6-day, 5-night itinerary
Cook Islands: Discover a Little Paradise
Capture the “Kia Orana” spirit! Explore the South Pacific’s best-kept secret — the 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands are located in the heart of Polynesia, nestled between Hawai’i and New Zealand. This modern Polynesian nation is an oasis of freedom with crystal-clear, blue waters; bright-white, sandy beaches; warm weather year-round; and authentic, friendly locals. Less than 30 minutes from plane to any beach, it is so easy to do as much or as little as you like. First, explore the striking volcanic island of Rarotonga; like one big resort all in one island, Rarotonga offers endless adventures just outside your resort, ringed by boutique hotels, exquisite restaurants, gift shops, markets and more. In Aitutaki, you will experience “the world’s most beautiful lagoon,” according to Tony Wheeler, founder, Lonely Planet. This jewel of an isle offers an idyllic blue lagoon and pearly white beaches to match.
When international borders reopen to safe travel for all, be sure to visit this undiscovered paradise.
Day 1 Arrive in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Day 2 Rarotonga
Day 3 Rarotonga
Day 4 Rarotonga/Aitutaki
Day 5 Aitutaki
Day 6 Aitutaki/Rarotonga
Highlights of the trip
-Discover Rarotonga’s mystical history aboard a tuk-tuk electric tour
-Reconnect with nature by exploring Rarotonga’s mountainous interior
-Enjoy a traditional island night, complete with authentic Cook Islands cuisine and fire dancing
-Cruise the turquoise blue waters of Aitutaki Lagoon aboard a vaka, where you’ll island hop for the day
DAY 1: RAROTONGA
Awake to a new paradise as you touch down in Rarotonga first thing Sunday morning. Enjoy a sunrise tropical breakfast before heading to Sunday Church at the Ngatangiia Cook Islands Christian Church — this is a colorful event where you can see a wonderful parade of Polynesian headdresses and listen to the choirs sing striking harmonies.
For lunch, grab a fresh-caught fish sandwich at the famous Moorings Café, one of the most original eating holes on Rarotonga. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to spot whales in the distance as you enjoy your grub.
Enjoy a leisurely day of sun, beach, watersports, or a nice spa treatment at one of the island’s many luxury spas. At night, venture to the Muri Beach Night Markets, where you will curate your own dinner from a wide variety of food stalls, trucks and stands amidst the open-air market.
DAY 2: RAROTONGA
Today, venture out on a Tik-e tuk tuk tour. This tour service runs on 100 percent electricity, and will take you to various famed island locales such as Rito Cook Islands (cold-pressed oils), Tokerau Jim (pearl carver), M&M Ukulele (ukulele master), Black Rock (local landmark known as where ‘spirits depart’) and maraes (ancient sacred meeting places).
For dinner, enjoy the fare at local favorite, Tamarind House, which serves traditional Cook Islands fare in a beautiful setting.
DAY 3: RAROTONGA
Today you can choose between a variety of active tours Rarotonga has to offer. The Storytellers Eco Cycle Explore Tour will take you through the inland roads of Rarotonga on bicycles; the Jungle Quad Tour will explore the heart of the island’s jungle on a fully automatic ATV/quad motorcycle; or the Cross Island Trek, where you’ll enjoy four hours hiking through the unspoiled interior of Rarotonga, eventually reaching “The Needle” landmark.
In the evening, enjoy the Te Vara Nui Combo Extravaganza — an informative cultural village tour that ends in a delicious island/Western fusion buffet before watching the amazing over-water show, Legends of Tongaiti, containing Rarotonga’s finest dancers and musicians who perform by flaming torchlight on floating and fixed stages of the waterfall.
DAY 4: RAROTONGA/AITUTAKI
Today you will arrive in stunning Aitutaki via Air Rarotonga, the Cook Islands’ domestic airline. Take part in the Punarei Cultural Tour of the sacred Maori site for a traditional umu (underground oven) lunch.
Take the rest of the day to enjoy the beautiful water, white-sand beaches and plentiful island cocktails. In the evening, you can enjoy a beautiful buffet dinner at the Island Night at Rapae Restaurant at Pacific Resort Aitutaki.
DAY 5: AITUTAKI
Take part in a serene lagoon cruise aboard a traditional vaka boat, and see firsthand why Aitutaki is, “…the most beautiful lagoon in the world,” as said by Tony Wheeler, founder, Lonely Plant. MJ Day, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, visited Aitutaki in August 2014 and said, “…hands down, Aitutaki is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Ensure you pack a camera and a passport to get your souvenir One Foot Island stamp. Spend the day soaking in the natural wonder of this blue lagoon as you island hop and snorkel, before treating yourself to locally caught fish at one of the island’s charming cafés.
DAY 6: AITUTAKI/RAROTONGA
Soak up the sun in Aitutaki before you transfer back to the island of Rarotonga on Air Rarotonga, where you’ll still have some time to grab a bite and drinks at Vaiana’s, a lively beachfront eatery complete with live music. Transfer to the airport and depart Rarotonga for Los Angeles aboard an Air New Zealand flight, arriving Saturday afternoon into the United States.