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Cook Islands ‘No Fuss’ Travel Guide

Cook Islands 'No Fuss' Travel Guide

I’ve all the time heard earlier generations confer with “old Hawaii.” They reminisce a few time when Hawaii wasn’t so business. The seashores weren’t lined with large lodges and condos and it was uncommon for a whole household to take an costly journey to such an idyllic location. (Properly, perhaps apart from the Brady Bunch).

Cook Islands ‘No Fuss’ Travel Guide

Flying into the primary island of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, to take our connecting flight to Aitutaki.Previous Hawaii was for honeymooners and adventurers. For everybody else, it was the tropical getaway that one might solely daydream about. For a time, Hawaii was timeless. After which Elvis spoiled all the things by revealing the key to the plenty.

Getting excited as we get nearer to one in every of our dream locations, the Cook Islands.


Many People have heard or have visited Hana. Whereas only a few have heard of the Cook Islands.

All of us are accustomed to the Hawaii of right now. Nonetheless amazingly lovely, however yearly rather less like how our grandparents keep in mind it. Guidebooks advise that if you wish to really feel how Hawaii use to really feel, take the street to Hana and go to the city (of Hana). The problem of attending to Hana, down the curvy slender roads, has aided Hana in staying small and quaint.

Within the Cook Islands, its attainable to have probably the most breathtaking seashores all to your self.

Most individuals journey to Hana as a day journey and by no means truly keep in a single day. By 5:00 pm, most vacationers have departed. Then, in evenings, the charming, little city can unravel from the chaos incurred all through the day.

The street to Hana? No, simply the far more quiet primary street on Rarotonga.

When it comes to the standard vacationer actions, anybody who dare keep in a single day, finds out pretty shortly that Hana actually doesn’t have that a lot to supply. In case you’re on the lookout for casinos, bars, or any type of nightlife for that matter, than you in all probability got here to the fallacious place. However this is the reason individuals come to Hana. The lure of a real island escape.

The Cook Islands are about 700 miles southwest of Tahiti.

So why all this speak of Hawaii and Hana? Many People have heard or have visited Hana. Whereas only a few have heard of the Cook Islands. Plainly simply as Hawaii is well-liked with People, the Cooks are well-liked with New Zealanders.

Moreover, People can relate to Hana. Hana is an effective instance of what “old” Hawaii use to really feel like, particularly on low vacationer turnout days. This sensation of “old” Hawaii is alive and obtainable within the Cook Islands.

The Journey Begins – Aitutaki

The primary island of the Cook Islands is Rarotonga. Flights on Air New Zealand fly nonstop from Los Angeles to Rarotonga on a weekly foundation.

From the air you possibly can see One Foot Island and Honeymoon Island on Aitutaki.

Our journey began right here, in Rarotonga, the place we took a small propeller aircraft aboard Air Rarotonga to the outlying island of Aitutaki, a few 45 minute flight away. Flying over Aitutaki is an awe-inspiring expertise. The elevated perspective is the one means to absorb the complete nine-mile lengthy lagoon.

The views of Aitutaki from the air have been in contrast to something we’ve ever seen.

The turquoise waters and desolate sandy white seashores develop into much more intensified as you slowly progress to the bottom.

Arriving into the smallest airport on the planet, Aitutaki Airport.

Upon touchdown, one realizes that they’re formally in the midst of nowhere at what have to be the smallest airport on the earth.

Aitutaki airport

The hostess and proprietor from <Inano Seashore Bungalows>, Veia, greeted us as quickly as we departed the aircraft. A candy, older lady, almost 70 years previous, who has lived on Aitutaki her entire life. She greeted us with leis and walked us to her car. Displaying nice delight in her enterprise, she was sporting an Inano Seashore soccer jersey.

Audrey will get lei’d upon arrival.

Earlier than we knew it, we have been on our strategy to our lodging, by no means having to cope with the frustrations that include the standard airport. The three minute commute to the bungalows was brief, primarily full of introductions and gratitude for the handmade leis. We’d be spending the subsequent 9 nights in a seashore entrance bungalow situated immediately dealing with the well-known Aitutaki lagoon.

Rustic, but cozy and absolutely stocked, our seashore entrance bungalow was a fantastic worth at underneath $100 USD an evening.

Veia instantly walked us to our Bungalow. The 2-level home she lives in together with her husband Moeau, was situated simply subsequent door to the six bungalows and in addition positioned immediately on the lagoon. Veia was chargeable for almost all duties in regards to the bungalows.

The views from our lanai.

Her duties concerned altering and washing the linens, cleansing the bungalows and the whole lot in between. We have been amazed that at her age she had the power to deal with all of those obligations.

Veia enjoys assembly new individuals, taking good care of them whereas they’re visiting, and offering perception on her island. After a couple of days, we got here to understand that she loves what she does and wouldn’t need it another means. Actually, Audrey and I started referring to her as “Grandma Aitutaki”, as she displayed all the traits that reminded us of our grandmothers.

View of the lagoon from Inano Seashore Bungalows.

One time, for instance, she confirmed up on our deck pretty early within the morning to get into the bungalow and start cleansing. Audrey tried stopping her on the doorway exclaiming, “Oh, ah, Harry’s in his underwear.” With a wave of her hand she replied, “Oh, that’s ok” and made her approach in anyway. Virtually as if she’s seen all of it, which I’m positive she has.

The animated wildlife inside the gardens was vibrantly on show as the varied hues of inexperienced, orange, and pink jumped out upon the walkways.  Though easy, the bungalow offered us with all the essential facilities to make sure a cushty keep. Much less in fact air con, web, and tv.

The start of a quiet night time on the lagoon.

This was going to be a time to unplug, mirror on previous journeys, and plan for future ones. The small, partially stocked kitchen and fridge offered us with simply sufficient of the necessities to make sure that we’d put together all of our meals within the bungalow, as meals is outrageously costly within the Cooks.

One of the simplest ways to discover Aitutaki is by scooter. It’s also a good way to remain cool on scorching days.

As soon as settled, we started our exploration of the island. With a purpose to lease a scooter we instantly walked to the close by Popoara Leases. (The Aitutaki map/information picked-up on the Rarotongan airport offered a $5 off coupon per rental per day.)

The rawness of the island is sharply obvious as quickly as one begins their self-guided tour of the island. The inhabitants of Aitutaki is said to be 2,000 however driving across the island it’s exhausting to consider.

Renting a scooter and cruising round Aitutaki is by far one of the simplest ways to get round.

Upon traversing for days, driving on any street or path appropriate for our scooter, it appears to be nearer to some hundred. There are not any giant lodges or condos. The truth is, Veia’s two story home might have been the tallest constructing on the island.

Homes are small, open, and colourful. Day by day drives allowed me to return to the conclusion that each one the inhabitants have one factor in widespread. They appear to take nice delight of their lawns, that are all manicured to perfection. The grass not often longer than an inch.

The seashores are unspoiled and uncooked, with out one other soul in sight.

Outdoors of the lawns, almost every part else is wild. As pure because it was 500 years in the past. Seashores are by no means raked, coconuts by no means taken out from the tops of palms, (not even on the luxurious resorts), and timber are left to develop wild.

Out within the lagoon close to the small island of Maina.

At solely 10 sq. miles, there’s all the time a set of eyes watching you on this small island. Regardless of the place you roam, the Tupa crab is there watching your each transfer. There have to be tens of millions of them, all scattering again to their holes on the slightest inkling of a human’s presence.

A wonderful day trip exploring the lagoon!

All the typical water-based actions are attainable on Aitutaki lagoon and most certainly carried out at O’otu Seashore, which is one of the best swimming seashore on the primary island. However, the primary purpose vacationers go to Aitutaki is the lagoon.

The easiest way to expertise the lagoon is to take an tour with one of many native outfitters. Veia advisable that we go together with Puna from Aitutaki Journey as he was the “cheapest on the island.”

Water is so crystal clear that you would be able to see fish swimming all through the lagoon.

The tour included visiting a few well-liked snorkeling spots, Honeymoon Island, One Foot Island, and naturally lunch. A couple of years in the past, the tv present Survivor was filmed on the motus that encompass the lagoon. As large followers of the tv present, we eagerly drilled Puna with questions. What islands did the survivors keep on? Did you meet Jeff Probst? Did the survivors know methods to survive right here?

Puna talked about that he was a cameraman for the present and was capable of meet Mark Burnett. Upon listening to this, our ears instantly perked up. He talked about how Mark was “a really good guy” and “very humble.” Most spectacular to Puna, Mark appeared to be really considering studying concerning the tradition and historical past of his individuals. On the subject of Jeff Probst? Punta said, “Don’t ask.” He hardly noticed him. Perhaps he was too busy dwelling it up on the <Aitutaki Lagoon Resort>, the ritziest resort on the island.

Out within the lagoon is a world of blue.

Because the day handed, Puna would point out details surrounding the present. Primarily mentioning the exact places of tribal council, immunity challenges, and the place the survivors lived. We have been a bit dissatisfied to seek out out that crew eliminated all buildings and artifacts.

There’s nothing bodily to the touch or maintain, anyplace. The topic, regardless of whom we spoke with all the time introduced out the identical passionate consequence and glow within the locals’ eyes. Everybody wished that the present would come again to their island.

It introduced in numerous enterprise and pleasure. Each room on all the island was booked for 3 months. Aitutaki was within the limelight. It was a golden age for the little island, no less than throughout filming.

Honeymoon Island – Paradise discovered in the event you search solitude.

The spotlight of the lagoon cruise was visiting Honeymoon Island. When daydreaming of an island paradise, that is the place that’s envisioned. White sandbars prolong off the small inexperienced lush island for what looks like tons of of ft. A marriage arch comprised of native timber stays in a single nook of the sandy seashore.

Strolling alongside the sandbars, in knee deep water, one can solely think about the weddings which have taken place right here. The water so purely clear that there’s no have to placed on a snorkel masks. Simply stroll alongside the sandbars. It’s straightforward to identify the varied tropical fish as they swim by investigating the fairly uncommon human foot. With solely a half hour allotted on the tour for this small piece of heaven, it’s onerous to go away.

On departure, we discover ourselves getting ready the small pontoon boat for a South Pacific rainstorm for the 45 minute journey from Honeymoon Island to One Foot Island. The wind was choosing up and the sky was rising darker within the actual location the place we have been heading.

Dwelling in the midst of nowhere requires that the individuals be extraordinarily resourceful.

Dwelling in the midst of nowhere requires that the individuals be extraordinarily resourceful. Nothing can go to waste as a result of the price of receiving items to Aitutaki is past exorbitant. This was properly displayed in Puna’s Pontoon boat. It jogged my memory of Johnny Money’s track, One Piece at a Time. The pontoon had clearly seen higher days.

Numerous elements have been changed with scrap metallic and everybody sat on plastic garden chairs. It was nevertheless operating and afloat which was essential as a result of this was now our mode of transportation throughout the lagoon throughout this sudden storm.

Audrey wraps herself in Puna’s tarp to remain dry from the temporary rain bathe on the Aitutaki Lagoon Cruise.

We start questioning how dangerous this storm was going to get as Puna started handing out blue tarps to wrap ourselves and our belongings in. In any case, the roof of his pontoon boat consisted of the identical blue tarp with scattered holes and random tears.

At first, there was no have to take shelter. However as we inched nearer, the rains picked up and so did the winds. Having fun with the sensation of being alive (and moist), there was no have to take cowl. Audrey, however, felt in a different way.

Upon reaching One Foot Island the storm had handed and the solar had returned. Being suckers for passport stamps we quickly approached what is claimed to be the smallest submit workplace on the planet. Additionally serving chilly beer to thirsty vacationers, it additionally seems to be the smallest bar/submit workplace combo on the earth.

Fish circle us as we cease and pose for an image within the Aitutaki Lagoon.

After a wonderful lunch of recent caught tuna, we headed again out to do some further snorkeling within the lagoon. There are small sandbars roughly three to 4 ft deep all through the lagoon which show to be perfect spots to drop anchor. The sandbar then drops to about 15-20 ft with an abundance of coral and tropical fish to entertain all.

With Puna offering a pleasant carcass of fish to make use of as a lure, the excellent snorkeling was on. The spotlight that day have been the 2 giant Trevali fish that appeared fascinated with the us, as they always circled the boat throughout the whole size of our go to.

With the second snorkel cease of the day full, it was time to finish the full-day tour of the lagoon. On the best way again, Captain Puna warned us that it was going to be a bit sluggish going as one of many two small engines locked up. Sluggishly inching nearer to port, one might sense that all of us felt dangerous concerning the engine.

On one hand, we knew the resourcefulness instilled in Puna from a younger age would overcome this breakdown. Then again, we have been grateful as a result of it might purchase us all further time on this breathtakingly superb lagoon.

The opposite important pastime to pursue is sightseeing across the island on a scooter. One factor to organize your self for is the quantity of waving that happens when you’re driving. Each individual you cross, whether or not strolling or driving, will enthusiastically wave to you and naturally it is going to be accompanied by an enormous smile.

It’s like nowhere else on earth that I’ve visited. As we rode across the island, individuals would cease no matter they have been doing within the yard, together with mowing, and wave to us. Actually, cease the mower, flip it off, and wave to us.

It’s like nowhere else on earth that I’ve visited.

The goodness that Aitutaki prescribed upon us was efficient. The dosage of that “old” Hawaii feeling, I think about, was good. Leaving the sluggish paced lifetime of Aitutaki was difficult. Dwelling life so merely is extraordinarily liberating. However with nice remorse it was time for us to depart Aitutaki and spend the subsequent 30 nights in Rarotonga.

Our bungalow at night time.

Now it was time to expertise the “fast paced” lifetime of the primary island. No less than that’s how Aitutakians see it. With roughly 13,000 individuals, over half of the inhabitants of the Cook Islands resides in Rarotonga.

Off to Rarotonga

The touchdown in Rarotonga was fairly fulfilling as there was no cockpit door on such a small aircraft. Peeking by way of the cockpit window, it was onerous to not discover the winds of the South Pacific as they appeared to be enraged that day.

We watched the pilots maneuver the small aircraft as we land in windy circumstances on Rarotonga.

From a novice’s perspective, the aircraft seemed to be having a tough time discovering the middle line of the runway. With none problems although, the 12 seat propeller aircraft landed efficiently.

Departing Aitutaki for the primary island of Rarotonga.

The majestic great thing about the luxurious, jungle mountains greet you upon arrival. Their staggering magnificence by no means getting previous, regardless of how lengthy you keep on the island. Because the climate modifications, so do the views. It doesn’t matter what your place, or your perspective, by some means it by no means appears attainable to get shut sufficient to completely take pleasure in them.

View of the luxurious jungle mountains and sundown on Rarotonga.

Leaving the airport, we boarded one of many native buses. There are two. One known as the clockwise bus and the opposite known as the anti-clockwise bus. The primary street goes in a single big 20 mile ring across the outskirt of the island. The whole loop takes 45 minutes to finish. The fee? $5.00 an individual.

The condo we booked with <Muri Seashore Retreat> is close to Muri Seashore and was roughly a 25 minute experience away. We hopped on the bus, advised the bus driver the place we have been staying, and he knew precisely the place to drop us off.

From the primary street the condominium is a brief 5 minute stroll in the direction of the mountains. We have been warmly greeted by Steve and Phoebe, the house owners of the house constructing.

The view from our terrace with glimpses of the ocean and our favourite hangout spot…the tremendous clear pool.

They gave us a radical briefing of the unit, the grounds, and the island. Recognizing the pool introduced slightly twinkle to Audrey’s eye. Phoebe appeared to attach with Audrey immediately as they made plans to go to URA health dancing courses throughout our keep.

The courses have been held each indoors and outdoor relying on the day of the week. Visualize the group dance class as Zumba with a Polynesian aptitude.

New buddies we made whereas staying at Muri Seashore Retreat. Audrey, Phoebe, and Sophia (our neighbor from Austria) all loved Polynesian Zumba courses!

The primary orders of enterprise have been transportation and groceries. The simplest and most effective mode of transportation by far is the scooter. Charges are extraordinarily reasonably priced particularly through the off-season. By paying up entrance for all the size of our keep we have been capable of lease one, an automated, for about $7 per day from Pacific Leases.

Pacific scooter rental had the most effective costs on the island at about $7 per day.

We have been stunned to see how giant the primary grocery retailer (named CITC) was after coming from Aitutaki the place the grocery shops have been small (concerning the measurement of a comfort retailer within the states) and had a restricted number of meals. Strolling into it felt just like the feeling of strolling right into a Costco (with the excessive ceilings), though nowhere close to the sq. footage. On the first sight, we knew have been going to eat properly throughout our keep.


The chores have been full and now it was time to take pleasure in island life! Just like Aitutaki, Rarotonga is understood for its lagoon, which surrounds the island. The lagoon is sheltered from the ocean by an outlying reef which encloses all the island.

We have been capable of shave recent coconut each morning!

For probably the most half, the reef prevents any giant waves from occurring within the lagoon or on the seashore. For those who got here to listen to the sounds of waves crashing into the seashore, you’re probably going to go away disillusioned. The water tends to be so calm inside the lagoon that it by no means makes a lot noise.

The sound you’ll hear are the waves from the open ocean ferociously crashing into the reef. As a result of the reef is so huge the sound this it provides off is just like a aircraft cruising by at a excessive altitude. The rumbling is so intense that it’s even potential to listen to from the mountains.

The calmness of the lagoon makes it the right place to take pleasure in all water-based actions; particularly snorkeling and swimming. Most elements of the lagoon are shallow, solely three to five ft deep. On sure seashores, there’s the posh of with the ability to stroll lots of of ft off shore, proper to the reef.

Even the deep sections by no means appear to be greater than 6 ft deep. For instance, on the illustrious Muri Seashore the place the white sandbars stretch out into the lagoon, it’s potential to stroll proper throughout the lagoon to the neighboring small island of Kokomiri. The views of the lagoon and mountains from this island make this a super website to swap wedding ceremony vows.

Someday whereas snorkeling right here, we witnessed a bride holding a white umbrella, with white gloves, being rowed throughout the lagoon to Kokomiri to get married. The marriage celebration rode on a tiki social gathering pontoon boat forward of her and have been all ready for her arrival.

Snorkeling on Muri Seashore.

Probably the most spectacular snorkeling spot is immediately off Aro’a Seashore on the southwest aspect of the island. Roughly 200 ft from the shore, there’s a blanket of coral masking a whole lot of ft of seafloor.

The depth of the water is between 5 and eight ft. Just like the Peter Pan journey at Disney World, this shallowness provides the feeling of flying. The flawlessly located swim lanes hovering alongside the floor permit simply sufficient area to proceed exploring on.

Swimming at Aro’a Seashore reminded us of the Peter Pan experience at Disney World, floating proper above the corals and quite a few array of tropical fish.

Snorkeling between the coral, and learning the tropical fish, it’s attainable to peek down into the varied hiding locations of the ocean life as they scurry alongside. The situation, coral, and fish are so superb, that one begins to query whether or not they’re swimming in a man-made aquarium.

Good for households with youngsters or lazy swimmers, the seashore throughout from the Residence of the Queen’s Consultant is ideal for a swim

On the lookout for a fast dip throughout sundown? Head over to the seashore throughout the road from the House of  the Queen’s Consultant the place your ft can be greeted with mild white tender sand. The slightest slope into the water supplies the picture-perfect spot to wade within the water and watch time go by. Arrive throughout sundown and witness the large orange ball sink into the abyss.

That is the story of a love affair that started greater than 20 years in the past with a now out of print guide. John W. McDermott’s “How to Get Lost and Found in the Cook Islands” paints an image of a paradise that few have heard of, not to mention visited. It’s a should learn for anybody trying to head to the Cook Islands.

One of many enjoyable issues to do is drive round and decide fruit proper off the timber.A number of the fruit we picked!

Though a lot greater, Rarotonga shares most of the similar endearing traits as its sister island Aitutaki. There are not any buildings taller than a coconut tree, the seashores aren’t raked or manicured in any method (even on the most luxurious resorts), and the tempo of life is intentionally leisurely. When you’re on the lookout for the thrills of an enormous island akin to in Maui or Oahu you gained’t discover them right here.

By far, the most effective and freshest fish we’ve ever had.Bringing in immediately’s catch.

Within the e-book, The way to get misplaced and located within the Cook Islands, the writer, John W. McDermott,  wrote how vacationers who go to the island are sometimes bewildered by the shortage of customer support or standoffishness of the locals. He said, “Remember Polynesians do not make outstanding service people. They are not resentful, hostile, sullen. They are bored.”

Though an out-of-date e-book (it was revealed in 1979), it nonetheless pertains to at present because the island hasn’t modified considerably since then. I consider the writer’s level was that in the event you’re on the lookout for the glitz and glamour of say, an Apple Trip, the place every little thing has been priced out and the journey comes prepackaged, then you definitely shouldn’t hassle with the Cooks.

A few of the native wildlife.

As he wrote extremely eloquently, “Those who can make their own excitement, who are givers as well as takers, who enjoy learning about a new place with new people, even though the places are small and the people few, we have sent off with the pleasant knowledge that they are going to have a fulfilling experience.”

When visiting the seashores of Rarotonga, there’s the power to drive immediately as much as them. There’s no want to fret a few parking ticket or getting the automotive towed. There could also be a number of others becoming a member of you, however most probably you’ll have the seashore all to your self.

It’s like a dream.

Perhaps take pleasure in some takeaway (as they seek advice from it) or a picnic for lunch. Afterward, decide up some recent fish for dinner.  At night time, take pleasure in a quiet dinner with the consolation of the nice and cozy commerce winds as firm.

The preferred take away on the island, fish n’ chips!

The home windows can be open when retiring to mattress. Get up the subsequent morning to the sound of the wild roosters. Put together for the day, the seashore, and the cycle will proceed on. Every day, blissfully sitting on the seashore pondering, ‘how this amazingly, special place is still so untouched, and still so unknown?’

Canine lovers (and Harry) will love the pleasant canine that always be a part of you for a swim.

Checkout different articles on the Cook Islands..