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Overview

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are an archipelago comprising fifteen islands located between New Zealand and Hawaii. Classified into 6 North Islands and 9 South Islands, among the coral atolls and volcanic peaks there is a piece of paradise to suit everyone. Breathtakingly beautiful beaches, lush tropical forests, underwater caves and sumptuous lagoons are some of the features to explore on Cook Island Holidays.

Cook Island tours can take you to secluded, uninhabited islands like Takutea and Manuae. Explore the capital, Rarotonga; a vibrant, musical destination peopled by friendly locals, or the beautiful Honeymoon Island, Aitutaki, for sheer romance and serenity.

Most visitors attempt the famous Pa trek into the jungle hinterland to admire the flora and fauna of the region and discover some of the islands' incredible history. Fishing charters are easily arranged and the variety of large species in the water is impressive. Small schools of colourful fish and coral can be seen from the beaches and glass bottom boat tours enable you to stay dry while you experience an exhilarating marine spectacle. Whatever you plan to do on the Cook Islands, it will no doubt encompass the warm waters in some capacity.

Snorkelling and scuba diving are popular activities on the shallow reefs found around many of the islands and there are clear lagoons and safe beaches for swimming. Some of the inhabited islands offer full dinner shows overlooking the water – a great introduction to the culture of the Cook Islands, whose heritage is mostly Polynesian. Plan for self-guided treks through imposing landscapes, drumming lessons and jewellery-making workshops. For a more in-depth experience, take a spiritual journey with a personal guide.

Flights to the Cook Islands leave Auckland for Rarotonga most days of the week. A direct flight leaves from Sydney to Rarotonga once a week, making the Cook Islands an easily accessible destination and one popular for weddings, honeymoons and romantic getaways. Check out some of the Cook Island Packages and have your whole experience planned for you. A reasonable number of Cook Island Resorts, villas and bungalows are available in the capital, Rarotonga. Be prepared for amazing views from your room or restaurant of clean white beaches and swaying palm trees. For a more secluded experience, stay in a bungalow or villa on the beautiful Aitutaki Island and enjoy beauty treatments in one of the health spas there.

Whether you are an adventurer or a lover, the Cook Islands will capture your heart and conjure some unforgettable memories.

Basics

Time
Local time is GMT -10.

Electricity
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. The three-pin flat blade plug with two slanted pins are used.

Language
Cook Island Maori is widely spoken by locals, but English is in common use.

Health
There is little risk of disease on the Cook Islands, but visitors should take precautions against insect bites and sunburn. Outbreaks of dengue fever can occur, therefore a good arsenal of mosquito repellent and protective clothing is advised. Although no vaccinations are required one or two may be recommended by your doctor as a precaution: vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) are sometimes recommended. Locals consider the tap water safe, but boiled or bottled water is advised for visitors, particularly to the rural areas. A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga, including a hospital and various pharmacies, but medical facilities in the Cook Islands in general are limited and comprehensive medical insurance is advised to include air evacuation for emergencies. If you require medication during your stay in the Cook Islands it is best to take it with you; make sure you have the necessary documents from your doctor to get the medication through customs.

Tipping
Tipping is not expected and is contrary to Cook Islands custom.

Safety
Visits to the Cook Islands are usually trouble-free. There is relatively little crime, but it is always advisable to protect your valuables.

Customs
Inhabitants of the Cook Islands are very religious and frown upon inappropriate dress. Beachwear should not be worn in town, and topless sunbathing is a definite 'no-no'.

Business
The main business centre is Avarua on Rarotonga Island. Business in the Cook Islands is fairly casual, extending to dress (which should also be modest, particularly for women) and punctuality. Meetings will be conducted in English when foreigners are present, although islanders may speak to one another in Maori to clarify their understanding during proceedings, and is not meant as an offence. Meetings usually begin and end with a prayer. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

Communications
The country code for the Cook Islands is +682, and the outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City codes are not required. International Direct Dialling is available, but operator assistance may be required. In the main town of Avarua there is a telecommunications office (Telecom Cook Islands) offering international telephone, fax, email, Internet connections and other services. GSM 900 cellular mobile services are only available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

Duty Free
The following goods may accompany travellers over 18 years to the Cook Islands: 2 litres of spirits; 2 litres of wine or 4 and a half litres of beer, 200 cigarettes; 20 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Only travellers from New Zealand are permitted to import fruit, meat and livestock. No firearms, cartridges or cartridge cases, gunpowder, bullets, and other forms of ammunition are allowed without prior permission from the Minister of Police.

Currency

The currency of the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Foreign currency exchange is available at the airport and two banks in Avarua, ATMs are also available in Avarua and are slowly becoming more widespread. American Express, Visa and MasterCard are accepted at restaurants and hotels in the main towns, and travellers cheques in small denominations as well as major foreign currencies can be exchanged at larger shops and hotels. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm. Australian dollars are the preferred currency for travellers cheques.

NZ$ 1 = US$ 0.79£ 0.52C$ 0.81A$ 0.77R 6.71EUR 0.63NZ$ 1.00

Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Health

Health Overview
There is little risk of disease on the Cook Islands, but visitors should take precautions against insect bites and sunburn. Outbreaks of dengue fever can occur, therefore a good arsenal of mosquito repellent and protective clothing is advised. Although no vaccinations are required one or two may be recommended by your doctor as a precaution: vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) are sometimes recommended. Locals consider the tap water safe, but boiled or bottled water is advised for visitors, particularly to the rural areas. A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga, including a hospital and various pharmacies, but medical facilities in the Cook Islands in general are limited and comprehensive medical insurance is advised to include air evacuation for emergencies. If you require medication during your stay in the Cook Islands it is best to take it with you; make sure you have the necessary documents from your doctor to get the medication through customs.

Visa

Americans
US nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

UK nationals
UK nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

Canadians
Canadian nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

Australians
Australian nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

South Africans
South African nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

Irish nationals
Irish nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

New Zealanders
New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid for the intended period of stay. A visa is not required for a stay of maximum 31 days. If the visit is solely for tourist purposes, extensions of 31 days each are possible for a maximum of six months.

Passport/Visa Note
A passport valid for length of stay, proof of onward passage, adequate financial means to support the stay and proof of confirmed accommodation are required on entry into the Cook Islands. We recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended period of travel.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

Contacts

Cook Islands Tourism
Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, Rarotonga: +682 29 435 or www.cookislands.travel

Foreign Embassies in Cook Islands
United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 462 6000.
British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 924 2888.
Canadian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 473 9577.
Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 473 6411.
South African High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for Cook Islands): +61 (0)2 6272 7300.

New Zealand High Commission, Rarotonga: +682 22 201.

Cook Islands Embassies
Cook Islands Honorary Consul, Los Angeles, United States: +1 213 974 1307.
New Zealand High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Cook Islands): +44 (0)20 7930 8422.
New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, Canada (also responsible for Cook Islands): +1 613 238 5991.
Cook Islands Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 (0)2 9907 6567.


Cook Islands High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 472 5126.

Regions and Cities

Rarotonga

Rarotonga

The largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, is home to nearly three quarters of the archipelago's 20,000 citizens, most of whom live in settlements along the coast. The island is home to the capital, Avarua, and is also the most popular tourist destination in the Cook Islands.

Avarua is the only major town, and with a population of only 5,000 even that is small and contains a few restaurants, bars and shops. Rarotonga's attractions are not urban ones, however, but lie in the spectacular natural beauty of the island. The interior of Rarotonga is a stunning mixture of jagged mountains and lush green jungles that give way to the sparkling white sand beaches before meeting the clear blue waters of the South Pacific.

Snorkelling and scuba diving, along with other watersports, are the most popular activities in Rarotonga, although a healthy dose of relaxing and enjoying the beautiful beaches balances out the more physical activities. The circular island is nearly surrounded by coral reefs that contain tropical fish, octopi, eels, and other colourful marine life. Aroa Lagoon, Fruits of Rarotonga Beach, and Black Rock are popular areas for snorkelling and scuba diving. The reefs and lagoons make Rarotonga less than ideal for surfing, but create perfectly calm areas for swimming, like the idyllic Muri Lagoon.



Aitutaki

Aitutaki

A 45-minute flight from Rarotonga, Aitutaki is the ultimate getaway destination for those who want to leave the world behind. With views that look like an artist's depiction of an ideal beach, filled with swaying palm trees, clear turquoise water and sparkling white sand, it's no wonder that Aitutaki is quickly becoming the most popular holiday destination in the Cook Islands.

Tiny Aitutaki is home to only 2,100 or so inhabitants, most of whom live in the capital village of Arutanga. The infrastructure on the island is basic, including all the necessary amenities without crossing the line into crass commercialism. Man-made attractions in Aitutaki include a golf course, spa, and the bars and restaurants attached to the various resorts on the island. The popular Island Nights are a great way to experience Cook Islands culture, with traditional music, food and dancing.

However, the most popular attractions in Aitutaki are of course its natural ones. Scuba diving, fishing, windsurfing and swimming, as well as excursions to various lagoons and small islands in the reef, are the main reasons to visit this tropical haven. Aitutaki is small, and a popular way to see it is to rent a scooter. In no time you'll find yourself zipping along the picturesque roads to picnic at secluded lagoons and tranquil beaches.





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