How to get to the Cook Islands
Located in the middle of the South Pacific, the remoteness of the Cook Islands means travel options are pretty limited. But hey, we like to think that's one of the things that makes travelling to an isolated tropical paradise even more exciting. The only way to get there is to fly to Rarotonga (the largest island), and historically, there are only a handful of destinations in New Zealand, Australia and the United States with direct flights to Rarotonga. Depending on where you're travelling from, the journey could be quite long (and expensive).
Flying to the Cook Islands
Rarotonga International Airport is the archipelago's main airport. Currently, Auckland in New Zealand is the only place where you can fly direct to the Cook Islands. Jetstar and Air New Zealand operate this route, and the flight takes around four hours. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were also weekly flights from Sydney, Los Angeles and Tahiti. These routes are set to resume later this year, so make sure you stay up to date with the latest travel news.
Flying is also the only way to travel around the Cook Islands. There are regular flights between Rarotonga and most of the Southern Group Islands – including Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro and Manihiki – with Air Rarotonga. If you want to travel to the Northern Group Islands which aren’t accessible with commercial flights, or you'd like to travel outside of the flight schedules, Air Rarotonga can also help you organise private charter planes from Rarotonga Airport.
Can I take a boat to the Cook Islands?
For the average traveller, it's not possible to get to or travel around the Cook Islands by ferry – unless you’re up for the challenge or you have a few months to spend gallivanting around the South Pacific, in which case, good on you! There are cargo ships that travel around the archipelago a few times a month, but they often run on island time and the schedules are unpredictable. The crossings are also very long, and ticket fares can be pricier than you might expect.
How to get around the Cook Islands
If you’re staying in Rarotonga, the most convenient way to get around is by bus. There are two buses – the Clockwise Bus and the Anti-Clockwise bus – both of which depart from Cook's Corner Bus Station in Avarua every hour and half hour respectively. Tickets can be purchased from the bus driver and cost $5 for a single ride and $8 for a return trip.
Many people hire a car to get around Rarotonga at their own pace. With just one road that circles the island, two roundabouts and a maximum speed limit of 50 kmph, driving in the Cook Islands is fairly easy and relaxed. Hiring a bike and cycling is another popular option as most of the roads are flat.