20 Cook Islands Essential Travel Tips | Perfect Vacation Guide

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20 Cook Islands Essential Travel Tips | Perfect Vacation Guide

Well I’m wearing a really tropical themed shirt so this video must be about a tropical destination right? What’s going on everybody I’m Alex a.k.a Alex The Vagabond I am a professional filmmaker, television host, and photographer and I’m super excited to talk to you all today in this video about one of my absolute favorite destinations that I have ever visited the Cook Islands So if you’re new here make sure you hit that subscribe button with notifications enabled If you’re enjoying this video so far make sure you hit that thumbs up and leave a comment down in the comment section if you have any questions about the destination I’ll do my best to answer them but stay tuned because the Cook Islands are a incredible place they’re an up-and-coming gem and I guarantee you they’re gonna become a lot more popular in the near future so if you’re planning a trip to the Cook Islands or if you’re just interested in going somewhere new stick around this video is going to share all of the pertinent information for that upcoming trip let’s get into the tips Before we dive into the tips though I think it’s really important that we get an idea of geography Many of the people I’ve mentioned the Cook Islands to usually start the conversation with this question Where are the Cook Islands? The Cook Islands are a remote island chain located in the South Pacific Northeast of New Zealand, between American Samoa and Fiji There are 15 islands in the Cook Islands chain and they’re split up between the northern and southern islands Spread out over nearly 2 million square miles of ocean most of the islands are volcanic in origin or they’re coral atolls The islands were originally colonized by the Polynesians over a thousand years ago and in recent times they were colonized by the British and then became a colony of New Zealand While nowadays they’re in a free association with New Zealand While Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand not all citizens of New Zealand are citizens of the Cook Islands In recent times the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy as well as national identity The main population centers are the island of Rarotonga the main island with the capital city of Avarua, but to just put things into perspective only around 10,000 people live on the island full-time so even being the capital of the Cook Islands the population density is still pretty low Tourism is the biggest driver of the economy with over a hundred and sixty-eight thousand international tourists visiting in 2018 but that number is probably gonna grow The high season for travel is June to August, the shoulder season is November to January, and the low season which is not really all that low is from February to April The main International Airport is located on Rarotonga and speaking of airports we might as well talk about flights There are four main airlines flying to the Cook Islands, Air New Zealand, Virgin, Jetstar, and Air Tahiti Air New Zealand operates the vast majority of the flights with daily flights going out from Auckland as well as weekly flights from Los Angeles and Sydney Once you arrive getting around the island is very very easy that’s because there’s only one road there is a bus it goes both clockwise and anti-clockwise not to mention it’s really easy and cheap to rent a vehicle you can rent scooters from anywhere between 10 to 15 New Zealand dollars a day as well as cars from anywhere 60 to 80New Zealand dollars a day The Cook Islands do use the New Zealand dollar as the main currency so that’s something to be aware of if you’re from the United States or from Europe that works in your favor at least it does right now because the New Zealand dollar is a little bit less strong than those currencies You can definitely get by without renting a car on the Cook Islands whether you’re in Rarotonga or in Aitutaki but I would suggest doing so because it’s just that much better to have a vehicle to go and explore to get lost on some of the back roads or to avoid the rain when it rains because it does rain there

But if you stay in some of the main places like Muri Beach you don’t really need to go anywhere because most of the amenities that you’ll be needing are right there in town walking distance from your accommodation Now one of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in the Cook Islands is that there aren’t any huge skyscrapers there’s no giant hotels and that’s because the local law prohibits buildings taller than the tallest coconut tree now I know that might sound kind of ridiculous especially if you live in a super big city with skyscrapers and massive buildings but I’ll tell you this it’s really nice there’s something really special about a place where you can’t build a building taller than the tallest coconut tree I mean come on I love it personally but in all seriousness that law is one of the main reasons why the islands have preserved so much of their charm but don’t worry just because there aren’t super tall resorts doesn’t mean you’ll be living in some palm frond survivor style hut even though they did film the 13th season of Survivor in the Cook Islands my god there’s 13 seasons of that show anyways accommodation runs the full gamut hostels run anywhere between 40 and 50 New Zealand dollars a night and you can even get some oceanfront accommodation in some of the smaller hotels for $99 a night on the opposite end of that spectrum there are some very expensive luxury resorts ranging anywhere from 200 to 600 dollars a night depending on which season you’re visiting and what room you’re choosing it really depends you can choose which works best for you if you need any more information just send a message to the Cook Islands Tourism Board you can send them an email or a DM on Instagram and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction now let’s talk about activities what can you do when you visit the Cook Islands now apart from just relaxing which you can do anywhere on the island because trust me it’s an extremely relaxing you may just fall asleep right when you walk off the plane but oh my god it’s such fun but when you wake up there’s still a lot of things for you to do so let’s get into the list first off go hiking now I know that sounds bizarre in a tropical beach destination why would you go hiking when you could hang out on the beach oh they trust me you can go hang out on the beach after your hike I hiked the tow to a manga which is a three to four hour trans island Trek you go from the north coast to the south coast over the high point on the island known as the needle 413 meters or something is really big beautiful rock cropping right at the top of the mountain range incredible views from both sides of the mountains you can essentially see everywhere on the island from up there so it’s definitely worth a hike it’s pretty steep and you will definitely work up a sweat because you’re in that tropical environment with the humidity and stuff Wow well after a couple of hours about two hours hiking up here we’ve made it to the top of the needle this is kind of like the heart of the island and it’s this huge rock monolith just erupting out of the jungle there are definitely tour guides who are willing to show you the route and take you up there and tell you all the interesting stories but it’s not mandatory just be aware that you should have proper footwear I saw a lady up there hiking with sandals on I would not recommend that definitely wear the right shoes bring a lot of water because it’s hot and you’re gonna sweat a bunch so you don’t want to get dehydrated and bring some snacks for a nice little picnic up at the top with that incredible view before we talk about the next activity I should let you guys know a little bit about the geology of the Cook Islands most of the islands have a volcanic core but are surrounded by a coral reef at’ll so there are these sheer huge reef structures around the island that protect the island from big waves or erosion and they also create this really beautiful Lagoon that has like this buffer zone between island and open ocean snorkeling in those lagoons is definitely a must some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever done we went snorkeling in the lagoon in aitutaki which is a different Island from Rarotonga I’ll talk more in depth about

aitutaki a little bit later in this video but we swam with giant trevally these huge fish including a Napoleon wrasse just the largest of its kind and can weigh up to 190 kilos it’s a huge fish so yeah if you’re into snorkeling visit the Cook Islands in the same realm of the snorkel we’re gonna take things a little bit deeper and talk about scuba diving the Cook Islands are home to a ton of different scuba diving sites and they really do have something for everyone so if you only have an open water paddy certification like I have you don’t have to worry about it there’s still a ton of dives that you can do there’s coral gardens sloping drop-offs where the the reef just kind of goes down into open ocean it’s really really incredible stuff and if you are scuba certified you’re gonna love it I did a scuba dive just off of the entrance to the harbour in aitutaki it’s like a little reef passage there and it was incredible take a look there’s nothing quite as special as just hanging out with a sea turtle 30 or 40 feet underwater the one that I saw on my dad was so chill we really hit it off we had an incredible conversation we just got along I don’t know why maybe it’s because you know it’s floating down there like some creature from outer space just we also saw sharks and we saw the beautiful but deadly lionfish so they do have lionfish in the Cook Islands something to be aware of when you’re tramping around in the lagoon or on the reef just be careful because those fish do exist and they are poisonous and deadly if not treated and if you’re lucky and you time it right you may even just bump into a humpback whale down there because they do pass the cook islands in their annual migration next up go sup what the is sup well sup stands for stand-up paddle and it’s essentially paddle boarding one of my favorite water activities the Cook Islands are perfect for it because of the lagoon you have that protected water area there’s no waves coming in there and it’s just a really nice way to explore the lagoon and get a little workout in I woke up every morning when we were staying in Murray Beach in Rarotonga and I hopped on a paddle board and would just get outside and paddle in the morning it’s one of the best ways to start the day most of the hotels there offer a stand up paddleboard or a kayak but be careful because stand-up paddleboarding is so much fun you might just attract the attention of some of the locals who will insist on going paddling with you check this out just climbed onto my stand-up paddle no big deal okay why the local dogs in Rarotonga are a part of the fabric of life on this island brought with the original Polynesian settlers the dogs have lived a semi-wild lifestyle for as long as anybody can remember many of them have homes the ones that have collars definitely have owners but some of them do not and those ones you know they survive off of seafood and donations from travelers so do yourself a favor and do the dog a favor and just you know adopt it for a couple of days or do what I did in Sri Lanka and actually a doctor even though I did not adopt Lanka and the Cook Islands there were plenty of dogs there that made me think about adopting another one there are a few local nonprofits that take care of the dogs there in Rarotonga and you can actually volunteer so if that’s what you’re into definitely look into it another great activity that’s also going to help you explore and get a lay of the land is riding a bike most of the resorts have bikes available for guests to use but you can also rent bikes from local shops for a couple of bucks a day I think it’s like five or ten New Zealand dollars a day so that’s another great way to kind of get off the main road and go explore some of those back streets and just get a better feel for how people live on the islands now if you don’t want to rent a bike you could always go for a walk or a jog and do the same thing but let’s be honest we’re talking about all these activities

and the number one activity in the Cook Islands is relaxing it’s a super laid-back lifestyle and it’s one that you’re probably going to want to experience I went for 16 days with my fiancee there’s Pat December we filmed some videos for the first couple of days and then we just relaxed and we just chilled it was so rejuvenating but the pro tip for relaxation is to bring your own hammock I recently bought a little Travel hammock and it is the best thing for these tropical destinations being able to set up your own hammock wherever you feel like it is a luxury it’s gonna make you feel like a millionaire without spending very much money at all so if you’re into relaxation don’t forget to bring a hammock but no trip to the Cook Islands would be complete without visiting a traditional market on the weekends in town or avaroa they do have weekend markets they’re open-air markets with lots of local vendors selling traditional handicrafts not to mention food a couple of times a week in Murray Beach they do have a night market which is essentially just all these local street food vendors coming together it’s a great way to sample the diversity of the cuisine and the cook islands without having to go very far at all on our trip to the Cook Islands Kerry bought this beautiful handcrafted ukulele we’ve been learning how to play it very cool the strings are actually made from fishing line so all this talking about activities has me hungry so let’s talk about food let’s talk about what to eat in the Cook Islands being a Pacific island most of the major protein dishes come from the ocean that’s because they’re surrounded by millions of square miles of ocean and it’s got lots of large pelagic species like mahi-mahi yellowfin tuna wahoo Marlin in the 16 days that I spent in the Cook Islands I think I ate more fish than I’ve ever eaten before in my life but trust me it was delicious some of my other restaurant recommendations are as follows madakari which is like coconut milk tuna it’s almost like a bouquet but with coconut milk and it’s by far my favorite thing that I’ve eaten so far this is the bit oh my god look at it it’s huge a big beautiful fish sandwich we’ve just made it to Charlie’s restaurant on the beach here in my beach mark on that and they’re famous for their fish sandwich that’s quite a creation look at this thing I’ve had to cut it into thirds it’s gigantic but it is absolutely delicious there are some great little coffee shops around the island of Rarotonga my favorite being Beluga which also has an incredible brunch so if you are in the mood for brunch check out Beluga there’s fresh fruit everywhere on the island and it’s really abundant so you’ll be eating a lot of fruit on your next trip there if you want to learn more about traditional cuisine and traditional cooking techniques I suggest you do an emu tour an emu umu is a traditional earth oven made from hot stones and then covered with leaves and left to slow cook I did the tour in aitutaki I really really enjoyed it we roamed around on this big old Land Rover we went up to the taro plots and their local vegetable gardens to see how they planted and grew we learned a lot about different medicinal techniques from different plants oh yeah Wow very oily so you can burn that yes you can do this soap OS is just used this whole candle which is what and most importantly we feast it red fruits plantain chicken all cooked in to remove delicious and if you’re interested in understanding the culture and traditions of the local cook islanders then make sure you go and experience a culture night i would recommend going to Tabata Mui it’s a little bit touristy and honestly in other places I probably wouldn’t have gone and done it but it was a great way to get a better understanding of the cultural heritage of the Cook Islands especially their songs and dance and personally I’ve always been fascinated with Polynesia and the settlement of Polynesia with the Polynesian men and women who were trained to navigate the huge expanses of open ocean with no modern compasses just navigating by the Stars and the swell direction so if you’re interested in learning more about that story there’s a really great book by the National Geographic anthropologist Wade Davis it’s called the Wayfarers I’ll link that down in the description as well

most visitors who make it to the Cook Islands only end up exploring the main island of Rarotonga this is a mistake don’t just visit Rarotonga if you’re gonna come all the way out to the Cook Islands make sure you check out some of the other islands the one that I visited is Aitutaki aitutaki is a small coral atoll of around 2,000 people I think it’s only around 15 miles in circumference so it’s a very small island and most of the locals are related to each other it does have an airport the original airstrip was built by the American military back in the Second World War and the airport there is pretty mellow it’s literally just like a Cabana now if you don’t have a ton of time to visit aitutaki I understand but there is a solution there’s a day trip leaving from Rarotonga it flies at 8 a.m. in the morning to aitutaki you get a boat cruise around the lagoon lunch on the boat and then it stops at 3 different islands for a couple of different snorkeling sessions so that is doable if you’re short on time but I would recommend staying longer in aitutaki when I visited I stayed for three days we stayed at the Pacific resort aitutaki which was one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting we stayed in one of their little cabanas on the beach and it was just so romantic and relaxing I can’t even put it into words check it out during those three days in aitutaki though we did do quite a lot first off we took a lagoon cruise we went snorkeling with giant trevally and Napoleon wrasse and then we made our way to honeymoon island for a bit of exploration and some solitary swimming it was so beautiful take a look for yourself the next day and aitutaki we went on a half-day fly-fishing trip we went and explored the other side of the lagoon and we were looking for bone fish it’s a sport fish tropical fish that people love to catch on the fly now I didn’t catch any bone fish unfortunately it was like kind of a big deal our guide was like so gutting that we didn’t catch any bone fish but we did catch this fish our guide called it a tube fish I’m not quite sure what type of fish it was or if it was even a fish but it definitely looked like a tube you know that much is for sure anyways it was a great day out on the water and I wish I had a little bit more time to spend fly-fishing there and on my final day in aitutaki I went for a scuba dive it was really really fun everyone on the island speaks English but many of the locals also speak te reo Maori or Cook Islands MALDI so here are a few handy phrases for your upcoming trip Kia Orana that means hello it means well wishes good fortune long life and prosper prosper yeah thank you mate okay you could say pop unggi which means good morning when you want to say goodbye you say I evader if you want to say sweet is you say Mamiya another thing you should be aware of is that the Internet is a fleeting mysterious creature in the Cook Islands like honestly there’s not a lot of Wi-Fi you have to buy vouchers from the local provider which is called blue sky I believe and then you have to use those vouchers at places known as Blue Zone hotspots so even at your hotel they’re gonna charge you for Wi-Fi and that’s because the internet is expensive to get out to those islands so be aware of that getting internet it’s definitely a challenge it was kind of the recurring theme of our whole trip because we were

trying to keep all of you out there in the loop we were sharing on Instagram and Instagram stories and it was always just kind of an ordeal to get anything uploaded but also you in Paradise you don’t need to be glued to your phone so think of it as like a nice reminder to put your phone down because you don’t have any service and you don’t have any Wi-Fi okay ladies and gentlemen well those are my tips for the Cook Islands I really really hope that you enjoyed this video if you did please give it a big thumbs up share it with your travel buddies and make sure you’re subscribed with notifications enabled so you don’t miss any upcoming videos on my channel I really hope you enjoy your upcoming trip to the Cook Islands but please remember be respectful be good travelers and pick up after yourself don’t go trashing the island it’s really beautiful and really pristine right now and I would love if all of us out there do our part and more to keep it like that a little walk over a mile so far on this beach advancement all so pick up after others pick up after yourself and be a polite respectful person all right well as I always say travel farther fail smarter and never give up peace