Imagine clear, calm, turquoise blue waters dotted with sandbars and lush tropical Islands. These shallow waters lead to pristine beaches and striking natural beauty. The air smells of tropical freesias and fresh fruit. Welcome to the Cook Islands! These Islands are in the Pacific Ocean. They are accessible by a direct nine hour flight from Los Angeles or a four hour flight from Auckland, New Zealand. These safe friendly islands are an ideal vacation destination for families.
We visited the Islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. We spent a week on each island. This coordinated well with the once a week direct fight to Los Angeles International Airport. A week on each of these islands also let us experience both of these very different island vibes. Rarotonga is more developed and mountainous. It offers a variety of resorts, restaurants, cafes, land and water activities. There are varieties of transportation options including rental cars, scooters, buses, and taxis. The smaller island of Aitutaki is less development. Aitutaki is famous for it’s indescribably breathtaking Blue Lagoon. The primary focus in Aitutaki is on water recreation and relaxation. Visitors to Aitutaki come to enjoy the natural beauty of the Island.
On the Island of Rarotonga, we stayed on the Pacific Resort located in the Muri Beach area. Rarotonga offers incredible sea kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding and fine dining. We also took a four wheel drive tour of the interior. The interior mountains offer stunning scenery. There is a rich cultural history on the island.
A wonderful family experience on the waters of Rarotonga, is Koka Lagoon cruises. Koka offers coconut climbing, snorkeling in the marine reserve, and a live band on the boat. The boat takes visitors to another tropical island. This is followed by a traditional interactive show. Then a beach barbecue with delectable yellow fin Tuna!
For families with foodies the local Night Market is a must! The night market is a two minute walk from the Pacific Resort and Muri Beach area. The Night Market offers tantalizing and very reasonable local fresh cooked cuisine. Fresh squeezed juices, fish curry, oven baked pizza and much more are offered here. It’s open four nights a week, from 5pm to 7pm. The food sells out quickly so come early!
I went scuba diving with Dive Rarotonga. There were huge tropical fish and sea turtles. I recommend scuba diving if weather conditions permit. Your guides will let you know if it’s safe to go out or not. Keep in mind that December and January are during the Island’s summer rainy season. The rainy season in the Cook Islands doesn’t mean rain for days on end. It usual means sporadic rain showers and an occasional rainy day. Cyclones can strike during this time, but are unusual. Nearby storms can make the waters outside of the lagoon choppier. Most everything is safe in the Cook Islands and there is very little crime. The only danger while enjoying these gorgeous waters are poisonous Stone Fish. Stone Fish are found in rocky areas and areas with lots of coral. They are only known to react if stepped on or squeezed. Always wear shoes in these areas. If scuba diving or snorkeling always obey the number one rule, “Don’t touch anything!”
An easy forty-five minute flight from Rarotonga is Aitutaki! Aitutaki is very picturesque and rich in natural beauty. Aitutaki is most famous for its pristine Blue Lagoon surrounding the Island. We stayed right on this Lagoon at the Blue Lagoon Aitutaki Village with rustic cabins and incredible views. I recommend the popular One Foot Island Cruise with snorkeling. We went with Bishops cruises. The giant fish and Pathway to Heaven Island is memorable. The barbecue lunch fantastic. I also highly recommend a cruise to Mania Islands and Honeymoon Islands. We took a water taxi with a glass bottom boat out to Honeymoon Island with some Kite surfers through Wet and Wild. We leisurely enjoyed the sandy beaches and shallow waters around this beautiful island. There is an excellent snorkeling spot near the white pole marking the corner of the island. There is also a covered lunch area full of cute hermit crabs that our two children loved to race. It’s a great safe family spot. There are also so many sea turtles in this area. We saw many pop up while sea kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, and through our glass bottom boat!
The Blue Lagoon right near our rustic cabin resort the Blue Lagoon Aitutaki Village!
On Boxing Day, we took a glass bottom boat to Mania Island. This cruise offered two incredible snorkeling spots in the lagoon. It also stopped briefly at Honeymoon to visit the local nesting birds. Then on to lunch and swimming at Mania Island. Mania and Honeymoon Islands are often overlooked by visitors. Yet, we enjoyed them even more than One Foot Island.
Another fun family friendly activity is night paddle boarding and Sea Kayaking. At sunset a guide can take you and your family out on your choice of paddle boards or sea kayaks with LED lighting. The LED lights attract the fish and sea life. I went over the protected marine reserve and saw intriguing sea life! During the day at low tide, a Moray eel even tried to jump on my paddle board!
The Cook Islands offer something for everyone. Enjoy a relaxing beach vacation or an exciting adventure filled experienced. Rarotonga is more developed. It has a small movie theater and more land activities with its mountains and resorts. Aitutaki is more rustic, natural, and the Blue Lagoon has the kind of beauty found only in dreams. There are also uninhabited sandy tropical islands with shallow waters adorning each. Visit and you too, will definitely have something to write about!