islands is 14,974, with the majority of this living on Rarotonga.

Christian; predominantly Roman Catholic, Protestant and Anglican. The ancient Polynesian belief influences still live mainly in song and dance.

The local language is the Cook Islands Maori. This language has much in common with other Polynesian languages. English is the second language, which is spoken by virtually all inhabitants. Visitors will linguistic generally encounter few problems.