Cook Islands Visitor Information

Feel like escaping the hustle and bustle of the rat race? Country getaways and tree changes just not your thing? Want to take on some island adventure or relax by the pool? Pamper yourself and soak up some sun, after all you deserve it! Getaway to a Pacific island paradise where the locals are friendly and the warm crystal water melts your troubles away...


The Cook Islands are a magnificent ensemble of 15 islands scattered across around two million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean. Virtually in the centre of the Polynesian Triangle of the South Pacific, these island gems are bordered to the west by the kingdom of Tonga and the Samoa's, and Tahiti and the island of French Polynesia to the east.

Laying on the Tropic of Capricorn at a latitude of 9 to 22° south, the Cook Islands share the same time zone as Hawaii. They are also the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north.

Rarotonga is the largest and most populous of the islands and is home to the international airport. Avarua is a popular tourist destination as the main township features a good choice of restaurants, shops, hotels and banks. Aitutaki is a picturesque island home to the only overwater bungalows in the Cook Islands.


The stunning scenery and inviting atmosphere of the Cook Islands are the perfect physical embodiment of the people themselves. Home to some of the warmest locals in the world, their friendly eyes, welcoming smiles and charming traditional language make your holiday in the Cook Islands a remarkably joyful experience.

Whilst the islands are now Christian, the traditional culture is still strong and lives on with their lively song and dance. Perhaps the warm and spontaneous hospitality and the local's relaxed mood can be attributed to the beauty and leisurely pace of their environment. Either way it is a rare pleasure to visit a place where the people display a genuine care for others.


The population in the Cook Islands is around 20,000 scattered throughout the islands with more than half living on Rarotonga.


Although now Christian, the Cook Island people have retained much of their own culture and whilst it is this ancient culture that is one of the many attractions of the islands, it is not confined to the exhibitions in the museums.

The Polynesian identity is steeped in the traditional dance and drama that is represented at various events throughout the year; however they are of particular importance at constitutional celebrations. These celebrations are an opportunity to renew a warrior's might, a dancer's grace and a time where their heritage shines.

However it is the sweet sounds of the songs of the Kaparima and hymns of the Sunday choir as well as their dedication to their traditional crafts, which are still so evident in their daily lives, which best define this proud culture.


The primary currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar which has an excellent exchange rate with the US dollar, UK pound and Australian dollar. Cooks also have their own notes and coinage for use within the country (in tandem with the New Zealand dollar) but they aren't convertible and should be exchanged before leaving (unless you're a coin collector, in which case they may be valuable to you - especially the three dollar note!)

For an online Currency Converter, use our currency converter in the tool box on the right of this page.


The resorts and major shopping destinations will change travellers' cheques and principal currencies. Banking facilities are available at the airport one hour prior to the arrival of scheduled international flights.

As of July 2015, American Express credit cards are no longer accepted in the Cook Islands. Visitors are advised to bring alternate methods of payment (e.g Visa, MasterCard). Bookings for resorts will also not accept AMEX as a valid form of payment.


As a tropical archipelago, the Cook Islands enjoy warm weather and a mild climate year round. Responsible for the lush flora and fauna that is so prevalent on the islands, the heaviest rain and humidity occurs between November and February with temperatures ranging from 22°C to a maximum of 28°C. Average temperatures generally sit at a balmy 25°C.

The drier months fall between April and November and average temperatures of 26°C. The Cook Islands' climate is very consistent and water temperatures remain pleasant all year, so there really is no 'bad' time to visit.

Passports & Visas

Please ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after your return to your country of origin. Most visitors who intend to stay for less than 31 days do not require a visa. It is a traveller's responsibility to have all documentation in order prior to departure.


Similarly to Australia and New Zealand, local facilities offer 240V, three pronged plugs while some resorts have 110V for electric shavers.

Getting Around

Driving in the Cook Islands is done on the LEFT hand side of the road, opposite to Europe and the USA, which may be tricky for some. Thankfully, the islands are not that densely populated so the roads are not very busy. Many visitors choose to hire vehicles to explore the island at their leisure and there are a number of modes of transport available for hire including cars, four wheel drives and the ever-popular scooter.

For visitors who are wanting to hire a vehicle and explore at their own pace, obtaining a Cook Islands driver's licence is as simple as heading to the Police Station at Avarua and presenting your current licence. Seeing the sights around the island is a relatively smooth ride with sealed roads around the perimeter. Regular bus services also run a round trip every 45 minutes should you wish to leave the driving to the locals.


The history of the Cook Islands dates back thousands of years when Polynesians first settled the region about 800AD during the Great Polynesian Migration, initially sighting Rarotonga. However the Cook Islands group English name was dedicated in honour of explorer Captain James Cook is credited with having discovered the islands of Manuae, Palmerston, Takutea, Mangaia and Aitu.

Discovery of the islands is actually difficult to credit to just one source as the Spanish explored the area around 1595. The ill-fated Captain William Bligh sighted Aitutaki in 1789 and mutineer Fletcher Christian, Rarotonga, on the same boat (The Bounty) shortly after the famous mutiny on April 28, 1789. However Rarotonga's official discovery is attributed to Captain Philip Goodenough aboard the "Cumberland" in 1814 whilst seeking sandalwood.

The first coral road was built in Rarotonga in the 11th Century by a chief named Toi, which lay inland and was named the "Ara Metua". A couple of centuries later the islands were invaded by two chiefs from Tahiti and Samoa, however today the Cook Islands are a self-governing democracy.


No matter where you go, food is always at the top of everyone's list and the Cook Islands deliver. Offering a wide selection of Polynesian and international cuisine including continental, Indian, Chinese, Italian and more, you're sure to find something to suit the taste of even the most fussy diners. For a truly authentic experience there are a number of island style cafes serving up traditional delights for you to sample.

If we've been paying any attention to those TV chef's we're all starting to learn that great food starts with great produce and with such an abundance of local food sources, your fruit, vegies and fish couldn't get any fresher if you picked or caught them yourself! Most restaurants and cafes have longstanding arrangements with the local fishing boats so you know the seafood you're getting is the real deal.

To complete your traditional tucker trail 'Island Nights' are not to be missed. High on the list of any foodie worth their salt is the traditional feast known as umukai, a method of cooking where meat is slow-roasted in an underground oven resulting in tender and succulent flesh that just melts in your mouth. Yum!

And if you're looking for somewhere to continue the party into the wee hours of the morning, there are two dozen licenced bars and restaurants on Rarotonga, many offering live entertainment, that are ready to serve you up some of the most delicious and exotic drinks (way past your bed time!) until midnight during the week and later on Friday and Saturday nights.


Tipping is contrary to Cook Island customs.


Weddings in the Cook Islands are a unique experience and turn your special day into an extra special day. Getting married in the Cook Islands is simple and oh so romantic, and with paradise at their feet many visitors also end up renewing their vows against a beachside backdrop of the setting sun. Best of all, marriages in the Cook Islands are legally binding and internationally recognised. However, we recommend you check with marriage licencing officials in your state or province for local requirements regarding marriage to avoid disappointment.

The legal age of consent for marriage in the Cook Islands is 20 years, otherwise written approval from parents is required. The cost of a Licence if performed by the Registrar of Marriages is NZ$56.25 or is only NZ$22.50 if performed by a church Minister. The cost of a Marriage Certificate is NZ$11.25.

To ensure getting hitched goes off without a hitch you will need to apply for your marriage licence in person to the Registrar of Marriages in the Cook Islands at least three working days prior to getting married. This application cannot be made outside the Cook Islands. To avoid disappointment, you will need to provide your passport when filing your Notice of Intended Marriage at the Registrar's office in Avarua. If you have previously been divorced, you will also need to provide a copy of the Decree Nisi (divorce documents).

Churches on the island include Protestant, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventist and Roman Catholic. It is recommended that you check with your local Minister regarding requirements to marry in the church as these will also apply in the Cook Islands.

Things to Do

There are a wide range of things to do in the Cook Islands, many of which revolve around the stunning natural environment including popular water sports like surfing, snorkelling, standup paddle boarding and fishing.

Departure Tax

Please note a departure tax of NZ$25 per person is required to be paid at the Airport upon your departure.