Hello, all! I have recently returned from a quick trip to the Cook Islands, and my only complaint is that I had to return to the real world too soon. The Cook Islands make you feel like you’ve been transported to not only a beautiful destination, but a simpler time: No one is in a rush, no one gets too fussed about anything, and everyone moves at their own pace. It truly is a hidden gem that I hope you’ll be inspired to explore!
Coming from the US, your flight lands in the Cook Islands on a Sunday. As most shops and activities are closed on Sundays, you have the day to relax and ease into that laid-back island life. Take a long walk on the white sand beaches, or swim off the beach with one of the local dogs. As Rarotonga is an atoll island (surrounded by a fringing coral reef), the surf breaks away from the shoreline and leaves the inner lagoon incredibly calm, so you can simply lie on the beach and listen to the waves in the distance.
Rarotonga is “busy” compared to the other popular island, Aitutaki, but that word means something quite different in the Cook Islands. It’s nothing like you would imagine a tourist hub to be. None of the buildings rise higher than a palm tree. There’s one road around the island and no stoplights. Everything is closed on Sundays, no shops open before 9 am during the week, and all property is owned by direct Cook Islands descendants by law. All of this gives the island a genuine and non-assuming feel that makes it hard to stop smiling or feel too concerned about anything. Feel free to walk into a shop in your swimmers and bare feet… no worries.
After a few days in Rarotonga, I hopped over to the neighboring island of Aitutaki. The inter-island flight was about 50 minutes long and incredibly beautiful. I thought Rarotonga’s lagoon was blue, but the brilliant turquoise of Aitutaki Lagoon was nothing short of astounding! I certainly wouldn’t skip this island on any trip to the Cooks.
The scenery is like stepping into a postcard. The flowers on the islands are gorgeous—there were hibiscus flowers in colors I had never seen before! Everywhere you look, there’s another picture-perfect scene of white sand, bright blue ocean, and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Sunsets over the lagoon fill the sky with vibrant orange, pink, and purple hues. Imagine sitting on your deck, cool drink in hand, watching that beautiful sunset… pure paradise!
Half the fun of a trip to the Cook Islands is having a chat with the locals, who are wildly proud of their heritage. They love to sit down (like I said, no one’s in a hurry) and tell you stories of their ancestors. I had an opportunity to see a cultural show one evening, and the stories and dancing were a beautiful tribute to local pride. Additionally, they love to serve traditional dishes, like kuru (breadfruit) salad, ika mata (raw fish), and pawpaw.
The Cook Islands are not for those who want to be busy the whole time. There’s plenty to do, like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, and hiking, but I challenge you to slow down, smell the flowers, take in the stunning colors, and relax. We all need to recharge every once in a while, and I can’t think of a better place to do so than the Cook Islands.