Imagine a place where you can enjoy unspoiled natural beauty and wide-open beaches without the crowds. It’s a place where the waters are bluer than the richest sapphire and the beaches whiter than coconut flakes. It shares the same time zone as Hawaii, is northeast of New Zealand, and a bit west of the island of Tahiti. It’s the Cook Islands, and it offers an ideal escape for travellers looking to enjoy an authentic island experience.
In the Cooks, you won’t find high-rise hotels or crowded beaches. Rather, you’ll find affordable lagoon-side resorts with all the modern conveniences, friendly locals, and everything within easy reach. You can connect from the plane to the beach in no time and explore the islands and waters at your own leisurely pace.
1. Everything is close by.
In the Cooks, there are restaurants to your left, cafés to your right, and beach bars just a few steps down the sands. Gift shops and galleries and convenience stores dot the ocean-side roads. It takes only a few minutes to connect from the airport to your resort. And most importantly, the water is always close by.
2. There are no distractions.
Perhaps the most famous fact about the Cook Islands is that according to local law, no building can be built taller than a coconut tree. There are no high-rise hotels to clutter the skyline, no traffic lights or stop signs to break the natural flow. You move to a slower rhythm here and experience life free of distraction.
3. There are friendly local Māori people.
Only 16,000 people live here, mostly Cook Islands Māori people, who are eager to share their history, chat at local markets, and show off their impressive skills at drumming and dancing. Everyone you meet in the Cooks is a potential friend, which is reflected in the universal greeting: kia orana, Māori for “hello,” which literally translates as “may you live a long and healthy life.”
4. It’s home to the world’s most beautiful lagoon.
A 45-minute flight north of Rarotonga, Aitutaki is a small island known by many as the world’s most beautiful lagoon. The waters are soft and blue, the sands impossibly white. Coconut trees line the powdery sands and picturesque islets dot the shimmering waters. Pictures don’t do it justice, even if it is the quintessential postcard image of a South Pacific paradise. You have to stroll its sands, wade through its waters, for yourself.
5. It’s closer than you think.
It only takes six hours to fly from Honolulu to Rarotonga with Hawaiian Airlines. And you can connect to Honolulu from 15 American gateway cities across the mainland. That means it’s only a little bit further than Hawaii to get to this little paradise. The Cook Islands is also an attractive long-stay destination for travellers who want to escape the North American winter for several weeks or months at a time.
Life moves to a different rhythm in the Cook Islands. It dances to a different beat, and we don’t just mean the beat of a Polynesian drum, which is infectious. There’s no rush in the Cooks, no city pace, no rat race. Life moves to island time here, and if you set your internal clock to this mysterious tempo, so many of the world’s worries will simply melt away. The Cook Islands is a tropical paradise where you can relax, rejuvenate, and fill your cup with the beauty of its unspoiled natural surroundings and the warmth of its people.
This article was originally published in No. 31 of Globetrotting Magazine.
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