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My Impressions of the Cook Islands

(Reprint from News: December 14, 2001)

December 11, 2001

 

I've been in the Cook Islands for five days now, visiting the two most popular islands here, Rarotonga and Aitutaki.  Before I leave, I want to pass along my impressions.  

 

The Cook Islands are a great place to visit.  For the most part, Islanders are friendly and the general attitude is pretty relaxed, not one of trying to separate tourists from their money, as it is in more popular destinations.  I was a little surprised at how few tourists there were here.  The area, however, is more densely settled than I had thought and there aren't many secluded beaches, especially on Rarotonga.  People here live in houses, not in grass huts, and have most of the conveniences of modern-day life, including television, cars or scooters, and washing machines.  The strong trade winds, which blow constantly from the east, take a little getting used to but in general, the climate is very pleasant and the lack of insects is another plus.  

 

Regarding accommodations, there are several small family-run lodges here, many of which seemed to be a better deal than the larger and more expensive resorts.  I enjoyed my stay at Vara's and will probably stay there again next time I visit Rarotonga.  With the weak New Zealand dollar (the official currency of the Cook Islands), lodging as well as food was a real bargain.  Lodging ranges from about $8 a night for a bed in a not-so-great hostel up to over $200 a night for a top-end bungalow on Muri Beach, though most rooms range from $20 to $50 a night (all in U.S. dollars not New Zealand dollars, which are currently worth only about 40 cents U.S.).  From what Iíve seen, the more you spend, the incrementally less you get, with the best overall values being in the $30 to $50 a night range.

 

I'm definitely coming back to the Cook Islands.  I think next time, though, I'll spend more time on Aitutaki than on Rarotonga, and I want to explore the smaller and even lesser known outer islands, as well.  Rarotonga is nice but from what I've seen and read, you really haven't seen the Cook Islands until you get to the outer islands.

 

       

Above left:  Da plane!  Da plane!  The Air Rarotonga turboprop arriving at Aitutaki to take me away.

Above center:  Flying back to Rarotonga after two days on Aitutaki.

Above right:  And an hour later, back at Muri Beach on "Raro."

 

       

Above left:  A view of Muri Beach.

Above center:  And another view.

Above right:  Smoke gets in your eyes....

 

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