Things to Do in the Cook Islands

Boasting extraordinary natural beauty, Cook Islands attractions are plentiful, so you'll have to think about how to divide your time. Diving fans' first port of call should be Aitutaki, where you'll discover a famous technicolour lagoon. Birdwatchers should not miss the opportunity to discover the underground cave of Anatakitaki where the endangered Atiu Swiftlet lives. Jewellery lovers could head to a black pearl farm in the lagoons of Manihiki.

Scuba and snorkelling – Rarontonga

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands and a great place to start your trip. With some of the clearest water anywhere in the world, where better to strap on a snorkel and explore? The islands and lagoons are teeming with exotic marine life which you can discover as you glide through calm waters.

Scuba diving requires a little more equipment and expertise, but all are readily available. You can even take a course in Rarotonga to become a certified diver.

The ideal diving destination for both first-timers and experts, there are plenty of attractions including the Matavera Drop-off, Papu Canyon, Mataora Wreck, Koromiri Coral Garden, and the Ngatatangiia Swim-through.

Fishing – Aitutaki

Don’t just sit there looking at all the wonderful sea life; why not catch some of it? Fishing in the Cook Islands is a big drawcard.

Whatever your niche, you can find it in Aitutaki. You can take a charter out to take on some serious game fishing. This is no long trip to find a secluded spot. Game fishing is accessible right outside the harbour. Expect to grapple with marlin, barracuda, yellowfin, wahoo, and skipjack tuna.

However, there are also opportunities for saltwater fly and light tackle fishing in Aitutaki’s giant lagoon where you could hook a trevally, cod, snapper, or bonefish.

Anatakitaki Cave Tour – Atiu

This isn’t just a cave tour for the sake of a cave tour. You’re on a mission to find the reclusive Kopeka bird. Never heard of it? That’s because it’s the rarest bird in the world.

First, you’ll need to reach Atiu – a volcanic island encircled by coral reef and cliffs. Then you’ll trek through thick jungle to find the Anatakitaki Caves. Follow your guide through the twists and turns, past breathtaking stalactites and stalagmite formations in search of the Kopeka.

Kopeka birds are small and swift, using sonar within the caves like bats. They only venture outside occasionally in search of insects.

The final stop gives you the chance to swim in the underground water cavern which is hauntingly beautiful and refreshing after a long day exploring.  Whether or not you find the bird, this is an enjoyably epic journey through some beautiful wilderness.

Raro Reef Sub – Rarotonga

The trouble with boat tours is that most of the action is going on beneath the surface. The Raro Reef Sub makes sure you get the best of both worlds.

Holding the distinction of being the Cook Islands’ only semi-submersible, it should be right at the top of your to-do list. The waters are so clear that you can witness a whole new world from the observation deck below. Sharks, turtles, and (potentially) whales are just some of the creatures you’ll encounter.

Throw in the dazzling coral reef and a shipwreck and you’ll want to stay on-board for the very next tour. It’s the closest you can get to life underwater without getting wet.

Treasure Island – Suwarrow

Suwarrow is an incredible place only heightened by it’s inaccessibility. A hidden gem, it is a low coral atoll that encircles a stunning lagoon. It has been described as ‘Treasure Island’ and also the most romantic place in the world. The natural environment is uniquely beautiful and fragile, teaming with exotic wildlife and lush foliage bordering white sands.

At one point, a New Zealand man lived there alone for years and became known as the Hermit of Suwarrow. Nowadays, it is inhabited by two caretakers and even they are only there intermittently. When your mind pictures a remote tropical island, chances are it looks a lot like Suwarrow.

More on Cook Islands