Destination Pacific: A first timer's guide to the Cook Islands

With a travel bubble about to open, now is the time to get to know the Cooks.
With a travel bubble about to open, now is the time to get to know the Cooks. Photo credit: Sam Scott/Cook Islands Tourism

Pre-pandemic it was a popular holiday destination for many Kiwis, but as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps most international destinations off-limits the Cook Islands may become more popular than ever as a getaway destination for New Zealanders.

So if you're planning your first every holiday in the Cook Islands, read ahead for everything you need to know about visiting when the travel bubble opens.

Getting there:

Flights between Auckland and Rarotonga take up to four hours. From there flights to Aitutaki are available through local airline Air Rarotonga and take around 50 minutes.

Flights appear to be on sale through the Air New Zealand website from as early as May 10, with one return flight a day.

Destination Pacific: A first timer's guide to the Cook Islands
Photo credit: Newshub

Flight NZ946 departs Auckland daily at 8.45am, arriving at 2.30pm (minus one day) local time. The return flight, NZ945, departs at 3.50pm, arriving at 6.25pm (but a day ahead). The location of the international dateline means that while New Zealand and the Cook Islands have similar times, Aotearoa is almost an entire day ahead

Destination Pacific: A first timer's guide to the Cook Islands
Photo credit: Newshub

Jetstar has said it will only look at flights to and from the Cook Islands once a travel bubble is opened between the Cook Islands and Australia. Meanwhile, plans for a new airline owned by Mike Pero called Pasifika Air intended to operate between New Zealand and Rarotonga were recently shelved. 


Newshub Weather's Ingrid Hipkiss said the Cook Islands are warm regardless of when you choose to visit.  

"Its hottest months are from January to March when daytime temperatures are on average 29 degrees, and 23 overnight, with a water temperature of between 27 and 28 degrees," Hipkiss said.

"There's not a huge difference between those temperatures and the ones experienced during the months of New Zealand's winter.

"July through to September have an average daily temperature of 25 degrees, between 18 and 19 at night, and a water temperature of 24 degrees."

Things to keep in mind:

While the Kiwi dollar is the official currency of the Cook Islands, prices for items such as food and beverages can be much higher than in New Zealand due to limited supply and shipping costs.

A Flight Centre travel expert recommended booking hotels with breakfast included, so you don't have to worry about finding an affordable cafe, but that does come at the cost of experiencing more of the local culture and community. 

They also advised Kiwi visitors to pack plenty of snacks, just in case you get a bit peckish.

For members of the LGBTIQ+ community, it's important to keep in mind that same-sex relations between two men remains a criminal offence in the Cook Islands, although between women it is not. In the Spartacus Gay Travel guide, it was rated in 161st safest destination country, compared to New Zealand's 10th place. Some online travel reviews have said that this wasn't an issue when they visited, while others have said they've witnessed public displays of affection between same sex-couples being met with unpleasant reactions. Sadly, this is a red flag worth mentioning for our rainbow flag carrying readers.

While places to stay aren't limited to the mainstream accommodation options, there are two main areas with plenty of hotel options: Rarotonga itself and Aitutaki. If initial interest in the Cook Island bubble is major, then you might want to book as early as possible to avoid missing out on hotel's promotional deals.

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