Although it is paradise, you wouldn't necessarily think of the Cook Islands as a shoppers paradise and even though it doesn't offer serious strip mall retail therapy, Cook Islands shopping is a fun way to spend some time and pick up some mementos of your holiday. Shopping is a friendly and relaxed experience with no pushy sellers, however this also means that haggling is not appropriate.
The main area for Cook Islands shopping is on the island of Rarotonga in the capital Avarua although there are also some great shopping opportunities in Muri Beach. The majority of shops sell everything from clothing and jewellery to homewares, art, gifts and souvenirs. Shops are usually open from 9am to 4pm during the week and on Saturdays however most shops are closed on Sunday.
Markets are also a big part of the Cook Islands shopping experience, with the highlight being the Saturday Te Punanga Nui morning market where tourists enjoy the chance to socialise with the locals and pick up everything from fresh local produce to traditional arts and crafts. An event not to be missed, the markets delight the senses with colourful flowers, vibrant music and a lively atmosphere.
The islands are home to a number of exotic and fragrant flowers and natural fibers that are used to make soaps, oils, perfumes, wood craft and carvings, woven baskets, fans and hats as well as tivaivai which are all available from the markets. The most common scents are gardenia, jasmine and frangipani.
There are also a great range of duty free shopping options available in Rarotonga including perfume, cigarettes and alcohol. However visitors should also remember that most goods purchased in the Cook Islands attract a 12.5% VAT or Value Added Tax, however this can be claimed back as you exit the country.
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.
For more information on currency, banks and departure tax see our Visitor Information page.