The Cook Islands – located in the Pacific Ocean, between New Zealand and Hawaii – are a fun-filled, safe holiday destination for families. The nation’s 15 small islands feature lush bushland, tranquil swimming lagoons, and a multitude of interesting activities that both children and adults will love. Here’s our pick of five fun attractions for families holidaying in the Cook Islands.
Spanning around 20 square kilometres, beautiful Aitutaki Lagoon on Aitutaki Island, is one of the area’s most popular sights. Hop on a boat and visit the best snorkeling spots where you’ll be dazzled by an abundance of marine life including green and hawksbill turtles. Some of these locations are in the shallows near the shore, making it ideal for children or first-time snorkelers. In fact, most of the lagoon is no more than 4.5 metres deep. For the more adventurous, there’s tube riding, wakeboarding and other fast paced water sports.
Anatakitaki Caves and Rimarau Burial Cave
Explore the fascinating caves on the island of Atiu including the Anatakitaki Cave – home to the island’s unique kopeka birds. Marvel at the birds skillfully navigating the caves in complete darkness by listening to the echo of their own tweeting. The brave can enter the spine-tingling Rimarau Burial Cave. Here you’ll see mysterious human bones, thought to be the remains from an ancient cannibal feast. It takes around half an hour to walk to the caves through bushland, so make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring your courage.
Cook Islands Cultural Village
On the main island of Rarotonga, is Cook Islands Cultural Village, run by a friendly local family. Situated in the township of Arorangi to the island’s west, the village offers presentations on history, Maori medicine, coconut husking, weaving, carving, costume making, cooking and dancing. You can also feast on local delicacies and see an exciting show complete with dancing, songs, legends, chants and music.
Te Punanga Nui Market
If it’s shopping you’re after, then browse the stores in Avarua, the nation’s capital in Rarotonga. The most colourful experience is the Te Punanga Nui market held every Saturday. There are costumes (including cute kids’ grass skirts), arts, crafts, flowers and fresh produce to snap up. The family can also sample local dishes such as ika mata (marinated raw fish) and poke (baked bananas with coconut milk), and indulge in fruit smoothies, waffles and pastries. Cultural groups also regularly perform at the market, accompanied by traditional music.
Cook Islands Whale And Wildlife Centre
In Rarotonga, children will love exploring Avarua’s wildlife centre. Not only are there interesting exhibits about whales, there are terrariums housing coconut crabs, lizafrds, spiders and centipedes, plus aquariums full of fish, crayfish and prawns. Visitors can also listen to recordings of whales singing, use microscopes and touch whale bones. If you’re keen to get closer to the action, embark on an exciting whale watching expedition. But if you’d rather stay on dry land, from July to October the whales often come so close to shore that you can spot them from some of the main streets.