The Cook Islands are an archipelago and state entity of the same name in free association with New Zealand in the South Pacific in Polynesia. It borders the territorial waters of Kiribati to the north, French Polynesia to the east, Niue, American Samoa, and Tokelau to the west, and neutral Pacific waters to the south. The land area is 236.7 km². The capital is Avarua, on Rarotonga Island.
The Territory is made up of 15 islands, 3 of which are uninhabited. Of these, 6 are in the North Group and 9 are in the South Group. The distance from the northernmost (Tongareva Island) to the southernmost island (Mangaia Island) is about 1,400 km.
The islands of the Southern Group: Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Manuae, Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston, and Takutea are mostly volcanic (up to 652 m high). The exceptions are the low-lying atolls of Manuae and Palmerston and the low-lying island of Takutea.
The islands of the Northern Group: Manihiki, Nassau, Pukapuka, Rakahanga, Suvorov, and Tongareva. With the exception of Nassau, all the islands are low-lying atolls with large lagoons.
The vegetation of the Cook Islands differs little from that of the other atolls of the Pacific. Only on the South Group islands the vegetation cover is more diverse, mainly due to geological structure and volcanic origin of these islands.
Terrestrial mammals are represented mainly by dogs, pigs and cats. On the islands of Rarotonga and Mangaia the Tongan flying fox inhabits, Polynesian rats and palm thieves (coconut crab) are widespread. Some islands (Suvorov, Takutea) are places of large bird bazaars, where many species of sea birds nest.
Climate in the Cook Islands
The climate in the Cook Islands is tropical maritime, with a distinct rainy season from November to April and a dry season from May to October. The average annual temperature ranges from +21°C to +28°C and is largely dependent on the El Niño current. The average annual rainfall is about 2,000 mm, two-thirds of which falls during the rainy season, which is also the tropical cyclone season.
Officially, the tropical cyclone season begins on November 1 and ends on April 30. Cyclones mostly form to the west of the Northern Cook Islands Group and move southward up to 15°S, after which they move southeastward. During the El Niño current these cyclones, forming near the Northern Group, move towards French Polynesia, and on the Southern Group Islands a sharp decrease in precipitation (up to 60%) is observed, while on the Northern Group Islands precipitation increases sharply (up to 200%). The opposite situation is observed with the La Niña Current.
The trade winds prevail for almost the whole year. Winds are strongest during the winter months, when an anticyclone approaches the South Group islands. Winds are lighter in summer as subtropical anticyclones become less intense and move southward.
Population of the Cook Islands
The population of the Cook Islands is 15,200 (2018). The inhabitants of the islands, under the status of a self-governing state entity in free association with New Zealand, are citizens of New Zealand. The islands of Manuae, Suvorov and Takutea are uninhabited.
The majority of the population of the Cook Islands is made up of the Maori people of the Cook Islands, who are close to the indigenous population of French Polynesia and New Zealand.
87.7% of the population is indigenous people – the Maori of the Cook Islands. The proportion of foreigners is low – 6.5%. The rest of the population is people from mixed marriages of Maori and foreigners. The average life expectancy is 71 years.
The predominant religion in the Cook Islands is Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic) propagated by the missionaries of the London Missionary Society who first landed on the archipelago (namely Aitutaki) in 1821. With the spread of this religion in the Cook Islands, the practice of cannibalism, infanticide, and idol worship ceased.
Missionaries promoted literacy among the local population, the basic principles of money management, and created a written form of the Kukchi language. Agriculture was boosted: the transition from low-productive subsistence farming to plantation farming took place.
Nevertheless, missionaries were also a source of trouble. Together with the Europeans, a number of infectious diseases, against which the locals had no immunity, were brought to the islands. As a result, a significant portion of the islanders died.
The official languages are Kukchi and English.
Residents of most of the Cook Islands speak Polynesian languages, primarily Kukchi (Cook Islands Maori or Kukchi Maori), which became the official language in 2003. It is represented by two groups of dialects, Rakahanga Manihiki and Rarotonga (or Rarotonga Mangai), which are often considered separate languages.
The inhabitants of Tongareva Atoll (Penryn) speak the closely related Tongareva (Penryn) language. The people of Pukapuka and Nassau speak a distantly related language to the first two, Pukapuka.
The second official language is English. It is the native language for the inhabitants of Palmerston Atoll.
The New Zealand dollar (NZD or NZ$) is the currency of the Cook Islands as well as New Zealand, Niue, Tokelau, and Pitcairn. Often referred to simply as “kiwi” (after New Zealand’s national bird). NZ$ 1 = 100 cents. Since 1999, a special thin plastic is used for banknotes.
A large number of banks, including international banks, are registered in the Cook Islands. The islands are one of the largest offshore centers in the world. Banks are usually open Monday through Thursday – from 09.00 to 15.00; on Fridays – from 09.00 to 16.00. Some banks are open on Saturdays from 09.00 to 11.00. Branches at the airport of the capital are usually open during the arrival and departure of all international flights.
It is best to exchange currency (as well as use credit cards and traveler’s checks) on the main island, Rarotonga, as it is extremely difficult to do so on the smaller islands. Post offices on the smaller islands usually take on the role of banks, exchanging a number of currencies and traveler’s checks, although credit cards are usually not accepted at such offices.
U.S. and New Zealand dollars are the most convenient to take with you to the islands.
Phone code: 682
Emergency service (ambulance, fire, police) – 999
Rarotonga 2, Aitutaki 31, Palmerston 37
How to call
To call the Cook Islands from Russia, dial: 8 – dial tone – 10 – 682 – island code – telephone number.
To call the Cook Islands to Russia, dial: 00 – 7 – city code – telephone number.
How to get to Cook Islands
There are no direct flights between Russia and the Cook Islands.
From Russia you transit to Cook Islands through Australia, New Zealand, USA or French Polynesia.
Through Australia with Air New Zealand .
Via New Zealand with Air New Zealand .
Via the USA with Air New Zealand (in this case even transiting passengers must obtain a US visa).
Via French Polynesia with Air Tahiti.
Since there is little seasonal variation in the weather, the Cook Islands can be visited almost year-round.
Since power outages on small islands are not uncommon, it is advisable to bring a flashlight with a supply of batteries.
Contrary to popular belief, James Cook was not eaten on the islands. In fact, he was killed in Hawaii.
The people of Palmerston Atoll speak English with a South Pacific variety of Gloucestershire accent.
Fish is one of the national treasures of the Cook Islands and plays a very important role in the country’s economy. The ocean is mostly fished for tuna, striped marlin, wahoo, and loonfish. The main importers of fish products are the markets of Japan, New Zealand and the United States. Aquarium fish species are also caught.
The archipelago is mainly visited by citizens of New Zealand (more than half of all tourists), Australia, European countries, the United States and Canada.
Rugby is the most popular sporting game. The country even has its own national team.
The Cook Islands consist of 15 small islands and atolls with a total area of 236 km². They are located northeast of New Zealand, with American Samoa, Niue, Kiribati, and French Polynesia as their waterfront neighbors.
The Cook Islands are divided into two groups: Northern and Southern. Rarotonga (in the southern group) is the most populous island and also the one with the largest land area. On the northern coast of the island is the capital of the entire Kukka archipelago, the “city of two harbors” of Avarua.
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Video: Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are in a loose confederation with New Zealand, meaning they retain their independence and sovereignty, but many functions of government are reserved for the larger state.
Tourism, agriculture, and the financial sector dominate the islands’ economy.
The Cook Islands got their name in honor of the English explorer James Cook, and the name of the archipelago is not less famous explorer, our compatriot, Ivan F. Kruzenshtern.
By the way, about James Cook. Despite the opinion, firmly rooted in people’s heads, that the British traveler was eaten by the natives of the Cook Islands, it does not correspond to reality. Cook was killed in Hawaii. Visiting the Cook Islands, you can personally refute this version of the fate of the Englishman. Here you will be greeted by cheerful and good-natured people!
Climate and Weather
The climate in the Cook Islands is tropical maritime, so it is pleasant all year round, but the best time to visit is from April to November (dry season), when the temperature ranges from +22 to +26 ° C. From December to March (rainy season) there is a high probability of cloudy days and warm tropical showers. The highest humidity is observed in February and March.
Consisting of fifteen islands, the Cook Islands have not yet been massively affected by tourism, so a visit to these places leaves a lasting impression on the travelers. The splendor of the pristine nature of the islands will dazzle any worldly-wise traveler.
Coastal cliffs, white sandy beaches, magnificent reefs, caves and volcanic mountains – this is an incomplete list of natural attractions of the island.
Due to its volcanic formation, the South Islands group inherited a mountainous terrain, diverse plant life and an extensive cave system.
The main typical plant of the Polynesian islands is the coconut palm. In addition to the well-known palms, hibiscus, casurian, mimosa, bougainvillea and pandanus grow here.
Cats, dogs, pigs, rodents and crustaceans have found a home on the islands. And over the islands you can see dozens of species of rare birds! Among them are Kukovsky’s reed warblers, frigates and phaetons, boobies and terns. In addition, this list includes birds that live only on Rarotonga.
There are a lot of excursions that can be taken to see the Polynesian culture, walk through the rainforest, and admire the unique beauty of the lagoons.
Since most tourists vacation in Avarua, excursions start in the capital of the Kukchi archipelago. First of all, travelers are shown the Seven & One Coconut Tree (“Seven & One Palm Tree”) – a group of seven palm trees that form a perfectly flat circle. According to legend, the gods planted a coconut seed for the joy of people, and from it grew as many as seven palm trees.
To the architectural sights of Avarua can be attributed only to the Christian church, built in 1853. Around the church is an ancient cemetery, which can safely be considered a landmark. You can learn about the history and culture of the island in the Society of Libraries and Museums.
Outside the capital on Rarotonga, you can go to Wingmore Falls, which is on the south coast. From there, the road leads directly to Mount Rua Manga, which has an observation deck at its summit (415 meters).
On the west coast of Rarotonga is the village of Arorangi, built by missionaries, which preserves the traditional buildings of the islanders. The main attraction of the cultural village is the Christian Church of the Cook Islands, built in 1849. Arorangi can be considered an ethnographic museum of the Cook Islands.
On the picturesque sparsely populated island of Atiu, you can not only enjoy the scenery, the air, swimming in the ocean, but also learn a lot of interesting things. Here is a real coffee factory, where you can watch the process of making local coffee, from harvesting to packaging. You can learn about one of the local crafts at the Fiber Art Studio, where they make bedspreads, mats, tapestries and even handbags from plant fibers.
Fans of ecotourism and scuba diving make sure to visit Suvorov Atoll. In the middle of the XIX century on the island was found treasure – a chest with an astronomical amount of gold coins. The commander of the expedition re-hid the treasure, and no one else could find it.
Even the most seasoned tourists to the Cook Islands will delight you with a huge variety of tropical fruits and vegetables, as well as island chestnuts. Numerous seafood dishes in even the most expensive restaurants cost symbolic money. Local meat and poultry are also quite inexpensive but very tasty.
The national drink of the Cook Islands is tumunu (this kind of beer is brewed from fermented citrus, malt, sugar and yeast).
Don’t miss out on the Polynesian specialty Umukai. Umukai is a stewed fish (meat) and root vegetables combined with various spices and grains in an earthen oven. The preparation of the dish is usually accompanied by the traditional entertainment of the locals – dancing and drumming.
There is an alternative to the local food on the island, too. And for it you do not have to go far. Virtually every accommodation (from a large hotel to a small villa) on the oceanfront offers a hearty, traditional European breakfast.
A full meal in small cafes of economy class will cost $ 5-10. Add $5, you can dine at a mid-range restaurant. And the bill for lunch at a luxury restaurant starts at $15.
The best Kuku hotels are located on the islands of Aitutaki and Rarotonga. Many of them are designed in a traditional European style, and some are decorated in Polynesian style. The average cost of living in a three-star hotel is about $ 40 per night, in a bungalow or villa – about $ 100 for the same length of stay. Most villas have a separate bedroom, bathroom, living room, and a spacious veranda or gazebo. But their main luxurious detail is a separate pool with a Jacuzzi right in the tropical garden of the villa.
A very common accommodation option in the Cook Islands are hostels. The rooms there are spacious, clean and neat. The cost of living is much lower than previous options. That is why many tourists prefer this type of accommodation to expensive hotels and villas.
Entertainment and recreation
In addition to animation programs and spa treatments in the hotels, any tourist will be able to organize their own entertainment in the Cook Islands.
After a measured swim in the ocean and sunbathing lovers of active recreation immediately rush into the abyss of local entertainment: diving, windsurfing, fishing, sailing, caving, trekking, canoeing – all this is available here. In the diving center you can get all the necessary equipment. Next to this center is a marine reserve, where you can admire the unique tropical fish.
While on the island of Aitutaki, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of taking a cruise on the magnificent lagoon. On this short trip, you will have the opportunity to visit the smallest island of the archipelago, One Foot Island. This island is uninhabited, but it has one single structure: the post office. Upon arrival to the island at the post office you will be stamped in your passport – a stamp in the form of a foot. Isn’t that a souvenir from One Foot Island?
There are many restaurants, bars, cabarets and nightclubs on the islands. You can also diversify your program at the main market of the capital: on Saturday night almost the entire island gathers there. Enjoy shows by local singers and dancers.
There are plenty of stores and stalls on the islands. The shopping is relaxed and friendly and you will rarely encounter pushy salespeople. The main stores are located in the capital, but even in the smallest village of Muri Beach is a tent with souvenirs.
Rarotonga is famous for its beautiful exotic flowers, which are used in the production of soaps, oils and perfumes. The most popular fragrances are jasmine and tiare (gardenia). Classic perfumes from famous brands are also available on the island.
Philatelists will be interested in the stamps issued in the Cook Islands, which are successfully sold to collectors and dealers abroad. They depict the most interesting and exotic flora and fauna of the islands, as well as portraits of figures and stories from Cook Islands history.
The Cook Islands are famous for their traditional crafts, especially weaving, carving, and pandanus basketry. All of this is sold in stores and markets. And in the markets the prices are lower and the choice is much more.
Girls will enjoy a wide variety of clothing, pareos, woven mats, carved jewelry and beads. But the best buy would be a piece of jewelry made of black pearls.
The local markets are open three days a week, from Saturday to Monday. The stores are open from morning to evening on weekdays, and only in the morning on weekends. Most stores are closed on Sundays, but some are open mid-day (after church).
The largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, is only 20 miles in circumference, so bicycles and scooters are the best means of transportation. Regular bus service is also available. You can hail a cab at any hotel.
There are horse rentals in the Cook Islands. You can enjoy horseback riding on trails among tropical plantations and past waterfalls where you can stop and swim. On the coastline (the townships are located mostly on the coastal strip) there is a wide range of water transportation: yachts, boats, scooters, boats, canoes. They serve inland lines and connect the islands to Niue, Samoa, Auckland, and Tonga.
Many international cell phone companies (including Russian ones) have agreements with the local Telecom Cook Islands operator. On the islands you can simply buy a Cook SIM card, but keep in mind that full mobile coverage is present only on Rarotorua and Aitutaki. On the other islands of the archipelago there may be interruptions.
At the post office you can use the Internet, international telephone service, fax, telegraph and courier service. The post office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends.
You can use the Internet not only at post offices, but also in computer stores, Telecom Cook Islands offices and Internet cafes. Wireless Internet is available in some hotels and at the airport.
Make a call from a landline phone at your hotel.
The crime rate in the Cook Islands is very low. Among crimes against tourists, only thefts have occurred. The most frequent thefts are cell phones, cameras and cameras, wallets with cash and jewelry. Try not to carry the most valuable things with you. Take only what you need and leave the rest in the hotel safe.
At night time visibility on the roads is very poor, and the quality of the roads is poor, so be very careful and watchful on the road at this time of day.
To avoid stomach problems, drink only bottled water or boil water before drinking.
Travelers are advised to get vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio.
There are no poisonous snakes, spiders, or wild animals on the islands. However, on Rarotonga and several other Cook Islands there is a danger of intestinal infection. Particular caution should be exercised by those who like to catch and cook their own fish.
The Cook Islands have excellent conditions for diving. Fans of this type of recreation should not forget about the time spent in the water and the depth of diving.
The islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki have hospitals, which provide a wide enough range of medical services, in contrast to the other islands of the archipelago, where it is severely limited. Therefore, in critical situations, patients are evacuated by air.
In case of an emergency, call:
- Police – 999,
- Firefighters – 996,
- Ambulance – 998.
Cook Island’s economy faces many of the same challenges as other small island nations. Limited natural resources, remoteness from major commercial and industrial centers, the outflow of labor – all this does not affect the state’s economy in the best way. However, the tourism industry is successfully developing, and the government gives it priority attention.
Before buying any business or starting a new business in the Cook Islands, a foreign entrepreneur must obtain government approval. One-third of businesses on the islands are owned by foreigners, as the most favorable conditions for opening and doing business here (easy registration and low taxes).
The most lucrative area in the Cook Islands for the past 30 years remains offshore business. Next comes tourism, which brings a huge amount of foreign currency. And the third position is taken by agriculture, the main purpose of which is self-sufficiency in food.
Relatively recently, the government of the Cook Islands has adopted a new land bill under which foreigners can not buy land. The only option is a long-term lease, with a maximum term of 60 years. In this case, the foreigner must invest in the business and engage in it for five years – until the official permission to purchase residential property.
Resort real estate on the islands has enormous potential: more and more tourists every year, and the assets on the island are quite cheap. At the same time in the luxury residential complexes apartments are relatively inexpensive.
The most affluent buyers, local brokers will offer luxury villas with a pool or fully equipped apartment buildings with their own guest bungalow. They may cost as much as $1,000,000.
Tips for the tourist
There are two currencies in the Cook Islands: the New Zealand dollar and the Cook dollar, both in equal denominations. The only difference for the tourist is that the Cook dollar is not convertible outside the islands. Therefore, when leaving the archipelago, do not forget to exchange this currency. Importation of any currency is not limited, and exportation – no more than 5,000 New Zealand dollars.
There are only two branches of the ANZ and Westpac banks making international transactions in Avarua. On Rarotonga you will be able to make payments, cash out and more, but on the other islands of the archipelago there are not even ATMs. Currency exchange can be done not only in the banks of Avarua, but also in Aitutaki and major hotels on other islands.
Ordinary tips in restaurants or hotels are unacceptable here, as it is against local traditions. The same applies to bargaining with vendors.
If you plan to vacation in the Cook Islands for less than 31 days, you do not need a visa: you will need a return ticket, passport, enough money ($ 60 per day).
For the longer trip you will need a visa at the Embassy of New Zealand in Moscow (address: 44, Povarskaya St., phone: (+7 495) 956 35 79). The Cook Islands embassy is located in Great Britain – the closest option to the CIS countries.