For the ultimate island relaxation retreat, skip the tourist crowds in the Caribbean and head to the Cook Islands, a tiny archipelago in the South Pacific, just southwest of Tahiti. The archipelago comprises of 15 islands in total, all of which are actually sunken volcanoes topped with coral!
For those looking to disconnect (and let’s face it, who isn’t these days?), the Cook Islands offer total peace and seclusion, ideal for an R&R getaway or a restful stopover on the way to or from New Zealand or Australia. Air New Zealand offers direct flights to and from Auckland or Sydney.
The Cook Islands is the South Pacific’s best-kept secret. The islands form a natural paradise that has largely escaped the crowds of island-hopping sun-seekers that plague other parts of the world. Each island has its own unique character, so you can experience something new at each one. Plan a totally customized Cook Islands vacation to make the most of this breathtaking destination.
The main island, Rarotonga, is surrounded by a brilliant cerulean lagoon and coral reef that extends out over 100 metres in some places from the shore. In stark contrast, inland you’ll find green vegetation-rich volcanoes, jutting up in jagged peaks. Although it’s the archipelago’s main island, Rarotonga is still very small, so you can drive around it in just a couple of hours, and it is well worth the drive. You’ll come across tiny villages and a plethora of wonderful fruits like bananas, coconuts, pineapples, and papaya. You can circumnavigate the island on its circular road by bus, or why not try renting a bicycle or motorbike to get a little closer to the land? Be sure to also check out the colourful market in its capital, Avarua, which happens every day except Sunday.
Just north of Rarotonga lies Aitutaki, an even tinier island with just 2,000 inhabitants. The island’s barrier reef forms the shape of a triangle with the main island forming the top point and a scattering of smaller outcrops of land forming the left point and right side. The fertile volcanic soil on Aitutaki provides a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables – all you need for a truly remote getaway. Aitutaki also has the oldest church on the Cook Islands, where you can get a glimpse into the islands’ fascinating history.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the Cook Islands is its people. Descendants of a Polynesian way of life, the Cook Islands’ residents are warm and friendly, and will immediately welcome you to their land and their enviable way of life. That way of life is all about embracing a more relaxed pace and learning to let go of the frantic time constraints we’re used to in our daily lives. Make sure to get out and meet some locals on your trip; they will help you understand what the Cook Islands’ way of life is all about.
As if this archipelago couldn’t get any more magical, it’s full of pristine beaches. White, powdery sand peppers these spectacular islands, and you won’t need to fight the crowds for a coveted spot in the sun or the shade. You can spend a whole day sunbathing and lounging by the water, or get active with endless activities in the water, such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, and scuba diving. Muri Beach on the island of Rarotonga is perfect for swimming, while you can try Titikaveka and Vaimaanga for snorkelling. When you relax into the rhythm of life on the Cook Islands, you won’t want to leave.
Unlike other sunny destinations preferred by many snowbirds, the Cook Islands has a perfect climate year round, and you won’t find crowds no matter what season you visit. Cook Islands resorts are idyllic retreats that help you feel even more connected to the beautiful landscape around you. Bungalows and villas are the way to go on the islands, and because this little nation has so much coastline, many of the accommodations are beachfront. Many accommodations are also perfectly suited to a more extended stay of a month or two, with self-catering facilities like full kitchenettes and grocery stores close by.
If you’re hoping to take home a piece of this paradise, pick up a carved wooden souvenir like a mat, basket, hat, or even a ceremonial tool. You can also purchase paintings and sculptures made by local artists by which to remember your trip!
If you’re looking to find a real retreat in the heart of winter, or any other time of year, a Cook Islands vacation is the perfect way to get rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation at your own pace in a landscape that is natural and still untouched by human hands.
Get the latest travel trends & hear about the best deals on vacations around the world.
If you’re a Globetrotter, these are the newsletters for you!