Paddling in Rarotonga Cook Islands paddlers in water

7 Days In The Cook Islands

7 Days In The Cook Islands

Last updated on March 9th, 2022

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.

Traveling to the Cook Islands? Start planning with The Cook Islands Travel Guide!

Quick Finds

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.

Day 1

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.

Avarua in Rarotonga Cook Islands

Black Rocks beach Rarotonga Cook Islands 1

Day 2

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.

Muri Beach Rarotonga Cook Islands

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.  

Island night te vara nui Rarotonga Cook Islands

Day 3

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. 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.

Cross Island Track Rarotonga Cook Islands the needle
Cross Island Track Rarotonga Cook Islands view from needle

Day 4

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.

Diving in Rarotonga Cook Islands white tip reef sharks playing

Diving in Rarotonga Cook Islands sea turtles

Day 5

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.

Titikaveka tropical beach Rarotonga Cook Islands

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.

Highland Paradise Rarotonga Cook Islands marae visit

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.

Punanga Nui Market Rarotonga Cook Islands - stalls
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Punanga Nui Market Rarotonga Cook Islands smoothie

You can also attend Sunday church service at the Avarua CICC, an authentic experience you’ll always remember.

Church in Rarotonga Cook Islands inside Avarua Catholic Church

Church in Rarotonga Cook Islands Avarua Catholic Church exterior

Part II: 2 Days In Aitutaki

You now have the option to spend your final two days in Aitutaki, home to one of the South Pacific’s most magnificent lagoons. Alternatively, you can spend an extra day in Rarotonga and head to Aitutaki on a day trip tour. You’ll depart in the early morning and return to Rarotonga in the early evening.

Air Rarotonga flight to Aitutaki Cook Islands

Day 1

Start your first morning in Aitutaki at the Koru Cafe, the best place on the island for breakfast. When you’re ready to go, hop on your scooter and begin your road trip around Aitutaki. Your first stop will be a 20-minute hike up to the top of Mount Maungapu. The highest point on the island, it’s by no means The Everest, but you’ll still be treated to 360-degree views and the sparkling blue colors of the lagoon.

View of Aitutaki Lagoon from Mount Maungapu Cook Islands

Back on the bike, go for a quick walking tour of Arutanga – the island’s main village. You can chit-chat with the ladies while stocking up on some fruits and vegetables in the local market, and don’t forget to check out the Catholic church. Built in 1828, it’s the oldest church in the Cook Islands and certainly worth a visit for Sunday church service if the timing works out. From town, cut through the island’s dirt tracks and discover the wild south and east coasts.

Arutanga CICC sunday service aitutaki cook islands

Finish off your day at O’otu Beach, the best beach on the main island. The water is so clear and the palm trees swaying in the wind provide the perfect ambiance. When it’s time for some action, rent a kayak and explore the lagoon, or walk over the shallow waters for a small break on a golden sandbar.

Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands

For dinner, sample some local ikamata at the Boat Shed Bar & Grill or head to the Tamanu Beach Resort for island night – the best show in Aitutaki (check for dates).

Island Night in Aitutaki Tamanu Beach Polynesian fire show 3

Day 2

One of those magical days that will vividly live in your mind forever, this might be the highlight of your entire visit to the Cook Islands. Climb aboard the modern catamaran of The Vaka Cruise and set sail to the dreamy uninhabited islets (motu) that dot the Aitutaki Lagoon. You’ll make landfall on three islands, snorkel in the coral, and be treated to a delicious BBQ lunch on board.

One Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands boat

As for the lagoon… The water is so intensely blue, the white sand blinds you as if you’re staring at the sun and the palm trees… well, they curve at just the perfect angle!

One foot island aitutaki lagoon cook islands best tropical beach

One Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands

What’s Next?

This 7 days in the Cook Islands sample itinerary should give you a good taste of the two major islands while leaving enough time to recharge those depleted batteries. Start planning your visit to paradise with the Cook Islands Travel Guide, complete with lots of tips, tricks, and in-depth travel guides to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

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