The waves thunder against the outer reef like a Greek God, but inside the luxurious lagoon, which frames Rarotonga, all is calm. Perched about halfway between Auckland and Hawaii, the Cook Islands sit like a pretty punctuation mark in the South Pacific Ocean. Pause here, and discover this darling destination, made up of 15 idyllic islands.
Words and pics: The Global Goddess (www.theglobalgoddess.com)
Picture a place where the water is so blue, it’s difficult to distinguish it from the sky. Then frame that image with pure white sand, superb snorkelling and a beach hammock or two. You’ll find all of this on one of Rarotonga’s beautiful beaches, but for the true blue experience, take the 45-minute flight to Aitutaki, one of the most photographed lagoons in the world.
Understandably, it’s difficult to tear yourself away from the ocean, but if you do, you are richly rewarded. Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu all offer day tours in which you can head inland via tuk tuk, bicycle, 4WD or on foot, and witness how the locals live. Explore secret caves, eat exotic fruit plucked directly from roadside trees and encounter chickens, pigs, goats and birds along the way.
Image: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
Cook Islanders possess a charming custom that when they meet a stranger, they kiss you on the cheek and say “Kia Orana” which, literally translated, means “be well/healthy”. One of the most cool and colourful ways to meet Cook Islanders is to attend a Sunday church service. Part rock concert, part theatre and a whole lot of love, you haven’t lived until you’ve been to church in the South Pacific. And the singing here is quite simply, heavenly.
Traditional Cook Islanders have been practising sustainable living long before the term was even coined. Among this clean, green land you’ll find hotels conserving water – a valuable commodity here – and electric vehicles used in tours. Coconut trees are used for everything from fresh water to rope. For one of the best conservation stories, join Birdman George on the island of Atiu on one of his bird watching tours and learn how he’s saved two endangered species.
One of the newest additions to the Cook Islands story is the Te Ara Museum on Rarotonga, opened in March 2017. Touted as a “business incubator”, a classroom upstairs teaches locals business skills, while the downstairs marketplace sells locally-made art, craft and food. A highlight of a visit here is the museum which spells out, through colourful displays, how the Cook Islands, its people and their customs evolved.
Where to Stay: Part of the collection of exclusive Cook Islands properties including the Pacific Resort Rarotonga and the Little Polynesian, the adults-only Royale Takitumu offers exclusivity and serenity on the shore of one of the island’s most exquisite beaches. Nestled amongst pristine, fragrant gardens dotted with gently-swaying coconut palms and lily pad ponds are ten traditional thatched villas, each dreamily secluded and allowing guests to holiday at their own pace.
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