Everything That You Should Know About The Cook Islands

South Pacific Islands

The Cook Islands Is A Tropical island Paradise

The Cook Islands is a tropical island about a four-hour flight North East of New Zealand. The Cook Islanders are friendly and welcoming people, always willing to lend a hand.

The country’s primary source of revenue is tourism, which concentrates around Rarotonga and Aitutaki. This leaves the other, remarkable outer islands virtually unexplored. Each opens for exploration with complete freedom, as is rarely experienced today.

When one first arrives in Rarotonga, the main island is like going back in time. It has a town with a hand full of shops offering the basics. Travelers are advised to bring along whatever they may need during their visit, other than foods and drinks.

But only if you touch ground on the Outer Islands, you’ll find the most amazing untouched landscapes. Places with great people and an environment for real and rare adventures.

Here's a Free Handy Cook Islands Infographic For You

Our Cook island infographic contains essential information for you to plan your visit to the Cook Islands.

We have prepared detailed infographics for each one of the Cook Islands islands. Visit the pages of the islands for their respective infographics.

Click below to download the high resolution infographic of the Cook Islands.

Essential information and stats about the Cook Islands



The Cook Islands is a South Pacific Island State, located in the heart of Polynesia and nestled between French Polynesia in the East and Samoa in the West.

The Cook Islands comprises 15 tropical islands. It has a total landmass of 240 km2 / 149 mi2, which is scattered across an ocean area of 2.2 million km2 / 1.4 million mi2.

The islands are divided into the Northern and Southern Islands Group. 12 of the 15 islands are inhabited. The main island is Rarotonga, with the capital being Avarua.

The northern islands are flat sandy atolls with largely unspoiled turquoise lagoons and magnificent marine wildlife.

The southern islands consist of fossilized corals that form a landscape of rough cliffs, many caves, terraces, valleys, and isolated lagoon areas.



Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens, and the country’s currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD).


Population & Tourism

About 17,500 Cook Islands still live in the Cook Islands.

Visitor numbers have increased the past few years and current up at 170,000.


Political Environment

The Cook Islands is a self-governing Island State in a free association with New Zealand.

It is a democracy with a parliamentary system. It is also part of the Commonwealth with Head of State being the Queen of New Zealand/ England.



English and Cook Island Maori are spoken here.

Maori is expressed in various dialects across the outer islands. Yet, Pukapukan is an entirely different language.

All Cook Islanders understand all other variations of Maori. The standard greeting throughout the Cook Islands is “Kia Orana”.

Thank You always begins with “Meitaki” cross the dialects. But “Thank you very much” does differ across the islands.


Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Cook Islands would be during the dryer and colder seasons from May to October.

But, with the added humidity, it certainly feels warmer than the thermometer shows. Be warned, the evenings can cool down to as low as 17°C on Rarotonga.

Cook Islands Weather Patterns

The rainy season is from around November to April. This period is known as the cyclone period in the southern Cook Islands, although they are rarely in the path of one.

In the Southern Group, which includes Rarotonga, the average daily temperature from May to October is 22°C / 72 °F. The minimum being 19°C / 66°F and maximum 26°C / 79°F.

November to April are the warmer months with daily temperatures averaging 26°C / 79°F. The minimum being 22°C / 72°F and maximum 29°C / 84°F.

The Northern Group is closer to the equator and enjoys a more stable climate. Averaging temperature is 28°C / 82 °F. The minimum being 24°C / 75°F and a maximum 31°C / 88°F). The water temperature is about the same average.

Most Beautiful beaches in the world

Some deeper insights into the Cook islands

"Island time" is very real on the cook islands

Island time is a real thing in the Cook Islands. It means that everything is undertaken slowly, often forgotten.

This pace has the potential to bring visitors into the famed tropical relaxation mode. Initially, it could also drive one around the bend when trying to get something done or running a business here, like we did.
maori vaka
A smaller replica of a Vaka

Vakas Brought The Maori to the cook islands

The first settlers came to Polynesia by boat. Which in Maori is called a Vaka. The people on a Vaka usually were members of one tribe and became the local community in their newly found home.

The locals refer to their heritage or ancestors by the name of their Vaka. For example, Rarotonga is divided into three communities named after the Vakas “Puaikura”, “Takitumu” and “Te O Au Tonga”.

Spearfishing puts food on the table

Spearfishing is by far the number 1 practice to obtain food from the ocean in the Cook Islands.

Everyone between 9 to 99 goes out and gets their fish island style. You’ll find traditional wooden and modern speargun across all islands. It is done to put food on the table.

Life Supporting taro patches

In the Cook Islands, like fish, Taro is another essential staple of the Maori. The root and leaves of the plant are basic ingredients for many traditional dishes.

Nearly every family owns a Taro patch which is lovingly taken care of.

Kai Kai – food glorious food

Like many places in the world, in the Cook Islands, food plays an important role at brings the people together.

No family reunion, no feast, no official function is undertaken without a “Kai Kai” – Maori word for food. Usually everybody brings something, which adds up to an enormous variety of different island style dishes.

Umu – cooking in nature

A unique version of Kai Kai which is cooked in an earth oven. Also part of other south pacific traditions including Tongan and Samoan.

An Umu starts with a hole being dug in the ground. The bottom of this oven is covered with layers of hot stones. On top of this a bed of leaves are placed. Meats and veggies are wrapped in leaves placed in the Umu. Everything is then covered with moist leaves and soil.

A few hours later the feast begins.

Ancestors buried at home in gardens

You hardly find graveyards on the Cook Islands. This is because traditionally family members are buried “at home”. The beloved deceased are kept nearby.

Therefore, tombs are found in almost every home garden.

Tai – the first

There are heaps of women and men on the Cook Islands sharing one favourite first name: Tai – the Maori word meaning number one.

Because parents tend to number their children, and name them accordingly, anticipating many offspring.

One also often come across the name Rua – the Maori word meaning number two.


We Have Traveled to the Furthest Corners of the Cook Islands and Are Ready to Share It All With You.
Here is a short takeout from our voyages to the outer islands. Start exploring the islands on the Cook Islands map below. 
Click on the links for loads more on what we discovered there.

See further down the Links to all details of all Cook Islands!

Southern Group Island.
There are no other words for it other than “the most beautiful lagoon on earth, where the color blue was invented.”
Click here for more about Aitutaki

Southern Group Island.
Great caves and grottos. Heaps of tropical flowers and birds. Brilliant secluded beaches and pools to swim in. And a locally brewed beer to be tasted in traditional Tumunu huts.

Click here for more about Atiu

Sourthern Group Island.
Aitutaki’s uninhabited sister island. Two large Motus enclosed by an impressive turquoise lagoon. Manuae is a marine park for birds and turtles.

Southern Group Island.
Mangaia has a rough and wild coastline. Beautiful sandy beaches amongst the bizarre rocky landscape. And the most amazing and untouched caves.
Click here for more about Mangaia

Northern Group Island.
The island of the Black Pearl. Pearl farms scattered across the lagoon and Motus, like a string of pearls, surrounding the spectacular blue lagoon.

Click here for more about Manihiki

Southern Group Island.
Fantastic tropical gardens. Gorgeous sandy and isolated beaches. Mauke has the largest banyan tree in the South Pacific.

Click here for more about Mauke

Southern Group Island.
Mitiaro is so remote and so unspoiled. Subterranean caves to swim in and stunning sandy beaches surrounded by bizarre cliffs.

Click here for more about Mitiaro

Northern Group Island.
Pukapuka’s little sister islands. The only non-lagoon in the northern island group. So lush and green inland, so rough and wild on the coast and reef.

Click here for more about Nassau

Southern Group Island.
Palmerston is privately owned and inhabited by the Marsters family. Visits are possible by invitation only. We had the luck to go there by boat in 2010. A stunning atoll with a community committed to family and tradition.

Northern Group Island.
One of the largest atolls in the South Pacific. A mystical lagoon where scientists expect to discover unknown species of marine wildlife.

Click here for more about Penrhyn

Northern Group Island.
Giving Aitutaki a run for its money. Another breathtakingly beautiful lagoon. A fascinating atoll with warm-hearted people.

Click here for more about Pukapuka

Northern Group Island.
Manihiki’s laid back sister island. A tiny atoll where daily life is about self-sustaining while enjoying the ocean.

Click here for more about Rakahanga

Southern Group Island.
When comparing Rarotonga to all the outer islands, it is the busiest of them all. But with a lot of excellent places to discover up in the mountains or down at the beaches. Click here for more about Rarotonga
Northern Group Island.
An untouched lagoon with heaps of birds and turtles. Wild romantic, though, and only visited by marine researchers. Uninhabited.
Southern Group Island.
Atiu’s tiny sister. Used as a wildlife sanctuary for birds and boobies on one small island no more than 1km2. Uninhabited.
Aitutaki Jump

Like What You've learnt about the Cook Islands?

We have tons more info in our Cook Islands Travel Guide.

The Cook Islands Travel Guide is jam packed with details of all the islands of the Cook Island. Contact information. Detailed maps with geocodes and much more.

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