The Cook Islands is a natural paradise nestled in the Pacific Ocean. Find out what to see in Rarotonga and the other major islands.
Smiles, women fringed with flowers welcoming you. It feels like we're going straight into a paradise. The water is also rich in nuances and crystal clear, the landscapes are amazing, just like the majesty of volcanoes. Welcome to the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, in New Zealand Polynesia. They carry the name of the English captain James Cook, who stumbled upon them in 1773, even though he had christened them the Harvey Islands to pay homage to a British lord. Fifteen islands, that open up in a fan formation and get lost in two million square kilometres of ocean
Lovely spaces, ideal climate and hues difficult to describe. That is why they are considered the epitome of romantic holidays. Everyone will find what they are looking for. Families will be able to go snorkelling or just be rocked by a calm, clear sea. You can go on boat trips, perhaps taking advantage of those that start from Rarotonga, the main island. Typical boats are glass-floored ones. Those who are more reckless or need to keep moving can go hiking, taking advantage of the trails or a bike tour with guides. Otherwise you can also rent a quad or an off-roader for an alternative route but still full of charm.
Find out with us what are the other treasures of the Cook Islands and how to spend an unforgettable holiday, remembering that the added value of the holiday will be the welcome, the kindness, and the genuine smiles of the locals.
  • Rarotonga
  • Avarua
  • Takitumu Nature Reserve
  • Maire Nui Botanical Gardens
  • Wigmore Falls
  • Muri Lagoon
  • Koromiri Island
  • Aitutaki
  • One Foot Island
  • Aroa Nature Reserve
  • Mount Maungapu
  • Kopeka Cave


Just know that here the buildings cannot be taller than a coconut palm tree and that there are no traffic lights, to understand that we have arrived in a special place. Rarotonga, Cook's main island, and home to the capital Avarua, is full of light and beauty. Whether for the weather and the sun, but also for the relaxation of the people. There are those who often laugh and call it a large resort, since its circumference is just 32 kilometres, and it is easy to get anywhere. There is everything and more to have fun. 
A natural park, a perfect forest for trekking, for hiking or for a restorative swim in the waterfalls and even enchanting, semi-deserted beaches. One of the most beautiful is definitely Muri beach, extending for 2 kilometres of crystal clear water and white sand, and it's unparalleled coral reef. It is a lagoon with several resorts overlooking it. 
The water is warm and from the beach there are many scenic places that allow you to admire different islets on the horizon.
There are at least 30 sites on the island where you can go diving and many occasions for surfing, sailing, and canoeing. All of this could be planned, for example at Nikao Beach, one of the most popular beaches thanks to its constant waves. Cloaked in mystery is, on the other hand, Black Rock. The beach is famous for its black rocks, and also for a legend according to which the spirits of the deceased would leave here for Avaiki, the Polynesian afterlife. This is the perfect place for spotting whales. 
Inland, during your forest tours, you will be able to answer many questions and doubts, thanks to the presence of "the medicine man", a local resident who will explain properties and features of rare herbs. It will also be an opportunity to see two other attractions on the island: the majestic fortress of Te Rua Manga, the sacred mountain and the picturesque waterfalls of Wigmore's Falls
Don't miss out on Punanga Nui market, in the capital Avarua with stalls full of fresh produce, from fish to fruit, with local dishes. Try the taro leaves (a particular tuber) and the local tuna sashimi. Here you will also find several local artefacts and also some souvenirs (including the famous black pearls). For a quick and very interesting visit, there are also several archaeological sites Marae, Arai tae Tonga: these are three sacred places that can be traced back to the 12th century A.D. On the island, do not forget to dance the typical dance here: Tamurè. Frenzied, quick, a kind of belly dance in which you also sway, dragged along by African percussion. On the sand in the moonlight, between candles and cocktails: this is how you celebrate.


Ithas a great responsibility, but this does not make it big-headed: Avarua it is the only city in the Cook Islands.  It is located on the northern coast of Rarotonga, overlooking a bay. As the name suggests ("Two ports") it has a double landing. Avarua is crossed from end to end by the main road, Ara Maire Nui. Among the first things to see is the Seven-in-one Coconut Tree, a group of seven coconut trees, a sort of perfect circle whose trunks were born in the same spot. 
For those who are passionate about local culture and history, a trip to the National Cultural Centre, housing government offices, the National MuseumThe National Library and the National Auditorium are a must. The museum displays artefacts including Cook Islands handicrafts and the first printing press of the islands, which was imported in 1830. Sculptures, muscical instruments, canoes, axes and other amazing materials are on display. 
Then there's also a little gem, the Cook Islands Christian Church. It has a green roof, white walls and a difficult history: its construction, completed in 1853, was stopped on several occasions due to lack of funds and quarrels over the final project. The energy and the desire to share are visible every Sunday during mass. It is a very strong moment of gathering, which tourists appreciate. And that's how celebration in the Maori language becomes a spectacle. Colours, songs, garish caps, flowers, handbags, every detail is marked by cheerfulness
As we said, one place not to be missed is the city market, which is not only a space for trade, but a real meeting point where a team of dancers and musicians will perform every week and there will also be animation. You can take dance lessons and learn how to play typical wooden drums. 
A few steps and you can discover the history of the Cook Island Library and Musuem. It has a noble purpose that of preserving and promoting the culture of the Cook Islands, making it known first and foremost. The first library in the Cook Islands was a travelling one.  It didn't have a permanent site and was created in the back of a bus. This was the early 1950s, and with the same spirit and the will to preserve memory, today volunteers work to protect the material and to be able to pass them on for posterity. Among other things to see in the capital of the Cook Islands, there are also the remains of a steamship that sank a few dozen metres from the coast: the Maitai. Part of the rusty wreck is visible. Speaking of monuments, a particular one is the one dedicated to Papeiha, a converted islander who preached Christianity, also using gospel. 

Takitumu Nature Reserve

Do you want to take a trip through time? Take a hike in the Takitumu Conservation Area, which is inland on the island of Rarotonga and you will be projected into a Jurassic era. You will find yourself in front of a primary forest of enchanting beauty, where you will be able to make different types of excursions and custom routes. It is a magical and rejuvenating landscape, which is managed by the local population, the only custodian of the spaces and its resources. Defending the environment is a central theme here, like eco-sustainability, also in reference to the services and the construction of resorts.
The area is quite recent, it was, in fact, created in 1996 to preserve biodiversity for present and future generations. The reserve was born to protect and grow, in particular, the Rarotonga monarch (or kakerori): The name is not particularly clear, but it is a native bird of the island, also called the "insect catcher" for its particular speed in feeding itself. On the island there are several spaces dedicated to animals. Don't miss the Suwarrow National Park. It is uninhabited, and has become a natural area where several species of animals live, including turtles, seabirds and crabs. 

Maire Nui Botanical Gardens

Few know them, but once they have been discovered, it is difficult not to relax and appreciate them. The Maire Nui Botanical Gardens, a setting made of palm trees and flower beds. Here you can also get acquainted with quite a few lizards and with dozens of specimens of colourful birds. Seven acres of magnificent tropical gardens and corners from which to enjoy glimpses of the mountains await you. For those who want to have a snack, you can take a break with organic salads and muffins in a picturesque bar inside.

Wigmore Falls

If you're looking for a magical glimpse and a relaxing moment in contact with nature on the island of Rarotonga, you'll find it in the middle of the forest. There, the Papua Stream meets a natural swimming pool and Wigmore's Waterfall. Green, waterfalls and pond, there's everything. You can relax in the middle of nature with a relaxing soundtrack. They say that your sense of smell is filled with nuances and intoxicating fragrances.

Muri Lagoon

"A wonder that's hard to describe." "I thought that certain landscapes existed only in paintings." "We relaxed in a dream place." Praise is heaped onto Rarotonga Lagoon (Muri), amongst the comments of tourists And it is not only for the waters, which in addition to being clear, are also lukewarm, as if you were inside a natural hot tub. The fact is that there are also so many things to do, between water sports and activities for families
You can canoe and reach the nearby islets or snorkel with fins and snorkel. Dive or arrange a small trip to nearby lidos. Take a trip to Muri beach, the most beautiful in the area and also the most popular. It is not easy to maintain your charm when you are so well known.

Koromiri Island

The island of Koromiri is one of the four islands surrounding the Rarotonga lagoon.  Water, nature, beauty, to breathe in with full lungs. There are those who decide to relax by going snorkelling and splashing around in clear water, looking for tropical fish or those who simply prefer to join a beach barbecue. The Cook Islands are the kingdom of sea turtles and it is not so strange to see some laying their eggs.
Beauty also has other names, such as for example, Manihiki: an atoll lost in a blue lagoon, surrounded by dozens of small atolls. Time seems to have stood still in another dimension. This is where the production of black pearlsis famous. Penrhyn, has, on the other hand, the largest lagoon in the South Pacific.


Think of a triangular lagoon surrounded by atolls that come out of the sea like little stars. Add palm-fringed white sand, coral that colours the crystal clear and warm waters. This is Aitutaki, one of the most wonderful islands. Here as you can imagine how life flows placid and cheerful. In addition to sleeping and eating and hydrating you can think of diving or swimming to discover the other islets. The centre of the island is an explosion of trees, colours and nature. Long walks await you and maybe you can finally understand why violinist crabs are called that. If you walk the road along the coast you will reach a white sandy beach and blue water: where thousands of specimens, famous for the shape of one of their claws, live The area is full of cute quirks.
The main road passes under a specimen of Ficus benghalensis, that has created a real tunnel. In Arutanga, the main village of Aitutaki is home to the oldest church in the Cook Islands, dated 1828. Every Sunday, the Mass turns into a feast of songs, dances, flowers and colourful clothes. Sport has also been struck by the landscapes of the area: the Aitutaki lagoon is the point of arrival of the Paradise Marathon. 

One Foot Island

A magical island is also the one that allows you to fantasise. Think of a large foot or even better of a footprint 200 metres long and 100 metres wide. And you'll understand why this particular shape has determined the name of "One foot" Island. Here you will find all the typical elements of a heavenly place. Wonderful waters, soft, sinuous sands, enticing, lush vegetation.
The lagoon is an invitation to immerse yourself in a natural, warm and child-friendly pool. To get there it takes 15 minutes by speedboat from the main island of the atollo, which is located in the Aitutaki lagoon. Walking inside the lagoon you effortlessly reach a quasi-island, a sandbar, the size of which is decided every day by the tide.
The island of Tekopua can be reached by swimming, whereas nearby you might be able to spot atolls in formation and other sandbars. One- Foot Island has a unique feature that drives children and even collectors crazy. It is an uninhabited island, but one that can count on a post office from which you can send postcards and have a single stamp that stylises the footprint of a foot on your passport.

Aroa Nature Reserve

Strict rules for constructions, respect for the environment, sustainable development of the territory. Fighting against intensive fishing, pollution. More than hotels in the Cook Islands, reserves were set up. The Aroa Marine Area is one of the largest on the island of Rarotonga. The waters are wonderful and protected by the reef, for which there is an explosion of fish and colour in the area. It is impossible not to snorkel or dive and not get lost in the seabed. Discover sunset, butterfly, shark, parrot. These are all kinds of fish that will intrigue you.

Mount Maungapu

In Aitutaki there is a mountain, which is actually a 125-metre hill and it's the highest peak. To get there you have to make a small ascent. The route is indicated by signs on the main road of the island and on tourist maps. At the top, as a prize, you can have a space-like view: you will have a natural lookout below which the lagoon will open up in all its splendour. At sunset the show leaves you speechless in a play of lights and shades between sky and sea.

Kopeka Cave

Truly spectacular, but not easy to get there. The Kopeka caves are located in the jungle, near the island of Atiu, the smallest and least inhabited. And in addition to good fitness it also requires a little bit of attention since you have to pass through tropical vegetation and coral rock fossils that are quite sharp. Once you get there the show is fascinating. 
Inside the caves, a particular creature: an endemic bird of Atiu (Kopeka). The specimen, a type of swallow, is only found here and has the peculiarity of being able to orient itself inside thanks to sound waves. The island of Atiu is embraced by a wonderful blue lagoon. The reef is an embankment for the ocean and creates calm waters. Here the white sandy beaches are packed into coves and bays, while inland lush vegetation prevails.

Discover the Cook Islands with Costa Cruises


A 360-degree experience, a holiday to never get bored not only made of sea, boundless beaches, atolls, volcanoes, forests, and waterfalls. A mix that you can discover with Costa excursions on the island of Rarotonga. Not only beauty and relaxation. There will also be many ways to have fun. First of all, with dancing, during the "Island Nights” when everyone is invited to take to the stage for join the local dances. The sunny climate, but also the character of people who are always smiling and helpful will help you interact and get in touch with the traditions and folklore of the place.

The journey continues at the table, in an alternation of sweet and savoury that seeks balance. And so the fish will look for the embrace of coconut, which will become the ingredient of many dishes, even soups. To become completely immersed in the local traditions, you will have to accept the invitation of the residents and taste everything. There is more taste to travelling if you allow yourself to be seduced by the beauty and simplicity of small gestures. Leave it with us.

Depart with Costa Cruises