The Cook Islands is a country in the South Pacific that was first inhabited by the Polynesians in 800 AD during the great Polynesia migration. Several islands were later discovered by Spanish explorers but it was Captain James Cook who sited the islands of Manuae, Palmerston, Takutea, Mangaia and Atiu.
Christian missionaries then arrived on the series of islands in the early-1800s, introducing their faith to the locals. It is a testament to the Polynesian people that they were able to conserve and continue their culture and traditions even despite the influence of the Christian faith.
Now, the Cook Islands is a self-governing nation and a beautiful getaway for travellers looking to learn more about the local culture, or simply sit back and relax on one of the many beautiful beaches. If you are visiting this beautiful part of the world, then here is a list of all the important things to see and do while you’re there.
Rarotonga is Cook Island’s main island and it takes just 45 minutes to drive around it completely, so you can easy discover this area in one day. Hire a scooter, a car, or jump on one of the buses to get a real glimpse into what the island is like. There are beaches, small villages and fields of agricultural farms to discover, including pawpaw, mango and bananas. You can also trek into the hinterlands and surrounding hills which are full of ancient stories and myths about war and love. Rarotonga is a great spot to go snorkelling and swimming, too. There are clear blue water lagoons on Muri beach, which is also a popular water sport location, with people taking up sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and swimming while they’re here. Whale watching is also available from June to October.
If you’re dreaming of an ideal beach getaway with lagoons, crystal clear water, white sands and palm-covered islands (who doesn’t?) then the island of Aitutaki is calling you. This is also the island that will calm you down and allow you to slow down and relax. Roll out your beach towel and spend the afternoon in the beautiful warm sun, but don’t forget to slip, slop, slap. If you want to tell all your friends and family back home what a wonderful time you’re having, then you can rub it in by sending a postcard from the world’s smallest post office located on the island.
Bird lovers, you can’t go past a trip to Atiu Island where there are rainforests full of birdlife, including cave dwelling birds. The ancient site of Marae is an important and sacred point for Polynesians and is thought to have been a place where rituals were once performed.
Mitiaro is the smallest island in the southern group of islands and there are just 150 people who call the place home. The people are known to be fun-loving and welcoming, and a great bunch to get to know while you visit. Accommodation options include bed and breakfasts in traditional-style huts that are linked to family homes – what better way to get to know the locals. Vainauri is a clear water pool, great for swimming and known for it’s healing properties.
Once you’re done with Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu and Mitiaro there are 13 other islands to head off and explore including Mitiaro, Atiu, Mauke, Mangaia, and Takutea. Mangaia is the most southern and oldest island and geologists estimate that it is at least 18 million years old. There is a long cultural history on the island, too, with legends and mystical tales being well known in the area. Head along to the local markets on a Friday at the Oneroa townships, visit the Saragosa shipwreck or explore the hidden caves, which are sacred sites and were once used as burial chambers.