20 Cook Islands Essential Travel Tips | Perfect Vacation Guide

Well I’m wearing a really tropical
themed shirt so this video must be about a tropical destination right? What’s going on everybody I’m Alex a.k.a.
Alex The Vagabond. I am a professional filmmaker, television host, and photographer and I’m super excited to talk to you all today in this video
about one of my absolute favorite destinations that I have ever visited
the Cook Islands So if you’re new here make sure you hit
that subscribe button with notifications enabled If you’re enjoying this video so
far make sure you hit that thumbs up and leave a comment down in the comment
section if you have any questions about the destination I’ll do my best to
answer them but stay tuned because the Cook Islands are a incredible place
they’re an up-and-coming gem and I guarantee you they’re gonna become a lot
more popular in the near future so if you’re planning a trip to the Cook
Islands or if you’re just interested in going somewhere new stick around this
video is going to share all of the pertinent information for that upcoming
trip let’s get into the tips Before we dive into the tips though I
think it’s really important that we get an idea of geography. Many of the people
I’ve mentioned the Cook Islands to usually start the conversation with this
question. Where are the Cook Islands? The Cook Islands are a remote island chain
located in the South Pacific. Northeast of New Zealand, between American Samoa and Fiji. There are 15 islands in the Cook Islands chain and they’re split up
between the northern and southern islands Spread out over nearly 2 million
square miles of ocean most of the islands are volcanic in origin or
they’re coral atolls. The islands were originally colonized by the Polynesians over a thousand years ago and in recent times they were colonized by the British
and then became a colony of New Zealand While nowadays they’re in a free
association with New Zealand. While Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand not all citizens of New Zealand are citizens of the Cook Islands In recent times the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy
as well as national identity. The main population centers are the island of
Rarotonga the main island with the capital city of Avarua, but to just put
things into perspective only around 10,000 people live on the island
full-time so even being the capital of the Cook Islands the population density
is still pretty low. Tourism is the biggest driver of the economy with over
a hundred and sixty-eight thousand international tourists visiting in 2018
but that number is probably gonna grow The high season for travel is June to
August, the shoulder season is November to January, and the low season which is
not really all that low is from February to April. The main International Airport
is located on Rarotonga and speaking of airports we might as well talk about
flights. There are four main airlines flying to the Cook Islands, Air New Zealand, Virgin, Jetstar, and Air Tahiti Air New Zealand operates the vast
majority of the flights with daily flights going out from Auckland as well
as weekly flights from Los Angeles and Sydney. Once you arrive getting
around the island is very very easy that’s because there’s only one road
there is a bus it goes both clockwise and anti-clockwise not to mention it’s
really easy and cheap to rent a vehicle you can rent scooters from anywhere
between 10 to 15 New Zealand dollars a day as well as cars from anywhere 60 to
80New Zealand dollars a day. The Cook Islands do use the New Zealand dollar as the main currency so that’s something to
be aware of if you’re from the United States or from Europe that works in your
favor at least it does right now because the New Zealand dollar is a little bit
less strong than those currencies. You can definitely get by without renting a car on the Cook Islands whether you’re in Rarotonga or in Aitutaki but I would
suggest doing so because it’s just that much better to have a vehicle to go and
explore to get lost on some of the back roads or to avoid the rain when it rains
because it does rain there But if you stay in some of the main
places like Muri Beach you don’t really need to go anywhere because most
of the amenities that you’ll be needing are right there in town walking distance
from your accommodation. Now one of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in the Cook Islands is that there aren’t any huge skyscrapers there’s no
giant hotels and that’s because the local law prohibits buildings taller
than the tallest coconut tree now I know that might sound kind of ridiculous
especially if you live in a super big city with skyscrapers and massive
buildings but I’ll tell you this it’s really nice there’s something really
special about a place where you can’t build a building taller than the tallest
coconut tree I mean come on I love it personally but in all seriousness that
law is one of the main reasons why the islands have preserved so much of their
charm but don’t worry just because there aren’t super tall resorts doesn’t mean
you’ll be living in some palm frond survivor style hut even though they did
film the 13th season of Survivor in the Cook Islands my god there’s 13 seasons
of that show anyways accommodation runs the full
gamut hostels run anywhere between 40 and 50 New Zealand dollars a night and
you can even get some oceanfront accommodation in some of the smaller
hotels for $99 a night on the opposite end of that spectrum there are some very
expensive luxury resorts ranging anywhere from 200 to 600 dollars a night
depending on which season you’re visiting and what room you’re choosing
it really depends you can choose which works best for you if you need any more
information just send a message to the Cook Islands Tourism Board you can send
them an email or a DM on Instagram and they’ll be able to point you in the
right direction now let’s talk about activities what can you do when you
visit the Cook Islands now apart from just relaxing which you can do anywhere
on the island because trust me it’s an extremely relaxing
you may just fall asleep right when you walk off the plane but oh my god it’s
such fun but when you wake up there’s still a lot of things for you to do so
let’s get into the list first off go hiking now I know that sounds bizarre in
a tropical beach destination why would you go hiking when you could hang out on
the beach oh they trust me you can go hang out on the beach after your hike I
hiked the tow to a manga which is a three to four hour trans island Trek you
go from the north coast to the south coast over the high point on the island
known as the needle 413 meters or something is really big beautiful rock
cropping right at the top of the mountain range incredible views from
both sides of the mountains you can essentially see everywhere on the island
from up there so it’s definitely worth a hike it’s pretty steep and you will
definitely work up a sweat because you’re in that tropical environment with
the humidity and stuff Wow well after a couple of hours
about two hours hiking up here we’ve made it to the top of the needle this is
kind of like the heart of the island and it’s this huge rock monolith just
erupting out of the jungle there are definitely tour guides who are willing
to show you the route and take you up there and tell you all the interesting
stories but it’s not mandatory just be aware that you should have proper
footwear I saw a lady up there hiking with sandals on I would not recommend
that definitely wear the right shoes bring a lot of water because it’s hot
and you’re gonna sweat a bunch so you don’t want to get dehydrated and bring
some snacks for a nice little picnic up at the top with that incredible view
before we talk about the next activity I should let you guys know a little bit
about the geology of the Cook Islands most of the islands have a volcanic core
but are surrounded by a coral reef at’ll so there are these sheer
huge reef structures around the island that protect the island from big waves
or erosion and they also create this really beautiful Lagoon that has like
this buffer zone between island and open ocean snorkeling in those lagoons is
definitely a must some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever done we went
snorkeling in the lagoon in aitutaki which is a different Island from
Rarotonga I’ll talk more in depth about aitutaki a little bit later in this
video but we swam with giant trevally these
huge fish including a Napoleon wrasse just the largest of its kind and can
weigh up to 190 kilos it’s a huge fish so yeah if you’re into snorkeling visit
the Cook Islands in the same realm of the snorkel we’re gonna take things a
little bit deeper and talk about scuba diving the Cook Islands are home to a
ton of different scuba diving sites and they really do have something for
everyone so if you only have an open water
paddy certification like I have you don’t have to worry about it there’s
still a ton of dives that you can do there’s coral gardens sloping drop-offs
where the the reef just kind of goes down into open ocean it’s really really
incredible stuff and if you are scuba certified you’re gonna love it
I did a scuba dive just off of the entrance to the harbour in aitutaki it’s
like a little reef passage there and it was incredible take a look there’s nothing quite as special as just
hanging out with a sea turtle 30 or 40 feet underwater
the one that I saw on my dad was so chill we really hit it off we had an
incredible conversation we just got along I don’t know why maybe it’s
because you know it’s floating down there like some creature from outer
space just we also saw sharks and we saw the beautiful but deadly lionfish so
they do have lionfish in the Cook Islands something to be aware of when
you’re tramping around in the lagoon or on the reef just be careful because
those fish do exist and they are poisonous and deadly if not treated and
if you’re lucky and you time it right you may even just bump into a humpback
whale down there because they do pass the cook islands in their annual
migration next up go sup what the is sup well sup stands for stand-up paddle and
it’s essentially paddle boarding one of my favorite water activities the Cook
Islands are perfect for it because of the lagoon you have that protected water
area there’s no waves coming in there and it’s just a really nice way to
explore the lagoon and get a little workout in I woke up every morning when
we were staying in Murray Beach in Rarotonga and I hopped on a paddle board
and would just get outside and paddle in the morning it’s one of the best ways to
start the day most of the hotels there offer a stand
up paddleboard or a kayak but be careful because stand-up paddleboarding is so
much fun you might just attract the attention of
some of the locals who will insist on going paddling with you check this out
just climbed onto my stand-up paddle no big deal okay why the local dogs in Rarotonga are a
part of the fabric of life on this island brought with the original
Polynesian settlers the dogs have lived a semi-wild lifestyle for as long as
anybody can remember many of them have homes the ones that have collars
definitely have owners but some of them do not and those ones you know they
survive off of seafood and donations from travelers so do yourself a favor
and do the dog a favor and just you know adopt it for a couple of days or do what
I did in Sri Lanka and actually a doctor even though I did not adopt Lanka and
the Cook Islands there were plenty of dogs there that made me think about
adopting another one there are a few local nonprofits that take care of the
dogs there in Rarotonga and you can actually volunteer so if that’s what
you’re into definitely look into it another great activity that’s also going
to help you explore and get a lay of the land is riding a bike
most of the resorts have bikes available for guests to use but you can also rent
bikes from local shops for a couple of bucks a day I think it’s like five or
ten New Zealand dollars a day so that’s another great way to kind of get off the
main road and go explore some of those back streets and just get a better feel
for how people live on the islands now if you don’t want to rent a bike you
could always go for a walk or a jog and do the same thing but let’s be honest
we’re talking about all these activities and the number one activity in the Cook
Islands is relaxing it’s a super laid-back lifestyle and it’s one that
you’re probably going to want to experience I went for 16 days with my
fiancee there’s Pat December we filmed some videos for the
first couple of days and then we just relaxed and we just chilled it was so
rejuvenating but the pro tip for relaxation is to bring your own hammock
I recently bought a little Travel hammock and it is the best thing for
these tropical destinations being able to set up your own hammock wherever you
feel like it is a luxury it’s gonna make you feel like a millionaire without
spending very much money at all so if you’re into relaxation don’t forget to
bring a hammock but no trip to the Cook Islands would be complete without
visiting a traditional market on the weekends in town or avaroa they do have
weekend markets they’re open-air markets with lots of local vendors selling
traditional handicrafts not to mention food a couple of times a week in Murray
Beach they do have a night market which is essentially just all these local
street food vendors coming together it’s a great way to sample the diversity of
the cuisine and the cook islands without having to go very far at all on our trip
to the Cook Islands Kerry bought this beautiful handcrafted ukulele we’ve been
learning how to play it very cool the strings are actually made from fishing
line so all this talking about activities has me hungry so let’s talk
about food let’s talk about what to eat in the Cook Islands being a Pacific
island most of the major protein dishes come from the ocean that’s because
they’re surrounded by millions of square miles of ocean and it’s got lots of
large pelagic species like mahi-mahi yellowfin tuna wahoo Marlin in the 16
days that I spent in the Cook Islands I think I ate more fish than I’ve ever
eaten before in my life but trust me it was delicious some of my other
restaurant recommendations are as follows
madakari which is like coconut milk tuna it’s almost like a bouquet but with
coconut milk and it’s by far my favorite thing that I’ve eaten so far this is the
bit oh my god look at it it’s huge a big beautiful fish sandwich we’ve just
made it to Charlie’s restaurant on the beach here in my beach mark on that and
they’re famous for their fish sandwich that’s quite a creation look at this
thing I’ve had to cut it into thirds it’s gigantic
but it is absolutely delicious there are some great little coffee shops around
the island of Rarotonga my favorite being Beluga which also has an
incredible brunch so if you are in the mood for brunch
check out Beluga there’s fresh fruit everywhere on the island and it’s really
abundant so you’ll be eating a lot of fruit on your next trip there if you
want to learn more about traditional cuisine and traditional cooking
techniques I suggest you do an emu tour an emu umu is a traditional earth oven
made from hot stones and then covered with leaves and left to slow cook I did
the tour in aitutaki I really really enjoyed it we roamed around on this big
old Land Rover we went up to the taro plots and their local vegetable gardens
to see how they planted and grew we learned a lot about different medicinal
techniques from different plants oh yeah Wow very oily so you can burn that yes
you can do this soap OS is just used this whole candle which is what and most
importantly we feast it red fruits plantain chicken all cooked in to remove
delicious and if you’re interested in understanding the culture and traditions
of the local cook islanders then make sure you go and experience a culture
night i would recommend going to Tabata Mui it’s a little bit touristy and
honestly in other places I probably wouldn’t have gone and done it but it
was a great way to get a better understanding of the cultural heritage
of the Cook Islands especially their songs and dance and personally I’ve
always been fascinated with Polynesia and the settlement of Polynesia with the
Polynesian men and women who were trained to navigate the huge expanses of
open ocean with no modern compasses just navigating by the Stars and the swell
direction so if you’re interested in learning more about that story there’s a
really great book by the National Geographic anthropologist Wade Davis
it’s called the Wayfarers I’ll link that down in the description as well most visitors who make it to the Cook
Islands only end up exploring the main island of Rarotonga this is a mistake
don’t just visit Rarotonga if you’re gonna come all the way out to the Cook
Islands make sure you check out some of the other islands the one that I visited
is Aitutaki aitutaki is a small coral atoll of around 2,000 people I think
it’s only around 15 miles in circumference so it’s a very small
island and most of the locals are related to each other it does have an
airport the original airstrip was built by the American military back in the
Second World War and the airport there is pretty mellow it’s literally just
like a Cabana now if you don’t have a ton of time to
visit aitutaki I understand but there is a solution there’s a day trip leaving
from Rarotonga it flies at 8 a.m. in the morning to aitutaki you get a boat
cruise around the lagoon lunch on the boat and then it stops at 3 different
islands for a couple of different snorkeling sessions so that is doable if
you’re short on time but I would recommend staying longer in aitutaki
when I visited I stayed for three days we stayed at the Pacific resort aitutaki
which was one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever had the pleasure of
visiting we stayed in one of their little cabanas on the beach and it was
just so romantic and relaxing I can’t even put it into words check it out during those three days in aitutaki
though we did do quite a lot first off we took a lagoon cruise we went
snorkeling with giant trevally and Napoleon wrasse and then we made our way
to honeymoon island for a bit of exploration and some solitary swimming
it was so beautiful take a look for yourself the next day and aitutaki we went on a
half-day fly-fishing trip we went and explored the other side of the lagoon
and we were looking for bone fish it’s a sport fish tropical fish that people
love to catch on the fly now I didn’t catch any bone fish
unfortunately it was like kind of a big deal our guide was like so gutting that
we didn’t catch any bone fish but we did catch this fish
our guide called it a tube fish I’m not quite sure what type of fish it was or
if it was even a fish but it definitely looked like a tube you know that much is
for sure anyways it was a great day out on the water and I wish I had a little
bit more time to spend fly-fishing there and on my final day in aitutaki I went
for a scuba dive it was really really fun everyone on the island speaks
English but many of the locals also speak te reo Maori or Cook Islands MALDI
so here are a few handy phrases for your upcoming trip Kia Orana that means hello
it means well wishes good fortune long life and prosper prosper yeah thank you
mate okay you could say pop unggi which means good morning when you want to say
goodbye you say I evader if you want to say sweet is you say Mamiya another
thing you should be aware of is that the Internet is a fleeting mysterious
creature in the Cook Islands like honestly there’s not a lot of Wi-Fi you
have to buy vouchers from the local provider which is called blue sky I
believe and then you have to use those vouchers at places known as Blue Zone
hotspots so even at your hotel they’re gonna charge you for Wi-Fi and that’s
because the internet is expensive to get out to those islands so be aware of that
getting internet it’s definitely a challenge it was kind of the recurring
theme of our whole trip because we were trying to keep all of you out there in
the loop we were sharing on Instagram and Instagram stories and it was always
just kind of an ordeal to get anything uploaded but also you
in Paradise you don’t need to be glued to your phone so think of it as like a
nice reminder to put your phone down because you don’t have any service and
you don’t have any Wi-Fi okay ladies and gentlemen well those are my tips for the
Cook Islands I really really hope that you enjoyed this video if you did please
give it a big thumbs up share it with your travel buddies and make sure you’re
subscribed with notifications enabled so you don’t miss any upcoming videos on my
channel I really hope you enjoy your upcoming trip to the Cook Islands but
please remember be respectful be good travelers and pick up after yourself
don’t go trashing the island it’s really beautiful and really pristine right now
and I would love if all of us out there do our part and more to keep it like
that a little walk over a mile so far on this beach advancement all so pick up
after others pick up after yourself and be a polite respectful person all right
well as I always say travel farther fail smarter and never give up peace

37 Replies to “20 Cook Islands Essential Travel Tips | Perfect Vacation Guide”

  1. I booked 2 trips to the Cook Islands through Costco. Best decision ever! I would highly recommend using Costco because they book everything for you and you can score some amazing deals. Most Americans don’t realize that you can visit the Cook Islands for as much as, or cheaper than Hawaii.

  2. fantastic video Alex, thank you! need to lose the baby weight before booking flight tickets but Cook Islands are on the list for sure.

  3. The water the food the mountains everything his so awesome, beautiful..I've heard of the Cook Islands..But thank you Alex for giving my wife and I a more insight of this Island gem..👍✈

  4. That threadfin butterflyfish at 10:39 is amazing! So beautiful it's inspiring me to paint a series of terracotta pots inspired by obscure, but beautiful designs found in nature. This one is so modern looking, those opposed black and white stripes with the bright yellow, just wow! Thanks for exploring the nooks and crannies of the world and sharing the amazing footage with the rest of us who can't or won't get to go to these amazing places, from the tip of a mountain to the depths of a reef! <3

  5. I loved this video. I went about 6 months ago. Dogs and roosters in abundance. Man them roosters are relentless, they go at all hours. I stayed near Muri in Matavera by the KAPS gas station. I was bummed because the day I went to Aitutaki the snorkeling wasn't great. But I am hoping to make it back next year to bring my niece. Charlie's doesn't mess around, huge portions. I got lucky and stayed at an airbnb that was an organic farm and cooked us breakfast everyday. Oh I also got lucky and got to know the owner of the pearl farm. I think she lived on Mangaia but came to the main island to reload on her jewelry supply. They supply pearls to all of the stores on raro. I brought back some beautiful pieces. Man, i love watching your videos. It sparks something in me to just wanting to go and try new things.

  6. Thanks so much Alex for a great, informative video. My wife and I are going for a week in Aitutaki the last of March. It's been on our list since we flew near there on our way back from Australia years ago. I went to kindergarten in Guam so I love the Polynesian culture. Did you have any issues with mosquitoes in Aitutaki? I teach geography in a high school and I have shared some of your previous productions. It was so great to show them relevant footage from the Aral Sea. Much respect for journey through life.

  7. Please dont take this as patronising because that's not how this is meant but your unique selling point is the intellectual approach you take. Geography, geology and socio- economics are fascinating, useful to know and very rare in travelogues. Keep them coming because I love them!!!

  8. Such a paradise! Aitutaki is not be missed, totally worth the extra cost. For Brits based in the UK, the best way to see the Cooks is with Air New Zealand. You can book an Auckland return via LAX or Singapore from as little as a gr and (depending on the time of year). So if you've a trip planned to NZ then the Cooks are super easy to add on. One thing to remember is that on Friday's only there's a direct flight from Rarotonga to LAX so that's worth bearing in mind too. Possibly the cheapest Round the World ticket out there!

  9. Looks like a great place to relax and get away from the hustle of life. Great info in an fun storytelling format. Cheers Shawna🍁

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