Idyllically located in the South Pacific Ocean midway between New Zealand and Hawaii, the remarkably picturesque Cook Islands are comprised of 15 unique islands. This remote, exquisitely beautiful island paradise is blessed with a warm tropical climate, fabulously friendly Polynesian locals and a wonderfully peaceful pace of life. The islands boast some glorious white-sand beaches, and palm-fringed turquoise lagoons all presided over by majestic volcanic peaks. Adventurous travellers can get their adrenaline fix with an array of outdoor pursuits such as surfing, wake-boarding, paddle boarding and hiking mountainous jungles dotted with breathtaking waterfalls. More sedentary visitors can indulge in some luxurious spa pampering, explore the lively night-markets or simply relax on a beach lounger with a cocktail in one hand and a good book in the other. Whatever your preference, this exceptionally gorgeous and tranquil island getaway will prove irresistible.
Banking and Currency
New Zealand Dollar (NZD; symbol NZ$) = 100 cents, supplemented by notes and coins minted for local use which are not negotiable outside the Cook Islands. Notes are in denominations of NZ$100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of NZ$2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10 and 5 cents.
There are no restrictions on the import of local or foreign currency. Local currency can be exported up to NZ$250. Foreign currency can be exported up to the amount imported and declared.
Exchange facilities are available at the airport, banks and in some larger stores and hotels. EFTPOS and ATM machines are available at both ANZ and Westpac banks on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and also major stores and restaurants. ANZ charges a much higher commission than Westpac. At the banks, traveller's cheques attract an exchange rate around 3% higher than cash.
Banking hours: Mon-Thurs 0900-1500, Fri 0900-1600. GlobalEX Western Union is the only bank open Sat. 0830-1200 and gives a better rate than the banks without commission.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are all accepted. Travellers cheques are accepted in hotels and some shops. New Zealand Dollars are recommended as some outer island banks won't change US dollars.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Air Rarotonga (GZ)(www.airraro.com) runs regular inter-island services to Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Manihiki, Mitiaro and Penrhyn. Limited services operate on Sundays. Discounts are offered on flights to Aitutaki during off-peak hours.
Inter-island flight times: From Rarotonga to Aitutaki is 50 minutes, to Atiu is 45 minutes, and to Mauke and Mitiaro is 50 minutes.
Several companies offer cars for hire from a number of shops and hotels. Motor scooter and bicycle hire is also popular.Drivers of all vehicles including scooters are required to have a current Cook Islands driver's licence, which is obtainable for a small fee from the Police Station in Avarua on presentation of an International or Commonwealth licence. Vehicles are driven on the left side of the road.
Taxi services are available on Rarotonga.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Tap water is relatively safe but may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available and is advised for the first few weeks of the stay.
There are restaurants in hotels, and a variety of independent eating places as well, as a result of the increasing tourist trade. Local produce includes a wide variety of citrus and tropical fruits, island chestnuts and garden vegetables. Seafood features on many restaurant menus and so does coconut as the coconut palms produce an abundant supply of fruit all year round. Local meat and poultry are available.
Tradition says that all gifts require something in return and tipping is therefore not common.
Climate and Weather
Weather can be quite changeable from day to day and varies throughout the islands. It is generally hot throughout the year, although the trade winds provide some moderating influence. Rainfall is heaviest in Rarotonga, while the northern atolls tend to be drier. The coolest months are June to August, while November to March marks the warmer season, which also has the highest rainfall.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Lightweight cottons and linens are recommended throughout the year. Warmer clothes are advised for the evenings. Sunglasses, sunscreen and a sunhat are essential.
There are Internet facilities in Avarua at the Telecom Cook Islands office (open 24 hours a day), at the post office, at Internet cafes and at computer stores.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Cook Islands are the "Type I" Australian AS-3112 type. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Cook Islands usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If your appliances are not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.