Cook Islands

Cook Islands

If you lumped together all 15 of the Cook Islands, you’d still get a mere speck of landmass—less than a quarter of the size of Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state. But these tiny bits of land, flung out like expressionist spatters over a vast expanse of the South Pacific, are among the world’s most idyllic tropical islands.

For the most part, the Cook Islands haven’t changed a great deal since the arrival of English missionaries and warships more than a century ago. The Cooks are as beautiful as ever, and visitors will find them to be charming, clean, safe and friendly.

However, with the growing influx of visitors these days, you’ll have to share the islands with a lot more people than before, especially in July and August when New Zealanders spend their winter holidays there. The Cooks are a protectorate of New Zealand, and as aid from New Zealand has decreased, the government has turned increasingly to tourism for income. At times, the islands can seem jammed with tourists.

Geography

The Cook Islands are a beautiful sampling of the South Pacific—from the high volcanic island of Rarotonga to the low hills of Atiu and the atoll reefs of Aitutaki.

There are 15 main islands, located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. They are divided into two groups, the Northern Islands (flat coral atolls) and the Southern Islands (all except Rarotonga are raised coral atolls). The Southern Islands (nine of the 15 islands) are home to more than 90% of the population, with the vast majority residing on Rarotonga, the capital.