Welcome to Cook Islands

Cook Islands


The 15 islands of the Cook Islands lie halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Boasting rare beauty, an idyllic climate, warm welcoming locals and a pace of life unsurpassed for peace, the Cook Islands can only be described as Paradise.

The Cook Islands culture is molded by its Polynesian heritage, mixed with European influences. The first Polynesians arrived in Rarotonga after setting sail from Tupua’i, now known as Tahiti. Guided by the stars and the skill of Polynesian navigation, they set sail in search of more land fit for migration. Eventually they came across the volcanic islands of the Cooks. Spanish ships were the first Europeans to spot the islands in 1595 and 1606. However, like many of the regions in the South Pacific Ocean, it was British explore, Captain James Cook’s documentation of the Cook Islands in 1773 and 1777 which led to European migration to the area. The first missionary migration wasn’t until 1821 and even though their influence was immediate, the native Cook Islanders managed to preserve their proud Polynesian heritage and blend it with their newfound Christian faith. Originally named by Captain Cook as the Hervey Isles, after a British Lord, it was the Russians that renamed them the Cook Islands in 1823, in honour of the famous explorer. In 1901 New Zealand took control of the islands from British Domain and today the Cook Islands are essentially independent and self-governing, with New Zealand still overseeing their defence.

The isolation and volcanic history of the Cook Islands has enabled the development of more simplified, tropical species of flora and fauna than elsewhere but has also left the majority of the environment on the each island virtually untouched, unpolluted and unbelievable. Clean clear air and boundless unspoilt beauty is available for your exploration. On the islands, you can discover over 300 native flowering plants and ferns, 18 species of resident seabirds, many migrant birds and land birds and lizards. The surrounding reefs and oceans offer hundreds of species of fish and shellfish, marine turtles and humpback whales.

A rich tapestry of traditions, customs and culture, shrouded in legends of romance and piracy, escapades and hidden treasures give the Cook Islands people their own unique identity. This heritage is best shared through arts, crafts, music and dance. Legends of love, desire, hurt and passion are told through body movement, the beating of drums and ukuleles. Wood carvings, basket weavings, tattoos, shell and seed jewellery and tapa cloth designs showcase the Cook Islanders innate artistic spirit.






Information & Facts


The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm and sunny climate all year round.

April through November is the cool, dry season with an average temperature of 26ºC. December through March is the warm, humid, wet season and has temperatures ranging from 22ºC to 30ºC. Occasional tropical showers can be expected during this time of year.




Cook Island’s laws prevent you from bringing fruit, vegetables, meat and livestock into the Cook Islands, except if from New Zealand. Firearms and ammunition require permission from the Cook Island’s Police. There is no limit on currency you can bring in or take out, but amounts over $10000 must be declared.

There is no Departure Tax, as this is included in your international airfare.



Duty Free:

With the Cook Island’s close ties to New Zealand, personal effects including sports equipment and clothing are exempt from duty taxes.

Duty Free items include:

200 cigarettes or 250gms of tobacco or 50 cigars or a mixture of not more than 250 grams in total

Two litres of mixture/or not of spirits, wine and liquor OR 4.5 litres of beer

Goods in excess of NZD$250 are liable for duty tax.




Mains voltage in the Cook Islands is 230V 50Hz, the same as in New Zealand and Australia. Travellers from most nations in Asia, Africa and Europe should have appliances that work on the same mains voltage as the Cook Islands and therefore, you will not need a voltage converter. Notable exceptions to this are Japan, USA and Canada which uses 100/120V 50/60Hz. 

If your country does not use appliances within the 230V 50Hz mains voltage range, you will need to purchase a voltage converter. This will transform the voltage from the power outlet into one your appliance can use. Most cameras, laptops and tablets have built-in converters so please check the specifications of the device first.

You will also need a power adapter. The plugs in the Cook Islands have 2 flat metal pins shaped like an upside down "V" and some may contain a third flat pin in the centre.




Getting Around:


The standard left hand drive rule applies to driving in the Cook Islands. It is essential to have a current Cook Islands Driving Licence which can be obtained from the Police Station in Avarua for NZD$20. The maximum speed limit in the villages and town is 40km/h, with 50km/h in the less populated areas.
Scooters, which can be hired, have an additional charge of NZD$5 for the practical test which is compulsory. 
Road rules are strict when it comes to drinking and driving.


The Southern Group of the Cook Islands is connected regularly by the local airline, Air Rarotonga, with Aitutaki having several daily return flights. However travel to the Northern Group is infrequent and usually only on request.

Public Transit

The reliable island bus service, “Cook Islands Passenger Transport” operates on Rarotonga and has two routes- clockwise and anti-clockwise. There are a number of designated stops and shelters around the islands.




Travel Insurance

A travel insurance policy that covers you for theft, loss, accidents and medical problems before you leave home is highly recommended. If you plan on doing any adventure activities like scuba diving, water skiing, bushwalking or travelling in remote areas, check that your policy fully covers these activities. Remember to bring your insurance policy details and emergency contact numbers and with you.

A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga, including a well equipped hospital and emergency services. Physiotherapists, several pharmacies and an optometrist are also available.

Atiu and Aitutaki have limited medical aid and very small hospitals.

No special immunizations or vaccinations are required to visit the Cook Islands. However, it is recommended that you check with your family doctor or a travel clinic a few weeks before you travel.




Cook Islands Maori is the local language spoken but everyone also speaks English. Learning a few Maori words will make the locals smile.




The Cook Island's unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD), supplemented by notes and coinage for local use. The unique local coins and notes are not available outside the Cook Islands.

ANZ and Westpac Banks in downtown Avarua are open Monday to Friday from 9am – 3pm. ANZ extends its closing time on Friday’s to 4pm whilst Westpac Bank opens from 9am-12pm on Saturdays. Westpac Bank has an exchange and departure tax service available at the airport for all international flights located at the International Arrivals Terminal. 
ATM’s are conveniently located around Rarotonga and Aitutaki and EFTPOS is available at some hotels and stores. Fees and charges may apply when withdrawing from an international account. Western Union has an office in Avarua that offers money exchange and transfers.


It is not customary or expected to tip for services in the Cook Islands, with the exception of tour leaders.



Passport Visa:

When you enter the Cook Islands, a valid passport and a return ticket will allow you a stay of up to 31 days. Extensions may be granted on a monthly basis – for up to five months. New Zealand citizens automatically qualify for a 90 day stay. For extensions, apply 2 weeks before your permit expires.




The Cook Islands are generally a safe destination for travel, with a relatively low crime rate, few endemic diseases and a great health care system.

With common-sense, you can safely enjoy the Cook Islands. However, as with all travel at home or away, you should observe the same precautions with your personal safety and possessions. Take copies of your important documents (passports and credit cards) and keep them separate from the originals. You should also keep a record of the description and serial numbers of valuable items (cameras and laptops).




Cook Islands Time is abbreviated to CKT and is equal to UTC -10. They do not utilize Daylight Saving Time.