Where are the Cook Islands?

Welcome to our necklace of islands in the sun. We extend a hand of friendship and invite you to share in the warmth of our hospitality. The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scattered over some 2 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean (see map). They lie in the centre of the Polynesian Triangle, flanked to the west by the Kingdom of Tonga and the Samoa’s and to the east by Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia.


Rarotonga is the vibrant centre of the Cook Islands. Truly a romantic tropical south pacific resort destination for your vacation or honeymoon. Its circular shape is dominated by high mountain peaks from which lush rain forests cascade to a palm-fringed shore. The island is almost completely encircled by a reef, which harbour’s a lagoon of clear turquoise waters and many inviting white sand beaches. Beyond the reef, the indigo blue of the ocean provides a vivid contrast and a bountiful supply of fish We welcome our visitors at Rarotonga's International Airport. This is where most people choose to stay, with increasing interest being expressed for outer island excursions. You will find an excellent choice of accommodation sprinkled around the island's perimeter. Avarua is the main town on the island and the commercial centre of the Cook Islands. During business hours it has a friendly, bustling atmosphere together with a good selection of shops, banks, cafes and visitor facilities. It is also the main port and host to many cruising yachts. Rarotonga's Visitor Centre is located in downtown Avarua (see map). Visitors are made most welcome and can drop in for any information, souvenir clothing, or guidance between the hours of 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday; or on Saturday, from 9am till noon.


A visit to the Cook Islands is not complete without seeing our beautiful island of Aitutaki. The breathtaking allure of its crystal clear turquoise waters and sparkling white beaches is an essential ingredient in any tropical Cook Island romantic vacation or honeymoon. . This is a place of unsurpassed natural beauty and tranquility, providing a simple tonic to sooth away the pressures of the outside world. Aitutaki is 220 kilometres north of Rarotonga (see map) and less than an hour's flight away. It is partly volcanic and partly of atoll origin. Its highest hill, Maungapu is said to be the top of Rarotonga's Raemaru Peak, brought back by victorious warriors. The spectacular lagoon (45 kilometres around) is abundant with coloured fish of many varieties, its perimeter sprinkled with many small and charming uninhabited islands (motus).


The island of Atiu is the third largest in the Cooks group, located 215 kilometres northeast of Rarotonga. It is part of the Southern group islands of the Cook Islands, with a landmass of 26.9 square kilometres. Atiu is a small volcanic island, with central elevated flat-toped mass of volcanic rock incised by sharp edged gullies and surrounded by a raised coral limestone reef called a Makatea. The makatea runs around the island ranging in width from anywhere between 50 to 100 metres. Low cliffs, 3 to 6 metres high surround the island, but there are many recesses in which small sandy coves are found. There are limestone caves all over the makatea and some are used as ancient burial sites. Atiu is part of the Ngaputoru (three roots) group. The three roots consisting of Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro. The fertile interior is farmed for coffee and pineapple. Atiu is famous for its cave dwelling Kopeka (Atiu swiftlet) bird and Tumunu bush beer parties.


The island of Mangaia is the southernmost and the second largest of the Cook Islands. The oldest island of the group, renowned for its 'ei pupu' (shell leis). It is approximately 176km south east of Rarotonga. Believed to be about 19 million years old, Mangaia is a raised atoll surrounded by layers (from 2 to 6 layers in several places) of jagged limestone coral known as Makatea. The makatea in some places are 60 metres high and about a kilometre wide. Numerous trees, shrubs and plants grow between the coral limestone forming as a result the makatea forest that surrounds the exterior of the island. Linked to a running stream in the valley is a brackish water lake formed against a makatea cliff. Numerous limestone caves are scattered throughout the makatea forest some of which have been used as ancient burial sites.


An Aerial Shot Of Manuae Manuae, 50 miles east of Aitutaki was once inhabited by contract workers employed on copra production. Declared now as a marine reserve, the island is occasionally visited by residents of Aitutaki who travel by small boat or aircraft.


Uncommercialised and with a relaxed pace of life, Mauke offers peace and seclusion 'off the beaten track'. Three villages, Areoa, Ngatiarua and Kimiangatau are close to the western coast of the island leaving the arable inland area for a variety of food crops and other farming activity. A rugged Makatea is evident around some sections of the coastline containing interesting water caves and forming secluded white sand coves.


The small tight-knit community shows its pride in the neatness of the villages, Takaue and Arai. Much of the centre of the island is covered by the two brackish lakes; host to plentiful supplies of itiki (eel), a local delicacy The island also produces tiporo - a fragrant lime. Life in Mitiaro very much revolves around the village; the community activities include sports and handcrafts.


The unique social fabric of this atoll arises from the last century when Englishman William Masters settled here with his two Rarotongan wives. The resulting small population now share the same surname and speak a local dialect, itself a mixture of Cook Island and English languages. Accessible only by sea, a few adventurous travelers visit the island each year to experience life on this remote outpost.


Takutea, a sanctuary declared to protect the breeding site of a number of seabirds, lies 50 miles northeast of Atiu. Members of the Atiu community make regular trips to the island to monitor the sanctuaries condition.