Kia Orana and welcome to the Cook Islands! Adjust your clock to ‘island time’ and enjoy a tropical vacation that is both comfortably modern yet authentically Polynesian. Here’s a sample 7 days in the Cook Islands itinerary, taking you to the vibrant main island of Rarotonga and laid back Aitutaki – home to one of the most magnificent lagoons in the South Pacific.
I spent nearly a month in the Cook Islands while backpacking across the South Pacific Islands. I highly recommend renting your own vehicle while on the islands. Prices in Rarotonga and Aitutaki are extremely affordable, granting you the ultimate degree of freedom.
Start planning your holiday with the Cook Islands Travel Guide, filled with practical information and individual travel guides to Rarotonga and Aitutaki – where exclusive discounts for X days In Y readers await you.
Part I: 5 Days In Rarotonga
Since this is a tropical vacation, after all, there’s no need to rush things. So you’ll spend the better part of your week in the Cook Islands on the main island of Rarotonga.
Spend your first day exploring the main town of Avarua, its beautiful church, and laid back vibe. You’ll then go for some snorkeling at the black rocks beach, before circling the compact island on a mini road trip.
Your second day will be spent in and around the Muri Lagoon, one of the most popular spots on Rarotonga and not without reason. Go for a morning massage at the award-winning Rumours Waterfall Spa, find your spot on Muri Beach, or perhaps do some aqua exercise in the lagoon on a standup paddleboard or kitesurf. For lunch, the Mooring Fish Cafe is not too far away in historic Avana Harbor.
In the evening, head to Te Vara Nui Village for a spectacular overwater island night show and buffet dinner. This is one of the things you do not want to miss in Rarotonga.
On day three, go for a bit of hiking. The Cross Island Track will take you from the north part of the island down to the south, offering you the chance to experience the island’s uninhabited interior, magnificent panoramic views from ‘The Needle’ and a refreshing conclusion at Wigmore’s Waterfall. For lunch, sample the French Polynesian cuisine at the Tahiti Cafe, and after a bit of relaxing, head to the island’s ‘sunset side’ to watch the spectacular evening light show with a drink in your hand at the Shipwreck Hut.
On your fourth day, go scuba diving with Adventure Cook Islands. Rarotonga is one of the top diving destinations in the South Pacific, with excellent visibility and plenty of surprises lurking out of the deep blue. After all this effort, treat yourself to a romantic dinner in the Tamarind House – a restored colonial-style building serving delicious dishes with an island twist.
The last day on this first leg in Rarotonga can be spent just lazing on the beach and not doing much. Head to Titikaveka Beach, the best beach in Rarotonga. It’s that stereotypical dream tropical beach you’ve always envisioned, and you can admire the setting poolside at the Little Polynesian Resort with a sandwich and an ice-cold local Matutu Beer.
To add more adventure to this day, travel back in time with a guided tour at Highland Cultural Paradise. Commanding fine views of the island’s west coast, this was the former site of the Tinomana tribe’s mountaintop village. Slowly excavated, the former village now hosts authentic tours and thrilling island night shows.
Depending On The Day Of The Week
If you have more time in Rarotonga and depending on the day of the week, visit the Saturday Punanga Nui Market during the morning hours. It’s one of the best markets in the South Pacific and you’ll find plenty of casual dining options, live entertainment, and souvenirs to take back home with you.
You can also attend Sunday church service at the Avarua CICC, an authentic experience you’ll always remember.