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Travel Guide To The Cook Islands

View of a part of the lagoon from the plane, Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands

View of a part of the lagoon from the plane, Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands

We spent three weeks on the Cook Islands in February 2008 during our Round The World Trip: altogether 9 days on Rarotonga, 7 on Aitutaki and 5 on Atiu. The Cook Islands were definitely a highlight in our trip and finally we discovered some of those Pacific Islands that matched our ideas of the “South Seas”.

The highlights of this trip were definitely:

  • Riding our scooter around on Atiu on roads surrounded by thick lush primary rainforest and still hearing the waves breaking on the reef.
    Discovering Atiu, Atiu Island, Cook Islands

    Discovering Atiu, Atiu Island

    Beach, Atiu Island, Cook Islands

    Beach, Atiu Island

  • The many attractions on Atiu:
    • Ana Takitaki, the Cave of the Kopeka Bird,

      Cave, Atiu Island, Cook Islands

      Cave, Atiu Island

    • Rimarau Burial Cave or the Cave of 500 Leaves,

      Legend says that in a battle between two tribes, one succeeded in trapping the other in a narrow spot in the Makatea. All the warriors from this tribe were killed and their bodies thrown in a cave. So many lives were lost that nobody at that time had a system to count them, Atiu Island, Cook Islands

      Legend says that in a battle between two tribes, one succeeded in trapping the other in a narrow spot in the Makatea. All the warriors from this tribe were killed and their bodies thrown in a cave. So many lives were lost that nobody at that time had a system to count them, Atiu Island

    • The eco-tour with “Birdman George”,

      George Mateariki, or "Birdman George", Atiu Island, Cook Islands

      George Mateariki, or “Birdman George”, Atiu Island

    • The historical tour with Papa Paiere,

      One of the many churches of Atiu, Atiu Island, Cook Islands

      One of the many churches of Atiu, Atiu Island

    • The visit to the Coffee Plantation with Juergen followed by the visit of the Atelier of Andrea,

      Coffee cherries, Atiu Island, Cook Islands

      Coffee cherries, Atiu Island

    • And last but definitely not least an evening at a Tumunu, enjoying homebrewed beer in a “Bush Pub” with the locals

      Bush Pub on a very remote Pacific Island, Atiu, Cook Islands

      Bush Pub on a very remote Pacific Island, Atiu

  • The Lagoon Cruise in Aitutaki
    Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa ... shortly before a thunderstorm, Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands

    Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa … shortly before a thunderstorm, Aitutaki Atoll

    "Lagoon Cruise", Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands

    “Lagoon Cruise”, Aitutaki Atoll

    "Lagoon Cruise", Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands

    “Lagoon Cruise”, Aitutaki Atoll

  • Riding our scooter on the back road on Rarotonga through the greenest possible vegetation, passing small plantations full of exotic fruits.
    Gilles on a rented scooter in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

    Gilles on a rented scooter in Rarotonga

    Driving around on Rarotonga, Cook Islands

    Driving around on Rarotonga

  • Shopping the freshest tropical fruits, all kinds of herbs at Tauono’s Garden on Aitutaki and cooking delicious meals following Sonja’s recipes.

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    Star Fruits on Aitutaki

  • Snorkeling in Aitutatki near the old runway

    Islanders fishing, Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands

    Islanders fishing, Aitutaki Atoll

  • All in all a relatively affordable option to discover some of the Pacific Islands and experience this “South Seas Feeling”

When thinking back of the Cook Islands, the following will always stay in our mind:

  • Impressive tropical scenery and Aitutatki’s breathtaking lagoon.
  • Extremely friendly people, especially in Atiu.
  • Travel really Off The Beaten Track: we were only 5 visitors on Atiu.
  • Extremely expensive supermarkets with no fresh food except potatoes and onions.
  • Locals waiting for weeks for goods arriving on the monthly cargo boat.
  • English backpackers descending on Rarotonga and doing nothing but hang out at Vara’s. Many of them are on the so popular “One World” Round The World Ticket: London – Bangkok – Sydney – Auckland – Fiji – Rarotonga – Los Angeles – London, all of it English spoken!

Of course, few things we should have done differently:

  • Spend less time on over-advertised Aitutaki, which really only has a lagoon to offer to tourists.
  • Spend maybe one or two days more on Atiu, it is so pleasant and there is so much to do.
  • Try to see other and more remote islands, but unfortunately Air Rarotonga forces tourist to go through Rarotonga for each island, which makes it tiresome and expensive.

Conclusion?

The Cook Islands are a a great destination in the Pacific: they are very scenic, offer the so much longed for “South Seas” flair and are very different. Budget accommodation is widely available. Hopefully, the outer islands, especially Atiu, get the attention they deserve!

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