Rarotonga is the capital of the Cooks with the highest population (at around 10,000 people). Tall, lush peaks are surrounded by breath-taking beaches, a stunning clear lagoon and fringing coral reef. The main town of Avarua is on the north side of the island, and has many cafés and souvenir shops with a great array of gifts like pareu (sarongs), carvings, the famous black pearls and local art work. There is a main road encompassing the whole island, making it easy to get around and explore the other villages. Why not visit one of the beaches on the western side of the island to watch the glorious sunset whilst sipping a Happy Hour cocktail?
Aitutaki is the second most visited of the Cook Islands after Rarotonga, and has a beautiful turquoise lagoon dotted with islands (motu) of unbelievably white sands. It is said to be one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, and reachable by a 50-minute plane trip with Air Rarotonga. Whilst there, you could even check out Bubbles Below for some more diving (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The other 13 islands are just as beautiful, but more remote with fewer tourists. You can reach some by plane from Rarotonga, the rest by boat, and they are well worth a visit if you have plenty of time. The outer islands include Atiu, a raised coral island 215 km from Rarotonga, famous for its caves which house the Kopeka bird, a swallow unique to Atiu. Suwarrow, which is inhabited only by a caretaker, is considered a sanctuary for many endangered species, especially sea birds, and is also steeped in history of buried treasure. Palmerston is an unusual gem in the South Pacific. Settled in 1863 by Englishman William Marsters with his three Cook Islands wives, he and his descendants have populated this small group of motu. It is said that the locals still talk with a Gloucestershire twang!
On Rarotonga, we enjoy a stress-free, slow-paced life. Apart from just relaxing, lying on the palm-fringed beaches, there are a wide range of activities to do, including snorkelling, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, golfing, trekking and joining the local Hash House Harriers chapter for a Monday evening run.
If you are a bit of a night-owl, there is plenty of fun to be had! Dancing is an important part of Cook Islands culture, and a visit to an Island Night is a must while you are here. You will be amazed by the energetic drumming and vibrant dancing in the unforgettable shows. If you just want to party, there are plenty of bars in which to try the local beer!