Cook Islands Visitor Information

Fed up with traffic, mobile phones and pagers, deadlines, expectations, take away dinners and being time poor... with bad design, rude waiters, things that break, social demands, recycling and just keeping up... with queues, ATMs, mailing lists, the Internet and always being late...?

Feel the need for warm, crystal clear, turquoise water, white sandy beaches, no stress, colourful cocktails, lush tropical vegetation, a good book, new friends, fine food and welcoming smiles...? The Cook Islands will deliver.

Location

The Cook Islands consists of 15 Islands scattered over some 2 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. They lie virtually in the center of the Polynesian Triangle of the South Pacific, flanked to the west by the kingdom of Tonga and the Samoas, and to the east by Tahiti and the island of French Polynesia. The Cook Islands are in the same time zone as Hawaii and are the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north, and lay on the Tropic of Capricorn (latitude 9 to 22 south degrees). Rarotonga is the largest of the islands and hosts the international airport and Avarua, the main township, has a good choice of restaurants, shops, hotels and banks. Bigger map with more detail - Cook Islands Map.

People

The Cook Islands magical tranquility is matched only by the people themselves. The hospitality is warm and spontaneous, the dancing exuberant, the mood tropical, sultry and relaxed. Cook Islanders share a genuine care for others and although now Christian, the old culture lives on with song, dance and an easy pace of life uncomplicated by the turmoil and hustle and bustle of today's outside world.

Population

Around 20,000 throughout the islands with more than half living on Rarotonga

Culture

Cook Islanders have retained much of their own culture. Although displays of the Cook Islands past are exhibited in the local museum, Cook Islands culture is not confined to restored sites and museum walls. Polynesian identity can be observed in dance and drama at various events during the year, particularly during Constitutional Celebrations. This is a time to renew the warriors' might, the dancers' grace....a time where heritage excels. However, it is the songs of the Kaparima and the hymns of the Sunday Choir and pride in the traditional crafts that exist in the day-to-day lives of Cook Islanders that best define their proud culture.

Currency

New Zealand dollar. The Cooks also have their own notes and coinage for use within the country (in tandem with the New Zealand dollar) but they aren't convertible and should be exchanged before leaving (unless you're a coin collector, in which case they may be valuable to you - especially the three dollar note!). For an online Currency Converter, use our currency converter in the tool box on the right of this page.

Banking

The resorts and major stores will change travellers' cheques and principal currencies. Banking facilities are available at the airport one hour prior to the arrival of scheduled international flights.

Climate

Tropical, with the heaviest rainfall and humidity through November to February. (Average temperature over this period is around 25 degrees Celsius, with temperature ranging from 22 degrees Celsius to 28 degrees Celsius maximum. The dryer months from April to November have an average maximum temperature of about 26 degrees Celsius. The water temperature is pleasant all year round.

Passports & Visas

Please ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your return to your country of origin. Most visitors who intend to stay for less than 31 days do not require a visa. It is a Travellers responsibility to have all documentation in order prior to departure.

Electricity

240V, three pronged plugs (same as in Australia and New Zealand). Some resorts have 110V for electric shavers.

Getting Around

Driving is on the LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD. (Opposite to Europe, USA.) There is a choice of hire vehicles on Rarotonga from cars to 4WDs to scooters. There is a good sealed road around the perimeter of Rarotonga and a regular bus service completes the round trip every 45 minutes. Most visitors hire scooters, and if hiring a scooter or a car a current Cook Island Drivers Licence is available from the Police Station in Avarua on presentation of your current licence.

History

The first settlers in the region were the Polynesians (about 800AD) during the Great Polynesian Migration, which began in 1500BC. The Cook Islands group English name was bestowed in honour of explorer Captain James Cook. While Cook did indeed discover some of the islands, Rarotonga was first sighted during the migrationary voyages of the Polynesian people around 800 AD. The first coral road was built in Rarotonga in the 11th Century by a chief named Toi, which lay inland and was named the "Ara Metua". A couple of centuries later the islands were invaded by a chief from Tahiti in conjunction with a chief from Samoa. The Spanish explored the area around 1595, so a lot happened before Cook made his voyages.

The ill-fated Captain William Bligh sighted Aitutaki in 1789 and mutineer Fletcher Christian, Rarotonga, on the same boat (The Bounty) shortly after the famous mutiny on April 28, 1789.

Rarotonga's official discovery is credited to Captain Philip Goodenough aboard the "Cumberland" in 1814 whilst seeking sandalwood. Cook is however credited with having discovered the islands of Manuae, Palmerston, Takutea, Mangaia and Aitu which resulted in naming the group after him. Today, the Cook Islands is a self-governing democracy.

Food

A wide range of Polynesian and International cuisine - continental, Indian, Chinese, Italian etc. There are many island style cafes serving traditional dishes. All vegetables are fresh and local, as is the seafood (most restaurants have a daily arrangement with a fishing boat). 'Island Nights' should be experienced for both the dancing and the traditional Cook Islands feast. It's called the 'umukai' - succulent food cooked in an underground oven. There are over 2 dozen licensed bars and restaurants on Rarotonga, many offering live entertainment. Night spots stay open till around midnight (later on Friday and Saturday nights).

Tipping

Tipping is contrary to Cook Island customs.

Weddings

Everything you ever dreamed of and more. Our tropical paradise offers hundreds of possibilities for your never-to-be-forgotten wedding day. Many of our visitors are so moved by our paradise, they renew their vows at special ceremonies. Whatever your needs, you'll find the setting and ceremony to fit your budget. Cook Island marriages are internationally recognized and, of course, legally binding worldwide. The following is general information for getting married in the Cook Islands. It is recommended that you check with the marriage licensing bureau in your state or province for local requirements regarding marriages.

Legal age of consent to marry is 20 years, otherwise written approval by parents is required.

Cost of License if marriage is performed by Registrar of Marriages: NZ$56.25. If conducted by a church minister: NZ$22.50. Cost of Marriage Certificate NZ$11.25.

Application for License must be made in person to the Registrar of Marriages in the Cook Islands on arrival. You will need to give a minimum of 3 days notice for processing your application. Application for this license cannot be made outside the Cook Islands.

Documents Needed: Your passport will be required when filing the "Notice of Intended Marriage" at the Registrars Office in Avarua, Cook Islands. If divorced, a copy of the Decree Nisi (divorce documents) will be required.

Churches on the Islands: Protestant, Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic. It will be necessary to check with you local Minister regarding the requirements to marry in the Church as they will also apply to the Cook Islands.

Departure Tax

Please note a departure tax of NZ$25 per person is required to be paid at the Airport upon your departure.