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.
- The many attractions on Atiu:
- Ana Takitaki, the Cave of the Kopeka Bird,
- Rimarau Burial Cave or the Cave of 500 Leaves,
- The eco-tour with “Birdman George”,
- The historical tour with Papa Paiere,
- The visit to the Coffee Plantation with Juergen followed by the visit of the Atelier of Andrea,
- And last but definitely not least an evening at a Tumunu, enjoying homebrewed beer in a “Bush Pub” with the locals
- The Lagoon Cruise in Aitutaki
- Riding our scooter on the back road on Rarotonga through the greenest possible vegetation, passing small plantations full of exotic fruits.
- Shopping the freshest tropical fruits, all kinds of herbs at Tauono’s Garden on Aitutaki and cooking delicious meals following Sonja’s recipes.
- Snorkeling in Aitutatki near the old runway
- 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.
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!