The Cook Islands are probably some of the biggest hidden gems in the South Pacific. After having been, I’m not sure how a place so beautiful is still so unknown by so many people. This past October I decided to do a week stopover in the Cooks after a trip to New Zealand, and I completely fell in love with the incredible beaches, friendly locals, and relaxed way of life. Here are just a few of many convincing reasons why you need to visit the Cook Islands ASAP!
The Cook Islands are less commercialized and “Americanized”
For me, this is the major thing thats sets the Cook Islands apart from some of the neighboring South Pacific Islands such as Fiji and French Polynesia. There are no international hotel or restaurant chains in the Cook Islands. All of the land is owned by the local Maori people, and passed down through the family. Land can be leased to a foreigner for up to 60 years, however, locals still have ownership of the land. I absolutely love this. The locals are benefiting from the tourism to their island, instead of money going directly into foreigners pockets. Plus, who wants to go to an island in the middle of nowhere and see a giant McDonalds? Not me.
The most beautiful lagoon the world
The Cook Islands is definitely famous for having “The most beautiful lagoon the world.” This lagoon surrounds the island of Aitutaki, and was formed from the reef that created a barrier around the island. It is LITERALLY the most pristine, clear, unbelievable water I’ve ever seen, and it seems like it stretches on forever. I’ve never seen so many shades of turquoise blend together to form such beauty. I was almost baffled at how “fake” it all looked. I did my cruise with Bishops, but can also recommend Vaka cruises. With both companies you can visit One Foot Island, and get your passport stamped at a cute little makeshift bar that also services as a post office!
Conveniently located in the middle of the South Pacific
Okay, so the Cook Islands aren’t exactly close to the states, however, you can fly direct from LAX on Saturdays with Air New Zealand in just under 9 hours. What you might not have known is that the Cook Islands is in the flight path to New Zealand . This makes it a wildly convenient stopover either before or after your holiday in New Zealand, as it is only a 3 hour and 45 minutes flight from Auckland. Because the Cook Islands also has political links to New Zealand, they use New Zealand dollars and there is no visa requirement- its a no brainer!
Its like Hawaii 50 years ago
If your were to visit the Hawaiian Islands 50 years ago, you might be the only tourist on a beach. You wouldn’t see big hotel chains on the Islands, because they hadn’t existed yet. The Cooks are similar to this, which is a rarity in today’s world. Because the Cooks aren’t as well known as other tropical destinations in the South Pacific, they are also not as crowded. You won’t be fighting for a chair on the beach, or swimming in a lagoon amongst 100 other people. You’re treated like a local and not like a tourist, as Rarotongans will welcome you like family to their slice of paradise. You can still get the beach to yourself, and go to a bar and be the only tourist there.
To sum it all up; if deserted beaches, tropical fruit, friendly locals, cheap prices, and pristine turquoise lagoons sounds like what you’re after- definitely check out the Cook Islands. I can truly say it is one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited, and you won’t leave disappointed that you came.