The Cook Islands
The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scattered over some 2 million square km of the Pacific Ocean. They lie in the South Pacific Polynesian Triangle, flanked to the west by the Kingdom of Tonga and the Samoa's and to the east by Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia.
The Cook Islands are in the same time zone as Hawaii and are the same distance South of the equator as Hawaii is north.
Cook Islands on a South Pacific Map
Air Flights to the Cook Islands
Air New Zealand offers non-stop service one – two times per week ( depending on seasonality) from Los Angeles to Rarotonga. They also have regular scheduled flights via Auckland, New Zealand. International flights arrive at the airport on Rarotonga.
Inter-island: Air Rarotonga provides regular flight service to the Southern group islands daily (except Sunday). Services to the Northern Group are available but limited.
How to Get Around
Getting around Rarotonga is easy. Rarotonga island is only 32km in circumference.
Many of the resorts can arrange for a rental car. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. The maximum road speed limit is 40 km/ph in the Main Township and villages and 50 km/ph outside of populated areas. Drivers of all vehicles are required to have a current Cook Islands Drivers License, available from the Police Station in Avarua on presentation of your driver's license and a small fee.
The best way to get around (other than on foot), is by renting a scooter (moped). This is the most popular mode of transportation on both Rarotonga and Aitutaki. For a non-motorized option, you can always rent a bicycle.
The island bus operates regular service around Rarotonga, and offers a pickup/dropoff anywhere you request. Buses leave every half hour on weekdays.
Entry Requirements, Visas, Visitor Permit, Extensions
All visitors to the Cook Islands must have a current passport that is valid for 6 months after their return date.
A bona-fide visitor (any person who enters the Cook Islands solely for recreation or vacation/holiday) does not require an entry permit provided he/she possesses proof of onward passage (booked and paid) for stays of not more than 31 days.
Extension permits are usually granted for visitors wanting to stay over 31 days. All visitors are required to have a valid passport, proof of onward passage, adequate financial means of supporting stay, and suitable accommodation. Applications can be made upon arrival at the Immigration Department. Extensions are granted on a monthly basis, up to 5 additional months only.
No duty is levied on clothing or personal effects (including sports equipment). In addition, each visitor may bring the following items, free of duty, into the Cook Islands: 200 cigarettes or up to Ѕ pound (1 kg) of tobacco or up to 50 cigars, 2 liters of spirits or wine or 4.5 liters of beer. Goods with total value of up to NZ$250 are not open to duties, however goods in excess of NZ$250 are liable to duty.
Cook Islands Departure Tax
Adults NZ$30.00 Children under 12 NZ$15.00 Children 2 years and under are free of charge. This must be paid upon departure at the Westpac Bank located at the airport, and is not included as part of prepaid taxes with airline tickets.
Dancing in the Cook Islands The highly rhythmic drumming on the paté and the wild and sensuous movements of both men and women virtually guarantee that Cook Islands teams win all the major Pacific dance festivals. The Hawaiian hula and the Tahitian tamuré are probably better known because those islands have had wider publicity for the last 100 years but the Cook Islands hura is far more sensual and fierce.
Climate and Cook Island Weather
The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasant warm and sunny climate year round.
The drier months from April to November have an average maximum temperature of about 26° C (78°F) while the warmer, more humid and damp season runs from December to March with a temperature range of 22°- 28° C (72°- 83° F).
International Telephone, Facsimile, E-mail, Internet connections and services are available 24 hours from the telecommunications office (Telecom Cook Islands) and also at various cyber cafйs and computer stores. Most accommodation properties have IDD facilities and also email services. Mail and telegrams are available from the Post Office which is open Monday to Friday 8:00am to 4:00pm. Other cyber cafes and computer stores are open throughout the week including Sundays.
Major credit cards are accepted throughout Rarotonga and Aitutaki at most shops, and restaurants. Debit cards can be used at the ATM machines located on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. In addition visitors can exchange travelers' Checks and principal currencies at larger stores and hotels. The Currency Exchange booth located at the Airport is open for all international flights and provides banking facilities at the airport for currency exchange and cashing of travelers' checks.
Saturday 8am-12pm noon
Most major stores are closed on Sunday although there are some small stores open.
Cook Islands Currency
The Cook Islands unit of currency is the New Zealand Dollar. The unique local coins and notes are not negotiable outside the Cook Islands, but are keenly sought by collectors worldwide.
Tipping is contrary to the Cook Islands Custom, however if you feel the service was exceptional they are like other counties in the world where acknowledgement is appreciated.
Dress is very informal in the Cook Islands. Resort wear is appropriate when at the beach or at the resort, however, more conservative dress is appropriate when visiting towns or villages. A respectable standard of dress is required when attending church services. Nude or topless sunbathing will cause offense.
240v / 40Hz (same voltage as UK and NZ) with plugs being three flat pins. US Visitors may require a converter.
Cook Islands Maori is the local language, but English is widely spoken and also taught in schools.