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Natalie Jurcic, a Goway Islands Expert, returned from a FAM trip to the Cook Islands sponsored by Goway, Cook Island Tourism, and Air New Zealand. Natalie had the opportunity to visit the Islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Sharing some of her memorable experiences, Natalie has some tips and reasons why you should recommend the Cook Islands as a great destination, ranging from the history and culture to the untouched beauty of the South Pacific.
Where are the Cook Islands and how do you get there?
The Cook Islands are located between the islands of Tahiti and Fiji in the South Pacific. A non-stop flights from North America to Rarotonga departs once per week from Los Angeles on Saturdays with Air New Zealand and takes approximately 10 hours. I traveled from Toronto with Air New Zealand’s Star Alliance partner Air Canada to connect in LA.
What did you see and do in the Cook Islands?
I spent 6 days in Rarotonga with a day trip to the neighboring island of Aitutaki. Rarotonga is mountainous, lush and green, particularly at this time of year as they are headed into their summer. Everything is flowering and local fruit is in season. There are plenty of fun land and water based activities to take in aside from enjoying the beaches.
I did a buggy tour, two lagoon tours (one on each island) with snorkeling stops, enjoyed a progressive dinner where the group has a three-course dinner at three different local homes, and also took in the overwater dinner and show highlighting Cook Islands culture and traditional dance.
What are some of your favorite highlights?
The Aitutaki day tour, and in particular the Vara Nui lagoon cruise. This full day excursion includes multiple island stops including the iconic One Foot Islands (be sure to bring your passport to get it stamped) located in the picturesque lagoon in Aitutaki. During our visit we were lucky enough to see several White Tern chicks, a sea bird indigenous to the area. These little baby birds were some of the cutest animals I’d ever seen, and unafraid of people, allowing us to get up close!
Any favorite accommodations? How do they differ from other tropical destinations?
There really is something for everyone in the Cook Islands, but a couple of properties that stood out are Sunset Resort (3*), Muri Beach Club (4*) and Rumours Luxury Villas & Spa (5*). The main distinction when it comes to accommodations in the Cooks compared to other island destinations is that many offer self-catering facilities, so clients have the option to dine-in if they choose. This is especially great for our snowbird long stay program. The other thing to remember is that there are no large chain hotels, only small to medium sized properties. No building taller than a coconut tree is allowed by law!
Since you’re an islands expert, how do the Cook Islands compare to other South Pacific islands like Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoa?
The Cooks are ideal for clients who like to get out and experience to local culture. Rarotonga in particular is very easy to get around, by local bus, bike, scooter, taxi or rental car. While some resorts do have restaurants on site, half the fun is sampling the wide range of local restaurants and unique dining experiences like the Muri Night Market, which features local vendors with a range of foods. Unlike Fiji or Tahiti where many hotels are quite secluded or even located on private islands, properties in the Cooks are more accessible, and tourists and locals mix and mingle much more, making for a memorable experience.
What tips can you recommend for travel agents in recommending this destination?
The summer months, which run from November through April/May are hot and humid and can be a bit rainy, but offer a great escape from the cold winter in North America. It’s also at this time of year that clients get the best deals with special discount offers or bonus inclusions through the low season. High season runs from June through October, this is when clients can enjoy the best weather, warm and dry with plenty of sun. However, they can expect properties to run at high occupancy and booking at least 6 months in advance is recommended.
You can contact Natalie for any questions on the Cook Islands or for assistance in creating the perfect vacation package for your clients.
Phone: 1 800 667 6601 ex 5932
Email: [email protected]
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